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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Had an interesting conversation this evening with a guy who was, for some time, a judge in the countryside. I had met him at the English corner, and had wanted to talk to him because I am interested in the problem of justice in China (as in any society). I had mentioned to him previously about a situation I had read about where a lawyer had been sent to prison on charges which seemed to be questionable. It looked suspicious--like he was sent to prison for defending his client to aggressively. I told him that one of the key elements of a free society is the right to aggressive defense. He told me that a bigger problem in China is that the judges are not independent. Their judgment is often influenced by outside factors or persons, such as the party secretary. And he did acknowledge that being a defense lawyer can be dangerous.

He asked me what I thought of the death penalty for bribery. I told him that I thought that was probably a little stiff, although I do believe in capital punishment. But capital punishment is rarely practiced consistently, certainly not in America. If you have capital punishment, and there a thousand murders, there should be a thousand executions. But the death penalty is applied very unevenly throughout the United States. I told him about the situation where the governor of Illinois (who believes in capital punishment) actually ordered a moratorium on capital punishment, because so many innocent people were on death row. Concerning bribery, I told him that you cannot fix the problem of corruption merely by passing laws. In order to deal effectively with corruption, you must have a certain portion of your population who refrain from bribery and such things just because they believe it's wrong, not merely because they are afraid of being caught. In China, you have a whole generation of people who have been brought up to believe that there is no God to whom they are accountable. It takes more laws to control this kind of population.

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