Chatting with China’s Security Apparatus

As the National People’s Congress holds its annual session, Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan went to the offices of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang to interview him about proposed changes to the Criminal Procedure Law. At the office, she encountered officers from the “guo bao” or State Security Police, who prevented her from proceeding with the interview. She writes:

What happened next was not surprising, but on this day, felt particularly ironic: plainclothes police officers prevented us from interviewing Pu on camera, even as we explained to them that this new legislation would curtail their state security powers.

The language used by the officers, who refused to identify themselves, might also be interesting to those unfamiliar with this kind of state apparatus: Orwellian, wrapped in code, and offering our crew “recommendations” that if disobeyed, could have meant some physical confrontation from the two men in sunglasses who were called up for reinforcement during the following exchange.

She then recounts the exchange between herself, the officers [PO] and Pu Zhiqiang:

AJE: This is a law about security, terrorism, and the handling of general criminal suspects. This law can be quite an improvement on things —

PO: Yes! Indeed, it is a huge reform. It’s a big improvement.

AJE: So … are you speaking in the capacity of a police officer?

PO: No, I’m … speaking in the capacity … as Mr. Pu’s … friend!

Pu Zhiqiang: You are not my friend. I adamantly, adamantly dispute that.

Pu Zhiqiang has defended many high-profile activists and dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei. He is now providing counsel for Zhang Mingyu, a Chongqing businessman who was detained in Beijing after writing on his blog that he has inside information about the current political intrigue involving Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun, and the Chongqing mafia. For more on Zhang Mingyu, see a post from the Committee to Protect Journalists. For more on recent harassment of foreign journalists, see reports from Tibetan areas of Sichuan and from the scene of protests in Panhe, Guangdong.

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