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:
Second, why was the trial held out of [Beijing's] jurisdiction?
Third, why has discussion of this case in Chongqing been so one-sided?
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.
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:
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: