Does v. Jiang Zemin
In October 2002, the first lawsuit was filed against former Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin and the 610 Office in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Three process servers served Zemin with process during the afternoon of October 21, 2002. Although a U.S. Secret Service agent told one of the process servers, “if you drop those papers, I will classify that as a terrorist act and you will be taken down,” the process server still managed to place the papers appropriately nearby, thus effectuating service of process upon Zemin.
The defendants did not respond to the complaint. However, on December 12, 2002, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government filed a Statement of Interest and Suggestion of Immunity requesting that the case be dismissed on several grounds that included Zemin’s status as a head of state when he was served with process. The District Court gave full deference to the Statement of Interest and Suggestion of Immunity and dismissed the case. The District Court’s Opinion is reported at Plaintiffs, A, B, C, D, E, F v. Jiang Zemin, 282 F. Supp. 2d 875 (N.D.Ill. 2003). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court. The plaintiffs’ request that the U.S. Supreme Court grant certiorari and hear the case was denied in April 2005.
During the pendency of the U.S. case, several lawsuits were filed against Zemin. By the end of 2003, sixteen lawsuits had been filed in different countries around the world, including in Belgium and Germany. In 2004, in a special issue of Compassion Magazine, the story “Lawsuits Around the World Take Aim at Genocide in China” examined these cases and their implications from various legal and moral angles. The story is available at http://faluninfo.net/Compassion5/Compassion5-v35-screen.pdf.
Thirty-nine members of the United States Congress filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court in Illinois on June 11, 2003, urging the court to proceed with the lawsuit against Zemin. Congressman Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat in the House Foreign Relations Committee, authored the brief, which thirty-eight of his colleagues endorsed. The brief begins, “As members of the U.S. Congress . . . we have a significant and abiding interest in this lawsuit.” The brief lists a number of Congressional laws—some of which were cited in this lawsuit—as vehicles to “protect citizens around the world from human rights abuses and violations.” It goes on to discuss how Zemin is not a legitimate head of state because he “did not come to power through any sort of popular electoral process.” The brief continues:
To the contrary, Mr. Jiang rose to power for his hard-line approach to crushing the democracy movement of 1989. . . . reputable sources such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the State Department’s own Country Report on Human Rights have documented severe and systematic human rights abuses by Jiang’s government against his own people.
The brief goes on to state that there is no legitimate policy under which the judiciary should refrain from ruling on the case: “This lawsuit was filed not to embarrass China, but to persuade the defendants to end their persecution of Falun Gong . . . . it is highly consistent with the goals set forth in [the U.S. Department of State’s] annual review of human rights.”
In October 2002, HRLF filed a lawsuit against former Chinese head of state Jiang Zemin in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois. The United States Department of State filed a Suggestion of Immunity requesting that the case be dismissed on several grounds that included the defendant’s status as a head of state when he was served with process. The District Court gave full deference to the suggestion of the Executive Branch and dismissed the case against the defendant. The District Court’s opinion is reported at Plaintiffs, A, B, C, D, E, F v. Jiang Zemin, 282 F. Supp. 2d 875 (N.D.Ill. 2003). The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The plaintiffs’ request to the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to grant certiorari was denied in April 2005.
Jiang Zemin, former Chinese head of state.
© Human Rights Law Foundation 2010
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