United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 24, 2015
Executive Summary: In Shakespeare's "Henry VI", a butcher utters the ironic phrase, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." On July 10, the CCP interrogated and arrested large numbers of human rights lawyers. Its action evoked a surreal "let's kill all the lawyers" terror. The motives for its action are hard to tell. But they have clearly undermined the credibility of Xi's "rule of law".
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In Shakespeare's "Henry VI", a butcher utters the ironic phrase, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." On July 10, the CCP interrogated and arrested large numbers of human rights lawyers. Its action evoked a surreal "let's kill all the lawyers" terror. The motives for its action are hard to tell. But they have clearly undermined the credibility of Xi's "rule of law".
The July 10 roundup of human rights lawyers has alarmed the international community. The timeline was strange. Just nine days before the National People's Congress, the party implemented a constitutional oath system. It assumed a "rule of law" posture. Yet nine days later, it began large-scale police roundups of lawyers. This paradoxical behaviour is leading to speculation about internal dissent over the Mainland's future.
Politically speaking, rounding up the lawyers is like throwing gasoline on the fire. Netizens on the Mainland mocked the action. They said "The authorities are cultivating China's future political leaders", and that "They all have the same name: human rights lawyers." Repression of dissent often creates a succession of public heroes. These heroes lead to "downtrodden masses rising in rebellion".
In a more open society, shysters often lie, whitewash the truth, play word games, and invert right and wrong, just to win cases. They misinterpret evidence, distort the truth, and misinterpret the laws in order to spare criminals from punishment. They care only about profit, and not about justice. But if the government uses authoritarian methods to deal with such lawyers, they may lionize them. They may even give them a new lease on life. Examples include Chen Shui-bian and Roh Tae Woo, both of whom were human rights lawyers turned president.
Human rights lawyers on the Mainland mostly help defend the rights of ordinary citizens in a "rule of law" vacuum. So many people petition the government, one after another, because official abuse of power renders them helpless and in need of legal redress. They need human rights activists because the people's rights have been ignored by the system far too long. Human rights lawyers, paradoxically, are a product of the communist system. Most of them fight only for the right to life, liberty, and property. They work inside the legal framework, dealing with those in power. They seek justice within a system deficient in political rights. They brave all manner of pressure and dangers, using the nation's legal code to fight those in power.
In either a democratic or authoritarian society, the law is the peoples' last line of defense. Lawyers provide legal representation for citizens. Without the freedom to practice law, even distinguished and impartial judges are of no use. People would remain at the mercy of the state, because justice requires an adversarial system. Only by arguing the pros and cons of a case, can justice truly prevail.
The Ministry of Public Security crossed provincial borders north and south. Over 200 human rights lawyers or human rights advocates were interrogated, arrested, or threatened. The public was left fearful and anxious. Some were arrested without charges, then tried and convicted inthe media. Human rights lawyers for the Fengrui Law Firm were accused of "collusion with other petitioners, inciting disorder, and consorting with criminal syndicates."
The crackdown has led to considerable speculation. The crackdown began with female human rights lawyer Wang Yu. Yu assisted parties who sued Jiang Zemin in June. Some think this struck fear in the Jiang faction, launching it into action. In other words, Xi Jinping may not be the instigator of the crackdown. The current climate is unusual. The signs are unusual. They include political czar Zhou Yongkang being sentenced to life imprisonment, the Fourth Plenary Session "rule of law" decisions last year, Xi Jinping's special meeting with Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi in June, revisions to the official oath by the Peoples Congress in July, which stipulated that officials must swear allegiance to the constitution, the state, and the people, rather than the party, and the elimination of the term "Chinese characteristics" and the addition of "democracy". These were all important political signals issued by Xi Jinping. But why was Zhou Yongkang left out of this "Zhou Yongkang formula" for arrests?
Clearly, the CCP still does not understand the "rule of law". The majority of the ruling class still worships power and not the law. The arrests were conducted under Xi Jinping's eyes. He did nothing to stop them. Will the CCP address the problems with the legal system? Will it prevent abusive practices that violate people's rights? As long as the people lack confidence and hope, human rights lawyers will continue to practice and gain popular support. No matter how high the walls, the mind yearns for freedom. Those who should be locked in cages, are those who abuse power, not human rights lawyers.
說了一句反諷之語：「我們最要緊的事兒，就是殺光所有的律師。」 七月十日前後中共對維權律師大規模約談、抓捕，就帶著這種「 殺律師」的超現實恐怖感。背後緣由仍難摸透，但習近平的「 依法治國」這支大旗卻不免損傷。
透出一股詭譎氣息。原因是，僅僅在九天之前， 中共的全國人大常委會剛通過了實行憲法宣誓制度的決定，作出了「 依法治國」的姿態，而九天後，警察竟然開始大規模抓捕律師， 這些前後不一的行為邏輯，難免引發內部是否有路線之爭的揣測。
如同大陸網民所反諷的：「當局在培養中國未來的政治領袖」，「 他們有一個共同的名字：維權律師。」統治者對異議者的壓制， 常常是炮製出一個接一個的人民英雄，而這些英雄將愈來愈引發「 萬家墨面」的歌吟動地。
訟棍型」的律師常可能說謊、粉飾、矯詞， 為了贏得訴訟而顛倒是非，將證據演繹成跟事實相左的反論， 或將法條寬泛地解讀成犯罪的保護令，他們關心的只是牟利， 而不是正義。但是，統治者用威權手段來對付律師， 卻可能為他們戴上冠冕，甚至替他們開闢政治生命； 包括陳水扁與盧武鉉，都是人權律師出身的總統。
之所以有許多民眾接踵上訪， 豈不是因為體制的無助與官員的霸道令人民呼救無門嗎？ 之所以需要「維權」，不正是因為人民的權利被體制忽視已久嗎？ 維權律師其實是中共體制的產物，他們多數只為了正當的生命、 人格、財產權，在合法的制度內與當政者周旋， 在政治權利從缺的情境下曲線救國。他們冒著各種壓力與危險， 以國家法典裡的正義去抗衡權力。
律師則是協助公民自我捍衛的法律代理人。 若是沒有自由執業的律師，縱有一批傑出、 公正的法官也將無補於事，人民仍將暴露於權力的網羅之下， 因為正義必須經過辯證，在進行了正反的往復辯詰之後， 正義的容顏才能真正浮現。
超過兩百位維權律師或人士被約談或抓捕，威嚇逼人， 留給社會恐懼和不安的感受。 若干媒體在被捕律師及其事務所未經起訴、審判前， 就為他們戴上有罪帽子， 稱以鋒銳律師事務所為主體的維權律師們是「與訪民相互勾連、 滋事擾序的涉嫌重大犯罪團伙。」
而王宇六月間曾聲援控告江澤民行動。有人推測， 這造成了江派的恐懼，進而發動了此次行動。亦即， 如今當家的習近平或許並非始作俑者。不過，這場行動的反常氣氛， 讓人感到其中的不尋常跡象：政法沙皇周永康已被判決無期徒刑； 中共在去年四中全會通過「依法治國」的決定； 今年六月習近平特別邀訪並會晤了緬甸民主象徵翁山蘇姬； 七月人大通過的官員宣誓文字，官員將只向憲法、國家與人民效忠， 而不必宣示效忠於「黨」，取消了「中國特色」，增加了「民主」。 這些，皆是習近平釋出的重大政治訊號，但在這個脈絡底下， 怎還能發生這樁沒有周永康的「周永康式抓捕」？
統治階層中的多數依然崇拜著權力，而不是「法」的權威， 抓捕依然在習近平的眼皮下進行，他並未制止。但是， 中共不解決法制體系的沉痾，不防止侵犯人民權利的濫權行徑， 只要人民除了「維權」再無信心與希望， 維權律師就一定會繼續出現，繼續獲得民眾的支持。 再高的牆也關不住嚮往自由的心靈，應該被關進籠子裡的， 是被濫用的權力，而不是律師。