Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Bout on "The Creation of Defence in China"

Books & Ideas (the English-language mirror website of La Vie des Idées) has published an interesting essay by Judith Bout (l'École des hautes études en sciences sociales) on "The Creation of Defence in China: Revisiting the Trial of the Gang of Four." Here's a brief summary:
The trial of the Gang of Four, which included Mao Zedong’s wife, took place after the end of the Cultural Revolution, during the winter of 1980-81. In the West, it is usually seen as a show trial; in China it constitutes the founding act of defence, throwing light on the particular way in which contemporary Chinese lawyers focus on technique and impartiality.
And a snippet of the introduction:
Before 1979, the People’s Republic of China had no lawyers except for a brief period of experimentation between 1954 and 1957. The profession was immediately discredited within a Marxist system based on a rejection of the neutrality of law and its servants: defending an enemy of the people was to be an enemy of the people oneself. Most lawyers were categorised as rightists after the Hundred Flowers Campaign in 1957. It was not until August 1980 that defence was established by a provisional regulation.

Before then, no place was given to lawyers in China, particularly considering that trials were a rare occurrence. Most of the sentencing powers were delegated to local Party activists and leaders in self-criticism sessions and struggle sessions in which . . . the population was mobilised against the accused, who were deprived of the right to defend themselves or to be defended. . . . Under such circumstances, how did Chinese lawyers reinvest in that stolen right to defend in order to create a right of defence at the beginning of the 1980s?
Read on here.