Blind dissident and self-taught lawyer Chen Guangcheng, now in the US as a special student at the New York University School of Law after his miraculous escape from home detention, has written an op-ed in the New York Times urging the Chinese government to confront its own lawlessness and to demand justice for his family and others like them who have been subject to kidnapping and illegal detentions by local authorities:
The fundamental question the Chinese government must face is lawlessness. China does not lack laws, but the rule of law. As a result, those who handled my case were able to openly flout the nation’s laws in many ways for many years.
Although China’s criminal laws, like those of every country, are in need of constant improvement, if faithfully implemented they could yet offer its citizens significant protection against arbitrary detention, arrest and prosecution. Countless legal officials, lawyers and law professors have labored for decades to produce constitutional and legislative rules intended to prevent a recurrence of the nightmarish anti-rightist campaign and other “mass movements” of the 1950s and the later abominations of the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76.
But those protections have been frequently ignored in practice, as they were in my case and in the case of my nephew, Chen Kegui. After the local police discovered my escape from my village in April, a furious pack of thugs — not one in uniform, bearing no search or arrest warrants and refusing to identify themselves — scaled the wall of my brother Guangfu’s farmhouse in the dead of night, smashed through the doors and brutally assaulted my brother.