China Aid Association
(BEIJING — March 6, 2009) On March 3, a hearing was held for the Beijing Yitong Law Firm which is being forced to shut down for six months by the Haidian District Judicial Bureau. ChinaAid sources say the reason behind the forced closure is that authorities are punishing the firm because some of its attorneys signed an open letter in August 2008 asking that independent candidates be allowed to run in the election of the leadership of the Beijing Lawyers Association [equivalent to the U.S. Bar Association], rather than only allowing government candidates. Sources say another reason for the government’s retaliation is that the firm has provided representation for a number of human rights cases, including cases of persecution against house church Christians.
Only Li Jisong, the director of the law firm, was allowed to attend the public hearing on March 3 at 9:30 a.m. in North Room B101, Office Area No. 1 of Haidian District People’s Government of Beijing Municipality (Address: 17, Changchunqiao Road, Haidian District, Beijing). Though the hearing was public and official request forms were filed by the firm immediately after receiving the hearing notice on February 23 asking permission to attend, the other 12 lawyers and workers from the firm were forbidden to attend the hearing. The government officials said there was no room, because all the seats were filled by February 25. In fact, the government deliberately filled all the seats with Haidian District Bureau of Justice officials. Presiding over the two-hour hearing was a committee organized by the Bureau of Justice. The committee has not yet released a decision.
The government says the forced closure is because the firm allowed Christian attorney, Li Subin, to practice law without a license. However, the firm says that Li Subin, who worked as deputy director of the firm, served only in administrative duties and as a legal advisor. Although he has been a fully qualified and licensed attorney since 1991, he never acted as an attorney at the firm because the government has refused to renew his license since he brought a lawsuit against the Henan Provincial Department of Justice for overcharging legal fees. He was illegally detained for 391 days before eventually winning his case. However, he has been unable to get his license back.
A Chinese news source (www.canyu.org), interviewed Attorney Liu Xiaoyuan of Yitong Law Firm. Attorney Liu said that the law firm will defend itself on the basis of the following three aspects: 1) Haidian District Bureau of Justice is not qualified to impose the administrative penalty of forcing the law firm to close for six months, because according to Chinese law, it is a provincial office, not a district office which can impose the penalty. 2) Li Subin did not act as an attorney in the firm’s cases; he was only involved as a legal advisor. 3) Even if the charge was legitimate, the penalty of closing down the law firm for six months is not fair or just. In similar cases, the penalty is generally a warning, an order for improvement, or a fine.
ChinaAid urges the international community to speak out on behalf of Yitong Law Firm. Their work defending human rights cases, including persecuted house church Christians, has made them a target of the government’s abuse of power.
Contact the Chinese Ambassador and let him know your concern for the actions against Yitong Law Firm:
Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong,
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC 20008http://www.china-embassy.org/
Fax: 202- 588-0032; 202-7457473
Director of Religious Affairs: (202) 328-2512
Read the Hearing Notice delivered to Yitong Law Firm.
Read a blog article by Liu Xiaoyuan, a Yitong Law Firm attorney, regarding the forced closing of the firm.
UPDATE: March 20, BEIJING — On March 17, seven officials presented two documents to Yitong Law Firm formally announcing the Beijing Bureau of Justice’s March 13th decision to forcibly close the law firm for six months (March 13 to September 12) for “illegally providing (convenience for) Mr. Li Subin’s operation for legal representation.” All of the attorneys at Yitong Law Firm were asked to surrender their law licenses to the Beijing Bureau of Justice.
China Aid Contacts
Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
Email: [email protected]