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China: Lawyer Li Zhuang Released From Prison

It is seldom that one reads in China of what becomes of those sent to prison in political trials, and even more unlikely that you'll see such a post exclusively featured on Sina‘s main blog portal.

But, following the release this past weekend of Li Zhuang, the Beijing-based lawyer who was given a prison sentence of 1.5 years after he defended a Chongqing mobster in that city's Party secretary Bo Xilai's campaign against corruption, this is what Sina has done, carrying this post [zh] from Li's initial defense lawyer, Chen Youxi, which gives us a bit of an idea of where Li—as well as China's legal profession—is at.

Sina seems to be the only main Chinese blog portal which has given prominence to the post.

Chen writes:


今天中午,辩护顾问团约晤李庄,在清华大学边“大益膳坊”为其接风洗尘。李庄已经从河北老家看望父母回京。[…] 聊了一些昨天、今天、明天的事。李庄脑子和身子都很好,依然健谈并自信。

He knows just how many people were concerned for him on the outside, and the price they paid. That he wasn't ever alone. During the days in which he lost his freedom, he was treated well. He had books to read and movies to watch; although, he wasn't allowed to read the news or receive any letters. He wrote a fair number of classic style poems, even memorized a few, and the tone, antithesis and imagery in them are not bad. He said that he thanks Chongqing, for giving him the chance to think things over and to recuperate.

This afternoon, Li's defense team came to meet with him and hold a welcome back dinner at Tsinghua University. Li has already been home to Hubei to see his parents and since returned to Beijing. […] We chatted about the events of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Li is sound in both mind and body, and is just as talkative and confident as before.


He expresses his sincere gratitude to everyone who was concerned for him, who understood him, and who supported him throughout this past year and a half. He needs to rest now for a while, and right this moment he's going through the stack of news reports about his case that his son Li Yatong printed out for him which stands as tall as he does. He needs to catch up on all the information from the past year and a half. While he was on the inside, he was told that everyone on the outside had given up on and forgotten about him, that nobody cared about what happened to him. It's only been in these past two days that he discovered that he's actually well-known in China and around the world. He's still a bit overwhelmed by it all. They really did a number on him.



These past two days, Li's fellow lawyers from across the country have, one-by-one, been phoning Li up to wish him well. Many media also want to interview Li. Li isn't answering his phone, but he thanks everyone all the same. What he needs now is quiet, some time to rest and readjust. He knows that there are just far too many people to thank. One depressing question people keep asking is if Li has any interesting stories to tell.

As of today, the things he's been through and what he did, he'll have to tell us himself. Our task of speaking on his behalf has concluded.




Although Li Zhuang has already been released, I remain worried. The Southern Metropolis Weekly reporter Li Tianqin did an excellent job in her lengthy background report [zh] on Li Zhuang's legal team and how the role of big-name lawyers in China is changing. The copy editor, Shen Yachuan, did an equally good job of framing the story, however those of us involved in it do not agree. Lawyers in China today remain stifled, and aren't anywhere as grand as that movie poster of a photo which accompanied the article would have you believe. Making a name for yourself only leads to the onset of tragedy, and friends departed.

The legal world needs to reflect on this. It also needs to show China that, as a group, we have grown and can be trusted.

June 13, 2011

Southern Metropolis Weekly graphic

Southern Metropolis Weekly graphic

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