New York Judge interview with Thomas G.Guo( Guo Guoting)
New York Judge interview with Thomas G.Guo( Guo Guoting)
Guo: Judge how are you?
Judge: I’m good. I’m glad you’re finally with us. I don’t know what the problem is Mr. Guo with your number, but it certainly doesn’t seem to work.
Guo: oh, there, I don’t know what is wrong with it. My phone number is normal, I think.
Judge: In any event, we’ve got you now. And Dara, uh, my former clerk who’s working with me is also on the phone. I believe.
Dara: I’m here.
Judge: All right, so you’re kind to let us ask you some questions, and you should take as long as you want to answer them, and hopefully this will not take more than an hour. I wrote to you most of my concerns, so if you can just tell us a little bit about your life, do you get the New York Times in Vancouver?
Guo: Oh, I didn’t go to New York until now.
Judge: Ah, there’s just been a number of articles which follow along the lines of your treatment in China that have been in the Times recently. There was a full, almost a full page article on the 12th of November. I’ll send it to you. Anyway, tell me about yourself.
Judge: Like, when were you born and where?
Guo: Ok. I say, I would like answer your questions according to your interview questionnaire ok?
Guo: Yes, I was born in Chang Ting, Fujian , China , in 1958, January 10th. So, before I became a law school student I, was shortly sent to the countryside for 4 years, then I became a worker as a truck repairer. And then I became a Middle school teacher, a physical teacher. In 1980 I went into Jiling University. Major in international law. After 4 years study I graduated from that University, Then was sent by the government of China to the Fujian High Court as a judge. But just before I went to the court, I was told my job changed to be a lawyer instead of judge. For someone occupy my position in the court.
Judge: You could make that decision?
Guo: I cannot make decision.
Guo: Because during that time the government is control everything. I have no choice. At first I was sent to Fujian High Court as a judge but just before I left the University , one of my classmate who take that good position and I was resent to Fujian Province Government then to be a lawyer instead of judge.
Dara: But, what was the reason?
Guo: No reason at all. Because someone drives me out. In China, this situation is always happen. If someone has a good relationship with the high Court, they can easily kick me out. Because I have no relation with this high court, so this is the reason. It’s very easy.
Dara: But was it because they needed more lawyers and they didn’t need as many judges? Or did they know something about your background that they didn’t want you to be a judge?
Guo: No , it’s simply because during that time to be a judge is a very good job so many people compete for that very position. So someone behind me, I don’t know how he can do that. He just drives me out. He himself want to go to the high court of Fujian province. So I became a lawyer in 1984. This is my very brief, before I became a lawyer story. But for me, to be a judge or a lawyer actually is not depend on my choice, it’s just because I have no idea what is lawyer and what is judge at the time. So actually, I’m preferred to be a professor or to be a judge. I have to say honestly, until now I think I would be a very good professor or a very good judge. Not a good lawyer.
Judge: Well, but at this time Mr. Guo in 1984, as I inquired in my titles I wondered whether there were any prohibitions or any guarantees like in our Constitution with respect to searches and seizures and counsel.
Guo: I beg your pardon?
Judge: When you became a lawyer, were there any kinds of rights that we have here against unlawful searches and seizures, or did the government pretty much do what it chose in terms of searching and seizing. And with respect to counsel. What was the status in 85 of the right to counsel?
Guo: In 1985 I was a trainee, not a lawyer.
Judge: Well, when you became a lawyer.
Guo: Yes, I became a qualified lawyer only 2 years later. I begin training in 1984 and in 1986 I passed the examination then I became a qualified lawyer. Since 1984 I start to practice as a lawyer. Although I’m not qualified lawyer then, I can appear in court as a trial lawyer during that time. At the very beginning I am actually as a criminal defense lawyer.
Judge: And how did that, how did you feel about that in terms of being able to protect your clients?
Guo: At that time I think that the court the Judges were better than now.
Judge: Oh really?
Guo: Yes, at that time. Although their education level was lower, their moral standards were higher than now. Here, now in China the legal system I think turn to not good, turned to bad, turn to worse.
Judge: Like how, how do you mean?
Guo: I mean, actually nowadays judges most of them, more judges graduate from university, in 1984 many judge just come from army men. They resign from army, and receive only 3 months law training then became judge. Of course their ability is not qualified as judge at the time. But many judges are good in moral at that time. So from very beginning, I remember that during the first 2 or 3 years at least I have handled about 30 criminal cases. I win the cases a lot of. And win about 70%, I win the cases at the time. Of course it’s not, just because I’m very hard working lawyer, I prepare for my cases very carefully, and spend a lot of times and focus to my cases, it is because that the Judges are better in moral that timed..
Judge: Were there juries? There are not juries.
Guo: No jury at all of course. Only 3 judge is all, one judge, and 2 so called People’s Jury, in China. But actually they have no power; even during the whole trial the People’s Jury say nothing and only the judge to decide it.
Judge: Don’t they have a vote?
Guo: Uh, they have the right to vote. But they will agree with the judge’s idea of course.
Guo: So, that time, even in the very beginning, my case always wins, not lose. I turn to commercial lawyer just because for money. As a criminal lawyer we earn nothing. Very limited fee of lawyer for criminal law cases, one case lawyer’s fees only has 30 RMB, however complicated it is, very lower at the time.
Judge: Is that provided by the state. I mean these are poor defendants who can’t afford to pay you?
Guo: No. Lawyer’s fee was paid by the criminal defendant or their relative. That time, getting one criminal case, lawyers can earn only 30 ren min bi. of course, very limited money. But actually, at that time, lawyer’s salary came from government, not from the client. The client pays the fee to the government. As a lawyer, we will receive our salary from the government at the time.
Dara: What if the defendant had no money? Could he get a lawyer?
Guo: If there, I don’t know at that time what the situation is. But most of the cases they will pay, they will pay the fee because the fee is so limited, it is not expensive. It’s very cheap at the time. But now, nowadays to my knowledge that many poor clients they can receive so called legal aid from government. Legal aid coming from government is just a court appointed a lawyer as a defense lawyer for the poor criminal defendant.
Judge: And what do they receive? Do they get an hourly fee from the government?
Guo: Not hourly, government will pay the lawyer a very limited fee, nowadays about 800 RMB each criminal case. So no lawyer like to handle such kind of legal aid case, all are pointed by government, each lawyer have to handle one or two such kind of case each year..
Judge: Like, how much would that be in dollars?
Guo: They are counted not upon timely, just upon one case by one case. For example, if you handle one case for robbery, you would receive about 800 RMB equal USD 100, in China.
Judge: And now is it very different?
Guo: Still today there are a lot of people who cannot receive legal aid especially for the sensitive case and for the political cases no legal aid at all is provided. For example, when I was dealing with some cases for political reasons, political criminal, they are very poor, and their family also very poor, they even cannot pay legal fee to the lawyer. Government also refuses to pay such fee. As the defense lawyer of Mr.Huang Junqiu, it took me about three month to handle first trial and appeal trial, but I earn nothing.