Week 3 in Geneva

A week deeply stuck in a project

The passing week was not an easy week. By the end of the Friday, I was still working on the project of summarizing IBJ’s 12-years work in China onto PowerPoint slides. My mind was lost in all kinds of roundtables, workshop, forum, seminar, mentorship session, training, rights awareness campaign, specialized projects, IT resources…… that IBJ has designed and held in the past 12 years for Chinese legal professionals and common citizens. IBJ emphasizes very much its goal of equipping defense lawyers with more professional skills and citizens with more knowledge about the rights of defendants.

A series of accidents happening from this weekend reminded me again how significant actually IBJ’s work means to a country that wants to realize the rule of law. From July 10th, forced disappearance or sudden summoning by police happened to many Chinese defense lawyers. One report listed that up to July 14th, 159 lawyers have been called by police to leave home or office. 10 of them are still under detention, 14 are not within contact, and the other 135 have been released after short interview, interrogation, or detention. Many of them were summoned or detained under the crime of 寻畔滋事, meaning “causing an affray” or “provoking disturbances”. As the real causes for this event remain confusing and unclear, it may not be proper to put any conclusive comment here. However, many legal professionals, especially those from academia, start writing articles advocating the importance of defense lawyers. One article titled “the time that defense lawyers are asked for troubles is the time that citizens go through troubles” (《律师被难日 国民遭殃时》) written 5 years ago by Weifang He, a law professor at Peking University Law School, becomes popular again. (Chinese link: http://blog.caijing.com.cn/expert_article-151302-10505.shtml)

In this article, profession He shared one of his experiences to show the significance of lawyers. Months ago he was auditing a criminal case. Three young migrant workers were charged of robbery while committing battery. The former was a criminal accusation. Their defender augured that they had only planned to beat the victim, and had not deliberated on the robbery. When the prosecutor rebutted they confessed during the interrogation that they had considered of “下分” (a jargon for dividing up the spoils), the defendants explained they were forced by the police to say the word. Without summoning relevant policemen, and even before the prosecutor reacted, the judge interrupted and denounced harshly: “do not make non-sense! Policemen are government officials. How could they force you to say anything?! Listen, your behavior at the court-room today is very important. I ask you now, ‘do you agree with the main facts or not?’” “Yes, we agree that the main facts are all right!”, replied the defendants immediately, with no idea that the key of this case was their mens rea of beating the victim and taking the victim’s wallet, instead of whether they actually beat the victim and took his wallet. Nevertheless, their lawyers remain silent.

This telling story shows lawyers’ disadvantageous position in an inquisitorial system and the vulnerability of defendants without proper legal counsel. Making people aware of defendants’ rights, empowering defense lawyers with practical and professional defense skills, and building trust among judges, prosecutors, police and defenders are the exact goals IBJ has put behind every project designed in China. I’m very glad to get this deeper understanding of my work, IBJ’s mission, its practical way of carrying on its mission, my country, being a legal professional, and law in general.


A caricature for this week's accident.


I visited a chuch in the center of Geneva during the weekend. It was built in the 13th Century, if I remember correctly (have to double check). Anyway, as a Christian, every time visiting a church has a meaning to me. As a legal professional, many times when I visit a church I couldn’t help imagining, what it would have been like, if Jesus, Socrates, and people in alike situations had had defense lawyers.


A panorama of Geneva; taken at the roof of the church. Stunningly beautiful! I take it as a picture depicting the kind of society in the mind of every good lawyer.