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China: Attorney Calls for Resignation of Head of Supreme People’s Court

(Oct. 13, 2010) According to a recent report from the advocacy group Human Rights in China (HRIC), Yang Jinzhu, a prominent defense attorney, has begun a non-violent protest campaign and published a call for the resignation of the head of the Supreme People's Court, Wang Shengjun. (Press Release, HRIC, Lawyer Asks Head of Supreme People's Court to Resign over Execution (Oct. 7, 2010), http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/press?revisi
on%5fid=189882&item%5fid=189880
.) Yang posted an article online on September 30, 2010, entitled, “If One Dares to Ask – What Reigns Supreme in China?” (Available in English translation from the HRIC website, id.). The article criticized the Court for approving the execution of Fan Qihang for numerous crimes, including murder, in Chongqing, China. The lawyers in the case allege that Fan confessed to the crimes only after police brutality, denial of access by defendants to their lawyers, and torture. (Press Release, supra.)

The case has been controversial in China, both for its political motivation and for violation of the Criminal Procedure Law. Fan was one of a group of 34 suspects detained in the summer of 2009 during a well publicized campaign in Chongqing to attack the criminal elements in the city. All of the defendants were denied communication with their families and attorneys for almost six months. Fan saw his lawyer first in November; at that time they were only permitted to see part of the voluminous prosecution case file. (Press Release, id.; Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China (as amended through Jan. 1, 1997), Congressional-Executive Commission on China website, http://www.cecc.gov/pages/newLaws/criminalProcedureE
NG.php
(last visited Oct. 8, 2010).)

Fan's death sentence was initially announced in February 2010 by the Chongqing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, following a trial in which Fan stated that he had been tortured while in custody. The sentence was upheld by a higher court in May, and, following legal requirements, the case went on to the Supreme People's Court. Fan's attorney sent a videotape to that Court of his client talking about the mistreatment; the tape was also made public on the Internet. Although the attorney requested a meeting with the judges of the Supreme People's Court and despite a campaign in which more than 100 well-known lawyers, writers, and activists signed open letters asking for an investigation, nothing further was heard until the news of Fan's execution. (Id.)

Speaking about his campaign, Yang said, “[i]f we lawyers do not stand up and speak out when we witness the death of the rule of law, there is no hope for our country.” (Id.)