Beaten lawyers await apology
Eight lawyers in Heilongjiang who were brutally beaten by court officials while trying to attend a trial on January 24 are still waiting for an apology that might never come.
While lawyers being beaten is no longer news on the mainland, this time two of those beaten were pregnant women, and the assault continued even after they revealed their pregnancies. Liu Guiying was two months' pregnant and lost her child as a result.
Liu and husband Wen Yongquan were defence lawyers in a fraud trial scheduled for a public hearing at 9.30am on January 24 at the Daoli District People's Court in Harbin, according to a notice posted on January 28 by the Heilongjiang Jiaxu Law Firm, where the beaten lawyers worked.
Liu and Wen took along six other lawyers and trainees that morning, hoping that they could learn from the case. However, court marshals did not announce the start of the trial until 11am, and told the two defence lawyers that they could only bring four more people into the courtroom. 'There is not enough space for you to sit,' one marshal said.
Wen said there was no law limiting the number of people that could attend a public hearing and the court marshal then asked him to show his lawyer pass. Liu showed her pass while Wen searched for his. A man in plain clothes showed up, asked Wen what he was doing, spat out the phrase 'What the heck does a lawyer do?', and started beating him. Other lawyers tried to stop the beating, but got involved in the brawl instead as more court marshals joined in. The law firm said the plain-clothes man was the court marshals' team leader.
The criminal court chief confiscated Wen's lawyer pass, saying no one could step into his office to recover it. A court marshal started beating Rong Jingpeng, also pregnant, even though she told him of her condition. Other marshals joined in, apparently suspecting Rong had been secretly video-taping the brawl.
None of the beaten lawyers were at work yesterday. A receptionist at the law firm said they were recovering and that Rong's baby was all right.
On February 1, the law firm issued a second notice saying that the Communist Party Political and Legislative Affairs Committees of Harbin and Daoli district had agreed to set up a team to investigate the matter, and it was retracting its first notice.
On February 2, Xinhua reported the Daoli court had denied court marshals beat the lawyers, but admitted rough physical contact.
On Tuesday, two women's rights activists sent an open letter to the All-China Women's Federation urging the state-backed group to voice support for the two pregnant lawyers.