Five qualified independent candidates were barred by the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA) from the March 4, 2009 runoff election of representatives from the Chaoyang District. The candidates are: Cheng Hai (程海), Zhang Lihui (张立辉), Tong Chaoping (童朝平), Tang Jitian (唐吉田) and Yang Huiwen (杨惠文). All five have been vocal supporters of the direct election of BLA directors.
The five lawyers had entered the election campaign with the requisite endorsement by two or more law firms as stipulated in the BLA’s “Election Procedures of the Eighth Beijing Lawyer’s Representative Congress.” But none of their names appeared among the list of official candidates announced by the BLA election committee on February 23.
Cheng Hai and the other four lawyers ran as independents, as allowed by the “Election Procedures.” In the election held on February 26, all five candidates received significant numbers of votes, and Cheng Hai received the fifth highest number of votes among more than twenty candidates in his electoral district. Eight would be elected as representatives. However, no candidate won a simple majority that is required to become a representative.
The election committee called a runoff election. But this time, the election committee not only left out the five candidates, in violation of the election procedures, but also removed the space for writing in “other candidates” (independents) that had been on ballots in the first round.
“In targeting lawyers who support direct election, the Beijing Lawyers Association undermines the development of an independent and professional bar,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). HRIC urges an investigation to determine whether the irregularity was committed by a handful of unscrupulous BLA officials or was supported and authorized by higher authorities.
Cheng Hai, Zhang Lihui, Tong Chaoping, Tang Jitian, and Yang Huiwen are among the 35 Beijing lawyers who signed a petition in August 2008, titled, “Keep Pace with the Course of History, Implement Lawyers Association Direct Election,” which called for direct election of BLA directors. In response, the BLA issued a “Stern Statement” claiming the appeal was “illegal” and a “total repudiation of China’s current lawyers administrative system, judicial system, and even political system.” Authorities have since successfully exerted pressure on law firms to dismiss lawyers among their staff who supported direct election. One of these firms, Yitong, is contesting a six-month shut down order by the Haidian District Bureau of Justice in Beijing.
For more information on the Beijing Yitong Law Firm and the Appeal for Direct Election in the Beijing Lawyers Association, see: