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China Change, March 31, 2019
Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) stands prominent among China’s human rights lawyers. In 2004, he came to Beijing to practice at the age of 40. In the roughly one decade up to mid-2015, he represented countless rights cases. Some of the more notable of these include the appeal of a death sentence by farmer Li Zhiping (李志平) in Dingzhou, Hebei Province; the Yang Jia (杨佳) police murder case in Shanghai; the case of the three netizens in Fujian (福建三网民); the case of journalist Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮) in Shandong; and the case of Ji Zhongxing (冀中星), the migrant worker who threw a homemade bomb at the Beijing Capital Airport in 2013. Cases Liu Xiaoyuan has taken on in recent years include the “separatist” case of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木▪土赫提), as well as numerous dissidents and activists charged with offenses like incitement, subversion, picking quarrels, or disturbing public order and obstructing official business. Among his clients, the artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is probably the most well-known.
But from July 2015 till now, Liu Xiaoyuan has been out of work for three and a half years. In 40 days, he stands to lose his practicing license. At least two other lawyers of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, Zhou Lixin (周立新) and Wang Yu (王宇), are facing the same deadline. Lawyer Huang Liqun (黄力群), a government official before becoming a lawyer, possibly faces the same situation. This is obviously due to the machinations of the Chinese Communist Party.
On July 9, 2015, the Chinese government carried out mass arrests of human rights lawyers in what became known as the 709 incident. At the center of this crackdown was the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所). That night, the firm’s lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) was taken away from her home; the next morning, on the 10th, Fengrui director Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) was detained at a hotel in Songzhuang Town of Beijing’s Tongzhou District. More than 10 other Fengrui lawyers and staff were also rounded up. Over the following two weeks, up to 300 lawyers around China were interrogated, held in short-term detention, or given warnings. The 709 Incident is regarded as a movement by the authorities to stamp out human rights lawyers. Official mouthpieces played their part in this effort, labelling the Fengrui Law Firm and the community of rights lawyers as “horses bringing trouble to the herd” (害群之马) and representatives of overseas anti-China forces bent on engineering a color revolution.
Liu Xiaoyuan is one of Fengrui Law Firm’s three partners. During the 709 crackdown (Liu himself doesn’t approve of and avoids using this term), at the time he was out of town and was placed under control for three days. Following the incident, around 50 lawyers employed by Fengrui who were not implicated left to work with other law firms. A manager with the Beijing Justice Bureau’s oversight office (监管处), which deals with lawyers, told Liu that being a partner to Fengrui, he could not transfer to another law firm until the cases involving those arrested in connection with the 709 incident were settled and the matter of Fengrui Law Firm resolved. Only then would the office let Liu transfer to a new firm.
Lawyer Zhou Shifeng, after being put under six months of residential surveillance, was formally arrested on January 8, 2016. On August 4, he stood trial and was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years of deprivation of political rights for the crime of subversion of state power. In March 2018, the Beijing Justice Bureau suspended Fengrui Law Firm’s law license. On November 9, after the firm’s sub-branch in Nanchong, Sichuan, was closed down, Fengrui’s business permit was revoked. Since that point, Feirui has ceased to exist.
According to the Ministry of Justice’s “Regulations on Law Firm Management” (《律师事务所管理办法》) and the “Beijing Municipal Guidelines for Implementing the Management Regulations of Law Firm Operation” (《北京市律师执业管理办法实施细则》), after a law firm is closed, its partner lawyers are allowed to transfer out. Starting from November 9, 2018, Liu Xiaoyuan and another partner lawyer, Zhou Lixin, as well as lawyer Wang Yu who is the first 709 detainee and released without charges, have six months —or until May 9, 2019 — to transfer to a new law firm. If, by the six-month deadline, they have not transferred to another firm, the lawyers will have their practicing licenses cancelled.
It isn’t the first time that Liu Xiaoyuan has had to deal with firm shutdowns and transfers. On April 3, 2011, artist Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport and charged with tax evasion. As a friend and lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan gave interviews with the media voicing his opinion about the legality of the matter. Afterward he himself was taken away with his head covered under a black hood and detained for five days, during which he was subjected to a strip search and interrogation, then released after writing statements of repentance (悔过书) and guarantee (保证书). In 2011 and 2012, the Beijing Justice Bureau found excuses to obstruct the annual inspection of his firm Qijian Law Firm (旗舰律师事务所), forcing the firm’s several lawyers to transfer. Liu Xiaoyuan was compelled to close the firm, but allowed to transfer to a new firm and continue his practice. On November 28, 2012, Liu officially transferred to the Fengrui Law Firm, and became a partner attorney in 2013.
By regulation, when lawyers transfer from one firm to another, they must first apply for two documents from the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA). One is the certificate showing which firms they have worked at, and the other is a certificate confirming that they have not violated lawyer codes. Under normal circumstances, a lawyer can use a member’s login to access the BLA’s website and submit an application. The check will be done using the information on the website and the two documents will be sent to the lawyer, who can then take them to the new law firm that accepts him or her. A proof of employment will be issued by the firm, the local Lawyers Association will issue a certificate. These documents can be submitted online and the transferral process can be completed. The process is fairly easy if it involves just a regular transfer.
But in November 2018, around the time Fengrui Law Firm had its business license cancelled, Liu Xiaoyuan found that his information had been deleted from the lawyer management system on the Beijing Justice Bureau’s official site. Entering his name, ID number, or practicing license number produced no results. This meant that the new firm that had accepted him was unable to apply for a transfer number. As this was happening, the BLA’s website updated the status of his practice to “unregistered,” preventing him from logging into the website and retrieving the two documents he needed for transfer.
Lawyers Zhou Lixin, also a partner of Fengrui, and lawyer Wang Yu, find themselves in the same situation as Liu Xiaoyuan: they are also facing the possibility of their practice licenses being revoked if they do not transfer by May 9. It would seem that this is precisely what the Beijing Justice Bureau and the BLA is aiming for.
(On March 27 Wang Yu was stopped by Chinese police checking IDs outside the U.S. Embassy as she tried to enter the embassy for an event marking Women’s History Month. She was handcuffed with her hands behind her back and detained for 20 hours for questioning the legality of random ID check.)
Last year, on November 12, Liu Xiaoyuan signed the cancellation documents for the business license of Fengrui Law Firm in the certification branch of Beijing’s Chaoyang District Justice Bureau (朝阳区司法局证照科). The next day, he went to the Beijing Justice Bureau to discuss his transfer. The staff who received him said they had to make a report to their higher-ups and the discussion ended there. The subsequent talks turned into small talk. One of the staff said: “most of the cases you’ve taken on are in other provinces, you can go somewhere else to practice.” Another said: “Why don’t you develop in a new direction and handle economic cases instead?” Liu Xiaoyuan responded: “As a lawyer, the clients come to me. No matter what type of case it is, as long as I think I can take it, I will take the case. I don’t have defined boundaries.” However, he told the three staff members, some cases he took on involved people from vulnerable groups whose human rights had been infringed upon, such as those expropriated of their land and victims of forced demolition. When he went to court, many people would come to attend the hearings and express their approval of his argumentation. That led to similar cases coming his way.
He didn’t know that the 40-minute chat he had with these three Justice Bureau staff would be his last time of being received at the Bureau. After that he has had no more such good luck, even though the chat didn’t resolve any of his problems.
Liu has spent most of his three years in unemployment in his hometown in Jiangxi. On November 16, he called the Beijing Justice Bureau supervisory office in charge of managing lawyers, as well as the deputy branch chief, but got no response. Calling mobile numbers didn’t work either. On Twitter, he said: “It can’t be that there’s no one at the supervisory office during working hours.”
The same day, he wrote: “during my career as a lawyer, I’ve received warnings, threats on my life, been evicted from my rental home, had my right to travel restricted, summoned by the authorities, made to wear a black hood, disappeared, had my annual lawyer’s inspection delayed, and forced to stop operating my law firm. In conjunction with the ‘Fengrui issue,’ I’ve been put under control, made to sign repentance and guarantee statements, and forced out of work for three years and four months [to the current month]. Now it may come to me having my lawyer’s license ‘gotten rid of.’”
Over the past few months, he has called the Beijing Justice Bureau’s supervision office practically every day or every other day. No one has ever picked up. He called Xiao Lizhu (萧骊珠), secretary-general of the BLA, and got no response either. His calls to the deputy director of the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau didn’t get through. Looking through Liu’s Twitter posts from the past months, you get the impression of a neverending string of unanswered phone calls. One time a miracle occured: Liu got through to a Justice Bureau deputy director, who listened to him long enough to realize who was calling, then said he had a meeting to attend and immediately hung up.
Apart from making phone calls, he wrote to all the relevant addresses he could think of. This included four letters to Justice Bureau chief Li Chunying (李春莹), one to the bureau’s Communist Party secretary Miao Lin (苗林), two to Beijing Mayor Chen Jining (陈吉宁), and one to Yuan Shuhong (袁曙宏), Party secretary of the Ministry of Justice. He sent multiple inquiries to the online box of civil-administrative relations of the Beijing Justice Bureau, and also petitioned at the Bureau’s Letter and Visit office.
One day in December 2018, Liu was on the website of the Beijing Justice Bureau again browsing replies by the leaders to the mail in their inboxes, and unexpectedly found a response to his letter to the bureau chief. Using the password he set when sending the letter, he quickly opened it and found the following:
“Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan is urged to follow proper procedure according to the law in completing his transfer process.”
Faced with this sort of non-answer, Liu didn’t know whether to react with laughter or tears.
His letter to the Beijing mayor got a response in February saying that “given the content of your complaint, it will be handed over to the responsible party, the Justice Bureau, to be dealt with.” Liu tweeted bitterly: “[This is] petitioning with Chinese characteristics: my letters of complaint come full circle, back to the hands of the accused.”
Already in late November last year, Liu expressed doubt as to whether he would be able to transfer, thus continue his career as a lawyer. Indeed, in the course of the past year, he has seen how many of his fellow human rights lawyers have had their licenses revoked: In January 2018 it was Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Yu Wensheng (余文生); Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) in February; Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) and Li Heping (李和平) in April; Huang Simin (黄思敏), Wen Donghai (文东海), and Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), and Qin Yongpei (覃永沛) in May; Cheng Hai (程海) in August; Chen Keyun (陈科云) in October; and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) that December. Lawyer Zhang Kai (张凯) faces the same problem with his transfer.
Lawyers arrested during the 709 Crackdown were subjected to secret detention and brutal torture. Aside from Zhou Shifeng, Fengrui lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after being held for three and a half years without trial.
On the eve of China’s annual National People’s Congress that began on March 5, Liu Xiaoyuan launched a countdown on Twitter: 67 days until May 9, the day when he will lose his license if the stonewalling continues. He tweeted the phone number of the Beijing Justice Bureau’s supervisory office: 010-55578662. He knew that the bureau must have put him on a no-call list, but others could call and ask why lawyers like him, Zhou Lixin, Wang Yu, or Zhang Kai were being treated so maliciously and prevented from practicing. Liu asked the media to pay attention to the situation they faced.
As the National People’s Congress convened, many human rights lawyers, dissidents, activists, and liberal scholars were given warnings, placed under house arrest, or even made to take “vacations” away from Beijing. Liu Xiaoyuan said jokingly that every day, he expected a call to appear in the Beijing Justice Bureau. But no such a call came. Instead, one day, his wife, a surgeon, was summoned to the local public security bureau, where she was asked to persuade Liu Xiaoyuan not to spread “negative energy” online. Because of this disturbance, she had to postpone the surgeries of several patients. When she got home, she was very angry and the couple had a fight. Liu Xiaoyuan was incensed: “I am doing chores and cooking at home every day. They don’t come for me, but harass my wife.”
On March 18, Liu Xiaoyuan dialed the mobile number of Gao Zicheng (高子程), president of the BLA. Gao said that he was aware of the situation, and that he had already told the Secretariat four times and would continue to ask about the matter. The reader may wonder: how is it that the president of the lawyers association asks his subordinates repeatedly to solve this matter, and still with nothing to show for it?
This is the lawyers association with Chinese characteristics, not the bar association that you know. Lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田), disbarred in 2010, explains it: After the Cultural Revolution, the lawyer system was restored with lawyers being state officials. Beginning in the early 1990s, the profession of lawyer was gradually separated from the state system, and became private, yet remained under the supervision of the Justice Bureau and the Lawyers Association. For years, the president of the Lawyers Association had been held concurrently by the head of the Justice Bureau. It was the same throughout the hierarchy of the Justice Bureaus. By the early 2000s, though lawyers began to serves as presidents, vice presidents, and supervisors of many lawyers associations, the secretariat held real authority, and the staff of the Secretariat were appointed by the the Justice Bureau. These personnel, especially the secretary-general, are actually cadres of the Justice Bureau. Some lawyer associations also have such a position as Party secretary. In these cases, the position was held concurrently by a deputy director in the Justice Bureau office that supervises lawyers. Therefore, actual control over the Lawyers Association lies with the secretariat — that is to say, the Justice Bureau.
This is why, though BLA chief Gao Zicheng is aware of Liu Xiaoyuan’s situation, he can do nothing to help even if he answers his phone calls. The current BLA secretary-general, Xiao Lizhu, has been in this position for at least ten years and has a long record of suppressing human rights lawyers.
“A lawyer’s right to practice is a human rights, and obstructing my ability to transfer to a new firm and continue practicing is a violation of my basic human rights,” wrote Liu Xiaoyuan on Twitter over and over again. Who says it is not? But this is a normal, rational and modern concept, and the Chinese regime operates neither normally nor rationally; it is still a barbaric rogue state in terms of human rights and the rule of law, the world’s second largest economy though it may be.
There are few persons more aware of this painful truth than a Chinese human rights lawyer.
As of March 31, there are 40 days until Liu reaches the May 9 deadline to transfer to a new firm. He said he has written (unclear whether it’s filed) a complaint with the Beijing Municipal Political and Legal Affairs Commission, in which he accused the Beijing Justice Bureau of abusing its power.
Hope may or may not be on the horizon, but this short-statured lawyer isn’t about to give up just yet.
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Make Sacrifices to Illuminate the Future: Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group
September 13, 2018
On September 13, 2013, lawyers Wang Cheng (王成), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) announced the establishment of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团). All three had been disbarred by the Chinese authorities because of their commitment to defending the rights of the Chinese people. In just one year, more than 300 Chinese lawyers joined the Group. Many seasons later, the Human Rights Lawyers Group now marks the fifth anniversary of its founding. On this otherwise ordinary day, we will take inventory of what we have done over the last five years, reiterate the basic principles of the group, and plan our steps for the future.
In the past five years, we have gone through hardships and sadness; we have seen our hopes dashed. We struggle to improve the human rights situation in our country, only to see it worsen progressively.
In the past five years, Chinese human rights lawyers have been demonized by the authorities and smeared by people who harbor ulterior motives. Our members have endured persecution of a severity seldom seen, stunning the international community.
In the past five years, many Chinese human rights lawyers have been imprisoned or disappeared. Since the “709” crackdown of July 2015 that shocked people in China and abroad, human rights lawyers have sustained heavy blows to the point of near destruction.
But even in the face of these cruel realities, members of the Human Rights Lawyers Group have continued their fruitful work. They issued joint statements to express their solidarity and expose human rights violations. It is an endeavor fraught with hardship that is difficult to imagine. They defended political dissidents until they themselves were labeled as dissidents; they defended people of faith until they themselves became the target of the authorities’ “stability maintenance;” they defended the petitioners and the victims of forced demolition, until the day they were disbarred by the judicial establishment under orders from the Party. They defended the ethnic minorities until the day they themselves were denounced as traitors; they defended the workers until they themselves were deprived of their right to practice. Their sacrifices are too numerous to list.
We cannot help but ask why the human rights lawyers, passionate for justice, should be targeted for political persecution. Why do the judicial authorities restrict human rights lawyers from working on their cases? Why does the judiciary use sly tricks to revoke or suspend their right to practice?
The answer is simple: it is because human rights lawyers pursue justice, and their persecutors represent darkness and evil.
Today, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Human Rights Lawyers Group, we reaffirm our mission to advance human rights in China. We shall continue to uphold the values we cherish through the practice of law.
We yearn for freedom, but we know the importance of order; we pursue justice, but we do not subscribe to self-righteousness; we emphasize basic human rights, but we will honor the principle of gradual progress through proper procedures; as human rights lawyers, we insist on the right of independent judgment, but respect the different perspectives and views held by others.
Once again, we announce to the world that we are not this country’s enemy. We are a group of true patriots. We know that we must transcend class, nationality, and faith in order to work for the dignity and basic human rights of all Chinese. Regardless of how others perceive and label us and attempt to discredit our work, we will stand by our principles as we strive to improve human rights in China.
At the same time, we look forward to healthy cooperation and dialogue with the authorities to find a feasible path to furthering and improving human rights. We want everyone to know that human rights lawyers regaining their own rights is a victory for everyone, regardless of occupation, social status, economic background, or ethnicity.
We are aware that the effort of human rights lawyers alone cannot change the human rights situation in this country. We are ready to work with all people and groups that pursue freedom, justice, and the rule of law, and to take a stand for the beautiful goals to which we all aspire.
In the next five years, we must first and foremost fight for the freedom of every citizen to be free from fear. We demand the repeal of the provision in the Supervision Act that affords law enforcement officials the power of wanton detention, as well as the provisions in the Criminal Procedure Law that allow for secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated place.”
We vow to fight for victims who have been forcefully disappeared and tortured by the authorities, and we will not tolerate the illegal detention and disappearance, in the name of the state, of anyone living on this land, be they officials or ordinary citizens. Everyone has basic rights, including the right to litigation.
We will advocate to establish open records of human rights violations committed by public officials. This lists will record the deeds of all, from leaders at the highest levels down to infractions committed by local level of guobao, or political security police. If they do not rein themselves in, they will one day stand trial to face justice in court.
We will offer strong and unconditional support for citizens’ freedom of speech. We will never tolerate the administrative detention or legal punishment of a citizen simply for criticizing the government or the party. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of all other freedoms. If no one dares speak out against abuse, all of society will taste the bitter consequences.
We love blue skies and green hills, and we will not turn a blind eye to the environmental pollution or tainted food and drugs. We will urge governments at all levels to take effective measures to reduce pollution, improve the environment, and enforce regulations over the food and drug industry so that everyone can have safe food, medicine, air, and water. We want to tell citizens who have suffered persecution for their efforts to improve the environment or expose the safety hazards posed by tainted food and medicine: you have our full support.
We are extremely concerned about the friction between police and civilians. We call on law enforcement throughout the country to act in strict accordance with the law, to explain the law in good faith, exercise restraint, respect and protect human rights, and not act as accomplices to brutal “stability maintenance.”
It’s been more than three years since the 709 crackdown, we exhort the authorities to carefully review their attitude and policy towards human rights lawyers, and to treat properly these conscientious and responsible professionals. We ask the authorities to immediately release Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Yu Wensheng (余文生), Li Yuhan (李昱函), and other lawyers. It is important for everyone to enjoy a more civilized society that upholds reason and the rule of law.
Five years have gone by in a flash, but it’s been five years with historic import. We the human rights lawyers are ordinary human beings, but we are not cowards. If for the sake of China’s human rights we must lose our licenses or even our freedom, then we are willing to make these sacrifices for our country and our people.
Only through sacrifice can we forge ahead to the future! That’s our solemn proclamation on the 5th anniversary of China Human Rights Lawyers Group. Thank you all!
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group
September 13, 2018
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.
Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266
Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598
Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755
Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584
Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911
牺牲自我，点亮未来 — 人权律师团成立五周年献辞
王清鹏, +1 (425)7329584
Related – Analyses and Reports
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018
Communist Party’s Suppression of Lawyers Is a Preemptive Attack Against an Imaginary Threat, Liu Shuqing, May 16, 2018
Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu, July 23, 2015.
14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, August 19, 2015.
Related – Personal Accounts
The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.
A Record of 709, Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, January 19, 2017.
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China Change, August 13, 2018
On August 9, the Beijing Justice Bureau issued a decision to cancel lawyer Cheng Hai’s (程海) license. Six months ago in February, the bureau cancelled the registration of his small Beijing Wutian Law Firm, claiming that the firm had not accepted the annual review on schedule. According to China’s Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers (《律师执业管理办法》), a lawyer’s license is revoked if they’re not hired by a firm for six months.
On August 10, lawyer Cheng Hai filed an Application for Administrative Review, which shows that the authorities were committed to having him disbarred, and refused to view contrary evidence. The application shows that Cheng Hai signed an employment contract with the Beijing Liangzhi Law Firm on July 30, and delivered his proof of new employment to the Justice Bureau of Beijing Mentougou District, which oversees the new firm. On August 5, he again mailed the same proof of employment to the Beijing Justice Bureau via EMS. His mail was returned. The authorities, by returning his documents, claim that they received no proof, and thus acted to disbar him.
The disbarment of Cheng Hai is part of the Chinese government’s broad, systematic effort to take human rights lawyers off the field. Those implicated in the 709 Crackdown, whether the detained lawyers or lawyers who signed up to defend their detained colleagues, have been the primary targets. Cheng Hai has represented lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who has been held well over 1,000 days now without trial.
The Beijing Justice Bureau is using the same method to keep lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军), both 709 detainees, from returning to practice: their previous firm, the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, is no more, and new firms intent on hiring them were pressured not to accept them. Once the six-month period expires, they will also lose their licenses.
Since January 2018, at least 20 human rights lawyers have been disbarred — including Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Li Heping (李和平), Wen Donghai (文东海), and Yu Wensheng (余文生) — or caught in limbo and unable to practice, such as lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原).
The 64-year-old Cheng Hai is known for his dogged pursuit of the law as written, and he holds the authorities to it. He will exhaust all options provided by the law to defend his right to practice and to expose the unscrupulous behaviors of the government.
Cheng Hai was originally trained as an economist and later began practicing law in Beijing in 2000. In 2008 he was one of the five lawyers who called for direct elections at the Beijing Lawyers Association, and over the years has taken part in elections of district-level people’s representatives as an independent candidate. He has defended clients in many religious freedom cases, and has challenged rulings of reeducation-through-labor cases. During the New Citizens Movement trials in 2013-2014, he represented Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), a lawyer-turned-activist.
One lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented on the wave of disbarments that has been striking against and eroding the community of human rights lawyers in China: “If there is no fundamental progress toward the rule of law, these brave lawyers who dare to defend human rights will inevitably be eliminated. The newer regulations on the management of lawyers are meant to remove those who seek change, and keep only those who submit to the authorities. You can’t really call them lawyers.”
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018.
Detention and Disbarment: China Continues Campaign Against Human Rights Lawyers in Wake of 709 Crackdown, China Change, January 24, 2018.
China Change, August 8, 2018
Until recently, David Missal (@DavidJRMissal) was a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, on a two-year DAAD scholarship (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; or German Academic Exchange Service). Two months ago, Missal told RFA, he applied to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau for the renewal of his student visa. Under normal circumstances, it takes about 10 days to complete the process. But last Friday, the bureau notified him that his renewal was denied, and he was ordered to leave China within 10 days. The reason they gave is that Missal has engaged in activities not in accordance with his student visa.
Missal believes that the denial of visa and expulsion has to do with the topic he chose to work on for his journalism study: the study of human rights lawyers, in particular those targeted from July 9, 2015, onwards. (This is despite his advisor approving the research.)
In April, when 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu and a group of activists started a walking trip to Tianjin to highlight the predicament of Wang Quanzhang, who had been disappeared for over 1,000 days, Missal accompanied them as part of his field work.
On May 2, Missal accompanied lawyer Lin Qilei to Wuhan on the latter’s trip to visit his client, veteran dissident Qin Yongmin. Missal was taken away by police for several hours for questioning. In a video he shot with his cell phone, police can be seen repeatedly stopping him from filming.
On July 10, the same day that Liu Xiaobo’s widow, Liu Xia, was allowed to leave China for Germany following intense international pressure, Qin Yongmin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion – the most severe sentence for a dissident in over a decade.
Missal has spent time with a number of human rights lawyers for his study, according to Lin Qilai, a rights lawyer. But everywhere they went, domestic security police would intervene and stop him. Retaliating against a foreign student and sever his academic career for studying human rights, Lin argues, doesn’t help China’s international image.
Missal asked the Chinese police which of his activities violated the rules for foreign student visas, and the police responded, “You know yourself!”
Tsinghua University’s international student center declined to comment on the event. The Beijing PSB’s Exit and Entry Administration failed to answer RFA’s calls.
Missal started his two-year program last September; he is now contemplating completing his studies in Taiwan.
July 19, 2018
Lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who was disappeared on July 15, 2018 in the Chinese Communist Party’s infamous 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers, has been held incommunicado for just over three years now. Until recently, almost nothing was known about him, including where he was being held, the conditions under which he was being held, and what charges are likely to be brought against him. Whether he was even dead or alive was unknown until recently. Following are two updates on his situation translated by China Change. The first comes from Wang’s newly appointed lawyer, Liu Weiguo (刘卫国); the second, expressing great concern over Wang’s health, from his wife Li Wenzu (李文足). — The Editors
An Update on Wang Quanzhang’s Subversion Case From Lawyer Liu Weiguo
- In late June, 2018, Wang Quanzhang, being held in the Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center, formally submitted to the chief procurator his authorization that I serve as his defense lawyer;
- In July, the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate Court informed me of this commission. I expressed my willingness to accept the commission and made two suggestions: firstly, that the arguments presented by the defense lawyer must conform entirely to the wishes of Wang Quanzhang himself; secondly, that while representing his case, the lawyer must be able to maintain all necessary communication channels with his family;
- On July 12, after receiving an affirmative response from the authorities with regard to the above stipulations, I traveled to Tianjin and in the morning obtained from the chief procurator’s office Wang Quanzhang’s power of attorney. I met with Wang Quanzhang without difficulties in the afternoon;
- Wang Quanzhang was in good spirits and appeared healthy during the meeting, and he thanked the outside world for their concern and help for himself and his family;
- Upon the conclusion of the meeting, I returned to the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate Court and it became clear in the course of discussion that there was disagreement between myself and the court on the scope of Wang Quanzhang’s case files that I could photocopy and retrieve. For this reason, I decided to temporarily withhold submitting the paperwork for Wang’s defense, while waiting for the court to study the matter of the case files and respond to me, upon which time I would make a decision;
- Because the matter of whether or not I would represent Wang Quanzhang was ‘to be decided,’ I have not until now publicly disclosed the aforementioned matters;
- After receiving the Tianjin No. 2 Court’s affirmative response that I am able to make copies of all related case files, today (July 18) I rushed to Beijing and in the morning met with Wang Quanzhang’s wife to discuss the situation. Li Wenzu asked me to convey to Wang Quanzhang the family’s deep concern for him as well as the attention his case has received around the world;
- Today, in the afternoon, I returned to Tianjin and was able to meet with Wang Quanzhang and exchange ideas on the next stages of the case;
- I have already made a full set of copies of the case files. The trial date has not yet been set.
July 18, 2018
A Second Annoucement on Wang Quanzhang by Wife Li Wenzu*
After Wang Quanzhang was disappeared three years ago, I’ve finally learned that he is now alive, and appear “normal mentally and physically.” When I heard this news, I let out a sigh of relief. Many friends were also excited to hear the news.
I have made an effort to communicate with Lawyer Liu Weiguo for the last few days, in my hopes of understanding the circumstances much better.
What I’ve learned is as follows:
1. Doctors said that Wang Quanzhang was suffering high blood pressure, and made him take medication.
Here I have to say: Quanzhang didn’t have high blood pressure before he was arrested! Of those lawyers who have traveled with him on cases, has anyone seen him taking blood pressure medication? He takes cold showers in winter, and used to carry me on his back up seven flights of stairs without stopping.
Other 709 victims have also been found to have high blood pressure, and then forced to take unidentified medication. Li Heping (李和平) was forced to take as many as six tablets per day; Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) took as many as 21 per day. After taking this medication, they got headaches, their vision was blurry, and they had the sensation of insects crawling all over their bodies. The 709 victims who’ve been released have a commonality: black spots over their whole face. A doctor of Chinese medicine who treated them said that it’s the result of liver damage from prolonged consumption of medication. Quanzhang has been forced to take this medication for three years, so how badly has his body been harmed?
2. When Quanzhang met Liu Weiguo, he was extremely frightened and didn’t dare speak loudly, sometimes even silently miming words to express himself. This led to Liu Weiguo not being able to accurately determine what Quanzhang was trying to say.
Liu Weiguo is the attorney commissioned by Quanzhang himself, so when they met, Quanzhang should absolutely not be in a state of fear if he was in a normal state!
3. Quanzhang told lawyer Liu Weiguo that he made the firm demand that lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) and his wife Li Wenzu (myself) be his defense lawyers, but the authorities categorically refused.
Yesterday I asked lawyer Liu to tell Quanzhang the following:
Firstly, myself and Quan Quan [泉泉, the couple’s son] are doing very well, and so many people have been helping us;
Secondly, Quanzhang, you shouldn’t be afraid of being overheard, you should say whatever you want, and you should speak as loud as you like with lawyer Liu Weiguo;
Thirdly, I hope after you’re released you’ll continue being a lawyer;
Fourthly, Quanzhang, you should not accept a suspended sentence, and I support you in not compromising and not pleading guilty!
Even though I now know that Quanzhang is alive, as the details of the situation continue to emerge, I feel more tormented. Lawyer Liu Weiguo’s simple description of Quanzhang’s demeaner is not the Quanzhang I know. It’s clear now how severe was the torture and suffering Quanzhang has been put through!
I will post updates on Quanzhang’s situation periodically.
I thank all of the friends who have shown so much concern for us!
July 19, 2018
*The first announcement, made on social media on July 13, acknowledged that she had received news of her husband and that he was alive and appeared “normal mentally and physically.” — The Editors
709 Crackdown Three Years on: A Tribute to Wang Quanzhang, Yaxue Cao, July 8, 2018.
709 Crackdown Three Years on: Keynote Address on the Second China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day, July 8, 2018, New York City
Terence Halliday, July 9, 2018
Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.
In the last days of June 2015 I spent many hours in coffee shops and hotels and restaurants and offices with many of China’s notable rights lawyers.
Wang Yu (王宇) and I discussed the extraordinary nationwide attack on her reputation.
Yu Wensheng (余文生) described his unbearable torture in the hands of the security apparatus.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) talked about the emotional pain of being separated from his family and having no permanent place to live.
Li Heping (李和平) imagined a society where compassion and justice and religious freedom were embraced by all leaders and citizens.
In those last days of June, 3 years ago, what was their state of mind?
They all knew that clouds were gathering.
They all had suffered in the past and they knew they might suffer in the future.
They all had hope that signs of deepening repression in the near future would be temporary. They all looked in the far future to a new New China which respected human rights, protected basic legal freedoms, allowed for an open political society and the rule of law.
Yet, none expected how quickly a great storm was about to break over their heads.
On 9 July, 2015, exactly three years ago, a massive storm swept them all away. It began with Wang Yu’s disappearance in the middle of the night. It spread rapidly over hours and days and weeks and swept away more than 300 rights lawyers and activists across all of mainland China.
Today we remember the 709 crackdown. But we do more than remember. This is not an historical incident that is fading in our memories.
It is not a monument to the past, only to be recorded in history books.
This Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ shows that the 709 Crackdown is present in this moment. It reveals to China’s citizens, to lawyers across the world, to rights activists and the defenders of minorities, to international organizations, to states that still champion global standards of liberal constitutional orders, that a mighty struggle continues.
The end is not near. Indeed, the struggle deepens inside China and across the world.
And so today, we must ask: What does the 709 Crackdown and its shockwaves tell the world about China and its rulers? What have we learned about China’s rights lawyers and the struggle for freedoms? What of the future?
I. What Does the 709 Crackdown Tell Us About China and Its Rulers?
What does it tell the world about the real China, not the propaganda China, not the mythical China, not the face of China that the Party likes to show the world, but the actual China, the empirical China, the China that free scholars and free media and free international observers report without censorship?
The world is waking up.
The world is waking up to the dark side, the cruelty, the brutality of China’s rulers, and we can see these in the way it treats rights lawyers.
A China where a single person, such as Wang Yu, is humiliated nation-wide in the state-controlled media
A China where brutalized lawyers are forced to make public confessions and mouth wooden words far removed from the values they expressed in my research on China’s defense lawyers
A China where authorities arbitrarily replace a lawyer’s chosen counsel with a government-friendly substitute.
A China that has expanded its repertoire of torture, intensifying and reinforcing the ways it seeks to break the ideals, the minds, even the bodies of rights lawyers
A China where lawyers are disappeared for weeks, months, years in so-called “designated residential surveillance” sites so they are completely removed from families, lawyers, observers, and exposed to extreme psychological and physical pressure, some of it medieval in its primitive methods.
A China where lawyers are subjected to new tortures, not least being forcibly injected with excruciatingly painful disorienting drugs to alter their minds and leave scars for the short-term or long-term or the rest of their lives.
A China where brothers are compelled to pressure brothers, or children are used against their parents, or parents are pressed to change the minds of their children, or where wives are refused access, even knowledge, about their husbands.
A China that has ratcheted up the charges and sentences for detained lawyers.
A China where secret trials have become a new norm for lawyers who most implausibly have betrayed “state secrets.”
The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a country that runs on the fuel of fear.
China’s leaders fear their own people.
When we view China through the eyes of its criminal defense and rights lawyers, we see a fragile China. Across China enormous grievances accumulate for hundreds of millions of Chinese. Pollution, property-takings, religious persecution, suppression of minorities, forced abortions, magnifying inequality, exploited labor, rampant corruption, unjust treatment by police, tainted food.
China’s leaders are afraid:
— civil society
— of Uyghurs
— of Muslims
— of workers
— of Tibetan Buddhists
— of unofficial Christian Protestant churches
— of women
— of unofficial Roman Catholic churches
— of Hong Kong’s fight to preserve its legal freedoms and open civil society
— and of Taiwan – a country which shows that ethnic Chinese, that inheritors of the Confucian tradition, that non-Han indigenous peoples together can build an open political society that adheres to global norms crafted in part by a pre-revolutionary China,
— of foreigners who care about the dignity and freedom of China’s people
The 709 crackdown has cast a long shadow. The world now sees it is one notable move against lawyers as part of many other “againsts.”
The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a deviant state.
It deviates from global standards on arbitrary arrest and detention, on torture, on disappearances, on fair trials, on an independent judiciary, on access to lawyers, on freedom of speech and association and religion.
The world has woken up to an awareness that this mighty nation, a nuclear power, a state flexing its military muscle, and an economic and geopolitical giant, nevertheless is afraid of these few lawyers and the 1000s of other lawyers who share their values.
II. What Does 709 Tell Us Today About These Rights Lawyers?
We’ve learned that activist lawyers are now spread across the country. Once they were largely concentrated in Beijing. Today they are everywhere.
We’ve learned that the struggle for basic freedoms is now nationwide.
In every region ordinary people cried out for justice, for dignity, for their children, for safe food and clear water and pure air, for their property, for their religious beliefs. And rights lawyers responded.
We’ve learned that rights lawyers fight for a core of ideals fundamental to all peoples in our 21st century world. They fight for basic legal freedoms.
- They demand procedural protections for their clients, such as freedom to choose or meet with a lawyer, protection of clients from coerced confessions
- They insist on standards of fairness in court such as seeing and cross-examining evidence.
- They want fair trials and neutral judges.
They fight for an open civil society where there is freedom of speech and association, including the ability of lawyers to form bar associations independent of state control.
They struggle for freedom of religion and protections for all believers, including the savagely repressed adherents of Falun Gong. They want open exchanges of views and beliefs where citizens are freed from stifling censorship.
They fight against the tyranny of a one-party state where all power is concentrated in the hands of supreme rulers. They insist that political power be divided. That the tyrannies of absolute state power be checked by law and other centers of power inside the state and outside of it.
We’ve learned that lawyers’ ideals are so strong they will suffer terribly to maintain their ideals. We’ve seen that wives and daughters and sons – including those joining us today – have stood up to cry out for the most basic standards of justice and human decency.
And, most important, China’s activist lawyers have shown the world that inside China’s beating heart there is an impulse for justice, for freedoms, for a normal society. It is a society where rulers are not afraid of their own people but welcome their views, where leaders do not fear lawyers but welcome their peaceful respect for a just legality.
Inside China’s beating heart there is a tiny minority that gives voice to wrongs and gives vision for the future.
III. What of the Future?
I submit to you that we already know the end of this struggle but we do not know when or how.
For 25 years social scientists, legal scholars and historians have investigated the role of lawyers in the creation of open political societies. These are societies where rights are embedded in constitutions and constitutions are implemented in practice.
Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.
Lawyers have fought against absolute monarchs, Big Man regimes, military dictatorships, communist parties, fascist regimes. Lawyers wave the flag of legal rights, civil rights, political rights.
Time and again lawyers and their allies – workers, women’s groups, religious believers, the media – have been defeated, and time and again they have fought back from defeat. The struggle is never over, even in countries where lawyers’ ideals have been instituted for decades or centuries.
Hope is still alive among China’s activists. Now is a dark hour, a moment when defeat seems possible. The darkness may last a long time, years, decades, longer, but the end is never in doubt. Victories and defeats have already been the experience of China’s lawyer activists. And defeats and victories will continue.
Today, the Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ keeps hope alive.
This event expresses a solidarity that crosses nationalities, that goes beyond citizenship that binds together persons of every ethnicity and believers from different religions, that crosses continents and knits together peoples and organizations and states in every place.
It is not only China’s hope but a universal hope – a hope in human dignity, in human flourishing, in legal freedoms, in an open political society, in a future where all may worship as they choose, where every person may speak the language of her or his childhood, where all may honor the cultural traditions in which they are embedded.
This hope is maintained by China’s lawyer activists and sustained by those that stand with them. Today we honor them by standing with them for China and for all peoples who long for freedom and justice.
Terence Halliday is a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, and co-author of Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work (Cambridge U Press, 2016).