Top Beijing Rights Lawyer’s License Seized in Detention Center

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Originally published by Radio Free Asia on January 30, 2015

Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei have confiscated the business license of a prominent human rights lawyer after she tried to visit a client in a police-run detention center.

Beijing-based attorney Wang Yu’s license allowing her access to judicial and law-enforcement facilities as a practicing lawyer was taken from her by staff at the Zaoqiang County Detention Center, she told RFA.

Wang was also briefly detained at the detention center after she tried to file a lawsuit against police for forcing a confession from her client.

“I went to see my client, who told me that during the investigations, the police had forced him to confess, and that he had been badly beaten up and locked in a black jail,” she said.

“So I wrote up a statement and got the client to sign it. Some policemen came along while I was doing this and saw what I was writing, and went off and reported it.”

Police told Wang she couldn’t take the document with her, and took it to show detention center chief Li Maosheng, she said.

“They wouldn’t let me leave, and locked both of the doors. They probably shut me in there for about half an hour or more,” Wang said.

Illegal action

“I told the director of the detention center that their actions were illegal,” Wang said.

“He replied to me like a street thug, saying ‘I’ll take it, and what are you going to do about it?'”

Wang later tried to lodge a complaint with the state prosecution service after detention center director Li refused to give her license back, but nobody was available to receive it, she said.

“I’ll wait for now to hear from them,” she said. “If they still won’t give it back, I’ll stand outside the detention center waving a placard.”

Wang’s supporters have launched an SMS campaign targeting Li with messages asking for her business license to be returned to her, she said.

Wang has defended some of China’s most politically sensitive prisoners, including members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, which has been designated an “evil cult” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

In August, she was forced to leave the legal team defending jailed Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti after her Beijing law firm withdrew from the case amid intense political pressure.

A bad year

China’s embattled legal profession ended last year with at least seven prominent rights attorneys behind bars, in one of its worst years since its resurgence in the 1980s, according to a recent report from the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group.

At least nine prominent lawyers are either currently facing criminal charges or began serving prison sentences in 2014, it said.

They include: Ding Jiaxi, Pu Zhiqiang, Qu Zhenhong, Tang Jingling, Xia Lin, Xu Zhiyong, and Yu Wensheng, as well as Chang Boyang and Ji Laisong, both released on bail awaiting trial after months in detention.

In December, about a dozen prominent rights lawyers signed an open letter calling on the government to uphold the rights and freedoms enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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