Film of the Week: “The Attorney”

The  comes from the Grass-Mud Horse Lexicon, a glossary of terms created by Chinese netizens and encountered in online political discussions. These are the words of China’s online “resistance discourse,” used to mock and subvert the official language around censorship and political correctness.

辩护人 (Biànhùrén): The Attorney

"The Attorney Pu Zhiqiang" (Artist: Badiucao 巴丢草)

“The Attorney ” (Artist: Badiucao 巴丢草)

South Korean film inspired by the life of former President Roh Moo-hyun, a tax attorney turned human rights lawyer; film invoked in support of Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.

Pu Zhiqiang is a former 1989 student protester and an outspoken, high-profile rights defense lawyer. He was detained along with several fellow activists on May 6, 2014 after attending a salon on the 1989 protests at the home of a friend. Actress Zhang Ziyi offered subtle support for Pu by encouraging her followers to watch “The Attorney,” the 2013 dramatization of Roh Moo-hyun’s defense of student protesters persecuted by the authoritarian South Korean government in the 1980s:

Xitubudui (@稀土部队): “The Attorney”: A lawyer who pursues democracy, rule of law, and justice fights for the truth and deeply inspires. The story is adapted from the real accomplishments of former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. No need to say more here, go see for yourself what it’s about! (May 6, 2014)

《辩护人》一个追求民主、法制、公正为真理而斗争的律师让人肃然起敬。故事改编于韩国前总统卢武铉的真实事迹。在这儿无需再说电影拍得如何了,去看看人家拍的内容吧! [Chinese]

Roh was later elected president of the newly democratized in 2003. Roh’s life story resonates with Pu Zhiqiang’s, and also hints at a happier ending to Pu’s tribulations. Pu has remained in custody since May 2014, but was only formally indicted in May 2015. He has also been denied access to his lawyer since June 23, 2015.

’s post inspired other Weibo users to invoke “The Attorney” as an allegory for Pu Zhiqiang’s fate. One particular quotation from the film is treated as sensitive and at times deleted from social media, as witnessed by this Weibo post removed by Sina:

DaoyuanqiaoqiaoJOJO (@导演乔乔JOJO): The hardest rock is still dead; the most fragile egg still holds life. In the end the rock will become dust, but the life nurtured in the egg will someday soar over the rock. (April 15, 2015)

岩石再坚硬也是死的,鸡蛋再脆弱也是有生命的。石头最终会化为尘土,而鸡蛋孕育的生命总有一天会飞跃石头。 [Chinese]

lexicon_2015_cover_thumbCan’t get enough of subversive Chinese netspeak? Check out our latest ebook, “Decoding the Chinese Internet: A Glossary of Political Slang.” Includes dozens of new terms and classic catchphrases, presented in a new, image-rich format. Available for pay-what-you-want (including nothing). All proceeds support CDT.