From 2012, this site introduced the thought of Zhiwei Tong (童之伟), one of the most innovative scholars of constitutional law in China. The Zhiwei Tong (童之伟) Series focuses on translating some of Professor Tong's work on issues of criminal law and justice in China, matters that touch on core constitutional issues. Each of the posting will include an English translation from the original Chinese, the Chinese original and a link to the original essay site. Many of the essays will include annotations that may also be of interest. The Series continues SEE TABLE OF CONTENTS HERE.
Professor Tong has been developing his thought in part in a essay site that was started in 2010. See, Larry Catá Backer, Introducing a New Essay Site on Chinese Law by Zhiwei Tong, Law at the End of the Day, Oct. 16, 2010. Professor Tong is on the faculty of law at East China University of Political Science and Law. Professor Tong is the Chairman of the Constitution Branch of the Shanghai Law Society and the Vice Chairman of the Constitution Branch of the China Law Society.
Honestly assessing Bo Xilai’s administration and constructing the rule of law in China--An interview by journalists from a media run by the central government
【NOTE: On April 21, 2014, I received an interview conducted collectively by four journalists from a media run by the central government of China. Below is the write-up of interview compiled by my friend based on the recording of the interview. In the past couple of days, I checked the accuracy of the write-up word by word while listening to the recording and made a few deletions and necessary technical modifications to it without compromising the original content of the original interview. At the request of the interviewers, their names and the name of their workplace are not revealed in this write-up. All "Answers" are those of Professor Tong 】
Time: April 21, 2014
Location: Changning campus, East China University of Political Science and Law
Question: What experiences and lessons can we draw from Chongqing’s “Smash Black” campaign in terms of “ruling the country with law”?
Answer: In my opinion, our country desperately needs an independent judiciary. To a great degree, an independent judiciary can address the overconcentration of power in Party Committee and the Secretary of Party Committee. The overconcentration of power in Party Committee and Secretary give them unrestrained power, which is a big flaw of the system. The reason why Bo Xilai could go that far in undermining the rule of law is the lack of restraints on power. If there was an independent power in the local government to restrain the Party Committee and Secretary, Bo would not have ended up in where he was.
What Bo ended up doing did no good to the local Party Committee, or Bo himself. An independent, neutral judiciary will be able to somewhat obstruct the local Party Committee Secretary’s fulfillment of his personal will and make the enforcement of law more strict, and at least the local government will not be dictated solely by one person’s will.
We also need to confront selective handling of cases in the anti-corruption campaign. Recently I visited some places in the United States and I heard more criticism about this issue than others. With case-handling, there are choices over who is to be investigated and who is not since everyone is more or less problematic. Also, selective case-handling is often associated with power struggle. Criticisms as such are not entirely groundless. Personally I think, as long as independent judiciary is missing, the investigation, review, prosecution and trial result of all cases at virtually determined by the person or agency with the greatest power. Thus we can hardly become exempt from the accusation of selective case-handling even if the handling of a case is not selective. If there is an independent, neutral, and fair judiciary which is not at the beck and call of a certain man or agency, the accusation of selective case-handling will disappear. I feel that the adverse effects of the absence of an independent, neutral judiciary on social stability and justice will become more and more obvious.
Question: In your report on Chongqing’s “Smash Black” campaign, you discussed how Bo Xilai damaged the rule of law. What do you think now are the main areas in which such damage is manifested?
Answer: I’m particularly concerned about the damage caused by the “Black Smash” campaign to our country foundational economic system. Chongqing’s handling of private entrepreneurs’ criminal cases back then gave people a striking impression that the government was targeting the private sector of economy in a thought-through, deliberate manner, and its policy was of the nature of criminal judiciary. Based on the information I have collected, justice was violated in the handling of some entrepreneurs’ cases. Li Jun’s case is one of them. I mean the businessman who was chased by the police and fled abroad. Based on the judicial papers released by the government, his initial arrest was apparently due to a dispute over contract. He was released right away after he paid money. The judicial papers released by the government clearly showed that he was innocent and his case was closed. Later as he started the process of immigration to a foreign country, the police, under the leadership of Wang Lijun, suddenly accused him of alleged crimes. Before Li Jun pursued immigration, the Public Security Bureau issued an official paper proving that he had no criminal background, but when he started immigration process, the police suddenly accused him of crimes. In my opinion, based on the information available now, there is no evidence supporting Li Jun’s involvement in crimes. To this day, I still believe that he is a law-abiding citizen.
Chongqing did what it did because Bo Xilai wanted to appeal stir up Populism, cater to the public’s hatred for government officials and the wealthy people, please the public and promote his popularity among people. Therefore, many cases handled during Bo and Wang’s administration are not grounded in the law. According to the information that has been disclosed so far, violating the law when handling cases was extremely serious during Bo and Wang’s administration. The information I gathered from my research in Chongqing once again validated my previous judgment. I learned that Chongqing’s procuratorates did stick to the law at the beginning because they did not approve the arrest of many people seized in the first round of the “Smash Black” campaign. What happened when procuratorates refused to approve their arrest? Bo and Wang threw them in labor camps! Several thousand of them! This was disclosed to me by some high-ranking officials, including representatives of the 17th CPC National Congress. Besides them, I also had some contact with high-ranking officials from Chongqing’s procuratorates.
Question: Did you examine the courts in Chongqing?
Answer: Not the supreme court, but I investigated the operation of grassroots courts and discussed the circumstances with relevant leaders. The impression I got is, at that time, the court could not at all handle trials independently. It was awful. Speaking of investigation, I have to clarify that the criticism from some people about my Research Report on Chongqing’s “Smash Black” – Oriented Social Management Approach, which says that my report is not based on first-hand research, is unwarranted. In fact, there are two kinds of reports: one is investigation report, the other is research report. A Research report comes out of research done on disclosed materials. Unlike an investigation report, it does not require field trips and first-hand investigation. It is like handling a case. Investigation requires going to the scene, but the trial of the case does not require work at the scene.
Regarding Chongqing’s “Smash Black” campaign, I got two messages and impressions. First, there were a large number of miscarriages of justice. My conversations with some very influential people from Chongqing’s legal community and the community of law scholars have confirmed this. The legal community and the law scholars in Chongqing I had contact with either keep quiet and make no comments, or, among those who have spoken up and made comments, nearly all agreed that miscarriage of justice was pervasive (I said “nearly” all of them agreed because there was indeed one prominent scholar, who was also a People’s Congress representative, disagreed. – note by the editor) To date, no allegedly miscarriage of justice has been retried or corrected, which has left a deep impression on me and is very concerning to me as well.
Second, Bo and Wang dealt a heavy blow to Chongqing’s private sector of economy and many people wanted to flee the city. At least, that was the case back then. I heard the situation has improved now, but still many people have a lingering fear. I think Bo and Wang’s administration caused some sever damage to our country’s foundational economic system, especially to the coexistence of various kinds of economic components. Few private business tycoons were not persecuted during Bo and Wang’s administration.
At that time, I believed that most truly wealthy private entrepreneurs in Chongqing were real estate developers. Most of their business did not go public and they became the main target of Bo and Wang’s campaign. Some enterprises that had gone public were very famous, but since they actually did not have “fat wallets,” they were not subject to conspicuous suppression, but they were trembling in fear. This shows that Bo and Wang did have a strategy when striking private businesses. I heard a lot about this when I was in Chongqing.
Of course, some people say that public security did improve during their administration, and people felt safe because small thugs disappeared. But it must be acknowledged that it came at the heavy cost of legal system, especially with regard to the protection of citizens’ basic rights. The improvement of public security came at the cost of many innocent people being convicted of crimes, sentenced to prison terms or sent to labor camp. Certain judicial officials in leadership positions in Chongqing told me that quotas were set for legal punishment . For example, there was a quota for the sentence of reeducation through forced labor. The city assigned a quota to each district. If the quota for this year is 200 people being sentenced to reeducation through forced labor, the district must achieve it. How could basic human rights be preserved in such circumstances!
Yet I also noticed that Bo and Wang’s abuse of the reeducation through forced labor system helped highlight and expose the disadvantages of the “reeducation through forced labor” system which in and of itself ran against the requirements of the rule of law. In a sense, their abuse of the system made a special “contribute” to the abolition of this anti-law system.
Question: In your opinion, what effects did he want to achieve through reeducation through forced labor?
Answer: Reeducation through forced labor strips citizens of their physical freedom for a long time. It is a convenient and easy way. Stripping people of their personal freedom through judicial procedure must go through three stages: investigation, review and prosecution, and court trial. There is often a second trial after the first trial. So it is pretty difficult to strip people of their personal freedom through judicial procedure, which is how citizens’ personal freedom is protected. But with reeducation through forced labor, stripping people of their personal becomes very easy. Bo and Wang used the system to seize and lock up whomever they wanted to seize and lock up and governed people with terror. This is their purpose.
Question: Is controlling society possibly their expected outcome?
Answer: Of course they intended to control society, making everyone dread public security agents and very cautious about what to say and what to do. This was their expected outcome. But such a method took away basic protection from basic civil rights, such as freedom of speech and personal freedom, or took away the due protection prescribed by the law. Therefore, they severely undermined the legal system. Of course, many people asked me if this was the case in other parts of China. I told them that it wasn’t as bad in other parts of the country; if it was, we were in big trouble. That’s why I have always seen this as a problem confined to a certain region.
Question: Now the modernization of administrative system is emphasized and “ruling the country according to law” plays a key role in the modernization process. Any lessons we can draw from Chongqing’s practice?
Answer: I believe “ruling the country according to law” is the wish of our central government as well as grassroots-level government officials. The general public desires that even more, but whether it can be realized depends on the guarantee of a system. We talk about “ruling the country according to law,” but in reality, we don’t have a system in place to guarantee it. Main challenges are substituting Party for law, a judiciary that is not independent and neutral, case handling dictated by politics, and “political correctness” taking precedence over everything else. Handling cases according to politics is a big problem in China. The whole world knows that the judiciary shall not hinged on politics and any country in the world that practices the rule of law fears the accusation of “having a judiciary dominated by politics.” But in China, it seems that we are very proud that our judiciary takes politics into consideration when handling cases. High-ranking officials at various levels often, either in a direct or indirect manner, publicly demand the judiciary to mind politics when handling cases. Considering politics when handling cases means ignoring law, undermining the rule of law, and handling cases according to political needs. This is the least fair circumstance, yet high-ranking judicial officials of our country emphasize the important role of politics in judiciary and even promote it as a valuable experience. That is absurd! In a sense, it is an open mockery of our socialist rule of law.
Handling cases according to politics and not having an independent and neutral judiciary --- if these problems are not resolved, it will be hard to advance “ruling the country according to law.” Eventually, it will still be ruling the country by calling up meetings, ruling the country according to the speech of top officials, and ruling the country by executing the commands of government officials. Therefore, to bring the wish for “ruling the country according to law” to fruition, there needs to be specific measures. It calls for the reform of political system, but currently such a reform doesn’t seem to have been incorporated into government’s reform plans, and society has not recognized its importance either. For example, handling cases according to politics must be dismissed and criticized, as well substituting the Party for government, substituting the Party for law, or merging the Party and law, and subordinating law to political power.
Now we are just vaguely criticizing the subordination of law to political power, but the specific practices of subordinating law to political power have not been criticized and repudiated. How is the subordination of law to political power manifested specifically? It means whoever is in power, whoever is higher in the ranking of officials, and whichever agency issues papers with the highest level of authority, will have the final say. It is easy to vaguely repudiate the subordination of law to political power, but it is not easy to repudiate the various specific manifestations of it. And as I said earlier, if you don’t even have the guts to repudiate “handling cases according to politics,” which is a typical slogan showing subordination of law to political power, what else can you do?
Dare to have an independent and neutral judiciary. Actually, an independent and neutral judiciary is absolutely reconcilable with the Party’s leadership. Theoretically, further research is needed. An initial conclusion based on my research is: Party’s leadership should be mainly concerned with putting the Chinese Communist Party’s mature ideas and stable guidelines and policies into legislation, and the courts strictly abide by law in their operation and judge cases according to laws and regulations. This is what implementing the Party’s directions and proposals means.
Besides putting Party’s directions in the Constitution and law, why do the courts still need to comply with the will of local Party Committee and Secretary when handling specific cases? This makes no sense. It actually allows the Party’s local organizations and officials to place their will above the law when the collective will of the Party clashes with the will of a local organization or official of the Party, which virtually means placing the will of a local organization or Party official above the collective will of the Party. Therefore, an independent and neutral judiciary can eliminate such interferences from the local Party organization or official, and guarantee better implementation of the Party’s leadership.
At present, the Chinese Communist Party officials at all levels have not grasped the importance of this issue. Lately, I spent lots of time abroad and when I got back to China, I would like to write some article about this subject, hoping to help Party officials get some understanding. I will explain why an independent and neutral judiciary will be more beneficial to implementing the Party’s leadership than a judiciary that handles cases according to politics, or practices that merge the Party and law or substitute the Party for law. It is because the “Party” in “the Party’s leadership” refers to the Communist Party of China, while the local Party Committee and Secretary are to the Party what individual parts are to a whole unit. The will of individuals or individual parts cannot repudiate the will of the whole. In judicial practice, when the Party’s local organization or local officials interfere with the handling of specific cases based on their own ideas, they are literally placing their will above the will of the whole Party. Leaders need to be reasonable and they need to reflect on whether they are aware of this.
With regard to this, government official need to have awareness; scholars also need to reflect on it and see if we have articulated this issue clearly. I think the community of theorists and the community of law scholars have never articulated this clearly.
Journalist: Can this be interpreted as an organic integration of the Party’s leadership, making the people masters of the country, and ruling the country according to law?
Tong: Organic integration is a good topic. I wrote some articles about it before. Some literature and writings seem to tell people these three things are intrinsically integrated. That is groundless and reflective of reality. These three things are different and contradicting one another. How can you claim that they are intrinsically integrated?
Three different things ---their integration is contingent and cannot be unconditional. The integration of the three will not happen inevitably and naturally. In other words, when the relevant government agencies do a good job, these three will integrate; otherwise they won’t.
I can give you many examples to prove my point. Years ago, I wrote articles about the two elections of the mayor of Yueyang city. Regarding the election of mayor, the Party’s leadership is demonstrated in the nomination of candidates by the CPC Party Committee of Hunan Province. If the nominated candidate by the Party Committee is elected to office and accepted by Yueyang People’s Congress according to law, it means both the Party’s leadership and people’s exercise of their rights as masters of the country are fulfilled, plus ruling the country according to law ---- the three elements will be all fulfilled and integrated. But in reality, during the election conducted by Yueyang People’s Congress, the candidate nominated by the Party Committee of Hunan Province was not elected. The representatives of the People’s Congress voted on the candidates and the candidate recommended by the provincial Party Committee was not elected, which means the Party’s leadership was not realized, but the will of people as masters of the country was fulfilled. The People’s Congress did not pick the candidate recommended by the provincial Party Committee, which as a legal behavior should be valid according to law. According to the principles of law, the Party Committee of Hunan Province should have recommended another candidate, but in reality, they ignored the law and decided to once again, present the previous candidate, who was not elected, as the only candidate to Yueyang People’s Congress, and through various means, they pressured Yueyang People’s Congress to accepted the previously rejected candidate as mayor. The People’s Congress had already rejected the candidate, and that decision is legally effective, so according to law, the Party Committee of Hunan Province should not have done what it did. As a result of what they did, the Party’s leadership was realized, but notion that people are the masters of the country was not realized, neither was ruling the country according to law. When the result of voting at the first election shows that the local People’s Congress refused to accepted the candidate nominated by the Party Committee, how could the Party Committee force People’s Congress to change the result and contradict itself? This has no legal grounds. The election by the People’s Congress was legally binding. How could the Party Committee overthrow the election result? This is disintegration. This example indicates that three elements can be integrated or not integrated, depending on how situations like this are handled. This is common sense.
As for this, we have never articulated it clearly in theory. Instead we just vaguely assert that these three are integrated. Three different things are not the same and their integration must be contingent. We’re very weak in theory right now and it feels like CPC does not have good theorists at all. Some theories presented to the public are very absurd, and they have logical errors.
Question: Did you go to Chongqing again after Bo’s fall?
Answer: Two times. After my first visit, I wrote “A Look at Chongqing after the Storm.” I went there again later. It might be the fall of 2013.
Question: In light of what happened in Chongqing, what specific suggestions do you have with regard to ruling the country according to law and modernizing our country’s government system?
Answer: Taking what happened in Chongqing into consideration, I think the best way to promote “ruling the country according to law” is to honestly assessing the past.
Question: You don’t think it has been adequately assessed?
Answer: No assessment has been done. How can we talk about adequate or inadequate assessment? Bo was sentenced because of his personal criminal activities. As for his political activities and his administration, the authorities have never discussed and assessed, and they don’t even allow the social science community and academic community to discuss and assess. To assess him, I did write a book called “The legal critique of populism.” But it did not turn out well.
Question: It is published?
Answer: No way! I only published the preface of the book online. It was funded by Qin Xiao’s Boyuan Foundation. We got all the paperwork done for publishing the book and the book was sent to the printing factory, but somehow the State Administration of Press and Publication knew about it and cancelled its printing. I had already had an agreement with Boyuan Foundation that if the book was not approved for publishing in mainland, they said they would have it published in Hong Kong. A few months ago, I called them and asked, “Could the book be published in Hong Kong?” They said “No.” Actually I understand that the truth is not that this book could not be published in Hong Kong. It can. But the problem is, if Boyuan Foundation insisted on having the book published against the will of a certain agency or official in mainland, what would be in store for Boyuan Foundation in mainland China? If they published the book against the will of a certain agency or official, they survival and development would be problematic.
This incident shows that we apparently haven’t done a political assessment of Bo’s administration, but I think, ideologically and theoretically, his practices need to be assessed. If wrong practices are not repudiated, they are very likely to come back.
Further, assessment calls for reinvestigating and correcting specific cases. I don’t know if you have noticed it or not, the mishandled cases within the Public Security Department caused by Bo and Wang’s administration have all been corrected, although they involved a few thousands of people. But cases involved concerned with the “Smash Black” campaign, despite the fact that people recognize that numerous cases were caused by miscarriage of justice, not one of them has been righted so far. There is no decent review on even the most typical cases suspected of miscarriage of justice.
Question: Have cases involving reeducation through forced labor been sorted out?
Answer: In Chongqing, all who were sentenced to reeducation through forced labor have been released, but no real assessment has been done regarding Bo and Wang’s trampling on the law.
I’m mainly concerned about a string of representative criminal cases, such as the Li Zhuang Case. No conclusion has been reached about the case so far. And many private entrepreneurs’ cases, it is widely recognized that these cases were handled unfairly, and there are numerous concrete facts and details to verify that these was miscarriage of justice in these cases. But to date, has the review of any of these cases resulted in a conclusion in favor of the appellant? Anyway, none of these cases has been retried.
Question: When in Chongqing, did you notice that some common people spoke favorably of Bo? The public had mixed views of him.
Answer: Some of his practices did cater to the mindset of the general public and some citizens’ hatred towards government officials and rich people. Other than capitalizing on some people’s hatred towards officials and rich people, they also took advantage of the circumstance that people at large did not have the awareness about the rule of law and human rights. For example, let’s looks at a simplest case. In an apartment complex, someone committed petty thefts and caused a little trouble. This is against the law and should be handled according the law. But Bo and Wang’s administration may take actions to seize this person, sentence his to prison, and even execute him. As a result, people unanimously praise such actions because the trouble-maker is gone. But they never could have imagined that the petty thieves like this have been illegally stripped of their personal freedom and even their right of life. They legal rights which should have been preserved were not preserved. The safety and peace people appreciate came at the cost of violently stripping some other people’s legal rights. Many average citizens, as long as others cause a little trouble or minor inconvenience to their life, they don’t care at all if these “trouble-makers” are thrown in jail or executed as long as such punishments do not fall on them. This is a terrible mentality and many citizens of Chongqing have such a mentality.
Question: About the judicial system reform under discussion now, you can see the general direction of the reform, including de-administration, vertical management, etc. Do you think such reform measures may address problems that occurred in Chongqing?
Answer: That is an area of high expertise. In terms of reform plans, it will bright out some positive results, promoting the independence of judiciary to a certain extent and reducing the interference of the courts’ and the procuratorates’ exercise of power by local Party Committees and local governments. The reform plan has not been released yet. Moreover, looks like the reform is more about administrative and policy methods, not really on the system’s level. Because it is stipulated in the Constitution that the chief of the court is elected by People’s Congress, the judicial system reform our country is planning on has not touched upon revising the Constitution.
Question: Does the reform on the system’s level call for revising the Constitution?
Answer: It is very hard to truly promote the independence of judiciary without revising the Constitution. That the chief of the court is elected by People’s Congress of the same level is prescribed by the Constitution. If this remains unchanged, reforms in other areas are subject to lots of limitations. To change it, the Constitution must be revised. But so far, neither officials at all levels nor the 3rd Plenary Session of 18th CPC Central Committee have mentioned revising the Constitution. So it is foreseeable that only in a limited scope will reform will be carried out. Besides, “substituting Party for law” hasn’t been definitively repudiated in politics, let alone new system arrangements. So I think there will be some improvement if some of the ideas being considered are carried out, but the fundamental problems won’t be resolved unless system reform happens.
Question: Do you know Sun Farong well, former president of the Bar Association of Chongqing?
Answer: Yes. I didn’t know her well before. But because we both hold negative views about Bo and Wang’s practices, we had some common language. I met with her last time when I visited Chongqing. We had a good talk.
Question: Are you close with Han Deyun, the current president of the Bar Association of Chongqing?
Answer: I know of Mr. Han and he made a good impression on me. But we’re not close.
Question: Do you have interactions with Li Zhuang?
Answer: some, but it’s been a while since I saw him last time.
Question: How is the Li Zhuang Case being handled since you said cases haven’t been redressed?
Answer: Our slogan is to right every mistake, but this is hard to carry out. The sweeping statement that every mistake must be righted will not be questioned anywhere, but the problem is whether the miscarriage of justice and falsely convicted cases in places like Chongqing will be righted, in reality, depends on the execution plans made by higher leaders. Without their plans, it will be very hard to right these mistakes. We can imagine without difficulties that if these cases are truly to be righted, such as reinvestigating many cases in Chongqing, it cannot be decided by any individual in this system. I dare say that even the Party Committee Secretary of Chongqing won’t be able to do it without the command, cooperation or support of the central government because it will involve so many areas, including the procuratorates and courts, judiciary-wise. More importantly, it involves the central government’s unified policy and deployment. Therefore, I think it is very necessary for Chongqing to reinvestigate some cases and correct some falsely convicted cases, but on the other hand, I can see how formidable and challenging it is. Without a unified policy and deployment, the local government will have difficulties handling it well.
Question: Professor Tong, the main point you’re trying to make is that, what Bo and Wang did in Chongqing hasn’t been assessed honestly; Bo’s conviction has nothing to do with it, only a result of his personal criminal activities, correct?
Answer: Correct. His sentence is only bases on his personal crimes. We haven’t assessed his administration and given a verdict, both economically and politically.
Question: Do you know much about Bo’s past?
Answer: He was very arrogant and overbearing, and took full advantage of his special family background. When he was the mayor of Dalian, he made himself appear so outstanding that the Party Secretary of Dalian seemed invisible to the outside. He did not get along with the Party Secretary at all, of that I know.
Question: Were you aware of it when he was the mayor or did you find out later?
Answer: I knew it when he was the mayor, and later I saw more evidence about it. Also, when he was promoted to become governor, he did not get along with the provincial Party Secretary either. As before, he overshadowed the Secretary and made him invisible to the outside world.
Answer: This was not a secret to average people in society. Bo’s superiors must have known it, too. But why did he still get promotions all the way?
Answer: Why the promotions? Only the big boss can answer this question. It’s a long story.
Question: When Chongqing launched the “Sing Red, Smash Black” campaign years ago, you monitored the “Smash Black” movement very closely. What purpose do you think he intended to achieve with the “Sing Red” campaign?
Answer: I talked about the “Sing Red” campaign in my interview with BBC when I attended the “China Development Forum” in London in Feb. this year. Generally speaking, “singing red songs” – revolutionary songs, and looking back on the past, is not problematic. But in certain historical circumstances, Bo used this method to mobilize political support, to seek power and status for himself. It was for this purpose he mobilized political support, and “Sing Red” became a means he employed for mobilization. This is the key. Therefore, we shall not come to a general conclusion: red songs must be banned. That’s a different story.
Question: Can singing songs achieve the goal of mobilizing?
Answer: Of course. Through this activity, he made people from all walks of like in Chongqing revolve around this campaign he initiated, and those who comply would proper. And then he promoted his campaign to Hong Kong and Beijing. “Sing Red” became a way to rally supporter or demonstrate his political standing, which was revealed by many materials. He was actually conducting political mobilization. It is a way to flex his muscles to intimidate.
Question: Do you think the central government saw through his intent at that time?
Answer: I think even fools wouldn’t miss his message. There was no way the central government could miss it. And it was clear that the major leaders of the central government kept distance from him. For example, when he championed “Sing Red” in Beijing, none of the members of the Committee of the Political Bureau attended his events ,which showed that they distanced themselves from him. Of course he hoped that some prominent leaders would attend to support his cause, but it didn’t happen.
Question: He invited xxx (the name is concealed --- editor) to attend. Did he not go?
Answer: Of course not. They wouldn’t fall into the pit he dug. It makes sense that he might have invited all the leaders of the central government, but apparently none of them was fooled by him. Actually at that time, there was word about “forcing the king to abdicate.” If he started the “Sing Red’ campaign, everyone flocked to him to show support, then he became the center of politics in the whole country. How prominent would he be!
Question: Earlier, you emphasized judicial independence and neutrality, but it seems very hard to be achieved on the provincial level. No officials on that level have as much power as members of the Committee of the Central Political Bureau like Bo.
Answer: We’re not saying that the local officials have the same power, but at least, they should be able to put some restrictions on his use of power. The easiest way is through a relatively independent and neutral judiciary, which does not imply discarding the Party’s leadership. The Party’s leadership is manifested in the Constitution and law, and in making nominations. The Party Committee still get to nominate chiefs, deputy chiefs, and judges, but they must be nominated by the higher-level agency or the central government agency, and the nominees cannot be randomly removed by the local Party Committee or Party Secretary. They can only be removed for reasons prescribed by law. But that’s not how it works now. Since there are no specific stipulations of law about this, local Party Committee or Party Secretary can remove judicial officers quite easily, such as relocating or dismissing someone.
Question: Anyone in Chongqing whose expertise is in this area?
Answer: So far, I haven’t found anyone with expertise in this area because they won’t speak up.
Question: Have you ever met Bo Xilai in person?
Answer: I haven’t. He knows about me. Back then he invited some people to Chongqing. They were all his supporters.
Questions: Some lawyers in Shanghai seemed to oppose him, very openly.
Tong: Yes, many people in Shanghai were against him, and he already started to build up his influence in Shanghai. There was a high-level seminar on the so-called “Chongqing Model,” which I attended.
Question: It seemed that some people criticized him online, and they were “greeted.” Chongqing’s “Smash Black” campaign was in full spin when you published your report on the campaign. Did anything happen to you?
Answer: I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote the report. When I finished it, I mailed it to Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, but not to Zhou XX because I didn’t trust him. In my writing, I said I mailed it to him as well, but in fact, I changed my mind at the last minute and did not mail it to him.
Question: Any response from the recipients?
Answer: I’m never in favor of “submitting a letter” to top officials. To the highest leadership, I’ve only submitted two letters. One is about the so-called socialist concept of rule of law, i.e. the five phrases ---“governance according to law, enforcing the law for the people, equality and justice, serving the higher good, and leadership of the CPC.” Southern Weekly once disclosed that the central government was planning on producing a textbook based on the concept and requiring all college students in the country to study the textbook, from undergraduates to PhD candidates, regardless of the major. The propaganda about the socialist concept of rule of law had been going on for many years at that time and reached a climax in 2010. About that, I once submitted a letter to the highest leadership against it. I made strong arguments according to the Constitution and the Charter of CPC regarding why I opposed it. My letter of arguments against it and suggestions on how to improve it was completely and sent out on November 19, 2010. Before that, I organized many dialogues with legal professionals in Eastern China, Central China and Northwest China. The letter I sent out reflected our consensus and the reasons why we opposed the concept were listed out clearly in the letter. I noticed that ten days after I sent out the letter, all the propaganda centering round the five-phrase concept suddenly stopped. Obviously, the leadership quickly took our advice, but no one told me how it happened specifically. However, it was evident that the letter I submitted caused the stop of the propaganda. Of course, there might be other unknown reasons which led to the coincidence.
The second letter I “submitted” is the Research Report on Chongqing’s “Smash Black” – oriented social management approach. I mailed it to the highest leaders on September 9, 2011. I’m sure they have received it, but I haven’t got any response.
Question: When your report was published online, was there pressure on you? Did anyone reach out to you on behalf of Chongqing government, for example, “greeting” you?
Answer: No direct pressure was put on me and no one reached out to me. I mailed it out on September 9. They must have received it.
Question: Yon don’t think it got buried in a ton of mail and they never received it?
Answer: That was impossible. No one in the Party had given any official response to the practice of Chongqing’s administration, but I am an expert and a Party member. I studied the subject systematically and I expressed my views. My personal interest was not at all involved in this. It was totally out of the concern for the fundamental interest of the Party and our country that I did research and submitted the report. I mailed out the report in three different versions, including a simplified version, which is only 2-3 pages long. As busy as they are, they can easily take a glance. In two minutes, they’ll be able to grasp what I’m trying to say. Why not?
Question: What happened afterwards?
Answer: In November, 2011, I released the report at the annual meeting of China Constitutional Studies held in Xi’an. About two to three hundred people attended the meeting. My report was published in the collection of papers presented at the meeting. From the perspective of authorship and academia, this is a very formal way of publishing. In February, 2012, Wang Lijun entered the US embassy. I published the report online right away in five consecutive sections. Bo was still in power at that time.
Question: Did Chongqing authorities reach out to you following that?
Answer: No. It wouldn’t make any difference anyway. The truly risky time was before I mailed it to the central government. Reaching out to me wouldn’t have made any difference after I already mailed it out. Also at that time, he dared not intimidate me with physical harm. It is very clear.
Question: Any leader of your school reached out to you?
Answer: Leaders of our school are pretty good and they honor my right of scientific research and my freedom of speech. Because of that, the leaders of our school are worthy of our compliments.
Question: In recent couple of years, some faculty of your school has been pretty controversial.
Answer: That is normal. People are always controversial. Anything else you want to talk about?
Journalist: We have one last request. This conversation between us, we would like you to keep it confidential.
Tong: I will record it. At the right time, I will release it to the public, not now, but later. I make efforts to maximize the value of the content of my talks, but I will not disclose your identity. Don’t worry about it.
(This final draft was completed on May 20, 2014.)