Anti-communist sentiments landed Chinese lawyer in an asylum |
Anti-communist sentiments landed Chinese lawyer in an asylum
by Matthew Gauk
Chinese lawyer Guo Guoting spent 21 days of his youth in a mental hospital for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), an experience that nearly destroyed his ability to think for himself.
As soon as he got out, Guo, went back to school. He studied and read and worked constantly to prove that his thoughts were right—that they were valid.
“My personal history can more vividly say what the human rights situation in China is, the true situation,” said Guo, during an Oct. 11 lecture at UVic.
A senior Chinese maritime lawyer turned human rights lawyer who now lives in Canada, Guo spoke of his own life as a microcosm of human rights and the rule of law in China today. In his homeland, Guo came from a so-called “black family.”
“In China, if someone came from this family they cannot get a job. They cannot get an education,” explained Guo. “Only after Chairman Mao passed away could I get a chance to take the examination and go into university.”
It was 1980 when Guo was accepted to university—a rare opportunity, in his family. In 1984, Guo’s thinking changed and he criticized the CCP, Marxism, and Maoist thought. Without any argument, he was forced into a mental hospital.
“I was confused during that time, I thought. I only talked about my mind, my thoughts,” recalls Guo. He had questioned the basis of the law. He thought it should be about justice, fairness, and complementing natural law, but saw the law being used instead to satisfy the will of the Party and the ruling class.
Over the next 20 years, Guo spent much of his free time reading and searching for justification for his ideology. He practiced law, focusing on international trade, international maritime law, and marina insurance. He was at the top of his field, and was even named the top maritime lawyer in China in 2002 by the international law guide Legal 500.
“Finally, I think the wisdom is coming back, the thought is coming back, the energy is coming back. And of course, I think, I will stand up again,” he said.
Guo became interested in human rights law. He knew he would earn little or nothing. He knew he would face heavy political, economic, and mental pressures, but Guo was going to give it all up for a few university students.
“Many people don’t understand. As a maritime lawyer, you can live a very easy, a very comfortable life. But what actually turned me was the Internet,” he said.
Guo stumbled upon some overseas news sites in 2003 and read about a number of young university students arrested in China for writing articles criticizing the Communist Party and the Chinese political and legal systems. Guo looked up what the students wrote to find out more about their ideas. “Their ideas are basically the same as mine were,” he said.
While China’s constitutional law states that Chinese citizens are entitled to basic human rights, the right to free speech and a free press, this is not necessarily the case in reality.
“They have no such rights at all,” said Guo. “In this way I think it is time for me to do something to help the country, to help China, to set up the true rule of law and human rights. So I offer myself as a defense lawyer.”
Guo decided to defend a number of university students and other “political criminals,” including members of the controversial religious group Falun Gong.
“Without such freedoms, China is not a human being country. It’s only an animal country, maybe it’s a slavery country,” said Guo of the strong beliefs that compelled him to take action.
Guo’s most recent case was defending Chinese journalist Shi Tao, who was charged with “divulging state secrets abroad” earlier this year. Shortly before the case began, Guo’s office was searched and closed, his family was searched, and his computer and personal journal confiscated. He was charged with disturbing the social order and put under house arrest for two-and-a-half months before being driven out of the country.
“My conclusion is that I’m very disappointed. In China, there are no human rights,” he said. “If anyone dares to openly criticize the Communist Party or government policy, they are in danger of losing their job or being put into prison.”
Guo also expressed his astonishment that he, a senior international lawyer and a law professor at three universities, could not protect his own human rights.
The Canadian government offered to allow him into the country after he was exiled.