|Oct 15, 2008|
Here is my translation of the commentary:-
“Two recent eye-catching cases will shortly enter the second trial phase. The second trial of the Yang Jia police assault case is to be conducted in the morning of the 13th. The defense will see a change of lawyer from the controversial Xie Youming to a well-known Shanghai criminal case lawyer Qu Jian. Yang Jia’s father Yang Fuxing and his aunt Wang Jingrong will be present as observers at the trial. At the same time, Zhou Zhenglong has also hired two volunteer lawyers from Beijing and reportedly the Xunyang court has already confirmed and accepted Zhou’s application for appeal and the second trial will be heard in about one-and-a-half months’ time at the latest.
One is a criminal suspect who allegedly committed murder of six policemen, and the other is a tiger photo fraudster who fooled the entire nation. They both should have been targets of public fulmination, yet they have now gained public support and sympathy instead. And this almost miraculous change of public opinion is to a great extent due to a series of defects in the judicial proceedings. Faced with these two highly influential court cases, the judiciary could have conducted the proceedings in a fair and open manner. But from the furtive goings-on surrounding the hiring of defense lawyers to the restrictions imposed on court hearing attendance, the public has been unable to cut through the veils of secrecy to clearly see the light of civil justice during the first trials. On the contrary, they have been shrouded with all sorts of suspicion and skepticism. Procedural justice is the logical prerequisite of civil justice. Without the former, the latter does not exist.
Yet in the first trial of both cases, it is exactly the man-made enclosure around judicial proceedings that has led to the annihilation of civil justice. It goes without saying that people’s expectation of a ‘direct broadcast’ of the proceedings is too much of a luxury. But as basic as the defense arrangements and public attendance at court hearings are, these give people a strong impression that the process is manually controlled. Being the focus of public attention, these two cases present themselves as a litmus test of the wisdom and character of our judicial system. The wisdom of the judiciary lies in knowing how to uphold its own professional ethics and righteous character against a backdrop of overpowering local authorities and fiscal restraints, mustering enough courage to be open so as to avoid misconception and using transparent procedures to earn the public’s trust.
As citizens, what we are interested in is not the defendants’ fate, but in whether the judicial process that ultimately decides their fate embraces the most basic procedural justice. The reason is that any tangible injustice means only the loss of justice in an individual case, but any procedural injustice is a death knell for justice in general. This is why people care so much about the procedures of the second trials.”