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More than 500 Chinese Lawyers Sign Petition against Colleague’s Jail Sentence

February 2, 2009


In the largest joint signature campaign to date by China’s legal community, 511 lawyers in Shenzhen signed a joint petition challenging the prison sentence of a fellow lawyer, Liu Yao (刘尧), and calling for a fair trial.

Liu represented peasants in Paitou Village, located in Dongyuan County, Heyuan City, Guangdong Province, whose land was expropriated by the local government to make way for a new power station planned by the Fuyuan Industrial Group. In December 2007, Liu went with a group of peasants to try to stop work at the construction site, which had continued despite a stop-work order by the State Land Bureau in Dongyuan County. An argument ensued, which resulted in the toppling of a construction frame and the destruction of some timber and steel bars.

We urge the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court to show its independence by giving Liu a trial that will be open to the public.
— Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC

In June 2008, Liu was sentenced to four years in prison by the Dongyuan County Court for “intentional destruction of properties.” In protest, 36 lawyers from 10 provinces and cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Henan, sent a joint petition to the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court in Guangdong, which voided the June 2008 ruling for lack of clear evidence and remanded the case to the lower court. On December 17, 2008, the Dongyuan County Court, without explanation, reduced the sentence to two years. The signature campaign began the next day.

One of Liu’s lawyers, Li Fangping, from the Beijing Ruifeng Law Firm, believes that this is a typical case in which the local authority, with the backing of powerful business interests, manipulates the court to suppress rights defenders. Li said: “If Liu Yao, a professional lawyer, could not even protect his own rights, how can the society expect lawyers to protect the rights of peasants who lost their land?”

“The Chinese government claims that courts in China exercise their judicial authority independently, free from any interference by any administrative organ, organization or individual,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China. “We urge the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court to show its independence by giving Liu a trial that will be open to the public.”

The following information has been provided to HRIC by the Beijing Yi Ren Ping Center, a non-governmental organization.

Joint petition by Shenzhen lawyers: Guarantee lawyers’ right to practice; implement judicial fairness

We Shenzhen lawyers jointly appeal:

The Heyuan Municipal Intermediate People's Court ordered the Dongyuan County People's Court to retry the “intentional destruction of property” case of Shenzhen lawyer Liu Yao because of “unclear facts and insufficient evidence.” Even though no new facts or additional evidence were presented during the retrial, the Dongyuan County People's Court still sentenced Liu Yao to two years in prison. Liu Yao has appealed the sentence, requesting that Heyuan Municipal Intermediate People's Court try his case fairly and impartially.

Signatures of Shenzhen lawyers (511 signatures)


Case details: Sentenced for "intentional destruction of property" for protecting the rights of peasants who lost land

Near the end of 2006, villagers in Paitou Village, Dongyuan County, Heyuan City, Guangdong Province, collectively had their land taken over by Heyuan City Fuyuan Hydropower Co., Ltd. (“Fuyuan Co.”), resulting in a dispute between the two. Shenzhen lawyer Liu Yao, whose hometown is in Paitou, provided legal services to the villagers upon their request. On December 11 and December 17, 2007, Liu Yao went with villagers to the hydroelectric plant construction site to request that construction be halted, and a dispute occurred between the plant staff and Liu and the villagers. On January 17, 2008, the Dongyuan County Procuratorate authorized Liu’s arrest.

In June 2008, the Dongyuan County Court sentenced Liu Yao. On September 24, 2008, the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court ruled to revoke the Dongyuan County Court's judgment, stating that the case should be sent back to the original court for a retrial because the facts were unclear. On December 17, 2008, the Dongyuan County Court again convicted Liu Yao of the charge of “intentional destruction of property” and sentenced him to a fixed term of two years. Liu Yao immediately appealed the case to the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court.




Echo throughout the lawyers’ community: Safeguard a lawyer’s right to practice and bring about a fair and just society

After Liu Yao's case was announced, it triggered an intense reaction throughout the lawyers’ community. In July, November, and December of 2008, the Shenzhen Lawyers Association wrote the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court and the Dongyuan County Court several times, sending legal opinions on the trial and judgment of Liu's case and appealing for the case to be tried fairly and impartially. In August 2008, 36 lawyers from ten provinces and cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Henan, also issued a joint appeal to the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court, appealing for an impartial trial, to protect a lawyer's right to practice, and to bring about a fair and just society.
Joint appeal from 511 Shenzhen lawyers: Safeguard a lawyer's right to practice and bring about judicial fairness and impartiality

Liu Yao’s case has caused major and continuing concern among the Shenzhen lawyers’ community. On December 17, 2008, the Dongyuan County Court again found Liu guilty of intentional destruction of property and sentenced him to a fixed term of two years in prison. On December 18, [a group of] Shenzhen lawyers issued a joint appeal, strongly demanding that the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court publicly try Liu Yao's case in an open court, thoroughly investigate the truth, and clarify the facts of the case, so as to correct the understanding of the facts, ensure the dignity and impartiality of laws, and to call for the protection of lawyers’ right to practice law and bring about fairness and justice in society. In a short matter of time, 511 Shenzhen lawyers signed the appeal. According to Lai Wei'e (赖伟娥), Liu Yao's wife, the appeal was sent to the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court.

For press inquiries, please contact:

Liu Yao's lawyer: Li Fangping (李方平) +86 139 0136 0413
Liu Yao's wife: Lai Wei'e (赖伟娥) +86 153 2340 0371
(To interview any of the lawyers who signed the appeal, call Ms. Lai for their telephone number.)

For background information on Liu Yao's Case, see:

  • Southern Metropolis Daily, “Shenzhen Lawyer Sentenced for Practicing; Lawyers from 10 Provinces and Municipalities Send Their Support,” September 19, 2008, http://sz.southcn.com/minyi/shijingxinwen/content/2008-09/19/content_4608592.htm (Chinese).
  • Southern Metropolis Daily, “Guangdong Lawyer Punished for 'Defending Rights,’” October 26, 2008, http://www.nanfangdaily.com.cn/nfjx/200810260010.asp(Chinese).
  • Caijing, “Rights Defense Lawyer Liu Yao Sentenced to Two Years in Retrial in First Instance,” December 23, 2008, http://www.caijing.com.cn/2008-12-23/110041485.html(Chinese).

    Appeal Demanding that the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court Hear Liu Yao's Case in an Open Trial

    To all lawyers of Shenzhen:

    Our fellow Shenzhen lawyer Liu Yao’s case, in which he is charged on “suspicion of intentional destruction of property,” was originally returned to the Dongyuan County Court for retrial by the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court due to a “large discrepancy between facts and evidence.” The case was publicly tried on October 17, 2008, by the Dongyuan County Court. During the trial, there was no new evidence or reasonable and adequate explanation for the major flaws in the evidence presented in the first trial. The Court did not grant the legitimate requests by defense counsel to investigate evidence, to summon the appraiser for cross-examination, and to present material evidence. Despite all this, the judgment was made on December 17, 2008, and Liu Yao's original sentence of four years was only changed to a fixed term of two years.

    Due to the strong interest that this case has gathered from lawyers in this city and province, and even across the country, we agree to jointly sign our names in support of the thorough investigation of the truth, and clarification of the facts of the case, so as to correct the understanding of the facts, and ensure the dignity and impartiality of laws, and demand that the Heyuan Municipal Intermediate Court try Liu's case publicly!