Beijing Justice Bureau to Hold Hearing on Permanently Disbarring Human Rights Lawyers

April 21, 2010

On April 22, 2010, the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau will hold a hearing to decide whether to revoke the lawyer's licenses of Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, two Beijing human rights lawyers who represented a Falun Gong practitioner last year in Sichuan province. If Chinese authorities decide to revoke Tang and Liu's licenses at the hearing, they could be disbarred in China permanently.

The Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau will reportedly hold an administrative hearing on April 22 to decide whether Beijing human rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Wei will have their lawyer's licenses permanently revoked, according to an April 21 New York Times (NYT) article and April 20 Human Rights in China (HRIC) press release. An April 14 Voice of America (VOA) article (in Chinese) reported that Tang and Liu had received a notice from the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau claiming that they "disturbed the order of the court and interfered with normal procedural activities" while representing a Falun Gong practitioner during a trial last year in Luzhou, Sichuan province.

According to the HRIC press release and an April 21 Associated Press (via the Washington Post) article, the lawyers said the judge repeatedly interrupted them and that unidentified personnel illegally videotaped them during the trial (a possible violation of the prohibition on videotaping found in Article 9(1) of the Court Rules of the People's Courts). On April 21, Liu said, "We think they retaliated against us for what we've done in the past, like appealing for direct elections within the lawyers' association. What they've done to us is completely illegal, let alone unfair," according to the April 21 Associated Press article. According to an April 18 Boxun article (in Chinese), Tang and Liu have been involved in various human rights cases, covering freedom of speech, freedom of religion, AIDS, and Hepatitis B discrimination.

If Chinese authorities decide to revoke Tang and Liu's licenses at the April 22 hearing, the pair could be disbarred in China permanently, according to an April 18 Chinese Human Rights Defenders article (in Chinese). The April 21 NYT article quoted Eva Pils, a law professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying that this could be the first case in which a "disruption-of-court charge has led to such harsh punishment."

The case raises questions about the enforcement of protections afforded lawyers under Chinese domestic law. According to Article 36 of the Lawyers Law (in Chinese), "Where a lawyer serves as an agent ad litem or defender, his right of debate or defense shall be protected." Article 37 of the Lawyers Law states that, "The personal rights of a lawyer in practicing law shall not be infringed upon. The representation or defense opinions presented in court by a lawyer shall not be subject to legal prosecution, except for speeches compromising national security, maliciously defaming others or seriously disrupting the court order."

The CECC 2009 Annual Report reported on Tang's abduction by domestic security protection (guobao) officers in June 2009 and on the problems faced by Tang and other human rights lawyers whose licenses were not renewed by the May 31, 2009, deadline because of their involvement in cases that the government deemed sensitive or controversial.

For more information about actions taken against China's human rights lawyers, see CECC roundtable discussion "China's Human Rights Lawyers: Current Challenges and Prospects" and "Section II: Criminal Justice" in the CECC 2009 Annual Report.