By Christopher Bodeen
■ Beijing (AP) — Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (POO JER’-chiang) has been disbarred, a further step in what the U.S. State Department and rights groups call a relentless crackdown by Beijing on efforts to establish an independent rule of law.
Pu posted a photo of a letter from the Beijing City Legal Affairs Department to his micro-blog Thursday that said his law license was pulled in accordance with regulations. It cited his conviction in December for disturbing public order and inciting ethnic hatred.
Pu was detained shortly after attending a May 2014 meeting to discuss commemorating the 25th anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Tiananmen Square. He was given a three-year sentence suspended for three years.
Pu told The Associated Press by phone that he hasn’t decided whether to appeal his disbarment and that the authorities had told him not to accept interviews.
“I really don’t want to say anything other than that I am no longer a lawyer. I thank everyone for their good wishes and concern,” Pu said.
|In this June 30, 2010 file photo, Prominent Chinese human
rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang lights a cigarette during an
interview at his office in Beijing. Pu posted a notice on his
microblog on Thursday, April 14, 2016 that he has been
disbarred, a further step in what the U.S. State Department and
rights groups call a relentless crackdown by Beijing on efforts
to establish an independent rule of law.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)
Pu stood trial on Dec. 14 after more than 19 months in detention, with prosecutors bringing as evidence several of his comments posted online that questioned Beijing’s ethnic policies and poked fun at some political figures.
Supporters believe the case was politically driven to punish Pu, who has become a leading figure among China’s human rights lawyers. His conviction was criticized strongly by the U.S. State Department.
Pu was active in defending free speech and represented artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that Ai’s supporters said was politically motivated. He was also instrumental in pushing for the eventual abolishment of China’s labor camp system, which allowed police to lock up people for up to four years without trial.
The authoritarian communist government’s harassment of lawyers was a focus of this year’s annual State Department report on China, which said the crackdown reflected the government’s insecurity in the face of popular desire for the rule of law.
Hundreds of lawyers and law associates have been interrogated, investigated and in many cases detained in secret locations for months without charges or access to attorneys or family members, the report said.