The Chinese lawyer who had his clothes ripped off in court

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(BBC) What a difference an image makes.

Plenty of Chinese lawyers have been harassed, detained, even jailed in China but the photograph of one with his clothes reportedly torn off him by police has drawn plenty of attention in China.

Wu Liangshu stood in the Qingxiu District Court wearing the remnants of his suit with his bare leg and underpants showing.

Mr Wu was allegedly assaulted by three officers inside a courtroom, in front of two judges who rejected his request to file a case in the district court of Nanning (BBC photo)
Mr Wu was allegedly assaulted by three officers inside a courtroom, in front of two judges who rejected his request to file a case in the district court of Nanning (BBC photo)

He and other lawyers were telling court officials that he had been assaulted by three officers inside a courtroom in front of two judges who also happened to reject his request to file a case in the district court of Nanning in Guangxi Province.

Mr Wu was offered a new set of clothes but he knew the power of what he was about to do. “No thanks,” he said.

The lawyer then walked out the front door of the court complex carrying his court materials, with a pen still stuck in the top pocket of his ripped open shirt.

He was then photographed outside the building.

It was a simple act of defiance.

If his goal was to draw attention to what happened to him and what Chinese lawyers face every day then it worked.

Wu Liangshu told the BBC: “I wasn’t shocked. I have heard plenty of weird and violent stories of things happening to lawyers in China but I didn’t expect it to happen to me”.

The officers, on the other hand, say that he refused to hand over his mobile phone when they asked for it. They had accused him of making illegal recordings of court officials.

According to a preliminary official investigation the court police did not “beat” the lawyer but were found to have adopted “abusive coercive means” when forcing him to hand over his phone.

Around a thousand Chinese lawyers have reportedly signed a statement condemning the attack and calling for the CCTV footage from inside the hearing to be released to establish what really happened.

The head of the All China Lawyers’ Association has described Wu Liangshu’s case as “really distressing”.

Meanwhile, talk of this clash on Chinese social media has been too much for the authorities. Much of the discussion on Chinese micro-site Weibo seems to have been censored, with only negative comments against Mr Wu now visible.

Before comments started being blocked, the sentiments appearing seemed to be of a different kind: “In China, lawyers can’t even defend their own rights, how can they defend their clients” and “You can tell just how Chinese human rights are from this picture”.

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