China: prominent rights lawyer released

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has been released after receiving a suspended sentence on Dec. 22. Zhiqiang was indicted in May on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking trouble for comments that he posted online. He stood trial on Dec. 14 after more than 19 months in detention. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but all three years have been suspended. The verdict will not take effect for 10 days, during which time he will be under residential surveillance. The guilty verdict disqualifies Pu from practicing law and forces him to follow certain restrictions for a three-year period or risk imprisonment.

From Jurist, Dec. 23. Used with permission.

Note: Pu's unexpected release comes after protesters clashed with police outside the Beijing courthouse on the day of his trial, in a virtually unprecedented development.

  1. Swedish rights advocate detained in China

    The Chinese Urgent Action Working Group said Jan. 12 that Swedish human rights worker Peter Dahlin was detained earlier this month on suspicion of endangering state security. It is believed by rights groups that the detention is part of a crackdown on rights lawyers and members of groups seeking reforms of the country's legal system. Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, a non-profit co-founded by Dahlin, provides training for uncertified rural defense lawyers of potential human rights abuse victims. The foreign affairs ministry of Sweden has posted on Twitter about the matter, saying that the Swedish embassy is "looking into this and has requested to visit him." (Jurist)

    1. China releases Swedish rights activist

      A Swedish activist who was detained in China on charges of damaging national security has been released and deported. Peter Dahlin, 35, has been held since early January amid a crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists. Last week he appeared on state media apparently confessing to breaking the law through his organization's support of local Chinese rights lawyers. (BBC News, Jan. 26)

  2. China: another human rights lawyer arrested

    Chinese authorities on Jan. 14 arrested high profile human rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband on charges of political subversion. Authorities have accused Wang of subversion of state power and her husband Bao Longjun, a trainee lawyer, of inciting subversion of state power. The formal arrest of Wang and Bao comes after six months of being held in detention with other members of their firm. The couple, along with members of their Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, have been held in "designated residential surveillance" since July. Designated Residential Surveillance allows legal incommunicado solitary detention in secret locations for up to six months. Upon their recent release, many of the members of the Fenguir Law firm have been arrested and charged with subversion. The charges against Wang and her husband carry sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison. (Jurist)

    1. China releases human rights lawyer

      Chinese authorities released a prominent human rights lawyer from detention on Aug. 1. Wang Yu was released on bail after confessing to "subverting state power," and rejecting awards from the American Bar Association and Ludovic Trarieux Prize for her work defending human rights, saying that they were intended to "blacken the reputation of the Chinese government." The televised confession alleged that "foreign forces" trained her and her colleagues to attack and smear the government of China. Yu's colleagues claim that she would never say such things unless she were put under extreme pressure. (Jurist)

  3. HRW: China unjustly sentenced human rights activists

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Chinese government on Friday to overturn a verdict sentencing three human rights activists, including a lawyer, in Guangdong province to up to five years in prison.  On Jan. 29, the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court’s sentenced Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting, and Wang Qingying to five, three-and-a-half, and two-and-a-half years respectively for “inciting subversion of state power.” The three men were convicted for promoting the ideas of “non-violent civil disobedience” and of promoting a peaceful transition to democratic rule.

    HRW argues that the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has been exercising a broad interpretation of what constitutes subversion in an effort to eliminate peaceful dissent, conflicting with China's Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression. (Jurist, HRW, Jan. 29)

  4. China: human rights lawyer disbarred

    Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiangon announced April 13 that his license to practice law was revoked by the judicial bureau. The bureau allegedly disbarred Pu from practicing law because of a December criminal conviction associated with using social media to critique the government. The move is criticized as a way to curtail criticism of the government. Such instances over the last year are detailed this month in a US State Department study (PDF, report) which found that, "[i]ndividuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive by authorities faced tight restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practice religion, and travel. Authorities resorted to extralegal measures, such as enforced disappearance and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family members, to prevent public expression of critical opinions." The Chinese government responded with its own report condemning the human rights violations in the US.

    Chinese lawyer and professor, Chen Taihe, fled China in March and arrived in San Leandro, Calif., after he was detained last July as part of a crackdown on rights lawyers. The crackdown culminated in at least 242 people detained or questioned throughout the country. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed concern in February over China's recent crackdown on lawyers and activists. (Jurist)