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Public Proceedings Initiated against Jailed Lawyer

August 19, 2003

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that a formal public prosecution has commenced against Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong on charges of illegally obtaining state secrets.

Zheng Enchong was originally detained on June 6 after assisting displaced families in more than 500 cases relating to Shanghai’s urban redevelopment projects. Most recently Zheng, whose license was revoked in 2001, was advising families involved in a lawsuit alleging official collusion with a wealthy property developer, Zhou Zhengyi.

According to HRIC’s sources, the Shanghai Procuratorate earlier this month referred Zheng’s case to the courts for formal proceedings on the charge of illegally obtaining state secrets. On August 10 the Shanghai Public Security Bureau notified Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, that she could visit Zheng at the detention center on August 20, the first family visit Zheng has been allowed since his arrest. On August 11 the Shanghai Court instructed Jiang Meili to provide it with the letter of appointment of Zheng’s legal counsel.

Zheng’s case has raised considerable attention and concern overseas and also within China’s legal community. Zhang Sizhi, who has defended a number of high-profile dissidents, and another lawyer, Guo Guoting, have agreed to represent Zheng in court. But in spite of the unquestioned capabilities of Zheng’s legal counsel, some observers express little hope of an acquittal. According to one source, a Shanghai official has said that this case is meant to ensure that Zheng will never be able to cause further trouble. At the very least, it is believed, Zheng will receive a custodial sentence that will prevent him from ever practicing law again.

“The prosecution of Zheng Enchong is most regrettable,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “This is clearly a case in which officials are using the legal system to persecute a lawyer for nothing more than pursuing justice on behalf of ordinary people.”