Human Rights Lawyers ‘Disbarred’ by Paperwork
Since the beginning of 2009 — a sensitive year filled with anniversaries of uprisings — the Chinese government has been forcing human rights law firms such as Yitong to shut down.
Formally, there is no crackdown; no police are swooping in to seize files or send attorneys en masse to labor camps. Instead, Beijing is simply using its administrative procedures for licensing lawyers and law firms, declining to renew the annual registrations, which expired May 31, of those it deems troublemakers. Human rights groups say dozens of China’s best defense attorneys have effectively been disbarred.
“It’s a collective strike,” said Cheung Yiuleung, a leader of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, an advocacy organization based in Hong Kong. “Compared with individual warnings, the annual check of licenses is more effective. . . . It has had a frightening effect on all lawyers on the mainland.”