Chinese 'Justice'


In a big, one-Party country going through rapid market development, it’s hard to know where to begin as far as ‘justice’ is concerned.

‘More than 18,000 Uygurs were arrested for threatening national security last year,’ reports the official Xinjiang Daily. If anything, human rights are getting worse in Xinjiang, the remote western province of China.

Most cases of civil unrest as well as police (and unidentified) violence against Chinese citizens is associated with land disputes arising from the confiscation and expropriation of land by village, municipal and other authorities. Little of the funds realised through these ‘sales’ returns to the public purse, and they are often without adequate recompense for the villagers and farmers concerned.

Mr Lu Banglie, a delegate to the Peoples Congress, was beaten by thugs in Guangdong’s Taishi village, when he was identified as a supporter of villagers who are in dispute with village authorities. Journalists trying to report on the same dispute were beaten by thugs at the village outskirts.

Police open fire and kill three Dongshou villagers, following their attempts to have allegedly corrupt officials removed from the village administration. The shooting sparks a petition by national scholars, writers and activists protesting the police attack.

Feng Meiying, a 15-year-old schoolgirl of Sinfeng village in Guangdong province, adjacent to Hong Kong, was alleged to have been beaten to death during a land dispute. Her family is believed to have received 130,000 yuan (approximately A$21,500) to say she died of a heart attack. Family members are either not talking to the press or are sticking to the story, despite eye-witness accounts of the schoolgirl’s body being dragged from underneath a police car following a violent protest.

Land disputes, however, are not the only source of stories of arbitrary arrest, brutality and imprisonment in China.

People travel to Beijing to exercise an ancient right, to petition central authorities to resolve disputes with local Party and Government officials. Some attempt to bring their grievances to the attention of the domestic or foreign press, and are arrested by police. They languish in custody. They die in custody.

Chan Tsz-cheung, a Hong Kong resident, has been detained on the mainland for more than four years without being allowed to meet his family, despite a court in Shenzhen (a city on the border of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) declaring the fraud case against him is outside its jurisdiction. But Shenzhen authorities are seeking the views of the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing. It has been more than a year since the judgement.

Thanks to Fiona Katauskas

Family of the accused say the Hong Kong Government offers little assistance it cites the ‘one country two systems’ principle. The family says the Hong Kong Government’s inaction makes it like a co-conspirator, in that it assists the law enforcement authorities on the mainland to do illegal things. The Hong Kong Government says it is concerned about the case and has conveyed the family’s requests to the relevant mainland authorities.

Traffic police in Taizhou, beat up a newspaper editor in his office because they are dissatisfied with a report in his paper about unreasonable traffic charges they are imposing. The local government says it is concerned about the incident and suspends the officer who led the attack on Wu Xiaghu, deputy editor of the Taizhou Evening News.

Three workers employed by De-Coro Industrial, an Italian furniture manufacturer in Shenzhen are beaten by their Italian supervisors during a pay dispute.

A Beijing law lecturer, Xu Zhiyong, and a lawyer, Li Fangping, paying a visit to an anti-abortion and anti-sterilisation activist Chen Guangcheng, are beaten by thugs. Chen is forced back to his house where he is held under guard. Xu and Li who were first invited to lunch by county officials, are beaten and then detained and questioned by police. The police who witness the attack don’t apprehend the attackers. After police questioning, Xu and Li are escorted   back to the Beijing.

Violence is not confined to peasants protesting land seizures.

Prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng says he was targeted in an assassination attempt on 17 January this year, when a car tried to run him over on a Beijing road.

A growing number of politically aware lawyers are challenging the Communist Party’s control of the judicial process on the mainland where the Party tells judges how to decide cases. Lawyers contend that cases are not heard impartially, rather guilt and sentences are decided on the basis of whether the defendant upholds the Party’s authority.

The total number of political prisoners in China is not known, but more than 4000 names of such prisoners have been compiled by the Dui Hua Foundation (link: It collates lists of detainees from publicly available records. Dui Hua has told the South China Morning Post that there is a crackdown on activity viewed as liberal and foreign, as well as on Chinese media, and the Internet.

Local news about political crime has dried up. Dui Hua defines political prisoners as those ‘who would not be behind bars if there were channels for them to express themselves politically or openly.’ Political crime is 1 per cent of all crime in China, but authorities strive to stamp it out. Police spend as much time solving political cases as all other crime categories combined.

Dui Hua says it knows only about 10 per cent of those in jail for political crime. Political crime is not reported as such in public documents. It is known as ‘endangering national security,’ ‘disrupting social order,’ and ‘subverting public order,’ and it can be buried under other categories.

China presents a contradictory picture as the central and some provincial Governments make eradicating corruption a priority, while at the same time, Marxism is to be resuscitated as a source of moral values for civil society.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.