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Rights Defense Lawyer Li Subin Sues Beijing and Henan Judicial Authorities

June 12, 2009

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that on June 11, 2009, Chinese rights defense lawyer Li Subin (李苏滨) filed a complaint at Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court against the Beijing Judicial Bureau and Henan Judicial Department. Li alleges that the judicial authorities violated the law in their failure to carry out their official duty of transferring and accepting his lawyer’s file. Their failure, he says in his complaint, has rendered him unable to obtain a lawyer’s license from the Beijing Judicial Bureau for more than four years. The law requires the Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court to decide whether to accept the case within seven days.

Li originally practiced law in Luoyang, Henan Province. In 2001, Li filed many complaints and brought suit against the provincial and local judicial authorities in Henan, charging that they violated the law in their arbitrary collection of lawyers registration fees. The provincial and local judicial authorities in Henan retaliated by methods such as deferring his registration and suspending him from practicing. He filed suits in local- and provincial-level courts in Henan against the Henan Judicial Department and Luoyang Judicial Bureau and won. Despite his victory in the court, beginning in 2002, he was unable to obtain his lawyer’s license that comes with the annual inspection approval stamp. In 2005, Li went to work at Yitong Law Firm in Beijing as an administrator. While working there, he participated in many rights defense cases and was one of the 35 lawyers who initiated the call for the Beijing Lawyers Association direct elections. In March 2009, Beijing Haidian District Judicial Bureau ordered Yitong Law Firm shutdown for six months, using the pretext that the firm was allowing lawyers to practice without a license.

A few days before the shutdown order was announced, Yitong Law Firm filed suit against the Beijing Judicial Bureau, alleging that the Bureau’s failure to issue Li a transferred license as required by law constituted dereliction of duty. On May 18, Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court rejected the lawsuit on the ground that Yitong Law Firm did not qualify as a plaintiff (不具备原告主体资格). Yitong Law Firm subsequently appealed the decision in Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court.

Below is Li Subin’s complaint, translated by Human Rights in China.

Administrative Complaint

Plaintiff: Li Subin, male, 53, Han ethnicity, Deputy Director of Yitong Law Firm in Beijing, member of the Chinese Communist Party
Address: Beijing Haidian District, No. 31 East Lianhuachi Road, A512
Zip code: 100038
Telephone Number: 13366121891

Defendant: The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice
Address: Beijing, Xicheng District, No. 39 Houguangping Lane

Legal Representative: Wu Yuhua, Director of The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice

Defendant: Henan Provincial Department of Justice
Address: Henan Province, Zhengzhou City, Jinshui District, No. 8 Jingsi Road

Requested items:

  1. Confirm that the defendants’ failure to perform their statutory responsibilty to transfer lawyer’s files (resulting in the plaintiff’s inability to process his lawyer’s license since January 2005) is illegal;
  2. Order the defendants to immediately perform their responsibility to transfer the plaintiff’s lawyer’s files and provide the plaintiff with the service of processing his lawyer’s license.

Facts and Argument:

Between May 1997 and the end of 1999, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC), the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and other departments jointly issued statements which clearly indicated that the collection of lawyers’ administrative fees and registration fees, and other such activities, by bureaus and departments of justice throughout the country were illegal and should immediately cease and be abolished. However, after the ban was issued, the Henan Provincial Department of Justice, among others, not only failed to cease and abolish the arbitrary collection of fees, but in fact colluded with individual violators from departments concerned to openly challenge the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC) and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), to defiantly break the law, and engage in an even more unbridled and exorbitant exploitation of and extortion from the lawyers by steeply increasing the original annual fee of 1700 yuan per person to 3000 yuan, which has met with intense condemnation by the lawyers (during the past 10 plus years the two defendants have jointly extorted a total of more than 1.2 billion yuan from lawyers.)

In order to safeguard the legitimate rights of the plaintiff and all lawyers, as well as uphold the sanctity of national laws, starting from 2001 the plaintiff and his fellow lawyer Li Wusi have repeatedly filed complaints, made reports and brought lawsuits against the illegal criminal activities of the Justice Department and its collaborators with departments concerned (for details, please see records of China Central Television’s Society News coverage from October 28 to 30, 2003, the Zhengzhou Daily and Zhengzhou Evening News reports from November 2, 2003, and hundreds of other news media reports). Under pressure from multiple sides, the Henan Development and Reform Committee finally reached the decision on March 1, 2005, to completely abolish all administrative and registration fees for lawyers within the province starting with May 1, 2005.

After the plaintiff and his fellow lawyer Li Wusi exposed to the whole society through various means, including complaints, reports and lawsuits, the illegal criminal activities of the Henan Provincial Department of Justice and its collaborators that antagonized the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC) and the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) , the Department of Justice mustered the Luoyang Municipal Justice Bureau, the Luoyang Lawyers Association, etc. to carry out unbridled retaliatory attacks against the plaintiff and Li Wusi, year after year, by repeatedly using various contemptible methods, such as registration deferral, suspension from practice, and instigating Luoshen Law Firm to treacherously stab them in the back and circulate official documents based on fabricated facts in order to illegally prevent the plaintiff and Li Wusi from practicing law. However, at this present time when the rule of law has had an irreversible and profound impact on the hearts and minds of people, the Department of Justice can hardly hope to rely on the abuse of its administrative authority and other illegal means to achieve its goal of hiding the truth from the people and acting in defiance of the law and public opinion.

Typical cases include:

  1. On May 28, 2003, Jinshui District People’s Court in the City of Zhengzhou ruled that the failure of the Department of Justice to process Li Subin’s 2002 registration constituted an illegal act (the Department of Justice has not appealed);
  2. On July 3, 2003, Xigong District People’s Court in the City of Luoyang ruled that the May 2005 decision of the Luoyang Municipal Justice Bureau, a collaborator of the Henan Provincial Department of Justice, that Li Subin should “cease parctice for one year,” was null and void (the Court of Second Instance rejected the Luoyang Municipal Justice Bureau’s appeal, upholding the ruling of the Xigong District People’s Court);
  3. On November 29, 2003, Luoyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court ruled that Luoyang’s Luoshen Law Firm was liable for violating Li Subin’s and Li Wusi’s rights through civil defamation and liable for compensating Li Subin and Li Wusi 2000 yuan for the mental trauma suffered (implemented);
  4. On January 18, 2005, Luoyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court made the final ruling on the administrative judgment and ordered Luoyang Municipal Justice Bureau to pay Li Subin 14040 yuan in compensation for economic losses suffered due to the one year suspension of his practice (implemented);
  5. On November 11, 2005, Zhengzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court made another final ruling on the administrative judgment and ordered Department of Justice to pay Li Wusi 14070 yuan in compemsation for economic losses suffered due to his registration deferral (implemented);
  6. On August 23, 2007, after two trials of first instance and two trials of last instance that went on for four years, Luoyang Municipal Intermediate People’s Court made another final ruling on the administrative judgment and ordered another collaborator of the Department of Justice, the Luoyang Lawyers Association, to immediately cease the defamation of Li Subin and pay the plaintiff 5000 yuan in compensation for mental trauma suffered (implemented).

In order to avoid the relentless retaliatory attacks by the Henan Provincial Department of Justice, the plaintiff was forced to leave Luoyang in January 2005 and find employment with Yitong Law Firm in Beijing, and has, since January 2005, repeatedly applied to the two defendants for the transfer of his files and the service of processing his lawyer’s license, but the two defendants have used various reasons to decline.

Notice of the Ministry of Justice Concerning Some Issues on Further Strengthening the Administration of Lawyers’ Practice (Article 3 Clause 4), which was published in 2003, specifically emphasized that: “When a lawyer is transferred, [the judicial administrative authorities] shall in a timely fashion transfer his practice files and ensure that the material is complete.” Afterwards, on July 18, 2008, Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers, Article 20 Clause 4 stipulated that: “When a lawyer crosses into another province, autonomous region or independent municipality to change the place of professional practice, the judicial administrative authorities of the place of his original practice and of the place of his new practice must exchange the professional files of the lawyer in question.” The two defendants in this case are thoroughly familiar with the regulations of our nation’s Ministry of Justice, yet they insistently refuse to implement them. In order to protect the legal rights of the plaintiff and comply with the Three Fundamental Principles of putting Party affairs, the interests of the people and the constitution and laws above all else, we ask the Honorable Court to judge the illegal actions of the two defendants according to law.

With respect,
To the Beijing Xicheng District People’s Court
Li Subin
June 11, 2009

For more information on Li Subin and calls for direct election of the Beijing Lawyers Association, see: