FAIR TRIAL FOR HARM·MONDAY, JANUARY 9, 2017
I suddenly have a lot to write about what happened recently. I feel the outcome of the trial is coming soon, but we still have some hurdles to overcome.
Before Christmas, the Dutch government told the press they would ask for “clarifications” over the process leading to Harm condemnation. It was a great satisfaction for us to see that the authorities were getting more involved in our quest for justice. This was followed, a few weeks ago, by an official letter sent by fax to the Chinese ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Higher People Court of Justice. Usually, such a letter gets more weight when it is handed over by an official in person, usually an ambassador. Unfortunately, the Netherlands’ embassy has been deprived of ambassador for the past few months, the latter being now under investigation by the Dutch government after he allegedly had an affair with a Chinese member of the embassy staff. Therefore, his vice ambassador, Mr Andre Driessen, had to ask to hand the letter in person but the Chinese authorities said they had no time to meet him. Respecting the hierarchy is extremely important in China. And a deputy head of mission does not have the same political weight as an ambassador…
This is a very tricky situation which could be dangerous for Harm. Indeed, if his case is not taken seriously by the Chinese authorities, we fear that the Higher people court of Beijing may decide to render a guilty verdict, despite the lack of evidence, because it is very difficult for them to overthrow a first instance verdict. Giving a non guilty verdict is almost impossible for the Court because it would mean that their lower level colleagues may “lose face”, be humiliated. And making someone lose face is something you must never EVER do in China.
So basically, even though the judges may be personally convinced that Harm is innocent and that the procedures were not respected, they will never admit it and render a non guilty verdict. To give you an idea, in China, about 97% of the people facing a trial are found guilty. And the amount of wrongful convictions is obviously staggering. The Chinese government is aware of the issue and has recently launched a reform of the justice system but the habits are difficult to change…
All I am trying to say is that the judges are now in a very delicate situation. And they are apparently playing the clock to solve this case quickly. Chinese New Year is around the corner, and everyone want to go back home at the end of January. I have good reasons to think that : a few days ago, we received a message from our Chinese lawyer telling us that he was approached by the judge who asked if Harm’s family would be “willing” to pay a very big amount of money in compensations to the family of the defunct. The verdict has not been rendered yet so we were a little surprised, to say the least, by this request and by the amount asked for. Not mentioning the fact that we already had to pay € 150.000 in lawyer’s fees (which you can help to contribute to on this online money pot). After some explanation, it seems that it is aimed at showing good will from Harm’s family in exchange of what the judge could potentially decide to lower the sentence or the charge and satisfy the family of the defunct in their quest for money. Officially though, plea bargaining does not exist in China. So we are asked to pay but we do not know what will happen afterwards. Will Harm be freed? Will he be sentenced to six years instead of 12? Will he be get a non guilty verdict? The decision of the judge is a mystery to everyone.
What are we supposed to do to make sure Harm is freed straight away?
This situation is very stressful and difficult to cope with for us. We urgently need assistance and advice. And I am afraid that the Netherland’s embassy alone is too weak now, without its ambassador, to be of great help. Fortunately, we are still members of the European Union, this supranational power everyone loves to denounce and destroy instead of finding solutions to improve it. The European Union has embassies abroad, called delegations, to represent the interests of the whole EU in third countries. EU delegations can legally represent the Member States when they are confronted with representation issues, like the Netherlands right now. That is why I sent a letter requesting assistance to Mr Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, ambassador of the EU in China. We are facing a very obvious injustice and Harm has never had a fair trial. So I believe it is the duty of the European Union to make sure that its citizens are not victims of unfair treatments and trials inside and outside the borders of the EU.
We do not want to cause damage to China’s relationships with other countries. Despite everything, Harm has not lost his faith. He still wants to promote the cooperation between Chinese and Dutch companies in the Agro feed sector. He does not want his situation to trigger tensions. He just wants to be out and free, see his family and friends and have a normal life again. And when he is out, he still wants to be able to travel and do business in China. Recently, when the people from the Dutch consulate met him in the detention centre, he told them to send me a message. This message was “do not blame what is happening on the country that gave us everything”.
Indeed, this country gave us a lot, taught us a lot on ourselves and other people. It is the most fascinating country I have ever visited and I cannot imagine my life without anything related to China or Chinese people. It is also in China that I met Harm in February 2012, in a Chinese teaching school. He helped me a lot getting used to my new life at the other side of the world. We have been together ever since. He has always been there for me and I will always support him because he is a good, honest person and I love him. Everything I do now, I know that he would do exactly the same for me.
To finish, as it is still time for New Year’s wishes, let me tell you mine for 2017 : Freedom for Harm. Now!