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Chinese Authorities Abuse Licensing System to Harass Rights Defenders

June 2, 2008

Human Rights in China deplores the Chinese authorities' abuse of its lawyer registration system to harass lawyers who defend people's rights.

Judicial authorities have refused to renew the licenses of two lawyers, including Teng Biao (滕彪), one of China's most active rights defense lawyers. With the annual renewal deadline of May 31 in Beijing now passed, Teng and fellow lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) are unable to take on rights defense cases as lawyers.

"The targeting of lawyers who take cases deemed sensitive by the authorities makes a mockery of rule of law and newly effective amendments to the Lawyers Law, which claims to 'protect the practice of law by lawyers,'" said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom. "This politicized use of the annual registration system undercuts a critical component of any rule of law—independent and professional lawyers doing their jobs."

Chinese lawyers have challenged the legality of the current registration system, criticizing it as a political tool of control and a money-making machine for the judicial bureaus, and have called for its abolition.

Sources in China told Human Rights in China that Teng Biao had his license revoked by the Beijing Judicial Bureau after the Chinese University of Politics and Law, where he is a lecturer, would not consent to his working as a part-time lawyer, raising concerns about the future independence of part-time lawyers on law school faculties.

Due to his involvement in sensitive cases, Beijing-based Jiang Tianyong has had his annual review delayed, the sources also said, while Jiang's colleague Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵) obtained his license just before the renewal deadline. In early April, authorities informed the Beijing Globe Law Firm, where Jiang and Li work, that it did not pass the annual review because of the "involvement of some of your firm's lawyers in sensitive cases." Following negotiations with the authorities, the law firm and other lawyers at the firm passed the annual review and their licenses were renewed on April 23. Li's license was renewed on May 29.

Other rights defense lawyers have been targeted for harassment as part of the review process, including Henan-based Mo Hongluo (莫宏洛), Cheng Hai (程海) and Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) in Beijing, Guo Yan (郭艳) and Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) in Guangdong, and Shaanxi-based Zhang Jiankang (张鉴康). Mo Hongluo passed the review only after promising his local judicial bureau in writing that he would notify them as required by the current regulations before taking on sensitive cases. Guo Yan, Tang Jingling, and Zhang Jiankang had all had their licenses suspended previously, after they took on sensitive cases.

All the lawyers above, other than Xie Yanyi, had signed a public offer of help to Tibetans following the March 2008 protests in the Lhasa area. These lawyers were among 21 rights defense lawyers who signed the letter offering legal assistance to Tibetans detained following the protests. Many of these lawyers and their law firms were later warned by officials to steer clear of involvement in the "Tibetan incident." After applying for annual renewal of their licenses, these lawyers were questioned by their local judicial bureaus and all experienced delays in the annual review process; Teng's and Jiang's licenses have not been renewed.




For more information on, and an English translation of, the Chinese lawyers' offer of legal aid to Tibetans, see:



For more information on Teng Biao, see:

For more information on attacks on lawyers in China, see:

For more information on HRIC’s Take Action Olympics Campaign on the Rule of Law, see:

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