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Eva Pils

A report last month in China Daily‘s English edition bore the startling headline, “Lawyers ‘tried to influence verdicts.’” This and other reports spoke of a criminal gang of professional legal advocates, based out of Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing, who had ‘hyped up’ their cases. They had reportedly ‘spoken wildly and incoherently’ in the courtroom and ‘interrupted and insulted’ judges. They had also, the reports alleged, gotten their clients and other people to ‘make a racket’ outside court buildings, and had even paid them to do so, through a cleverly organized ‘rights defence ring.’

Some of these criminals could shortly afterward be seen “confessing” on television. One CCTV broadcast showed the head of Fengrui Firm, Zhou Shifeng, first striding confidently about in a courtroom as he presented an argument, and then wan and dispirited in his detention cell, expressing deep regret and asking for a second chance. The program also alleged that he had engaged in sexual misconduct, and said he was ‘suspected of bribing judges.” Another CCTV broadcast featured his colleague Wang Yu agitatedly pointing her finger at judicial personnel and calling them “thugs,” before being escorted out of the courtroom by court bailiffs.

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