Human Rights Lawyer Briefly Resurfaces on Twitter
By Francis Yin
Recently detained Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao broke his silence and resurfaced on Twitter this week, making his first public remarks since being released on April 30 after a 70-day disappearance. Many replies followed this tweet, most of which were greetings to Teng and even expressions of surprise at seeing him again. But now it appears the tweet has been deleted deleted, and the most recent tweet visible on Teng’s account is from February 18, the day after he was secretly detained. This reporter could not get in contact with Teng, and it is not clear who deleted the tweet.
Teng is a teacher at the China University of Political Science and Law best known as an active rights lawyer. He has provided legal representation in many sensitive cases, such as the case of Chen Guangcheng, the blind human rights lawyer. Teng’s fleeting tweet was a commentary about his defense statement for client Xia Junfeng, a hawker in Shenyang who was sentenced to death on Tuesday for killing two “urban administrative” officials (known as chengguan in Mandarin) two years ago.
Before the tweet appeared, Teng’s defense statement was circulating on the Internet, especially after He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University, posted it on his blog.
In his defense statement, Teng argued that Xia’s action was justifiable self-defense because he had been beaten by those officials in the street and was then taken to their office unlawfully. But what made it popular and a bit controversial was Teng’s reflection on the notorious institution of chengguan.
“Those two officials, as well as Xia Junfeng, were all victims of the ‘urban administrative’ institution,” Teng said at the beginning of the statement. He went on to cite 18 cases of chengguan killing hawkers and even innocent bystanders.
“Justifiable defense against an illegal violation is not only a virtue but also an instinct. If such resistance gets no protection or laudation, but is to be defined as a capital crime, such a sentence will harm not only Xia’s legal rights, but also the dignity of the law as a whole, the ethics of society as a whole, and the people’s judgment of justice,” Teng said at the end of the statement.
He Weifang and several other lawyers and scholars highly commended Teng’s defense and said it could serve as a model of criminal defense. But there are also critics who said Teng used too many emotional and literary words.
Xia Junfeng is still waiting for his death sentence to be reviewed by the Supreme Court, and it is not clear what the result will be, though many netizens are calling for leniency.