Authorities in Guangdong have revoked human rights lawyer Sui Muqing’s license to practice law. Sui is one of several human rights lawyers to lose his license in recent months.
Sui was held in a secret location for nearly five months at the beginning of China’s crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in 2015. He has represented prominent dissidents and activists including Guo Feixiong, Wang Qingying and Huang Qi.
Sui told HKFP on Tuesday: “I’m afraid the reason is that I’ve represented clients in too many human rights cases – the things I’ve said about my cases cannot be tolerated by the party.”
“I only feel that I’m being politically persecuted again – there are already too many people experiencing similar persecution, this country is increasingly going backwards towards darkness.”
He added that he has requested a hearing with the department.
Sui was given a notice by the Guangdong Department of Justice that said he was in violation of rules, citing past instances. It claimed that, when defending fellow lawyer Ding Jiaxi in court in 2014, Sui stood up, walked, and spoke without permission many times, and did not comply with the court’s orders.
It also claimed that Sui had violated rules by bringing his cellphone into a meeting with his client – Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei – at a detention centre. It said he tried to bring out two photos and eight documents, and did not cooperate with police when they tried to stop him.
Frances Eve, researcher at the NGO Network of China Human Rights Defenders (NCHRD), told HKFP that the disbarment was “a clear act of retaliation against him for taking on human rights cases,” noting that in the two cases cited by the department, Sui was defending individuals who had been imprisoned for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly, association and expression. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has asked China to release Ding.
During the visit with Chen cited by the notice, Sui was trying to photograph injuries his client had sustained from alleged mistreatment.
“It is chilling that defence lawyers collecting evidence of torture can be stripped of their license to practice law,” Eve said.
Other lawyers have lost their licenses or had them suspended in recent months. NCHRD said on Wednesday that the lawyers’ disbarments were a “reprisal against their push for rule of law.”
“Despite the 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers, some lawyers had the courage to continue to try and defend rule of law in China,” Eve said. “Authorities are trying to punish such lawyers and send a warning to all lawyers that attempting to defend your clients in political cases can lead to the loss of your professional livelihood.”
Lawyer Yu Wensheng, a persistent critic of the government who was detained outside his home by police on Friday, had his license revoked by Beijing’s Bureau of Justice on January 15.
Lawyer Wu Youshui also had his license suspended for nine months at the end of December for “expressing negative appraisals of the Communist Party of China and the government, and harming the professional image of lawyers,” according to US-backed Radio Free Asia.
RFA also reported that the Shandong Provincial Justice Department revoked the license of lawyer Zhu Shengwu for making comments that “endangered state security,” and “targeted the socialist system” in September.
The NGO said the disbarments, as well as the detention of Yu Wensheng, amounted to another wave of suppression against lawyers who have spoken out about government interference in the judiciary.
“As such, the cases signal that the Xi Jinping government is not letting up on its assault on lawyers’ independence and continues to backtrack on its own promises to ‘rule the country with law.’”