After being expelled from court while trying to defend a client who said he had been tortured, Chinese lawyer Li Jinxing wrote: “Is this what being a lawyer is like…? We have worked hard on behalf of the rank and file; and yet this is the misery we end up with!” notes Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang:
In January 2015, President Xi Jinping vowed to shape the legal system into a “knife held firmly in the [hands of] the Party.” ….Over the past year Chinese authorities have increasingly sought to silence human rights lawyers. Courts have handed down harsh sentences against rights lawyers Xia Lin (above), Zhou Shifeng, and Tang Jingling, while continuing to detain five lawyers who were apprehended in a nationwide sweep in July 2015.
Those who believed that economic modernization might bring China closer to rule of law had reason to hope — but those expectations look increasingly misplaced under Mr. Xi. He is charting an intolerant and illiberal course, forcing the news media to become ever more obedient to the party, straitjacketing independent nongovernmental organizations and preferring rule by the few over rule of law.
Judicial System ‘Unfair by Nature’
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei (right), one of the many high-profile clients that Xia Lin defended, sees Xia’s sentence as further evidence that China’s judicial system is “unfair by nature,” notes China Digital Times, a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group:
Civil rights lawyer Xia Lin was sentenced last week to 12 years in jail for fraud, the harshest sentence to date in Xi Jinping’s ongoing crackdown on legal advocacy and rights activism. The prominent lawyer was tried for failing to pay back personal loans, and many—including Xia himself, who vowed to appeal the verdict—saw the charge as a means to punish him for the sensitive cases he had taken over the years and for his refusal to back down from his ideals.
The regime is also concerned that an economic crisis, possibly provoked by growing debt, will undermine its political legitimacy.
At the root of it, China’s debt problem is political, The Financial Times notes:
The country’s leaders know they need to wean the economy off its dangerous debt addiction but shifting the growth burden to fiscal policy would involve placing a higher tax burden on the populace. Since very few governments in history have been able to justify taxation without representation, this would raise legitimacy questions for the authoritarian Communist party.
Commenting on the Xi administration’s ongoing crackdown on rights activism and legal advocacy, writer and free speech activist Murong Xuecun (below) describes how the campaign represents a change in the terms of an unspoken pact between the Party and the people, CDT adds:
All along, China’s leaders have had an implicit pact with the people: We’ll leave you alone if you leave us alone. Get as rich as you’d like, and you’ll have a lot of personal freedom, but steer clear of politics. For many older Chinese who lived through the Mao years, the expansion of personal freedoms has felt revolutionary. [Source]
China’s future depends on a free market for ideas, says the Cato Institute:
China’s turn to the free market in goods and services has enabled it to achieve high growth and remarkable material progress for decades, but growth in recent years has slowed markedly. Weiying Zhang, one of China’s most influential economists, will explain why the country needs a free market for ideas if it is to become prosperous. Competing viewpoints, scholarship, and faiths are necessary to test out new ideas and for a society to progress. After 2003, however, the Chinese government has stalled reforms and is increasingly restricting the market for ideas….
Featuring Weiying Zhang, Professor of Economics, Peking University, and author, The Logic of the Market: An Insider’s View of Chinese Economic Reform (Cato, 2015); with comments by Ning Wang, Senior Fellow, Ronald Coase Institute, and co-author, How China Became Capitalist (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); moderated by Ian Vasquez, Director, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute.
October 6, 2016 12:00PM to 1:30PM RSVP