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Lawyer Asks Head of Supreme People’s Court to Resign over Execution

October 7, 2010

On September 30, 2010, Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Hunan, posted an article online, titled “If One Dares to Ask – What Reigns Supreme in China?” (敢问哪个至上, 金柱律师将敦请王胜俊先生引咎辞职), in which Yang asked the President of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun (王胜俊), to resign. Yang charged that the Court, in authorizing the September 26 execution of Fan Qihang (樊奇杭), an alleged crime boss in Chongqing, while ignoring evidence that Fan’s confession was obtained through torture, blatantly violated provisions that the Court itself issued on evidence. Yang also announced a non-violent protest campaign that he will begin on October 8. (See below for HRIC’s translation of Yang’s article.)

Yang is aware of the potential consequences of this public stance, but stated: “If 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.” Yang’s call underscores a mounting furor, particularly among the legal community, over a case that is widely believed to be politically motivated and rife with serious violations of China’s Criminal Procedure Law. The lawyers involved in the case allege police brutality, denial of access by defendants to their lawyers, and confessions obtained through torture. The allegation of torture was brought to public view in a video posted online, in which Fan detailed to his lawyer how he was tortured.

Based on public statements by defense lawyers in the case, Fan was among the first 34 men and women detained in the summer of 2009 during Chongqing’s high-profile campaign aimed at cleaning up the city’s criminal underground. During their nearly six-month detention, all of the detainees were kept incommunicado from their families and lawyers. And it was only in November that Fan’s lawyer, Zhu Mingyong (朱明勇), was allowed to see his client and they were only allowed to read a few pages of the prosecution’s 109-volume case file.

At trial, Fan, along with other defendants, said that he had been tortured into confessing crimes he did not commit. Fan was convicted of multiple crimes including murder and sentenced to death in February 2010 by the Chongqing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court (重庆市第一中级人民法院). The sentence was upheld in May 2010 by the Chongqing Municipal Higher People’s Court (重庆市高级人民法院), which then forwarded the case to the Supreme People’s Court for final review, as required by law.

In July 2010, Zhu sent to the five Supreme People’s Court judges in charge of review of death sentences copies of a videotape he recorded of Fan describing the torture he suffered. (Chinese law permits a lawyer to videotape his meeting with his client with the client’s consent.) Zhu made a formal request for a meeting with the judges and an investigation into the case based on the new evidence. After Zhu posted the video on the Internet, more than 100 prominent lawyers, writers, and activists signed two open letters to the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate calling for further investigation.

Zhu has not received any response from the Court. But on September 26, Zhu received a phone call from Yang, who had just read in the news that Fan had been executed. By its own regulation, during a death penalty review, the Court should meet with the lawyer upon request or when new evidence is submitted.

“This is an alarming, egregious case of abuse of individual rights and violations of law by the country’s highest judicial authorities,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “The Chinese authorities must take immediate actions to demonstrate to the Chinese people and to the international community that they respect and will enforce their own laws.” HRIC urges that National People’s Congress initiate a full and transparent investigation and hold those responsible to account for the documented acts of torture and abuse in this case.

If One Dares to Ask – What Reigns Supreme in China?
Lawyer Jinzhu Kindly Urges the Resignation of Mr. Wang Shengjun

Yang Jinzhu’s Third Review of Lawyer Zhu Mingyong’s Defense Statement

Yang Jinzhu started out as a student of Chinese literature, but is now an “illegal” lawyer. In his 20-year career as a lawyer, he always revered the law, treating the sanctity and dignity of the law as precious as his own life.

A politician by profession, Mr. Wang Shengjun is an “illegal” president of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). Perched in a high position over the past few years, he has been in firm control of China’s judicial power. One assumes that he would stand in awe of the law. However, due to the “illegal” nature of his appointment, he has shown no respect for law. Instead, he treats it as a trivial game, with callous disregard for human life, and remains oblivious to the views of the world’s people. Those who know nothing fear nothing. To implement the “Three Supremes” espoused by President Hu Jintao (in their work, the grand judges and grand procurators shall always regard as supreme the party’s cause, the people’s interest, and the constitution and laws), the SPC, under the watchful eyes of the public, violated legal procedures. The court used a so-called “straightforward killing law,” thus creating a case of injustice, with total disregard for human life.

Jinzhu feels emboldened to ask: Without following legal procedures, Mr. Wang Shengjun employed a “straightforward killing law” to kill people. To which of the Three Supremes are you adhering?

On July 16, 2010, Zhu Mingyong submitted via express mail a defense statement relating to the review of Fan Qihang’s death penalty case as well as video evidence that showed Fan Qihang had been coerced and severely tortured during an interrogation. The submission was sent to Mr. Wang Shengjun and the head of the SPC’s No. 4 Criminal Tribunal, respectively. Zhu Mingyong made a specific inquiry, which confirmed that the SPC had signed and received the two express mails.

On May 21, 2008, the SPC and the Ministry of Justice promulgated the Regulations on Fully Guaranteeing the Lawyer’s Performance of the Defense Duties in Accordance with Law to Ensure the Quality Handling of Death Penalty Cases (关于充分保障律师依法履行辩护职责,确保死刑案件办理质量的若干规定),  This new law clearly state at the beginning: “To ensure the quality handling of death penalty cases, we hereby, in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, relevant laws and regulations, and the relevant judicial interpretations, give notice of the following specific issues concerning the hearing of death penalty cases by the people’s courts and the performance of the duty of defense by counsel in light of the actual situation of the judicial work of the people’s courts in hearing criminal cases and the defense work and legal aid work of counsel:

    Article 1. For defendants that may be sentenced to death, the people’s courts are required to, in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law, fully safeguard the defendants’ right to defense and other legitimate rights and interests and fully ensure that their defense counsel performs his or her defense duty according to law. The judicial administrative organ and the bar association shall strengthen their guidance for defense work in death penalty cases, and make vigorous efforts to urge the public finance department of the government to contribute money for legal aid and gradually raise such contributions. Counsel shall devote themselves to their duties and effectively safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of defendants…

    Article 17. During the period when a death penalty case is being reviewed, if the counsel of the defendant requests to state his opinions or submit evidentiary material face to face, the relevant panel of the people’s court shall receive such opinions or evidentiary material during office hours and at the office, record the materials and attach them to the case files. The written opinions of counsel shall also be attached to the case files.

Pursuant to the above provisions, the SPC No. 4 Criminal Tribunal should have “summoned” Fan’s lawyer, Zhu Mingyong, to participate in the full court review of Fan Qihang’s death penalty case, documenting the conversation with Zhu Mingyong and attaching the records to case files.

While Zhu Mingyong was waiting for the SPC summons, the SPC conducted “a secret review and a public murder”! On the morning of September 26, 2010, I read an article on that Fan Qihang had been killed and immediately shared the news with lawyer Zhu Mingyong. He asked me the same question three times, “Is it true?” When I told him once again that it was confirmed, Zhu Mingyong asked another question three times: “How can it be possible? I haven’t had my talk with [the court] yet.” Following his questions, Zhu Mingyong burst into heart-wrenching sobs.

Zhu Mingyong was outraged, and this outrage turned him into a poet. Having been denied the opportunity to defend the innocence of his client in court, Zhu Mingyong passed a sleepless night on September 26. He wept many times, and with tears streaming, he composed a poetic masterpiece, “Farewell” (or “Wish you a good journey”), which soon spread all over China.

Lawyer Yang Jinzhu is outraged!
Lawyer Chen Guangwu is outraged!
Lawyer Chen Yixuan is outraged!
Mr. Wulei, a hermit in Beijing, is outraged!
Professor Yu Yuanzhou is outraged!
Countless numbers of legal professionals are outraged!!!

Yang Jinzhu questioned this angrily: Mr Wang Shengjun, you’re a politician, not a jurist, yet you now control the highest court in China? For the sake of the powerful, how can you completely lack any reverence toward the law? How can you not even go through the motions or procedures [of the court] in matters of life and death, right before everyone’s eyes? How can you blatantly and openly disregard the value of life and create injustice? Is this how you believe power should be used? Do you not know that the water that supports the boat can also topple it over?

On September 8, 2010, Jinzhu published the sixteen-point criticism, “The Evidence that Zhu Mingyong Made Public Hit the Fatal Weakness That There Is No Procedural Justice in the Chongqing Anti-Mafia Campaign” (朱明勇公布证据点中重庆打黑丧失程序正义的死穴). In the article, Jinzhu reflected on a serious question: Should Chinese lawyers take to non-violent protests in order to defend the rights and interests of Chinese lawyers and promote the progression of the rule of law? When would be the best time to start for China, and for Chinese lawyers? I ask that my fellow lawyers tell me! If Zhu Mingyong is arrested, not only is Mr. He Weifang going with him; the stubborn Hunanese southerner Yang Jinzhu shall immediately start a non-violent protest of Chinese lawyers and go to Chongqing to accompany Zhu Mingyong. Jinzhu believes that if he goes to Chongqing to accompany Zhu Mingyong, it definitely won’t be just him alone! Jinzhu wants to see just how many Chinese lawyers Tieshanping can lock up!

The rule of law is already dead in China! The SPC has already fallen! The SPC has become the promoter of the destruction of the rule of law, shaking the foundation of the country, destroying the gains in China’s 30 years of legal reforms, trampling on people’s dignity and social justice, and damaging the state’s judicial authority. The judiciary has fallen to its lowest point. China’s rule of law has reached its final juncture. In order to progress China’s rule of law, Yang Jinzhu has resolved to hold a non-violent protest on October 8. Yang Jinzhu wants to provoke Mr. Wang Shengjun!

October 8, 2010, is the first day following the National Holiday week. Yang Jinzhu shall be the first to do the following in China’s thousands of years of history and in the more than 60 years since the founding of the PRC so that the rule of law may progress, the state may have lasting stability and peace, and the people may live with dignity:

  1. On October 8, at 8:00 a.m., An Open Letter from Yang Jinzhu Urging Mr. Wang Shengjun to Resign from the Presidency of the SPC shall be released online and then delivered by express courier to Mr. Wang Shengjun.
  2. On October 8, at 8:00 a.m., An Open Letter Proposing that the Central Authorities Form a Special Investigation Committee to Look into Fan Qihang’s Death Sentence shall be released online and then delivered by express courier to the Politburo Standing Committee.
  3. On October 8, at 8:00 a.m., An Open Letter Proposing that the NPC Remove Wang Shengjun from the Presidency of the SPC shall be released online and then delivered by express courier to the chairman, vice-chairman, and secretary-general.
  4. Beginning October 9, Yang Jinzhu shall begin the “letter-a-day” campaign, sending the aforementioned letters to the leaders every day by registered mail until the following happens:
    1. Wang Shengjun resigns, the National People’s Congress removes Wang Shengjun from office, or Wang Shengjun’s term ends.
    2. The central authorities form a special committee to review Fan Qihang’s death penalty case.
    3. Yang Jinzhu is locked up, goes missing, or kills himself.

Leave the politics to the politicians and the law to the jurists. Allow honest jurists to be in control of the SPC in order to allow the court to truly return to the law. This is the goal of Yang Jinzhu’s non-violent protest!

Jinzhu is determined to follow the path of the ancient sages – Qu Yuan, Du Fu, Lu You, Chen Tianfang, Tan Sitong, and Lu Xun – crying out for China’s rule of law, devoting himself to this fight until the end of his days!

Are the Chinese leaders listening? Send a message via the Direct Line to Zhongnanhai (Chinese only)

For more information on the Chongqing crackdown and Fan Qihang’s case from the international community, see:

For more information on Fan Qihang’s case, see:

For more information on Chinese lawyers and scholars commentary on Chongqing mafia crackdown and Fan Qihang’s case (Chinese only), see:

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