Verbal Arguments Have Been Presented to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Class-Action Lawsuit Against Former Chinese Leader Jiang Zemin

Shi Qing and Zhang Wen

PureInsight | June 7, 2004

[] On May 27, 2004 at 9:30 A.M., the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit decided former foreign heads of state may use the "head-of-state" defense, typically limited to sitting heads of state, to shield themselves from civil responsibility for the alleged crimes of torture, genocide and crimes against humanity. Jiang Zemin, the former Chinese leader, is charged with torture, genocide and crimes against humanity in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, which has left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands abused or tortured in China's 300-plus forced labor camps. Attorney for the plaintiffs, Terri Marsh, was given four minutes to present her verbal argument. The defendant Jiang Zemin failed to appear in court.

Acting as a Friend (amicus) of the Court, Department of Justice attorney Douglas N. Letter began his arguments by emphasizing the United States' condemnation of the persecution of Falun Gong. Letter stated: "The United States Government at its very highest levels — we're talking about the President and the Secretary of State — have severely criticized the Chinese government publicly about its persecution of the Falun Gong." Letter contended that allowing private lawsuits to go forward against visiting heads-of-state would interfere with U.S. diplomatic efforts as well as set a precedent for allowing private lawsuits to be served against U.S. Presidents while traveling abroad.

In response, during her closing remarks, attorney Marsh quoted former President Bush who, when signing the Torture Victim Protection Act into law, addressed the arguments put forth by letter: "The dangers that U.S. Courts may become embroiled in difficult and sensitive disputes in foreign countries is real, … But these potential dangers, however, do not concern the fundamental goals that this legislation seeks to advance. In this new era, in which countries throughout the world are turning to democratic institutions and the rule of law, we must maintain and strengthen our commitment to ensuring that human rights are respected everywhere."

To Bring Jiang Zemin to Justice Is to Safeguard the Law's Dignity

Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioner and attorney Ms. Chu Woan-Chyi said, "I am glad that the Department of Justice of the United States has at least confirmed the existence of the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners, as well as the President and the Secretary of State's condemnation of the persecution."

Falun Dafa Information Center's spokesman Mr. Zhang Erping said, "A country's diplomatic and political considerations must not override its Constitutions. In a democratic society, the law must be independent of the country's political and foreign relations considerations. The Department of Justice attorney Douglas N. Letter said at the court today that every country's leader must enjoy the freedom to visit the United States. My question to Mr. Letter is: If Adolph Hitler were alive today, would the United States welcome him to visit this country?"

Mr. Zhang Erping added, "The Executive Branch is given certain rights, but the Executive Branch still has to abide by the Constitution. Otherwise, this country would not be ruled by law but by politicians. And the law would become subject to the will of the Executive Branch and not governed by the Constitution. The court should prosecute Jiang Zemin according to the Constitution, the international law, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or morality and justice. The court should prosecute Jiang Zemin even according to China's own Constitution because Article 36 of China's Constitution says, 'Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief.' Today human rights attorney Marsh is bringing suit against Jiang Zemin as the former Chinese leader according to the United States' Constitution. We have a very strong case, sufficient evidences and witnesses, and we are in full compliance with the law."

Ruling Will Have Far-reaching, Immediate Consequences

Mr. Zhang Erping said, "Regardless how the lawsuit might turn out, filing a lawsuit against Jiang Zemin is in itself a symbolic triumph with respect to the law and morality. There are many precedent lawsuits against heads of states. For instance, the former President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, was first tried in Hawaii and then the Philippines. No matter where the trial is held, it is a fair trial as long as the court abides by the laws. Everyone is equal before the law and everyone can be brought to court, including a head of state. The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies to every single citizen of the earth. Take another example. A Chilean court has just ruled on Friday, May 29 that former dictator, Augusto Pinochet, can be sued for a bloody wave of repression in the 1970s and '80s. This is a sound example that everyone should be and shall be brought into justice for his crime in a country governed by law, no matter who he is. The country's justice system will be crippled and its dignity will be bruised if its foreign relations policy overrides its law."

Attorney Terri Marsh said in her press statement at a rally in Chicago's Federal Plaza on May 24, 2004: "The argument proffered indirectly by the defendant, that service of process upon a foreign head of state renders our leaders vulnerable to retaliatory suits does not withstand careful scrutiny. Anyone who has committed criminal or civil offenses may be sued in a U.S. court of law. The dismissal of this case hardly safeguards our high-ranking officials from retaliatory suits, nor should it. No nation commits genocide or torture as an official sovereign act. It insults and demeans the dignity of all nations to permit high-ranking officials of any status or rank to shield themselves with a permanent impunity even after departure from office."

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Chicago, Illinois. Three days before the Circuit panel of three judges listened to the attorneys' arguments on May 27, Falun Gong re-created the conditions of Chinese labor camps and torture chambers in the groundbreaking exhibition "Persecution Meets Principle" on Chicago's Federal Plaza. Actors pose as sunglasses-wearing policemen administering beatings, injections, and rope tortures to detainees. Props replicate actual torture devices, such as cages spiked with nails, bamboo under fingernails, and tubing for force-feeding. The scenarios elicit murmurs of shock and shaking heads from passersby. Actual survivors of such tortures in China are on hand to explain the multiple-scene exhibition.

The Prosecution Against Jiang Zemin Has Taken One and a Half Years and Met Multitudes of Political Pressure

The lawsuit started with filing the lawsuit to the Federal Court in the state of Illinois in 2002 against Jiang Zemin for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. Several months later, Jiang Zemin's office in Zhongnanhai (the Chinese central government's headquarter) has confirmed the serving of the process. Since then, the Chinese government kept "negotiating" with the United States through its diplomatic staffs. More specifically, the Chinese government has repeatedly threatened to retaliate if the Unites States didn't dismiss the lawsuit.

Under the circumstances, thirty-eight House Representatives sent an Amicus Brief to the court supporting the prosecution against Jiang Zemin. They emphasized in the Amicus Brief that the court should accept the lawsuit and should not dismiss the case due to strong political pressure from China. However, the court dismissed the lawsuit based on the argument that Jiang Zemin enjoyed immunity as head-of-state.

How Far Will Falun Gong Practitioners Be Willing to Go in Order to Bring Jiang Zemin to Justice?

Will Falun Gong practitioners have another chance to bring Jiang Zemin to justice in the United States Federal Court if the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal should overrule the case? According to the plaintiffs' attorney Dr. Terri Marsh, Falun Gong practitioners would appeal to the Supreme Court dependent upon the ruling of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeal. If Falun Gong practitioners still do not win the case, they will bring the case to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. If that doesn't work, they will bring the United Nations' Genocide Committee. No matter what the ruling might be from the 7th Court of Appeal, the lawsuit against Jiang Zemin shall not end until he is brought to justice.

To this date, there have been 25 lawsuits around the world against Jiang Zemin and his henchmen assisting in the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners. All of them have been charged with torture, genocide and crimes against humanity. The 25 lawsuits against Jiang Zemin were brought to the courts in eleven countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Australia. No Chinese ruler in history has been sued in the court of law, or in so many courts of law.

Meanwhile, Falun Gong practitioners in Boston have filed a lawsuit against the General Secretary of Anhui Provincial Committee Mr. Wang Taihua (equivalent to a state governor in the United States) in the federal court in Massachusetts. A professional process server has delivered the process to Mr. Wang Taihua on May 24, 2004 while he visited Boston. China's Minister of Commerce Mr. Bo Xilai has also been sued in the court in Washington, D.C. on April 22, 2004 for genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.

In addition, many other high-level government officials assisting in the persecution against Falun Gong practitioners in China and in the western hemisphere have been sued in courts outside of China, including Mr. Li Lanqing (the Head of "610 Office" [1]); Mr. Luo Gan (Secretary of the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee of the CPC Central Committee); Mr. Wu Guanzheng (member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and secretary of the Shandong Provincial Party Committee); Mr. Liu Qi (former General Secretary of Beijing City Committee); Mr. Zhao Zhifei (former Head of Public Security Bureau in Hubei Province); Mr. Zhou Yongkang (former General Secretary of Sichuan Provincial Committee); Mr. Pan Xinchun (Deputy Consulate of the Chinese Consulate in Canada); Mr. Sun Jiazheng (China's Minister of Culture); Mr. Xia Deren (Deputy Governor of Liaoning Province), etc. The lawsuits against these Chinese government officials are currently being processed or have been concluded. So far the defendants failed to respond and some of them have been convicted in the court of law.

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