Chinese authorities have refused to renew the licenses of over a dozen Chinese lawyers as a means of punishing them for taking on politically sensitive cases, according to well-known rights defense lawyer Jiang Tianyong.
Among those affected are Wang Quanzhang, Xiong Daiying, Liang Xiaojun, Li Xiongbing, and others. Those men have all in the past attempted to use the legal system to defend practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been persecuted by the authorities since 1999.
They are typically known as “weiquan,” or rights defense, lawyers in Chinese, because they attempt to use the Chinese legal system to defend the rights of their clients.
A number of the lawyers who had their licenses cancelled had also traveled to a “legal education center,” otherwise known as a brainwashing center, in Ziyang City of Sichuan Province earlier this month, to draw attention to the extralegal methods of persecution employed against Falun Gong practitioners.
Beginning June 1, their licenses will no longer be effective. Jiang Tianyong announced the news in a five-part message on Twitter.
The mechanism used by the authorities to prevent the lawyers from continuing their profession was the yearly “inspection,” administered by local justice bureaus. On paper, the process is an evaluation of the lawyer and the firm’s performance over the past year, but it is often used to punish those who take on cases considered troublesome or politically sensitive by the authorities.
Jiang said that “a lot of people were affected,” and that the round of effective license-cancellations is the “largest scale suppression of rights defense lawyers since 2008.”
The targets do not include only those who defended Falun Gong.
“Those whose licenses were not renewed, almost all of them have done these civic-minded, rights defense cases,” he said in an interview with Sound of Hope Radio. “The vast majority of them have handled cases related to Falun Gong believers; many of them have participated in protests in Beijing calling on official asset disclosures, or defended those who did.”
Jiang wrote on his Twitter account that by punishing some lawyers, the authorities were also putting their colleagues under financial pressure, in a possible attempt to enlist them in opposing the lawyers’ rights defense efforts.
With research by Ariel Tian.