When He Xiaobo, the director of Nanfeiyan - a center helping workers seek compensation for workplace injuries in Foshan - was criminally detained on December 3 (along with 20 other labor activists), his lawyer immediately asked the police to arrange a meeting with He, but all kinds of excuses and methods have been used to prevent the meeting from taking place.
For updates about this latest crackdown and related solidarity actions, follow the Facebook page "Free Chinese labour activists now 馬上釋放中國勞權人士". Please sign the petition here (now in multiple languages). For background and more information, see other translations and writings compiled on Libcom under the tag "Solidarity with Chinese Workers."
Background on He Xiaobo in English here.
Editors (Red Balloon): When He Xiaobo, the director of Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Center in Foshan (an NGO helping workers seek compensation for workplace injuries) was detained as a criminal suspect on December 3, his lawyer immediately asked the police to arrange a meeting with He, but the police have repeatedly come up with various excuses and methods to prevent the meeting from taking place.
At the request of his wife, I am representing He Xiaobo in his defence of the embezzlement charge.
There are just a few meeting room in the Nanhai Detention Centre, and there is a total of 4,000 good guys and bad under detention, it is very troublesome for any lawyers to meet their cilents. I remember there was only 5 meeting rooms, respectively for “slow meeting” and “fast meeting”. There is no time limit for slow meeting, and fast meeting can only last no more than 20 minutes. I heard that now there are 2 more, 7 meeting rooms. This 2, as I heard, is the result of joint petition of lawyers from Foshan. Blessing always came a little abrupt, 2 whole meeting room! Tears of Joy!
As it is well-known that the meeting room quota is hard to grab, I arrived at the gate of the detention centre early at 12:00 noon. Although the scarcity of meeting rooms would indeed lead to difficulty in meeting cilents, this is somewhat different from the past. In the past the difficulty to meet cilents is created by the “joint misconduct” from the case-handling unit and the detention centre, by making things difficult and not allowing lawyers to meet their cilents, violating the lawyers’ right to practice, as well as the suspects’ right to defence. After the amendment of the criminal laws in 2012, the difficulty in meeting did eased in ordinary criminal cases. Therefore, the new “scarcity of meeting rooms” is created. After all, our country is still "in the early phase of socialism”. Moreover, the people around the world are still in dire circumstances, in need of aids from our poor yet benevolent fatherland. Coins sprinkling down and what joy to bring warmth to the people around the world! We should endure! If anyone wants to meeting thier cilents, they have to come early, and no matter there’s a sudden downpour or what, you have to stand fast in the queue. Seeing the difficulties of us “law workers” (hope the migrant workers are okay with this, afterall they are doing honest labour for living), a joke came into my mind: The Rule of Law! Aye! Say no more, lest come the tears.
Though I arrived 12:30 at the gate of the detention centre, I was the forth (actually the third, because the one at second placed a licence for his colleague). What a scene in the hall of the Nanhai detention centre, colleagues arriving at 2:00pm always have to count the head before him: “one, two, three...seventeen, eighteen, nineteen…” with a shake of the head and sigh, he must be regretting his laziness or punctuality. Man, it’s 2 o’clock, even the cops have already arrived at work!
Officer for the meeting arrangment arrived, finished the applications from the two before me. My name was called, and I hurried forward, he asked if it is a fast meeting or slow meeting. I replied it is the first time, so a slow meeting. He was about to reply when realized something, stopped and said, "He Xiaobo, can’t meet today. Requires booking, arrangement within 48 hours.”
I said, “Those two before me don’t require booking and 48 hours, why it’s diffrerent with me?”
He glanced and said, “the case-handling unit requested it.””
“Detention centre cannot fulfill this unlawful request by the case-handling unit, this abstruction to the meeting between lawyer and cilent, is a violation of the layer’s right to practice,” I said.
“The detention centre have the right to arrangement meeting anytime within 48 hours,” he said.
"This is your misunderstanding of the law. According to the Criminal Procedure article 37 section 2, whenever lawyers presented the required documents, detention centre should arrangement meeting as soon as possible, within 48 hours. On 20th September this year, the executive and legal branch of the central autority distributed the ‘Regulations protecting lawyers’ right to practice’, in which article 7 section 1 stated that ‘should arrange as soon as possible. Arrangement should be made immediately after receiving applictaion, if not, detention centre should explain the situation to the lawyer’. Detention centre can arrange within 48 hours only if legitimate reasons are presented. Your reasons are obviously not legitimate, and the two before me can have meeting, but not me, this is an intentional obstruction.”
“I’m aware of what you’ve said, but the case-handling unit has requested.” he replied.
“Do they have the written notice for the request? If you don’t have the written notice, how would I know if it is the misconduct of the case-handling unit or that of the detention centre!” I said.
He seemed annoyed and said, “They said he is to be brought onto court (therefore cannot meet), is there a problem with that?”
“That’s ‘request by case-handling unit’ before, then it’s ‘being brought onto court’, one cannot fabricate reasons at will. I would remark this, and if later on there no record of him being brought onto court today, I will file a complain.” I said.
He seemed more annoyed, waved and said, “Go ahead.”
At this time, another lawyer said to me, while holding a cigarette between his lips, “You go ahead and find their leader, and stop this quarrel!”
“Do we have a quarrel?” I asked.
“No, we don’t,” said the officer arranging meetings. Seemed like a honest guy underneath... How many more do the institution have to forced into prostitution?
I wonder: when a lawyer’s right to practice is violated by the misconduct of both the case-handling unit and the detention centre, that lawyer elaborates the law and tries to reason, that is having a quarrel? I wonder how he would defend the rights of his client. And here’s my advice to fellow lawyers: if you see a lawyer’s right to practice being violated, if you have the backbone, step forward and fight. Today it is my rights being violated, tomorrow it would be yours. If you don’t have the courage, just stay silent, and don’t criticize the resistance of your colleague.
Then he approached me with a different posture, trying to be friendly. I pointed him to stand aside, he took the cue and walked away.
There’s not much more to reason with the officer, so I left the documents and booked for meeting.
Then I went upstairs to find the leader of the detention centre, officer Gao greet me with friendly attitude. After listening to my statement he said that he would reply ASAP, and said that it was not the request from the case-handling unit, it might be the problem from the detention centre management. I request an immediate rectification, and he replied that investigation has to be carried out. Though the friendly attitude, he’s not going to deal with the actual problem.
Eventually, I made two demands: (1) Meeting as soon as possible, (2) Rectify the misconduct and reject any unlawful request. Officer Gao stated that the meeting would be arranged as soon as possible.
Coming down from the stairs, I met the resident prosecutor in the hall, and I stated again about the procrastination of meeting, and filed a complaint. He told me to sit and wait, then went upstairs with the documents.
After about ten minutes, he came down with officer Gao. Gao said that there’s no way for a meeting today, holding the memo with my phone number on it and said, "We would contact you for the arrangement ASAP.”
I said excessive police power would lead to widespread fear. Officer Gao and the resident prosecutor both stood in thoughtful silence.
On the way back, I received a call from the Nanhai Detention Centre, the meeting would take place on Thursday morning. I got home and changed, then went to the Tienhe Sports Centre and played basketball with friend for a while. Though the rule of law is nowhere to be found, life must go on...