MANY in our country, and many all over the world fed up with their countries’ economic laggardness, are wishing we were like China. This wish seems to be gaining strength now that hopes for change in our society have grown with the start of the Rody Duterte presidency 11 days from today.
China is ruled and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. But the wish to be like China in most minds does not include the thought of being under Communist rule. The Filipinos just envy China for its being wealthier and more well-organized than the Philippines—and its people being less mired in dirt-poor poverty.
These Filipinos don’t have notions of how they might have to surrender many of their basic human rights. They feel that China is no longer the China where everybody had to drill and recite patriotic and moralistic slogans as in the days of Chairman Mao Zedong. They have an exaggerated idea that Chinese people now watch the same American movies and TV shows and indulge in the same pursuit of happiness and fun that Filipinos do.
Lawyers in China
One of the areas in which life in China differs from that of a freewheeling democracy is in the freedom lawyers have. Here are excerpts from the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations Asia Unbound blog this week:
“Prominent Chinese lawyer facing possibility of lifetime imprisonment. The Chinese police have recommended prosecution on a charge of ‘subverting state power’ for Zhou Shifeng, director of the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, whose arrest last summer invigorated a campaign to discredit and dismantle networks of rights-focused defense lawyers who have attempted to challenge the government. Zhou’s law firm took on many contentious cases about legal rights, representing the likes of dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Uighur academic Ilham Tohti.
“The charge of ‘subverting state power’ can carry a sentence of up to life in prison. In comparison, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years for ‘inciting subversion of state power,’ which is generally regarded as a lesser offense. Prosecutors now have up to a month and a half to decide whether or not take Zhou to court on the subversion charge.
“While it’s possible that the charge will be lightened, Zhou’s legal peers say that prosecutors are more inclined to stick with the more serious charge so as to set an example for other lawyers under investigation. China’s crackdown on lawyers is part of a comprehensive tightening of civil society under President Xi Jinping, in line with recent moves to restrict activity of foreign NGOs in China and reform the legal profession qualification system.”
The New York Times, in a report dated July 22, 2015 by Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley titled “China Targeting Rights Lawyers in a Crackdown,” said:
“BEIJING — More than 200 lawyers and associates have been detained, with 20 still in custody. Some have been paraded on television making humiliating confessions or portrayed as rabble-rousing thugs. A blast of commentaries in newspapers run by the Communist Party has accused them of subversion and swindles.
“In what lawyers call the most withering political assault on their profession in decades, the Chinese government is mounting a broad crackdown on human rights lawyers, contending that they have exploited contentious cases to enrich themselves and attack the party.
“The beleaguered lawyers say the government’s real goal is to discredit and dismantle the ‘rights defense’ movement, a small but audacious group of people who have used the law and public pressure to defend clients in a system stacked against them.
“ ‘This feels like the biggest attack we’ve ever experienced,’ said Zhang Lei, a lawyer in southern China who was among those questioned and released by the police. ‘It looks like they’re acting by the law, but hardly any of the lawyers who disappeared have been allowed to see their own lawyers. Over 200 brought in for questioning and warnings—I’ve never seen anything like it before.’ ”
“Yet, in a telling sign of how much Chinese society has changed in the four decades since Mao’s death, the lawyers are not retreating. Despite the intense police pressure, and the previous imprisonment of lawyers under President Xi Jinping, dozens have organized petitions denouncing the detentions and volunteered to defend those held by the police.