SCMP: Chinese Police Place Defense Lawyer Guo Guoting Under House Arrest

December 10, 2005

Shanghai police officers have placed defense lawyer Guo Guoting under house arrest, according to a March 16 South China Morning Post report. Recognized for his legal representation of activists, Guo has defended journalists, Falun Gong practitioners, and other lawyers. In 2003, for example, he defended lawyer Zheng Enchong, who had advocated on behalf of evicted residents and eventually was convicted of illegally disclosing state secrets.

On March 4, the Shanghai Justice Bureau upheld an earlier decision to suspend Guo’s law license for one year after he was accused of "adopting positions and making statements contrary to the law and the Constitution" and "defiling and slandering" the Communist Party and government (see related story here). According to the new SCMP report, Shanghai police detained Guo after the March 4 hearing, and he may neither leave his home nor speak openly. Guo had been scheduled to defend reporter Shi Tao, who is charged with "leaking state secrets to foreigners" for posting a document online about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. However, Guo reportedly was not able to attend the March 7 hearing.

Intellectuals, lawyers, and activists have been detained or otherwise harassed since late 2004 in what appears to be a coordinated government campaign to stifle criticism, dissent, and independent advocacy (see related stories here and here and expert testimony at a recent CECC issues roundtable on public intellectuals in China). Guo’s detention is further evidence that the work environment for defense attorneys in China remains poor (see related stories 1, 2, 3). Although Chinese government officials publicly called for tighter control over law enforcement and protections for defense lawyers as late as March 15, Guo’s detention in Shanghai calls into question the leadership’s commitment to such goals.