May 20, 2010
Beijing — Li Subin, Christian human rights lawyer and director of the preparatory committee for the new “National Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association,” was interviewed regarding the unjustly treatment of Chinese human rights lawyers, whose are often debarred for taking on sensitive cases. On May 7, Chinese authorities revoked the licenses of human rights lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, supposedly for “procedural infractions” committed while representing a Falun Gong practitioner in a trial last year. This is one of many incidents of unlawful treatment to Chinese human rights lawyers which prompted the creation of the association.
(Note: In the following interview, the term “Diaozhaomen Incident” is used to denote the negative and almost scandalous nature of the government’s actions in taking away Tang Jitian’s and Liu Weithe’s licenses.)
The Last Battle Between the Chinese Lawyers and the Reactionaries in the Bureau of Justice
Interview by reporter Yang Yifan
On May 8, Chinese lawyers founded the “Preparatory Committee of National Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association” and elected Li Subin, a lawyer from Beijing, as the director of the preparatory committee.
Li Subin said, “Given the expansion of the number of ‘post-lawyers,’ we should strengthen the forces of just causes for the sake of rule of law in China. The most important thing now is letting people realize that the Chinese citizens are fighting to safeguard the Constitution and the legal order of the state. Hence the founding of this association. Meanwhile, a foundation is established so that the lawyers can engage in their work without having to worry about other matters in life. In this way, they can become real lawyers, instead of prostrating themselves on a long-term basis before the powerful and the influential.
Bureau of Justice tries to coerce the lawyers into abandoning the human rights defense by threatening their right to subsistence
In the Diaozhaomen Incident, we can say with relative certainty that the Bureau of Justice has ripped away its façade and jumped directly to the forefront in its persecution campaign against the lawyers without regard to its image. In the past, when it suspended the lawyers’ business practice, the Bureau of Justice was always the behind-the-scene manipulator. Li Subin said, “Last year it suspended the practice of many lawyers, yet not a single lawyer received legal penalty documentation. The Bureau of Justice hid behind the scene. However, the Bureau of Justice is so impatient this time that it jumps to the forefront. Last year, the business practice of some lawyers was suspended and they were not allowed to register. It did not come as an administrative penalty, which is a relatively smart trick by the Bureau of Justice. It is as if they were saying, ‘If you want to sue us at the Bureau of Justice or sue us at the Association of Lawyers, you don’t have anything to present as evidence, you can’t work as a lawyer, and there is nothing you can do to change this situation.’ This time, the lawyers’ licenses are revoked when the Bureau of Justice jumps into the open from behind the scenes, and directly plays the role of a butcher.” Li Subin thinks its purpose is to punish someone as a warning to a wider public.
The Diaozhaomen Incident has indeed brought about the cicada effect, where people keep silent out of fear. Li Subin points out, “Most lawyers are very concerned about the Diaozhaomen Incident. Currently, though only Tang Jitian and Liu Wei’s lawyer’s licenses have been revoked, the flames of this battle will soon burn to other human rights defense lawyers. Everyone feels the fear. Now no one dares to take Falun Gong cases.” From suspension of business practice to revocation of business licenses, lawyers are being deprived of the very subsistence of their rights again and again. Therefore, the establishment of this association is an urgent necessity.
Li Subin said: “We call the rights defense by the two lawyers Liu and Tang ‘The last battle between the Chinese lawyers and the reactionaries in the Bureau of Justice.’ Everybody is preparing to do their best and achieve our goal in one stroke. All the lawyers with a sense of justice should stand up without reservation. We must win this battle. If we do not achieve a victory in this battle, there will not be any human rights lawyers left in China for the future. In this case, lawyers will have to keep a miserably low profile, conduct their daily business like a cowardly cur with its tail between its legs, prostrate themselves at the feet of the corrupt magistrates of the Bureau of Justice, and always work as a house slave and a servile retainer.”
As to the question of whether the establishment of such an association should be suppressed by the authorities, Li Subin said, “Instead, the authorities should try their best to help and support us, because this is the right endowed to the Chinese citizens by the Constitution. We also help the government by sharing its worries. If they go against it, they should be on the side of reactionaries.”
The system web that blocks judicial justice
It can be said that the Bureau of Justice and the National Association of Lawyers are sharp weapons of Chinese rulers used in containing the Chinese lawyers. These two associations have always been in conflict with the lawyers. Here is the analysis by Li Subin: “Lawyers are required to register every year, which is also known as examination. The judicial administrative agencies and the Association of Lawyers extort some amount of money from the lawyers every year. On the one hand, they can get rid of those people who hold differing views; on the other hand, they can extort a sum of money from these lawyers in the form of a ‘toll.’ So far, Beijing Bureau of Justice and the Association of Lawyers have extorted over a billion yuan from the lawyers in Beijing, which is an outrage.”
While being interviewed last year by Deutsche Welle, the Voice of Germany, the attorney Jiang Tianyong said, “By passing an administrative approval, the Chinese lawyers get their licenses and hence the right to practice. However, they must be registered once a year. Without the registration, this license would not be valid. Starting in 2009, the previous annual registration has been changed to an annual examination. In fact, this examination is not an examination in the real sense of the word. What it means is that, when time is up under normal circumstances, the lawyers are notified to hand in their lawyer certificate and pay a fee of 2,500 yuan. With the payment slip, they can get their lawyer’s practice license with an examination qualification seal. This time, I, along with about 20 other lawyers, didn’t pass this examination allegedly because we have accepted some ‘sensitive cases,’ including those involving Tibetan issues, earthquake disaster areas, and Falun Gong adherents. Besides, we have certainly gotten involved in such cases as direct election of Beijing lawyers.”
As the Bureau of Justice controls the livelihood of the lawyers in form, it can take whatever it pleases from the lawyers, so much so that bureaus of justice in other places illegally extort money from the lawyers. Facing the unreasonable extortion, Li Subin sued the Luoyang Bureau of Justice 10 years ago for extorting the lawyers in the form of collecting an annual examination fee. Though he won the case, his lawyer’s license was seized the next year. Even now, he still has not gotten his lawyer’s license back. The Henan Provincial Department of Justice still holds it.
The goals of the association – Let lawyers become real lawyers who abide by the law
Li Subin emphasizes that the newly founded National Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association will take a series of actions to truly safeguard the rights of lawyers and citizens.
As a lawyer, Li Subin believes that he has the social responsibility to resolve the issues existing in the justice system in China. He said, “The biggest problem now is that the people in the law enforcement do not abide by and even violate the law. Currently, we have a sound law in our country, but the fundamental issue is that one should learn how to abide by the law. They are not abiding by the law, they are breaking the law though they are in charge of its enforcement, including the suppression of the lawyers. The recent Diaozhaomen Incident is a case in point. It shows this is a serious case in which Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice and other law enforcement agencies break the law while in charge of its enforcement and blatantly undermine the implementation of the law.”
He thinks that the lawyers should “abide by the law as long as it is there” and do as the law dictates. However, things are just the opposite in reality. The Bureau of Justice and the Association of Lawyers act as dictators to the lawyers, acting in disregard of the law and against the development of democratic rule of law. Besides, if someone doesn’t listen to them, they will lay him off – or, more seriously, they will collude with judicial agencies and throw the lawyers into prison, as with the brave Zhang Shizhi who has suffered a broken spinal cord due to beatings. Though he dared to defend The Gang of Four, he does not dare to defend Falun Gong adherents. This is the fear they have instilled in lawyers. We have been thinking about such things and trying to find a way out of this situation.
As lawyers, we should not face the suppression by the judicial agencies in silence. This is a good opportunity for us to stage a counterattack. Li Subin said, “We should stage a counterattack. This Diaozhaomen Incident is a major battle between the anti-democracy, anti-rule-of-law and anti-people forces inside the Party or the government and the just and democratic forces represented by Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. It is our belief that this is the last battle between the Chinese lawyers and the reactionaries in the Bureau of Justice before the dawn, and a major battle on which the democratic rule of law in China depends.”
ChinaAid opposes the unjust revocation of human rights lawyers’ licenses, and urges the Chinese government to hold the Bureau of Justice officials to higher standards of upholding the law. We support the creation of the National Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Association, and we ask Christians to pray for the courage and perseverance of human rights lawyers as they speak for the oppressed.