Rule of law in Chongqing

The always dependable Xujun Eberlein has a short but moving post celebrating the release from jail of Beijing attorney Li Zhuang who dared to defend an alleged Chongqing “gangster,” a label that applies to anyone who dares oppose Chongqing Committee Secretary Bo Xilai. But before we break out the Champagne over Li’s return home, Xujun reminds us of how the law is carried out in China’s fastest growing municipality, and why it’s way too early to celebrate.

While Li Zhuang is finally home, a Chongqing citizen, Fang Hong, was sent to labor reform for mocking Bo Xilai’s handling of Li Zhuang. Fang also has a supportive and filial son, Fang Di, who hired a renowned lawyer, Yuan Yulai, for his father. Yuan Yulai is reputed to be most interested in cases of “citizens suing officials.” A couple of days ago Yuan wrote on his micro-blog that Fang Di and other family members have disappeared after being summoned by police to talk.

It’s in the last paragraph that Xujun lets it all out.

Fang Hong’s arrest shocked me more than Li Zhuang’s trial, for even the appearance of legal procedure is abandoned. It is a stark naked case of “speech crime.” If I had had any illusions about Bo Xilai before, like the first time when I saw his handling of Chongqing’s taxi strike in 2008, Fang Hong’s arrest was the last straw to convince me Bo is a ruthless politician believing in Mao style iron-handed rule, and a political gambler who stakes all on a single throw. I just don’t know, 35 years after the Cultural Revolution ended, how far Bo can go in today’s China.

Who’s the gangster here? There are several more posts over at Xujun’s blog on this depressing topic. I hope everyone reads them. They serve as a grim reminder that rule of law has a long way to go in China, where you can still disappear at the whim of an official, and where those on the top are accountable to no one. And keep your eye on Chongqing and Bo Xilai. Is his hearkening back to Mao the sign of an ominous trend, or it it an isolated aberration?