The Beijing-based Yitong law firm will be shut down for six months. Officials have cited that the temporary shut-down is due to the practice of an unlicensed lawyer. Noted blogger and lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan, however, believes that the reason is most likely tied to the fact that lawyers at Yitong had petitioned for direct elections of leaders in the Beijing Lawyer Association. From Rebecca MacKinnon of RConversation:
The real reason for the punishment, Liu believes, is that lawyers in his firm had petitioned last year for direct elections of the leadership of the Beijing Lawyers Association. He says the goal is to drive his lawyers to flee to other firms and cause the Yi Tong law firm to fail. He points out that this is the same tactic used against civil rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. This is non-trivial, given that Gao went on to be tortured, spoke out about it, and has now disappeared.
[…] Liu is a prolific blogger and defense lawyer who writes passionately about the cases he is involved with and other cases he follows. He has not shied away from controversy in the past couple of years. Perhaps most controversially, he represented family members of Yang Jia, the confessed cop killer, arguing on his blog that while the defendant may have been guilty he was not afforded due process under Chinese law. He called attention to various shenanigans pulled by the prosecution around the time of the trial, such as the illegal detention of Yang Jia’s mother in a mental institution. Public sympathy for Yang Jia was widespread – discussion of the case around the Chinese Internet was arguably more widespread than, say, Charter 08 and also potentially much more threatening to the regime in the immediate term.