China’s human rights lawyers are being suppressed, and the environment for their practice and survival is getting tougher

Since the 709 incident in July 2015, which led to the mass arrest of human rights lawyers and activists, the Chinese Communist Party authorities have continued to intensify their crackdown on human rights lawyers in recent years, revoking or canceling the licenses of dozens of lawyers and shutting down many law firms, as well as restricting the personal freedom of many lawyers, resulting in a worsening and severe environment in which the right to practice and the right to survival of human rights lawyers are constantly being violated.

Forced Law Firms to “Disband Themselves”

Chinese rights lawyer Ren Quanniu, whose license was revoked by the authorities for representing citizen journalist Zhang Zhan in his Wuhan report on the Epidemic and the “12 Hong Kong people fleeing” case in Hong Kong, tweeted on March 28 that his law firm, Henan Orbit Law Firm, of which he was a partner, had been asked by the authorities to “dissolve itself. The law firm, of which he was a partner, was asked by the authorities to “dissolve itself.

Ren said that on the morning of March 28, Vice President Liu of the Zhengzhou Law Association was assigned by the judicial bureau to go to the law firm and tell it that according to the authorities, the firm was asked to “dissolve itself” and all lawyers would be transferred to different law firms.

Ren Quanniu said, if the authorities do not follow the intention, it is likely that all the lawyers will be transferred to the firm, and then the license of several lawyers will be cancelled for not being accepted after the legal period. It seems that the statement that the rule of law starts with lawyers a few years ago and the current judicial reorganization starts with lawyers is not empty talk.

Practice environment deteriorates sharply

In an interview with the Voice of America on Monday (March 29), Ren Quanniu said that he himself was one of the firm’s three legal partners, and that the firm did not meet the quorum of partners after its license to practice law was revoked by the Henan Provincial Department of Justice in February this year on the pretext of representing a group of Falun Gong believers who had violated lawyer norms by pleading not guilty in 2018. The firm then promptly and proactively requested a change to add a partner, but the Zhengzhou Judicial Bureau kept delaying the change filing procedures.

He said: “We follow the procedures in accordance with the procedures also submitted additional materials, but they do not accept, always find all kinds of reasons not to us to do, the person in charge of our firm also found the relevant personnel, the person in charge of the Judicial Bureau, they do not give a clear answer. Yesterday, the Bar Association, commissioned by the Bureau of Justice, came to talk, telling the head of the firm, the upper side of the meaning is to let all the lawyers are transferred, and then the initiative to dissolve the firm. In fact, we do not want to dissolve. You are forced to dissolve voluntarily, you can not blame them.”

Ren Quanniu, a lawyer, said that the practice environment for human rights lawyers has deteriorated sharply in recent years, and he was deeply touched by it.

He said, “The feeling is too obvious. Now you include certain cases, these lawyers, as soon as the judicial bureau greeted, immediately backed off, do not dare to do any fight. Fear of a less than they want, it is easy to do punishment. Now the whole of the wind and crane, lawyers are very worried.”

Want to do the case but was restricted freedom

Meanwhile, Hebei Shijiazhuang rights lawyer Lu Tingge sent a message on March 28 that he was going to take the high-speed train to Zhengzhou, Henan Province to represent a house demolition case on the 27th, but was prevented by the police from handling the case and was summoned from the station on suspicion of “provocation and nuisance”, and was restricted from personal freedom for more than 7 hours.

After his release, Lu Tingge said he was questioned for less than 20 minutes about a tweet he posted on March 20, and then placed in an open-air so-called case area surrounded by walls and barbed wire, saying he had been asking the leadership for advice. During the more than 7 hours of being restrained, he was not given a meal, could not communicate with the outside world, and had to be watched by 2 people to go to the toilet. He was not released until late at night, nearly 11:30.

On the day she learned that Lu Tingge’s lawyer was arrested, Xie Yanling (Xie Jing) of Zhengzhou sent out a message online to express her serious protest against the arrest of Lu Tingge, who represented the house’s enforcement case and the administrative punishment appeal case, and said it was a serious violation of the lawyer’s right to practice.

Lu Tingge also said that his clients, former well-known investigative journalists Shi Yu (real name Shi Ping) and Xie Yanling, told him that several other lawyers who were scheduled to go to Zhengzhou over the weekend to discuss their cases were prevented from doing so, and that local police warned them personally.

Violation of most basic rights

In an interview with the Voice of America on Monday (March 29), lawyer Lu Tingge said that the local authorities are using illegal means to unreasonably prevent lawyers from working on their cases legally in order to maintain stability.

Chinese rights lawyer Lu Tingge (Courtesy of the Rights Defense Lawyers Concern Group)

He said, “On the surface it’s provocative, online comments, but in fact it’s to block several of us lawyers from discussing the case of Shi Yu’s Family in one piece. It [the authorities] thought we might be partying. They are now trying to maintain the so-called stability, completely ignoring the facts and blocking you when you look like a party. Nor do they consider whether this is illegal or not, and whether the damage caused to you should be compensated.”

In an interview with the Voice of America on Monday (March 29), the lawyer said that the local authorities have gone out of their way to unreasonably prevent lawyers from working on cases legally by illegal means in order to maintain stability.

He said, “What is ostensibly provocative and online speech is in fact to block several of us lawyers from discussing the case at Shi Yu’s Home in one piece. It [the authorities] thought we might be partying. They are now trying to maintain the so-called stability, completely ignoring the facts and blocking you when you look like a party. Nor do they consider whether this is illegal or not, and whether the damage caused to you should be compensated.”

Lawyer Lu Tingge also said that the current environment for lawyers to practice is getting tougher and tougher.

He said: “We do not need to say that we for his family this case, we discuss this case how to represent, even if it is not this case, is a few lawyers together, then this is not illegal ah. It is illegal to restrict you in this way.”

On the 29th, Lu Tingge filed a lawsuit against Shijiazhuang Xinhua District Bureau for “being intercepted and summoned by the police on a business trip”, demanding that the person responsible be investigated and corrected, and compensated for the loss.

Lu Tingge said that he had been similarly “summoned” about five times before, but he did not initiate supervision to defend his rights, resulting in Shijiazhuang police becoming more and more excessive and arbitrary. He called the national security bureau in charge of monitoring him, but they did not care about their own practices and the damage they caused him, and now he has decided to file a lawsuit.

Restrictions on travel and denial of visas

In addition, Sichuan rights lawyer Lu Siwei sent a message on March 28 that he was going to fly to Beijing that day to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy, but was intercepted by state security.

Lu was expected to fly from Chengdu to Beijing at 7:10 p.m. that evening. At noon, authorities called and requested a meeting. After the meeting, he was warned that he would not be allowed to go to the U.S. Embassy to obtain a visa and that he would not be allowed to leave the country.

Although Lu Siwei said the request was illegal, the police warned him that if he insisted on going, the authorities had all the plans in place and he would not be able to travel smoothly through Chengdu Shuangliu Airport. The police delayed his departure until after 5:00 p.m., causing him to abandon his trip.

Chen Jiangang, Lawyer of the New Crown Pneumonia Claims Legal Advisory Group

Beijing-based human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang has been suppressed by the authorities for his representation in a number of sensitive cases, including making it difficult for his children to attend school and threatening the lives of his family and children. He and his family were forced to flee China in 2019 to work as visiting scholars at American University School of Law.

Chen said on Twitter that the lawyer was following the same path he took two years ago, coming to the United States for a visit to participate in the Humphrey Fellowship Program, which honors the late U.S. Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s Life achievements. And he was intercepted by Beijing police at the capital airport on April 1, 2019, and narrowly escaped arrest. Two years later, lawyer Lu Si-bit can’t even walk through the Beijing airport.

Where is the basic right to live?

Lu Siwei’s license to practice law was revoked by the Chengdu judicial authorities in January of this year for his representation of several sensitive cases, including those involving Hong Kong residents in the “Twelve Hong Kong Fugitives” case. Chen told VOA on Monday that what happened to Lu Siwei shows that his right to live as a lawyer is being violated in violation of even the most basic human rights.

He said, “Lu Siwei has not only lost his job, but he has been deprived of his situation and his right to study. He now does not even have the basic personal freedom, that is, according to the State Security threat, if he insists on going to Beijing to get a visa, then the next step is to take coercive measures against him, and all kinds of plans have been made. The lawyer’s living environment, not only no longer have the opportunity to work, but also face the risk of being arrested and imprisoned. Of course he is a case, many other people are caught in this kind of through encounter.”

Chen also said, Hebei Lu Tingge lawyer’s encounter shows that the lawyer’s basic personal freedom rights, the right to security are not available, not to mention the right to practice, the right to work. And the case also reflects that the legal rights of the evicted people are also not guaranteed.

Regarding the situation of the Zhengzhou track law firm, Chen said that the authorities have repeatedly claimed to be protecting the practice environment of lawyers, but at the same Time they want to force a law firm that the authorities do not like to “voluntarily dissolve”. The authorities’ intention is very clear, and some past cases also prove that if they don’t dissolve themselves, then the Judicial Bureau will make things difficult for these lawyers, so that they can’t practice, and use the pressure of survival to force them to abandon the firm, because if you don’t switch, you won’t be able to practice. This is a common tactic used by the authorities against lawyers.

The Lawyer System Becomes a Piece of Equipment?

The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, said in a Dec. 12, 2019, article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the restoration of China’s lawyer system that the lawyer system is an important yardstick of the rule of law and civilization. 40 years ago, the lawyer business developed with China’s economic and social development, following the “democratic rule of law” and progress, the lawyer team from scratch, from small to large, from more than 70 law firms to 3,000. Law firms from more than 70 to more than 30,000, practicing lawyers from more than 200 to more than 460,000 people, to become a “comprehensive rule of law,” an important force to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the parties, to maintain the correct implementation of the law, to maintain social “fairness and justice “It has made an important contribution to the protection of the legal rights and interests of clients, the correct implementation of the law and the maintenance of social justice.

However, the China Lawyers for Human Rights (CLHR), established in September 2013, issued a statement on April 24, 2020, on the 10th anniversary of the “photo suspensiongate” incident, reviewing the difficult situation of human rights lawyers, saying that the persecution by the authorities has caused many human rights lawyers to lose their jobs, creating a phenomenon that is extremely rare in the history of the development of lawyers in the world.

The “license suspension” refers to the revocation of the licenses of human rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Wei by the Beijing Judicial Bureau in April 2010 for their representation in cases related to demolition and relocation, religion and freedom of expression. This is the first time the authorities have used the new Lawyers Law, which went into effect in June 2008, to launch a new round of crackdowns on human rights lawyers.

According to a statement by the China Lawyers for Human Rights, before 2010, Chinese human rights lawyers Zhang Jiankang, Zheng Enchong, Gao Zhisheng, Tang Jingling, Guo Guoting, Li Subin, Teng Biao, and Li Wuyi were, to varying degrees, framed and persecuted by the authorities, and either lost their jobs or were forced into exile due to the revocation or cancellation of their licenses.

The revocation of Liu Wei’s and Tang Jitian’s licenses in April 2010 demonstrated the arrogance and brutality of power and became a new historical starting point for the government’s persecution of human rights lawyers.

The following decade has been a decade of total collapse of the rule of law in China, especially the “709” lawyers’ arrests in 2015, when the authorities’ mass persecution of human rights lawyers reached a new high point.

After sentencing, detaining, summoning, interviewing, and warning hundreds of lawyers in the 2015 709 incident, the authorities have continued to persecute human rights lawyers by revoking or canceling their licenses to practice law or forcibly dissolving their law firms.

The statement listed many Chinese legal practitioners, including Li Heping, Zhou Shifeng, Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang, Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, and Xie Yangyi, saying that these lawyers were either illegally framed and imprisoned, had their licenses revoked or cancelled, were illegally summoned, or were forced into exile overseas.

The statement said that many more lawyers have been warned or suspended from practice for no reason, and that harassment by various illegal means is a common occurrence for human rights lawyers, and even their families’ normal work and life are affected.