In a draconian decision on March 17, 2009, the Haidian District Bureau of Justice in Beijing ordered a six-month shutdown of Yitong, the Beijing law firm well known for handling controversial and sensitive cases. In addition, the Bureau ordered the firm to turn in the licenses of all their lawyers. The Bureau of Justice said that the firm violated the law in allowing a lawyer, Li Subin (李苏滨), to work without a license.
Lawyers at the firm have said that most likely the authorities wanted to punish the firm because some of its lawyers were among the signers of an appeal in August 2008 that called for direct election of the Beijing Lawyers Association, and because of the type of cases the firm handles.
Li Subin told Human Rights in China (HRIC) that the decision is not only “a sorrow for all Chinese lawyers but also a sorrow for all Chinese people.”
“The six-month shutdown sends a chilling warning to all lawyers that the authorities will not tolerate any perceived challenges to their power. This is not the path to a rule of law,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC.
The shutdown is effective from March 13 to September 12, 2009. The decision stipulates that at the end of this period, the firm must re-apply in order to resume operation, and that it can reopen only after inspection by the Bureau. The firm is given 60 days to appeal the decision and three months to bring an administrative suit against the Bureau.
For more information on Beijing Yitong Law Firm and the Appeal for Direct Election in the Beijing Lawyers Association, see::