Concerns about the revocation of licenses of Xi Xiangdong and Zhou Ze and suspension of Peng Yonghe’s license
Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about the ongoing suspension and revocation of the licenses of lawyers, who take on politically sensitive cases. After the cases of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu last month, it has been confirmed that again the licenses of two lawyers have been revoked and another one’s license has been suspended.
On January 27, Xi Xiangdong, a lawyer who has represented multiple victims of human rights abuses over the years, was notified that his legal license would be revoked. Xi Xiangdong has represented other human rights lawyers that have been detained for their work, such as Wang Quanzhang, and has been involved in cases concerning the use of torture by the police. Chinese authorities stated that Mr Xi’s license was revoked for ‘disrupting order in a court’ as he allegedly repeatedly disrupted the judge and the prosecutor’s speeches and spoke without the judge’s permission during a trial in Wuxing, Zhejiang province. After a hearing on February 7th, which was cut short due to irregularities of the hearing (the presiding officer could not produce documents to prove his qualification required by law) pointed out by Xiangdong, the Shandong Provincial Department of Justice announced the decision to revoke Mr Xi’s license on the next day.
Peng Yonghe, a Chinese lawyer who has handled Falun Gong cases and has represented dissidents, received a similar notice on January 29. Peng Yonghe’s legal license is officially suspended because he had not been hired by a law firm since last spring. According to Chinese regulations, a lawyer’s license can be suspended if they have not been employed by a law firm for over six months. According to our information, multiple law firms had expressed interest in employing Mr Peng, but were warned by the Chinese authorities not to hire him because Mr Peng was ‘too political’.
Earlier in January, the license of a third lawyer, Zhou Ze, was revoked after he shared a video on social media that allegedly showed the police using torture to extract confessions from witnesses and a defendant that he was representing. Mr Zhou stated that he was legally allowed to share this evidence, because the case against his client had been closed and therefore sharing the videos could not influence the outcome of the case. Mr Zhou appealed the revocation of his license but was unsuccessful in having it reinstated.
In July 2015, during the so-called “709 crackdown”, Chinese authorities arrested and interrogated over 300 human rights lawyers, law firm staff, human rights activists and family members. Since 2015, the suppression of lawyers that are willing to take on sensitive cases has continued, albeit more discreetly. These lawyers have been faced with administrative sanctions including, but not limited to, the suspension and invalidation of their practice licenses. Last month, Lawyers for Lawyers reported on the cases of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, who both represented Hong Kong human rights activists and had their license revoked as well.
Lawyers for Lawyers is concerned about the continued trend of suspending and revoking the licenses of lawyers that take on politically sensitive cases. We will continue to monitor the cases of Xi Xiangdong, Peng Yonghe and Zhou Zhe, as well as those of Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu.
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