The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice in a hearing on April 22nd revoked the law licences of two attorneys, Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, both of whom are well-known for defending Falun Gong adherents and others who are disenfranchised in China.
Those who attended the hearing said the authorities were in lock-down mode and were treating the situation as if confronted by a powerful adversary. Security was prominent, and roads were blocked in front of the judicial building. Many people who had planned to attend the hearing were placed under house arrest, while some people were arrested on site.
Prior to the hearing, Tang Jitian spoke to reporters outside the courtroom. He characterized the situation as just another attempt by the authorities to intimidate and suppress lawyers. In actuality, he said, the authorities were only jeopardizing their own moral and legal credibility with the people of China.
In spite of his disbarment, Tang said he hasn’t lost heart. He believes that the Municipal Bureau of Justice will inevitably be the true loser. “Although this process may be challenging for us individually now, in the long run, a government needs a good image to gain the trust of its people and international credibility: I believe [the legal system] will be affected in the long run.”
He emphatically concluded, “As for my difficulties in making a living, or other issues, they can’t stop me from doing what I should be doing as a member of society!”
The People’s Intermediate Court in Luzhou, Sichuan Province, was responsible for suspending the licences of the two attorneys. Tang Jitian maintains the court has never been beholden to the law, as evidenced in the trial of Falun Gong practitioner Yang Ming on April 22nd of last year. In the trial, Yang Ming was blocked from presenting an adequate defence.
Referring to Yang’s case, Tang said, “[The legal system] has constantly interfered with our right to defend [our clients.] There was no justice coming from the court, so conforming to the status quo equates to condoning illegal activity.” He said that was the key reason why they withdrew from the hearing, as in the end it was in their best interest as well as in the interest of their client. Moreover, an unidentified person was videotaping them.
“There have been a series of illegal issues, which actually show that the court defies justice. Now the court has accused us of disturbing court order and has decided to punish us. We can only say that the Justice Bureau is standing on a truly wrong foundation.”
Tang Jitian shared his view that their fate at the hands of the regime’s legal apparatus is part of a long-term strategy to suppress dissidents and lawyers. He said, “The [Beijing Municipal] Justice Bureau carries this out on perceived lawbreakers in an effort to control lawyers. They use this strategy to suppress. This suppression has the effect of killing two eagles with one arrow, or killing many birds with one stone. It’s actually a warning to many others in the same profession.
“It has not been able to suppress the retaliatory factor, however. For example, in previous years we’ve demanded direct elections for the law association, or else we would expose their accounts to the public, conduct audits, and so forth. Some felt their vested interests were being threatened.”
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