Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing-based civil rights lawyer, was detained by Beijing police on Tuesday on the charge of provoking troubles, according to his relatives, an event which drew sympathetic comments on social media.
We believe legal issues should be addressed through judicial proceedings. As a lawyer, Pu is well-informed on this matter, and he can better protect his legitimate rights based on his expertise and career experiences.
Pu is one of the activist lawyers who are committed to protecting civil rights. Their actions have contributed to the improvement of China's rule of law and social equity.
But activism has become a double-edged sword for these civil rights lawyers, empowering them to breach their code of practice and even express strong political viewpoints. Judicial means are not the only method they would like to use to protect civil rights, and mobilizing online public opinion and even supporting and joining illegal activities have become their new favorites.
These activist lawyers, who have wild intentions to challenge and change the law, have deviated from their own job scope. They are more like social activists rather than legal practitioners.
Their behavior has made their role in the Chinese society complicated. They are both socially constructive and politically destructive. They have awakened the public's awareness to protect civil rights, but their voices have converged with populism, causing excessive intervention of public opinion in judicial process.
In recent years, civil rights lawyers have been given much wider space than before to express their opinions, and as long as they carry out activities legally, they are also allowed to hold views that pose some challenges to the current national power structure.
The problem is some of them have deliberately crossed the bottom line of the rule of law. It was reported that Pu was detained after he attended an anniversary event to commemorate the June 4th incident. Whether there is a connection has not been officially confirmed, but it is obvious that such an event, which is related to the most sensitive political issue in China, has clearly crossed the red line of law.
Civil rights lawyers like Pu get massive public support when their actions are taken for the public good, but they shouldn't take it for granted that they can avoid legal punishment when they themselves break the law.
Respecting the law should be a norm for everyone. These activist lawyers must realize their own values can never replace the authority of law.
These activist lawyers, to some extent, have inspired the whole society to look into the past, but these lawyers themselves have lost the ability of self-introspection. They must regain self-awareness and realize that they are not the commandos or authoritative forces to improve China's rule law.