Authorities in the eastern province of Shandong are preparing to revoke the license of a rights lawyer who was hired to defend fellow rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, as the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues a nationwide clampdown on the legal profession.
Xi Xiangdong, who had been hired to represent Wang after his detention as part of a crackdown on the profession starting in July 2015, was notified by the Shandong provincial department of justice on Thursday that it will likely revoke his license to practise.
Wang told RFA that the authorities were likely retaliating after Xi spoke out against the mistreatment of his client Chi Shengang, an entrepreneur accused of involvement in organized crime.
“Lawyers like Xi Xiangdong tend to stick to the law when it comes to how lawyers should act, so they are likely anger some people, and suffer retaliation for that,” Wang said.
He said the authorities are likely taking issue with Xi’s attempts to do his job properly.
“If lawyers [like Xi] try to argue their case in court using reason, they see it as a failure to obey the judge,” Wang said. “This gives them the excuse they need to retaliate against the lawyer.”
According to the authorities, Xi had repeatedly ignored directions from the judge in the case, repeatedly interrupted judges and prosecutors and interfered with court proceedings.
Repeated calls to Xi’s phone rang unanswered on Thursday.
“Everything [in the Chinese justice system] works to the detriment of detainees and defendants,” Wang said. “Lawyers are forced to toe the line politically, and they have nowhere to turn for help, and can only rely on public opinion.”
“In some cases, this means that they will disclose details of cases,” he said.
‘The courage to expose and criticize’
Henan-based rights lawyer Ren Quanniu, who also faces the loss of his license to practice, said he supported Xi’s actions, because he was speaking out in his client’s interest.
“Real lawyers have the courage to expose and criticize [the authorities],” Ren said. “You can’t say they should remain silent if their clients are being treated illegally, or are in some kind of danger.”
He said he fears the authorities will continue to revoke lawyers’ licenses as a way of forcing them into compliance.
“Inside sources say that [the CCP] wants to deal with any lawyers who dare to speak out in public,” Ren said. “[Xi] won’t be the last to be warned, punished or lose his license … we may be seeing a new purge.”
Xi has the right to file an application for a disciplinary hearing, although such a hearing is unlikely to make much difference to the final outcome, according to rights lawyers.
Xi was initially hired by Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu to represent her husband following his disappearance in July 2015.
But he was later forced to drop the case after the ministry of justice threatened him with arrest.
Earlier this month, authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan suspended the license of rights attorney Lu Siwei at a disciplinary hearing, citing his public comments on the case of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea in August 2020.
Judicial authorities in Sichuan’s provincial capital Chengdu moved on Jan. 4 to strike Lu off, alleging that he made “inappropriate remarks” in public about the case, thereby “breaking Chinese law and professional guidelines for lawyers.”
Ren, who was hired to represent one of the Hong Kong 12 but denied access to his client along with the rest of the attorneys hired by the families, will have his disciplinary hearing on Friday.
Reported by Gao Feng and Gigi Lee for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.