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Lawsuit against Jiang Zemin far from over
CHICAGO - The U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois judge announced just recently to not proceed with the lawsuit against Jiang Zemin, the former President of China, based upon the traditionally granted head of state immunity. While the first round of this internationally-followed lawsuit has been dropped, it appears Jiang will be facing tougher battles ahead.
Initiated in Chicago, Illinois in October, 2002 during Jiang's visit to the United States, the US District Court has become a focal point of political armwrestling.
Pleased by the outcome, Jiang Zemin, who has maintained the most powerful position in China as head of the military, eagerly sent the news out to the nation, breaking a year-long official silence on the issue.
Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kong Chuan said, "Jiang Zemin has been trying to hide the fact that he was being sued for persecuting Falun Gong, but now he himself broke the ‘bad’ news, just like ‘breaking the hornet's nest.’"
Activists immediately began condemning Jiang for concealing the facts, with news reports flooding the Internet and chatrooms in China.
The lawsuit has exposed a general discontent with the former president of China who rose to power on the waves of the Tianamen Square Massacre of 1989 for his hardline stance. According to reports from China many citizens are confused as to why he was sued in the first place. "Anybody with a clear mind can see that a group of ordinary citizens would not send the highest authority to the court if they were not wrongfully treated," said Wen Li, Chengdu City resident.
Jiang Zemin’s image and reputation has taken a beating in the past year and announcement of the lawsuit only increased Chinese citizen discontent with the former leader. A joke passed around via cell phone and text messaging brings the point to bear: "If Hu Jintao (current Chinese leader) stood on Tiananmen Square and threw away a one-hundred dollar bill the one that picked it up would be happy. If Wu Banggou threw away 100 ten-dollar bills a hundred people would be happy. But if you threw away Jiang Zemin, the entire nation would be happy."
Falun Gong spokesperson, Stephen Gregory, said that Falun Gong practitioners have already initiated the appeal process. “This is just the beginning. If needed we will appeal to the federal Supreme Court.”
According to Gregory, Jiang has done everything in his power to stop the lawsuit proceedings. "He has contacted congressional leaders and made threatening statements that if the lawsuit was accepted it would jeopardize US-Chinese relations. The U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois was definitely under tremendous pressure and it was not easy for a small district court to take such enormous pressure."
"Jiang has interfered with the principal of separation of powers by pushing the executive branch to increase pressure on the court. But as the lawsuit is appealed to higher courts, its ability to withstand this absolutely unlawful diplomatic pressure will increase and eventually the executive and judicial branch will not respond."
Morton Sklar, chairman of the World Organization Against Torture, said the lawsuit against Jiang can be viewed as a part of the world human rights movement and the meaning of this type of lawsuit is to establish a basis around the world that any official who commits serious crimes against humanity will be held responsible.
"The law is not the shelter for a tyrant. Leaders of a country are not allowed to use his authority to commit crimes of genocide and brutality without being punished."
Many lawyers also hold the view that immunity should only protect heads of state from being harassed by improper lawsuits so to serve his country better. Mr. Alan Dershowitz, an US renowned lawyer, and former law consultant to the Chinese government said, "Nobody can avoid punishment just for being the head of the state if he himself ordered the genocide."
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, also stated that national leaders who commit genocide should not enjoy immunity.
To date, Amnesty International and the World Organization Against Torture both have verified the deaths of at least 800 Falun Gong practitioners while in Chinese police custody. Jiang Zemin, who passed the president's role on to Hu Jingtao this past March, initiated the harsh suppression of the popular spiritual practice on July 22, 1999 with the order to "eradicate Falun Gong in three months."
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