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China Closes Yitong Law Firm Known for Legal Activism

Posted Mar 19, 2009 12:58 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Beijing law firm known for its activist approach to human rights issues and official corruption was closed down by the Chinese government this week.

Although the asserted reason for shutting down the Yitong Law Firm for six months was that it had allowed a lawyer to practice without a license, attorney Li Jinsong, who heads the firm, described this as "just a pretext," reports Agence France-Presse.

The shutdown on behalf of corrupt officials seeking to keep their names out of the limelight could mean the end of his firm, he says, and he is uncertain it will be allowed to reopen even after six months.

"On the surface they claimed that the punishment is for the protection of our country," Li tells the Daily Telegraph, "but in fact it is to cover their crimes and protect bigger interests."

The judicial department in the Beijing district of Haidian that issued the shutdown order declined comment, AFP reports.

"The six-month shutdown sends a chilling warning to all lawyers that the authorities will not tolerate any perceived challenges to their power," says director Sharon Horn in a Human Rights in China press release. "This is not the path to a rule of law."

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