The third teleconferenced meeting on legal assistance to Xinjiang has just finished. Reports appeared in the media on Dec. 18 saying that the crux of the matter is that nobody is above the law.
I think this is correct, and is entirely in keeping with the communique issued by the fourth plenum [of the 18th Congress of the ruling Chinese Communist Party last month].
The media also quoted Zhou Qiang, head of the Supreme People's Court, as saying that those handling cases in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region involving ethnic minorities and religious affairs should distinguish clearly between "two different types of conflict."
They should also be tried quickly and given heavy penalties according to the law, the reports said.
I don't think this is right, however, nor is it in keeping with the resolution of the fourth plenum [regarding the rule of law].
Our constitution states: "All citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law." That's what it means to try people according to law, not to speed trials up or slow them down at will.
Power of inertia
It seems that our homespun version of the law is looking less and less constitutional, but we are now so used to hearing this that it seems normal. We all understand this power of inertia.
We also find this inertia in the idea of "distinguishing between two different types of conflict."
The first words of the first chapter of the Selected Works of Mao Zedong split China into two halves.
["Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? This is a question of the first importance for the revolution."]
The difference is that there are common murderers and there are the enemies of the people. So exactly what purpose does this distinction invented by Mao Zedong serve?
I think it is intended to create a mentality in which nobody relies on the rule of law to run the country.
So on what basis must the country be governed? On the basis of party rule, and of the good [or evil] intentions of the party's leaders.
It's not surprising that there has been such a profusion of miscarriages of justice during the sixty-some years that we have been carrying on like this.
Why else would the fourth plenum have decided on its "rule of law" theme, bringing the hope of rain in drought to so many citizens?
But excitement is for ordinary people; it's the job of Zhou Qiang, our battle-hardened head of the Supreme People's Court, to be resolute.
The words that the people read are only written on paper; but the head of the Supreme Court must implement what is probably the will of the party.
I remember in the days before the fourth plenum that the deputy party secretary of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) talked about "the main focus of the anti-corruption campaign since the 18th Party Congress."
This shows us that the anti-corruption campaign hasn't been waged according to law, but according to limits set by our leaders.
This campaign is being prosecuted by our leaders, and not by the courts. If the latter were true, then all corrupt officials would be equal, and would be treated equally by those who prosecuted them.
Under such circumstances, how could there be a distinction between those corrupt officials who were the "main focus" and those who were not? Timing and the personal whim of the leadership would have nothing to do with it.
An anti-corruption campaign that has a main focus is a selective anti-corruption campaign that is subject to top-down direction from our leaders, not to the rule of law.
Perhaps people will blame me for not saying so months earlier. But wouldn't I have been accused of being anti-party, because I opposed a party-led campaign?
Not above the law
So why am I saying this now? To put a spoke in the wheel of the fourth plenum's "rule of law," of these so-called "two sorts of conflict," and of "the intentions of our leaders," none of which are the crux of the problem at all.
Now that they have played the "rule of law" card, they should quit playing word-games to try to fool people.
It's right to say that no one is above the law. Not even the head of the Supreme People's Court.
He must understand enough law to know that, surely?
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.