In two phone calls on May 7, 2010, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice informed rights defense lawyers Tang Jitian (唐吉田) and Liu Wei (刘巍) that it has revoked their lawyers’ licenses. The decisions [http://www.bjsf.gov.cn/sy/sytztg/201005/t20100507_1279393.html, http://www.bjsf.gov.cn/sy/cxjl/cxjllsgl/201005/t20100507_1279438.html], posted on the bureau’s website, said that the lawyers “disobeyed the instructions of court personnel and disrupted courtroom order” during an April 2009 trial at which they represented a Falun Gong practitioner in Luzhou, Sichuan Province. Tang told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that he and Liu will challenge the decision by filing an appeal with the Ministry of Justice or the Beijing Municipal government.
In recent interviews with HRIC and in a statement they released in April, Liu and Tang gave their account of what happened during the April 2009 trial and said that it was the presiding judge, Li Xudong (李旭东) – and not they – who disrupted the court proceedings. The lawyers said that the judge, in violation of the rules of the court, allowed an unidentified observer to videotape the proceeding, and pounded the gavel loudly during their defense statements, interrupting them more than ten times. The lawyers stated that when they felt they could no longer continue to present the defense statement due to the repeated interruptions, they handed in the written defense statement and left the courtroom.
The decisions to revoke the licenses of Tang and Liu came 15 days after an administrative hearing held at the bureau on April 22, 2010. Revocation of a lawyer’s license normally happens only after a trial and criminal conviction, rarely as a result of an administrative hearing.
Tang told HRIC today: “We will exhaust all legal avenues to fight, to pursue our appeal … We will not retreat, and will file a complaint against the illegal actions [of the Bureau of Justice].”
Legal scholar Teng Biao (滕彪), who represented Liu in the administrative hearing, told HRIC that the license revocation decision, lacking factual and legal basis, is a case of “abuse of power … an act of revenge taken by the judicial bureau” against two rights defense lawyers whom it has long targeted because of their work.
Tang Jitian and Liu Wei have represented victims of illegal land requisition and home demolition, those discriminated against for having HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B, and parents of the victims of melamine-tainted milk powder. In 2008-2009, Tang and Liu were among the principal participants pushing for direct elections in the Beijing Lawyers Association. In February and March 2009, Tang and Liu joined other lawyers to file a complaint with the Beijing Public Security Bureau charging the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice and the Beijing Lawyers Association with “blackmailing and extortion” for charging lawyers exorbitant fees for annual license registration. The Public Security Bureau refused to take the complaint.
Lawyer Li Subin (李苏滨) – who led the February 2009 complaint – told HRIC today that he believes the revocation of Tang’s and Liu’s licenses is a direct result of their participation in that complaint. Li pointed out that even though the complaint never made it into the official record, it has been posted on the Internet and is still there for all to see [http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/china/2009/02/200902232339.shtml, http://www.tianya.cn/publicforum/content/law/1/135223.shtml].
“In revoking Tang’s and Liu’s licenses because they withdrew from a show trial in which the judge had made it impossible for them to do their work, the Beijing Bureau of Justice has made a mockery of justice and the rule of law,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC executive director. HRIC urges the relevant authorities to review and adjudicate the case with impartiality and fairness.
For more information on Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, see:
- “Judicial Authorities Target Lawyers, Eroding Rule of Law” April 22, 2010
- “Lawyers Challenge License Revocation Decision; Judicial Bureau Balks,” April 21, 2010
- “Lawyers Facing License Revocation Detail Irregular Courtroom Activities Permitted by Judge,” April 20, 2010
- “Chinese Rights Defense Lawyers Under All-out Attack by the Authorities,” June 4, 2009
- Jerome A. Cohen, “The Struggle of Autonomy of Beijing’s Public Interest Lawyers,” China Rights Forum, 2009, no. 1
- “Lawyers Are Dismissed by Firms for Supporting Beijing Lawyers Association Direct Election, Law Firms Are Threatened,” October 31, 2008
- “Beijing Lawyers' Appeal for Direct Elections,” October 31, 2008