Voluntary Surrender and Confession in China’s Legal System – From the Empire to the People’s Republic

1024px-yamen-sitzung

A magistrate holds court (late 19th century. Author unknown. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

China’s Televised Confessions

On January 17 Gui Minhai, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen, made a high-profile confession on China Central Television (CCTV), saying that he had turned himself to the authorities voluntarily. He confessed to having caused the death of a 20-year-old woman while drunk-driving back in 2003. According to China’s state media, Gui had subsequently fled mainland China with fake documents. “Returning to the Chinese mainland and surrendering was my personal choice and had nothing to do with anyone else”, the 52-year-old said. “I don’t want any individual or institutions, including Sweden, to interfere in anything to do with my return”.

Gui Minhai had mysteriously disappeared from his home in Pattaya, Thailand, on 17 October 2015. A camera in his Thai condo showed him that day as he came back home carrying groceries. Shortly afterwards, he drove away together with a man who had been waiting for him in the garage. According to Gui’s daughter, he suddenly stopped communicating with her. She did not know what had happened until she received an e-mail from Lee Bo, one of her father’s business associates: “Your dad has gone missing”, Lee wrote. “We’re afraid he was taken by Chinese agents for political reasons”. It has been suggested that Gui’s alleged abduction may be part of “Operation Fox Hunt“, launched by Xi Jinping in 2014 with the aim of forcibly repatriating Chinese citizens wanted by the government, including political dissidents. Thailand’s immigration authorities had no record of Gui leaving the country, a circumstance that contradicts Gui’s claim of having returned to China voluntarily. Continue reading

China’s Legal System – Communist or Feudal?

723px-supreme_people27s_court_of_p-r-china27s_badge-svg

Emblem of the People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (source: Wikipedia)

 

 

On October 13, 2014, Yu Wensheng, a lawyer from Beijing, was arrested and detained by the police for 99 days . He was interrogated approximately 200 hundred times by 10 officers who worked in shifts night and day. Yu’s wrists were fastened behind his back with handcuffs.  “My hands were swollen and I felt so much pain that I didn’t want to live“, he told Amnesty International. “The police officers repeatedly yanked the handcuffs and I would scream“. Two days before his arrest, Yu had submitted a request to Beijing Fengtai Detention Centre for meeting one of his clients. The authorities had rejected Yu’s request without reason. As an act of protest, he stayed in front of the detention centre and later published a post online describing the incident. At around midnight the police forced him to leave, and on October 13 the Beijing Daxing District Public Security Bureau arrested him on charges of “disorderly behaviour” (寻衅滋事罪). Yu was denied access to his lawyers and his family. According to Albert Ho, chairperson of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “it is not uncommon for a lawyer to be made captive as a result of conducting his legal duties“. Cases of lawyers arrested without due procedures and tortured by state organs are numerous. It is estimated that since last year approximately 250 human rights lawyers have been detained or mysteriously went missing.

On 17 October 2015, 51-year-old Gui Minhai disappeared from his home in Pattaya, Thailand. Gui was a shareholder of Hong Kong-based publishing house ‘Mighty Current‘, which published salacious gossip books about high-rank officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Gui was born in China‘s Zhejiang Province and studied history at Beijing University. In 1988 he moved to Sweden and earned a PhD at Gothenburg University. After the Communist Party put down the Tiananmen student protests in 1989, Gui remained in Sweden and became a naturalised citizen. As the political climate relaxed in the 1990s, he returned to China and worked there for a few years, before entering the publishing business in 2012. A camera in his Thai condo showed him on October 17 as he came back home carrying groceries. Shortly afterwards, he drove away together with a man who had been waiting for him in the garage.  Continue reading

Papa Xi “Beats The Tiger” – Xi Jinping’s New Year Propaganda Cartoon

On 17 February Beijing Chaoyang Studio (北京朝阳工作室) released three cartoons which aim at spreading among the people the values of the Xi Jinping administration in a way that is closer to the common citizen and less stiff and cold than traditional political propaganda.

One of the three cartoons is entitled  “Has the mass line been truly implemented?” (群众路线动真格了?) The animation revolves around Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption, a phenomenon which, according to the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), runs counter the Communist Party’s mass line.

The animation condemns the vices that the official party language describes as “The Four Decadent Customs” (四风)and “The Three Abuses” (三公).

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报), the animations represent a departure from the previous style of government communication, which was too cold and detached from the people. “In the past,” writes the paper, “the Chinese people only saw pictures, portraits or official videos of their leaders, while it was extremely rare to see them in animated films.”

But China has now entered a new era, which the newspaper describes as “the era in which every person has a microphone” and in which every citizen is involved in disseminating political ideas. The way the government gives prominence to the people is the adoption of a new style of propaganda. It abandons “the language of preaching” (说教腔调), which scares people away and is ineffective, because “if no one wants to listen, it does not matter how loud the voice is, it will be to no avail”. In order to reach out to the public, “it is necessary to adjust to its taste”, to resort to a more joyful tone. This strategy will achieve the goal of “convincing the public without compulsion” (说服而非压服).

One scene from the video has become particularly popular. It is the one in which Xi Jinping brandishes a club and beats a tiger. “Tigers” is the common term used to refer to corrupt high-ranking Communist officials. The image therefore aims at illustrating in a simple (and frivolous) way how Xi Jinping is defeating corruption within the Communist Party.

But what is exactly the ‘mass line’ which the video mentions?

The mass line is not to be understood as a democratic principle in a Western sense, but rather as the implementation of what the PRC constitution calls the “people’s democratic dictatorship“. The people’s democratic dictatorship, which may sound like a self-contradictory concept, is in reality the logical result of the Communist Party’s principle of “avant-garde leadership”. The Party considers itself – in Marxist and Leninist terms – the most progressive element of society, the defender of the rights of the working classes, and the true liberator of the masses from capitalist exploitation. While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has de facto discarded the idea of creating a classless society, it has maintained the principle of ‘avantgardism’: the Party interprets the will and needs of the masses, formulates its policies which it will then spread among the people through top-to-bottom mobilisation.

In “The Governance of China” Xi Jinping explains,

We have made the important decision to start an education campaign to promote the mass line of the Party. It was a decision made on the basis of the current circumstances, with the purpose of exercising self-discipline and of strictly carrying out the Party’s policies. This education campaign is an important measure that will fulfill the expectations of the people and facilitate the betterment of our Party as a Marxist ruling party based on learning, service and innovation. This will also be an important step towards the implementation of Chinese socialism. This campaign will play in important part in upholding the avant-garde character and the integrity of our Party …

According to Xi Jinping, corruption is one of the phenomena that have estranged the people from the Party, it is an evil that contradicts the mass line character of the Party. In order to re-establish the ties between Party and people, fighting corruption is a priority.

The cartoon exemplifies Xi’s war against corruption by addressing “The Four Decadent Customs” (四风)and “The Three Abuses” (三公).

“The Four Decadent Customs” are formalism (形式主义), bureaucratism (官僚主义), hedonism (享乐主义) and extravagance (奢靡).

In “The Governance of China” Xi Jinping describes them in the following way:

Formalism means looking only at the form of things, separating action and knowledge, neglecting effectiveness, hiding behind piles of documents and in conference rooms; it means pursuing vanity and resorting to wrong facts.

Bureaucratism means being detached from reality, losing the connection with the people, being indifferent towards facts, it means arrogance and egomania.

Hedonism means spiritual laxity, resting on one’s laurels, vanity, lasciviousness, longing for the limelight and always yearning for pleasure.

Extravagance means dissipation, wasting resources, expensive construction projects, endless parties and ceremonies, a luxurious and dissolute lifestyle, abuse of power for one’s own private interests …

“The Thee Abuses”, on the other hand, refer to the squandering of public money for cars, travel expenses and banquets during official trips.