China: Controversial conviction of lawyer in corruption crackdown

Discussion over China's biggest news story of 2009, the Chongqing gang trials, carries on into 2010 with the conviction last week of Li Zhuang, one of twenty lawyers detained throughout the corruption crackdown.

Sentenced on January 8 to 2.5 years in prison for falsifying evidence and interfering with witness testimonies in his defense of alleged mafia boss Gong Gangmo, Inside-Out China blogger Xujun Eberlein notes in a detailed background of Li's trial that its outcome could affect progress in China toward judicial independence.

Multiple controversies surround Li's trial; one of several which Chinese Law Prof blogger Donald C. Clarke looks at is that of the law being used against lawyers:

“The trial has drawn attention because it involves the use of Article 306 of the Criminal Law, which Chinese lawyers have long complained has been abused by the authorities to persecute them.”

Another main point of contention is that of the eight witnesses whose ‘testimony’ was used to convict Li, not one actually attended the trial. Then there were the procedural problems, of which Sina blogger Liu Xuyi asks:




First, why weren't witnesses allowed to testify?

Second, why was the trial held out of [Beijing's] jurisdiction?

Third, why has discussion of this case in Chongqing been so one-sided?

Another question being asked, with many seeing Bo Xilai‘s months-long campaign as a throwback to Cultural Revolution-era politics, is defending a client now tantamount to collaboration in the crime?

As Xujun Eberlein points out, Li's conviction is widely supported in Chongqing. Residents there seem to accept Bo's tactics which have done much to stem the lawlessness and corruption and left many across the country wishful. Online, however, support for is Li quite strong and not confined to those from the legal community. Many have pointed out that the standard for lawyers is not to fight political battles, but instead to provide the service of protecting clients’ interests.

Well-known lawyer and blogger He Weifang voiced loud protest to the verdict, followed the next day by a post from scholar and blogger Li Damiao, who, going back to the assumption that Bo's crackdown on corruption is politically motivated, takes a historical look at the case and compares the persecution of Li to the stories of former Chairman and “traitor” Liu Shaoqi and Bo Xilai's own father and former political prisoner, Bo Yibo.



During the so-called “Cultural Revolution”, many of the cases in which people were unjustly or falsely charged were built on “admission”; even Bo Yibo of “The Clique of Sixty-one Traitors”, whose files are there in black and white despite historical fact, was proven based on the words of a few to be a traitor, just as was seen with the Inner Mongolian People's Party and the East Hebei Traitors Clique.

Did Li get in the way of Bo Jr.'s trial or is he just as corrupt as those he has made a career defending? One of the main bits of evidence by official media used to sway public opinion against him, a text message he allegedly sent to colleagues in Beijing which read “they're stupid, they have lots of money, get here quick” did not, as NetEase blogger Wuyue Sanren noted in his blog post from the day of Li's sentencing, as easily as it could have been obtained, ever appear in court as evidence of Li's guilt.

With state-owned media launching an attack on Li, lawyers from Beijing and across the country to took the Internet in his profession's defense. In this post at Yadian, a platform for law bloggers, Yu Chen writes:


I'm thinking, does this mean that from now on that lawyers can't accept money for cases they take on? Do lawyers have to meet with Counsel now before they can launch their defense? Is charging too much a crime? Maybe some people are saying, the money he's taking is dirty money; in other words, the source of the money isn't known, therefore the accused obtained it through illegal means, therefore the accused is a mafia member, and the money is dirty. But the problem is that at present the accused is only a criminal suspect, there hasn't been a verdict yet, so how does that make him mafia? You must have evidence if you're going to say that he's mafia, so bring the evidence out, let's hear your reasons.

On January 10, news appeared that a police investigation had discovered that during his time on the case in Chongqing, Li had also hired the services of prostitutes. To this, legal blogger Yuan Yulai writes:


To be honest, just working with the logic of us common people, it's absolutely unimaginable that Li would actually go hire prostitutes while he was in Chongqing acting as defense for a mob boss. Unless he's plain crazy.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.