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Veteran Fuzhou Lawyer Sues Judicial Bureau to Assert Right to Practice, Puts Spotlight on Two Other Flawed Cases

August 3, 2010

On July 22, 2010, a court in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, heard without issuing a ruling the case of lawyer Lin Hongnan (林洪楠), who is challenging a decision by the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice to stop him from practicing law for one year on what Lin calls a trumped up charge. The Bureau of Justice claimed that in 2002, while representing a client on a bombing case in Fuqing, Lin leaked the minutes of a November 2001 meeting concerning that case, and that the minutes contained state secrets. As a result, the Bureau of Justice alleged, the documents ended up on foreign websites. Five people were convicted in the Fuqing bombing case. All – including two who were given suspended death sentences – continue to maintain their innocence.  To this date, the Fujian Provincial High People’s Court has taken no action on the appeal that they filed in October 2006.

(See Appendix for background on the Fuqing bombing case.)

Lin contends that there is simply no evidence showing that he leaked any state secrets, and that there is no basis for the minutes to be classified as state secrets as they did not involve state security or interests. Lin said: “This kind of accusation is nonsense. To use something that happened eight years ago to make a case – even a grade school student could see that this is a classic retaliatory attack. The real reason [behind the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice’s action] is to stigmatize me. To make me shut up about the high-profile netizens case.” 

“The timing of the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice’s punitive action against Lin and of Lin’s representation of a client in what came to be known as the Fuzhou netizens case strongly suggests a coordinated effort by the authorities to remove him from a politically sensitive case,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC).

Lin is the founder of Fujian’s first legal aid center and a former official at the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau and the Fuzhou Bureau of Justice, a defendant in his current lawsuit. Lin started his private law practice in 1996 and has since handled all kinds of cases including securities and rights defense cases. 

In the summer of 2009, Lin began representing Wu Huaying (吴华英), one of the three netizens in Fuzhou prosecuted for “making false accusations” after they, along with five other people, helped an illiterate petitioner, Lin Xiuying (林秀英), compile and post on the Internet her account, in documents and videos, of how her daughter, Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲), died in February 2008 after being gang raped. The account told a very different story than that presented by the Fuzhou authorities. In December 2009, the Bureau of Justice’s order to stop practice for one year stripped Lin of his ability to continue his legal representation of Wu Huaying. In April 2010, all three netizens were convicted of defamation. The verdict was upheld on appeal in June. (See Appendix for background on the Fuzhou netizens case.)

In March 2010, lawyer Lin filed his administrative suit with the Fujian Provincial High People’s Court requesting the revocation of the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice’s stop-practice order. The case was transferred to the Taijiang District People’s Court. When the Taijiang court heard the case on July 22, it had already exceeded the maximum three-month period allowed by law for a court to conclude a case after accepting it.

HRIC urges the Taijiang District People’s Court to review lawyer Lin’s suit against the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice in an impartial manner and to rule accordingly and promptly, and the Fujian Provincial High People’s Court to abide by the law and immediately hear the lawful appeal of the five defendants of the 2001 Fuqing bombing case, two of whom are still in detention nine years later, waiting for a decision on the appeal of their death sentences.

 


APPENDIX


Background on the Fuzhou Netizens Case and the Fuqing Bombing Case

Compiled by Human Rights in China based on published sources, court and other official documents, and information provided by parties knowledgeable about the cases.

On February 11, 2008, Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲), a 25-year-old woman from Minqing Country, Fujian Province, died after being raped by a gang believed to have connections to the local police. The public security bureau in Minqing announced on March 3, 2008, that Yan’s death was the result of an ectopic pregnancy. In June 2009, several netizens helped Yan’s mother, Lin Xiuying (林秀英), who is illiterate, compile and post on the Internet her account of what happened. In her account, Yan’s mother accused the Minqing Public Security Bureau of grossly mishandling the investigation and alleged a government cover-up of a local official’s involvement in her daughter’s death. The postings attracted widespread attention and unleashed public outcry for further investigation. On June 24, 2009, a videotape of Lin Xiuying telling her story went online. On the same day, the Fuzhou Public Security Bureau hastily called a press conference to affirm that Yan had indeed died of natural causes. Less than two weeks after the press conference, the authorities detained nine people, three of whom – Fan Yanqiong (范燕琼), You Jingyou (游精佑), and Wu Huaying (吴华英) – would later be prosecuted. The case being mounted against the netizens, too, prompted a public fury against the authorities and an outpouring of sympathy for the netizens.

Between July and September 2009, Lin Hongnan and other defense lawyers on the netizens case sent several opinions to the public security bureau of Mawei District – where the netizens would eventually be tried – pointing out procedural irregularities and violations in its investigation of the netizens. On October 10, the Mawei Public Security Bureau filed a complaint with the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice alleging that Lin had leaked the minutes of the meetings concerning the 2001 bombing case. What connection the Mawei Public Security Bureau had to the alleged incident is unclear. Five days later, on October 15, 2009, the three netizens – Fan, You, and Wu – were indicted by the Mawei District People’s Procuratorate.

On November 6, 2009, five days before the trial of the netizens, during a visit to his client Wu in the Fuzhou Municipal No. 2 Detention Center, Lin was served a Notice of Administrative Punishment Hearing by the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice on his alleged leaking of the 2001 meeting minutes. The hearing was held on November 20, and the Bureau issued its decision on December 17 to stop Lin from practicing law for one year.

The three netizens were tried on November 11, 2009, in the Mawei District People’s Court. The court issued its ruling five months later, on April 16, 2010, having exceeded the maximum time allowed by law for rendering a verdict. On that day, around 2,000 people from different parts of the country stood outside the court in support of the netizens, in one of the most significant rights defense activities in Fuzhou. The court found all three netizens guilty of defamation. Fan was sentenced to two years in prison. Lin’s client, Wu, and You, were each sentenced to one year. The netizens appealed. On June 28, 2010, the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court upheld the lower court’s ruling. Two days later, Wu was released on June 30, 2010, one year after she was first detained on July 1, 2009.

Wu Huaying has long been a thorn in the side of the Fuzhou authorities. She has been petitioning for years for justice for her brother in a case that has waited many years for an appeal hearing: the 2001 bombing case from which the Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice claimed the cause of its current administrative action against lawyer Lin arose.

On June 24, 2001, a bomb exploded outside the Party Committee for Discipline and Inspection of Fuqing City, Fujian Province, killing one person. The Fuqing Public Security Bureau apprehended five suspects. Wu Huaying’s brother Wu Changlong (吴昌龙), then 21, and another man, Chen Keyun (陈科云), were charged with carrying out the explosion. Lawyer Lin’s client is Chen’s wife, Xie Qing (谢清), who was charged with perjury.

The Fuzhou Municipal Bureau of Justice alleged that Lin provided to the families of the defendants a photocopy of the minutes of a November 27, 2001 meeting of the Party’s Committee for Legal and Political Affairs in Fuqing, during which the Committee ordered the arrest of Xie. The Bureau of Justice also claimed that Lin provided another photocopy of the minutes to a Zhongguo Qingnianboa (China Youth newspaper) reporter in 2005.

The course of the bombing case itself illustrates not only the often tortuous path for defendants in China’s criminal justice system, and how the police and the courts can flout legal procedures at will, but also the power dynamics in that system.

The case was tried in the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court on November 28 and 29, 2002. All five defendants pleaded not guilty, testified that they were tortured, and showed scars on their bodies from the torture. The court adjourned for two years after the trial without ruling. An informed source told HRIC that during that two-year period, the Fujian Provincial High People’s Court summoned the deputy chief judges of the municipal high courts of Ningde, Sanming, and Nanping for their opinions. All of whom concluded that the factual evidence was insufficient to establish the case.

On November 24, 2004, four days before the second hearing was scheduled to begin, Lin and other defense lawyers were summoned by the Fuzhou Municipal Public Security Bureau for questioning in connection with the leaking of the minutes of the November 2001 meeting.

On November 29 to December 1, 2004, the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court held its second hearing of the bombing case. It found all five defendants guilty and sentenced Wu Changlong and Chen Keyun to death with a two-year suspension and deprivation of political rights for life. (Inexplicably, even though the verdict identified the person who supplied the explosives to Wu and Chen as a man named Wang Xiaogang (王小刚), the same court tried and acquitted Wang less than two weeks later, on December 10, 2004.) Xie was convicted of perjury and received a three-year prison term. (The two other defendants were each sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.) In December, Wu Changlong wrote a 24-page account of the torture he endured in police custody and the confessions extracted from him under torture.

The defendants appealed the case to the Fujian Provincial High People’s Court, where lawyer Lin represented Chen in the appeal. It took the court more than one year to remand the case in December 2005 to the lower court for a retrial. According to informed sources, one day before the re-trial on June 1, 2006, all of the defense lawyers received calls from the judicial authorities in their respected locales telling them to say the “right” things in court, and that “the re-retrial was just a show for the leaders, who had already determined the outcome.” On October 10, 2006, the Fuzhou Intermediate People’s Court upheld its original 2004 ruling. The defendants appealed again to the provincial high court. The families of the defendants have never heard from any court since.

For documents related to the Fuqing bombing case, go to: 

http://gb.hrichina.org/public/contents/category?cid=18636 (Chinese only)

 

 

 

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