Rule of Law

China 'Disbars' Human Rights Lawyers by Letting Licenses Lapse

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Yitong Law Firm, which has become one of China’s fiercest and most vocal advocates for human rights, may find it has lost its voice.

Since the beginning of this year, authorities in China have quietly been forcing firms, including Yitong, to shut down, the Washington Post reports.

Yitong is well-known firm in the country, having represented Hu Jia, a dissident who spoke out against the Tiananmen Square crackdown, and Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who shone a light on forced abortions.

While there’s no formal crackdown, the Post observes that the country’s leaders in Beijing are using administrative law license procedures to shut down firms that it considers troublemakers.

“Human rights groups say dozens of China’s best defense attorneys have effectively been disbarred,” the Post writes.

But potentially more troubling are reports of more severe methods, in which one lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, has been missing since authorities took him into custody in February. Other lawyers report they’ve been beaten, detained, questioned or put under house arrest.

The Post IDs other lawyers who’ve not had their licenses, which expired on May 31, renewed. They include:

• Li Xiongbing, who represented victims of contaminated infant formula against the manufacturer Sanlu.

• Li Chunfu, who has been working on two cases involving wrongful death while in custody.

• Jiang Tianyong, an attorney with Beijing Globe-Law who represents the parent of a child who died during the Sichuan earthquake.

Tang Jitian, of the Beijing Anhui Law Firm, told the Post that the licensing issue has created a rift at his firm. While some colleagues support the targeted lawyers, others are threatening to leave if the human rights lawyers don’t. Tang is among those whose license was not renewed.

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