China: Ensure rule of law by ending harassment of lawyers | Countdown for China | 22 Apr 2010 | Amnesty International UK

China: Ensure rule of law by ending harassment of lawyers

Amnesty International 

21 april 2010    Escalating harassment of Chinese lawyers as they carry out their work is seriously undermining the rule of law, and risks further lowering public trust in the Chinese legal system. Two prominent rights defense lawyers, Liu Wei and Tang Jitian, risk having their licenses revoked this week for allegedly disrupting courtroom order and interfering with the regular litigation process. On 12 April 2010, the lawyers received a notification from the Beijing Municipal Judicial Bureau telling them the bureau received a complaint from the Luzhou City Peoples Intermediate Court in Sichuan Province, and that their case would be reviewed on 22 April 2010. Liu Wei and Tang Jitian in return filed a complaint on 18 April 2010, stating that during the 27 April 2009 trial of a Falun Gong practitioner in the Luzhou Court the judge violated the Court Rules of the Peoples Courts of the Peoples Republic of China. According to the two lawyers, irregularities during this trial and repeated interruptions by the judge were meant to intimidate them and interfered with their defense. The two lawyers told Amnesty International: We were not even able to file a complaint at the time as there is no clear complaint procedure. You need to write letters to all legal and government departments and stay there to follow them up. It takes a lot of time but may not have any result. Such intimidation has become so common, some lawyers may not even bother to protest. Amnesty International urges the Chinese Ministry of Justice to carry out an impartial and independent investigation into these allegations and resolve the case according to Chinese law and international legal standards. Amnesty International continues to receive reports of lawyers being interrupted or harassed to prevent them representing their clients and otherwise interfering with their work. Intimidation of lawyers has been widely reported by local and international media in legal cases involving Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Uighurs and other cases where defendants have been prosecuted for peacefully exercising their freedom of expression. In March 2010, Chang Boyang, a lawyer representing Tibetan Film maker, Dhondup Wangcheng was threaten with the closing of his law firm if he did not drop the case. Previously, lawyer Li Dunyong was also threatened with his firms closure and loss of his license if he did not drop the case. Dhondup Wangcheng, was sentenced to six years' imprisonment for "inciting separatism" for making a documentary, Leaving Fear Behind, which features a series of interviews with Tibetans, all of whom voice skepticism about the Chinese authorities' promises of greater freedom in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. .Amnesty International believes he was detained for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release. During the past year, the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) judicial bureau and other officials have prevented several lawyers from working on the case of Uighur Christian Alimjan Yimit. Other defendants in cases related to the 5 July 2009 unrest in the XUAR have had their lawyers rejected. Court appointed lawyers have had to agree to plead guilty and not to challenge the political judgment in these cases. Amnesty International is very concerned about these increasing reports of harassment from lawyers in China and urgently requests China to allow lawyers to carry out their work in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, in Havana, Cuba, 1990 and relevant domestic law including the Law of the Peoples Republic of China on Lawyers.

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 Chinese Human Rights Defenders:

Hearing on Revocation of Lawyers’ Licenses Ends without Decision, Lawyers Condemn Baseless Punishment

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, April 22, 2010) -About 200 lawyers, activists and petitioners gathered outside of the building of the Beijing Bureau of Justice (BBJ) this morning in a show of strong supportto human rights lawyers Liu Wei (刘巍) and Tang Jitian (唐吉田), who attended a hearing concerning the proposed revocation of their licenses by the BBJ. No decision was announced at the hearing. CHRD believes thatthe two are retaliated against for their human rights activism, and notes with concern the harshness of the punishment: once a lawyer’s license is revoked (吊销), s/he will be permanently barred from practicingas a lawyer.

The hearing

Citing Article 49 of the Lawyers Law, BBJ proposed to revoke Liu and Tang’s licenses for “disrupting court order and interfering with the normal conduct of litigation activities” at the hearing today, which started at 9am and ended at around 1:30pm. The accusations refer to a trial on April 27, 2009, in Luzhou City Intermediate People’s Court, Sichuan Province, during which they walked out of the courtroom in protest against what was, in their view, unlawful conduct by the presiding judge and court officials.

The BBJ presented several pieces of “evidence”: court transcripts andwritten statements by the judge and court policeman at Luzhou City Court, a letter by the Ministry of Justice, and a transcript of a meeting between Liu and Tang and officials at the Ministry. However, theBBJ was unable to explain how this “evidence” related to the charge of disrupting or interfering with court proceedings.

“They were unable to give us concrete evidence to back up the allegation that we ‘disturbed court order’, but simply tried to insist on this theory. We made a fully effective defense according to the law and the facts,” said Tang Jitian.

Liu and Tang were represented by fellow lawyers Zhang Shuyi (张树义), Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱) and Teng Biao (滕彪). About 200 policemen guarded the building of the BBJ, and dozens of police vehicles were parked outside the building. At least eight lawyers and activists, Li Fangping (李方平), Li Xiongbing (李雄兵), Li Subin (李苏滨), Li Heping (李和平), “Tiger Temple” (老虎庙), Wang Lihong (王荔蕻), Zhang Hui (张辉) and Li Xuehui (李学会) were subjected to “soft detention” at home or otherwise prevented from attending the hearing by Beijing police. At the site of the hearing, about 20 supporters were reportedly taken away by the police.

Further restriction of human rights activism

Beijing human rights lawyers and activists voiced worries about the baseless and harsh punitive measure taken against the two young lawyers at a meeting they organized to discuss the case on April 20. Some viewedthis move as part of an escalation of retaliation against human rights lawyers.

“Instead of going after individual lawyers, like the earlier beatingsof Li Heping (李和平) or Cheng Hai (程海), the action against Liu and Tang is systematic. It is coordinated by the political-legal organs of the government and is part of a wider scheme to further restrict human rights activism by lawyers,” said Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), a Beijing-based lawyer.

In May 2009, Tang and Liu were two of about 20 lawyers whose licenseswere not renewed by their local bureaus of justice in retaliation for taking on “sensitive” cases, such as defending human rights defenders, political activists and Falun Gong practitioners. As of today, seven of these lawyers, including Liu and Tang, have been unable to obtain license renewals despite negotiations with the authorities.[i]Although they cannot practice as lawyers without up-to-date licenses, they still have the possibility in theory of getting their licenses renewed at a later date.

One of these 20 lawyers, Jiang Tianyong, had his license “cancelled” (注销) in July 2009. Jiang followed the footsteps of Teng Biao (滕彪), whoselicense was cancelled by the BBJ in 2008. However, even after their licenses were “cancelled,” they could in theory re-apply for a license in the future. The administrative punishment of revocation is more severe than denying renewals or canceling the licenses-it is a decision to permanently bar the lawyers from practicing law. Only two other humanrights lawyers, Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠) and Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), had their licenses revoked, but theirs was a punishment followed automatically after they were convicted of crimes according to the relevant Chinese laws.

“We think this [action against Tang and Liu] has an enormous impact on human rights lawyers,” said Teng Biao, “because the revocation of licenses is, after imprisonment,  the harshest form of punishment [the authorities can give] to prevent a human rights lawyer from ever practicing law again.”

Recommendations

CHRD calls on the Beijing Bureau of Justice to withdraw its proposed revocation of the lawyers’ licenses of Tang and Liu and immediately renew them, as well as those of the other human rights lawyers who were denied renewals of their licenses following their annual review in May 2009. The Chinese bureaus of justice and lawyers’ associations should end the use of the annual review system to retaliate against lawyers active in defending human rights.

CHRD also urges the Chinese government to immediately cease all formsof harassment, intimidation, and persecution of human rights lawyers, and to hold the government officials responsible for committing any suchviolations legally accountable for their actions.

For more information, please see:

“Lawyers Face Revocation of their Licenses for Defending Human Rights,” May 25, 2009, http://chrdnet.org/index.php/2009/05/25/lawyers-face-revocation-of-their-licenses-for-defending-human-rights/

“Licenses of 18 Rights Lawyers Still not Renewed a Month after Deadline,” July 2, 2009, http://chrdnet.org/index.php/2009/07/02/licenses-of-18-rights-lawyers-still-not-renewed-a-month-after-deadline/

Media Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin), +852 8170 0237

[i]The eight lawyers whose licenses have not been renewed are: Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Yang Huiwen (杨慧文), Wen Haibo (温海波), Liu Wei (刘巍), Zhang Lihui (张立辉), Li Jingsong (李劲松), and Tong Chaoping (童朝平).

 

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