Li Zhuang: Chinese Defense Lawyer Who Was Found Guilty of Suborning Perjury

Background

In November 2007,  Bo Xilai , one of the Chinese best-known politicians, was appointed as the Communist Party of China Chongqing Committee Secretary, first-in-charge of the Western interior municipality with 30 million people.

Bo initiated an ambitious campaign against organized crime in July 2009. It was directed at the gangsters and powerful officials who control the gangs and enable them to flourish. Wang Lijun, police chief of Chongqing, was the campaign’s overlord. Some 6,000 people, amongst whom were wealthy businessmen, police officers, judges and legislators, have been arrested.

Wang Lijun (left) and Bo Xilai

This powerful campaign drew national attention and brought fierce controversy. Many applauded it for making the city safer, but others criticized it for neglecting due process.

In the campaign, li Zhuang Case(李庄案) received the most attention. Li, a Beijing-based lawyer, was sentenced to eighteen months for perjury after his client, a suspected gangster, reported to the police that Li incited him to lie to the court that police officers tortured him during his interrogation.

This case galvanized lawyers across China. They support Li publicly, and criticize the Chongqing government sharply.

The Li Zhuang case is so important because it is an indicator of how far China has come on its legal reform,”said a Peking University law professor, He Weifang(贺卫方), who also posted a letter to the legal professionals in Chongqing on his blog. In the letter he claimed that the campaign causes people “to feel that time has been dialed back, that the Cultural Revolution is being replayed, and that the ideal of rule of law is right now being lost”.

Season 1

In June 2009, Gong Gangmo(龚刚模), an alleged mafia boss, was arrested by Chongqing police for a string of felonies that included murder, illegal weapons trade, drug dealing and leading a criminal organization. On Nov. 22, 2009, Gong’s wife retained Li Zhuang and Ma Xiaojun(马晓军) to represent him. Li and Ma met Gong on Nov. 24, 26, and Dec. 4. According to Li, each time he had arguments with the police officers who insisted on being present during the interviews.

On Dec. 10, Gong reported to police that Li encouraged him to lie in court by testifying that he was tortured during his interrogation. Gong later told a television reporter that Li’s enticement was conveyed through “winks.” he also claimed that  the reason he turned on Li was that he wantedto gain sufficient credit to avoid the death penalty.

On Dec. 13, Li was arrested for subornation of perjury. On Dec. 30, he was brought to trial before Chongqing Jiangbei Court(重庆市江北区法院). He testified that Gong had shown him wrist wounds and told him that police had strung him up for eight days.

Li Zhuang in his trial

The prosecutor read written statements of eight witnesses(including Ma Xiaojun) to prove Li’s guilt. Li requested theses witnesses appear in court to be cross-examined. The court rejected the request, citing as its reason that one of these witnesses was in hospital and the others, who were under detention, were unwilling to show up.

In late November of 2009, Chongqing police sent a telegram to the Beijing judiciary bureau, saying that Chongqing Detention Center’s audio and video records showed that Li had tried to persuade Gong to give false testimony. During the trial, the prosecutor did not present the records.  Li requested the court to obtain them from the detention center to prove his innocence. The court presented a written statement of the detention center which claimed that it has no audio and video equipment.  The defense attorney presented sufficient evidence to prove that it has the equipment, but in vain. In China, detention centers are affiliated to police.

The written testimony of a medical expert offered by the prosecutor said that “The bruise on Gong’s left wrist was caused by a blunt instrument”.

The trial began at 9:00 a.m. on Dec. 30 and ended at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 31.

On Jan. 8, 2010, Li was found guilty and sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment.

Li firmly denied his guilt and appealed his conviction. Then something extremely strange happened: he surpringly declared in the court of second instance that he was guilty, and when the court announced that, owing to his confession, his sentence would be reduced to 18 months, he claimed that he was innocence and was cheated.

According to the Guardian,

Judges shaved 12 months off his two-and-a-half year sentence, acknowledging his co-operation. But the discovery yesterday that he would still serve 18 months prompted a second dramatic U-turn from the lawyer, who grabbed a microphone and alleged authorities had promised to let him walk free if he said he was guilty.

“The local public security agency and prosecutors have absolutely cheated me … the local prosecutor even tried to persuade me to give up my appeal. It was a complete deception and it will be exposed to the light of day sooner or later,” he told the court, according to the Economic Observer.

Li said he had been told that he would not receive another hearing unless he confessed. He pledged: “I will fight this to the end, I will continue to appeal,” before he was dragged away.

Plea bargains do not exist in Chinese law and a prosecutor told China Daily that there had been no deal. A spokesperson for prosecutors in Chongqing said no one was available to answer the Guardian’s queries.

Li’s defence lawyer Gao Zicheng(高子程) said an innocent man had been sentenced.

“On Monday evening, when I asked why he confessed, risking his dignity and the case, he said he had met with senior officials who promised he would get a reprieve if he pleaded guilty,” Gao told the paper.

“He said he was told that if he didn’t do so, the sentence would remain unchanged.”

Gao added: “Today’s sentence without reprieve surely failed Li’s expectations, and the whole trial is a comedy, unjust and wrong,” he said.

 

Season 2

On April 19, 2011, Li Zhuang, who was serving his sentence, was brought to trial before Chongqing Jiangbei Court again. This time he was charged with enticing a witness to give false testimony in Shanghai Xuhui Court in July 2008 during an embezzlement trial.

Li zhuang was brought to trial again on April 19, 2011

Three days later, the prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the charge against Li, saying it lacked evidence.

Season 3

On June 11, 2011, Li Zhuang was released after completing his sentence.

Li appears on the cover of a famous magazine after his release from jail

On Feb. 7, 2012, Ma Xiaojun, with whom Li met with Gong, filed a lawsuit against Chongqing police for false arrest, seeking 204, 800 China Yuan($32,542) in compensation for 34 days of false arrest. He also claimed that Chongqing police prevented him from testifying for Li during Li’s trial. Chongqing Jiangbei Court received the complaint, but has not decided if it will hear the case. Ma’s wife, Han Huijuan(韩慧娟), who was with him when he was under false arrest, filed a similar lawsuit.

According to an article allegedly written by Ma on Feb. 16, 2010,

When Ma and Li met with Gong on Nov. 26, 2009, Gong told them that during his interrogation he was strung up for eight days and nights, with only his toes touching a table, which resulted in his incontinence.

On Dec. 13, 2009, Ma was arrested by Chongqing police. After being deprived of sleep more than 90 hours in Chongqing Jiangbei Detention Center(重庆市江北区看守所), he was forced to sign on “his” written testimony against Li prepared by police. He was also forced to recite the written testimony before a police officer who recorded it with a video. On the day before Li’s trial, under police’s repeated threat, Ma signed a declaration before the judge of Chongqing Jiangbei Court who would hear the trial the next day. The declaration stated that “I am not willing to testify in the hearing.  All the written testimony are true.”

Ma was forced by police to write an apology letter to the All China Lawyers Association(全国律协), admitting that he did not prevent Li  from violating law.

On Jan. 9, 2010, Ma was moved from the Chongqing Jiangbei Detention Center to an apartment rented by police and joined by his wife. Six police officers were divided into two groups to watch them closely around the clock and control their activities. They brought Ma and his wife out to dine, go shopping, watch movie and recorded what happened to prove that they were free at that time.

Ma’s wife and Ma were released on Dec. 2, and 11 respectively.

After obtaining the testimony of Ma and his wife, Li Zhuang submitted a petition for retrial to Chongqing Jiangbei Court in early March 2012. Now the court has not decided whether or not to grant a retrial.

Aftermath

On February 2, 2012, Wang Lijun was abruptly reassigned to a post which was regarded as a less prestigious one than his former public security office.

On February 6, Wang fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu and remained there for one day. It was speculated that he attempted to seek political asylum from U.S.

It is alleged that when Wang was investigated on suspicion of involvement in a corruption case, he sought leniency in exchange for information on corruption and embezzlement by Bo Xilai and his wife. Bo is speculated to have learned about Wang’s accusations. He ordered the arrest of several individuals closest to Wang. Wang’s fears of retribution by Bo may led him to brought evidence incriminating Bo to seek refuge from U.S.

Another speculation is that Wang feared retaliation after telling Bo that his family was linked to an inquiry into the mysterious death of a British citizen, Neil Heywood, who was an acquaintance of Bo’s family. Early this year Britain asked China to open an inquiry into the death of Neil Heywood. On March 26, 2012, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office said the government had sought a new inquiry.

As soon as Wang left the consulate, he was seized by security officials and taken to Beijing. Now he is under investigation.

One day after Wang’s departure from the consulate, an open letter allegedly written by Wang was posted on internet. This letter sharply criticized Bo as a “hypocrite” and “the greatest gangster in China” and accused Bo of corruption.

In early March 2012, President Hu Jintao denounced Wang as a traitor to the Communist Party and the nation in a closed-door meeting.

On March 14, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao told a news conference that Chongqing’s leadership should “reflect and learn from” the scandal involving Wang Lijun. Wen gave a veiled condemnation of Mr. Bo’s policies, warning that the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution and feudalism have not been fully eliminated yet.

On 15 March, Bo was removed from party secretary of Chongqing. Now he is under investigation too.

Bo Xilai (left) and Wang Lijun

Since Bo’s downfall, a starkly different picture of his sweeping campaign to break up organized gangs is coming into focus. Once hailed as a pioneering effort to wipe out corruption, critics now say it depicts a security apparatus run amok: framing victims, extracting confessions through torture, extorting business empires and visiting retribution on the political rivals of Mr. Bo and his friends while protecting those with better connections.

Here is the videotape of Fan Qihang(樊奇杭) accusing authorities of torturing him almost every day for six months. He was executed on Sept. 26, 2010.

5 responses to “Li Zhuang: Chinese Defense Lawyer Who Was Found Guilty of Suborning Perjury

  1. Nice! I wish China is a country ruled of law!

  2. Pingback: China’s Next Top Model: Guangdong Beats Chongqing? | China News Center

  3. Pingback: China: Campaign to End the Unconstitutional Re-education Through Labour System · Global Voices

  4. I believe you have observed some very interesting points , regards for the post

  5. Xu Xiaoya you might care about this money, she said: Do not worry teachers, we must call a good single senior, this money will be reimbursed to Qiang got.

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