Jane Macartney reports for the Times Online:
Chinese authorities effectively disbarred some of the country’s leading civil rights lawyers yesterday, dealing a blow to a group than has done more to hold the Government to account than any other in recent years.
The lawyers described the move as part of a carefully orchestrated government campaign to prevent them from taking on controversial or high-profile cases. They have faced intimidation, threats and violence in the past to deter them from doing so.
The timing of the move is no coincidence. The 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown falls on Thursday and the Government is eager to suppress dissenting voices.
Chinese lawyers taking on contentious human rights cases face limbo from Sunday after authorities did not approve an annual registration step the lawyers said was being used to stifle their work.
[…]The 18 or so lawyers whose work may be stymied belong to a loose network of advocates who have challenged the government over deaths in prison and labour-reeducation camps, farmers stripped of their land, children sickened by toxic milk powder and other sensitive cases.
The annual registration required by government rules is usually a routine step that must be completed by May 31. But the lawyers facing effective disbarment said they appear to have been punished for taking on contentious clients, including members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect.
The U.S. has responded with criticism. From AP via Taiwan News:
The United State says it is “deeply disturbed” by reports that China has refused to renew the licenses of human rights lawyers.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters Friday that the United States is urging “that rights lawyers in China be given full scope to practice law.”