Chinese Defense Attorney Kidnapped, Beaten

October 3, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: October 3, 2007 12:00 am

Beijing attorney Li Heping was kidnapped by a dozen ruffians on Saturday afternoon, September 29, 2007. The gang beat Li severely and then left him in a rural area about 1:00 a.m. the following morning.

On September 30, Li, having just been released from the hospital, said that he was still feeling dizzy, suffered from a headache, and added that his neck, arms and other parts of his body were still in pain due to the electric shocks he had been subjected to. Li's doctor said he suffered from cerebral trauma and multiple soft tissue contusions.

Li earned his Master of Law from Law School of Renmin University of China, and is now a partner at Beijing's Gaobo Longhua Law Firm. He is also Legal Adviser for the United Nations European Financial Investment Bureau (EFIB) and project coordinator for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Li is known for his defense of human rights activists, imprisoned lawyers and church leaders, and has gained renown for defending Falun Gong practitioners.

Kidnapped and Beaten

Li explained that he was kidnapped outside his office building. After his assailants covered his head to protect their identities, Li was taken to a small room where he was severely beaten with electric batons. His body black and blue from abuse, Li was released in a location of the town of Xiao Tang Shan, outside of Beijing City, and forced to make his way back home in the dark.

Li discovered that his portable hard drive, prepaid cell phone card and license to practice law had been taken, while files on his laptop had been copied and deleted by his captors.

“To beat up a Chinese citizen without cause is intolerable, especially in Beijing, where the 2008 Olympics are to be held,” exclaimed Li.

Threatened to Leave Beijing

So who beat him up and why? “I don't know who's responsible and I don't know why they did it,” said Li. “They repeatedly threatened that I should leave Beijing, saying, 'There're just a few lawyers like you left that continue to interfere.'”

Some have guessed that Li's ordeal may have been related to a case he's been working on. “I have been taking care of a few sensitive cases including the Shijiazhuang Falun Gong practitioner case,” said Li in response to the theory.

“If a government department is responsible [for the assault] then it is certainly against the law,” explained Li. “If an individual has organized and hired people to do this, it is entirely criminal.”

Withstanding the Pressure to Drop the Falun Gong Case

Li has been chronically harassed by both the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau National Security Squad and Chaoyang District Public Security Bureau, and monitored by Jiangtai Road Police Station 24 hours a day since last year because of his involvement in the effort to rescue famous human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng.

In March of this year, under repeated request from family members, Li examined Shijiazhuang Falun Gong practitioner Wang Bo's case. He was so touched by both Wang and her family's unfortunate experience that he decided to defend her in court. On March 12, Li and five other lawyers went to Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court to serve as Wang's defense attorney. The next day, staff members from the Beijing Judicial Bureau came to Li's law office to express their concern with his taking on the case. On March 16, Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau officers arrived at Li's office and told the defense council that they should be careful of their involvement in such a politically sensitive case.

At the case's second hearing on April 27, the defense cited the following problems with the charges against Wang: improper use of the law, unclear facts, insufficiency of evidence, wrong judicial proceedings and many other concerns.

Li and his colleagues argued a comprehensive defense from the angle of the supremacy of the constitution, freedom of belief and safeguarding human rights. This was the first time that lawyers in mainland China broke through the prohibition the Chinese communist regime had imposed against Falun Gong practitioners (previously such individuals were forbidden to receive legal council).

It is said that on the day of that trial, the courthouse was heavily guarded both inside and out, while a large number of policemen and an anti-riot squad were patrolling the streets. There were over 600 officers on the scene and the whole area was under martial law.