China: Beijing Blogger-Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan Harassed by Authority

Beijing blogger-lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan has been harassed by authority due to his involvement in the call for direct election of the Beijing Lawyer Association. Lui's Law firm, Yitong, may have to close down for six months.

According to Liu's blogpost yesterday (17 of Feb): two days ago, 16 of February, the Justice Bureau of Haidian District issued a notice to Liu's Law Firm, stating that there are “personnel who haven't required lawyer's license providing service”. The law firm has to submit a defend statement by noon on 17 of February. However, even though Liu has submitted the defend statement before noon time, the bureau issued a “punishment notice” to the firm at around 2:30pm yesterday. Another Beijing blogger Ai Weiwei disclosed in his blog that Liu's Law firm is under pressure to close for six months.

Liu explained in his blog that the personnel that Haidian Bureau of Justice referred to is Li Subin, a Henan lawyer, whose license has been suspended after he filed a charge against Henan's Bureau of Justice regarding abusive charge on lawyer registration. Later Liu's Law firm employed Li as a lawyer assistant – which becomes a pretext for the recent “punishment notice”. However, the real reason behind the harassment, according to Liu is related with the debate on direct election of Beijing Lawyer Association.

Last year, all practicing lawyers in Liu's law firm including Cheng Hai, Wen Haipo, Yeung huiwen and assistant Li Subin, were involved in a campaign for direct election. Their call has won support from other lawyers and alerted both Beijing Bureau of Justice and Lawyer Association. Later, all the lawyers involved were forced to leave Liu's law firm and Li Subin has also terminated his contract with the firm.

The ultimate aim of the authority is to shut down the law firm. Liu pointed out that similar harassment had happened to human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng before.

Liu Xiaoyuan won the Deutsche Welle's BoBs award of the best Chinese blog for 2008.DANWEI has interviewed him during the Chinese blogger conference last November:

Rebecca MacKinnon also interviewed Liu back in 2007 concerning his legal action against censorship practice of blog-hosting website, Sohu. Here is Rebecca's description of Liu and his law firm:

Liu's office is a dusty low-rent affair in a rabbit-warren of offices inside a hotel, inside a shopping center across from Beijing's West Train Station. Liu is the classic pulblic-defender type who you can find in many countries: dogged, determined, believing fervently in everybody's right to legal defense and a their day in court. China has a constitution and a legal system and he takes them both seriously – along with the rights that they are supposed to grant China's citizens. He defends people accused of all kinds of crimes who don't have connections or resources to hire fancy lawyers. He says a foreign journalist recently asked him why, as a Communist Party member, he was defending people accused of theft or murder. He says there is no conflict: after all he is serving the people, isn't he?

Liu is obsessed with the law, with justice, with the legal process. He is so obsessed, in fact, that he writes about these topics on over a dozen blog-hosting services – and says he posts to about six of his blogs nearly every day.


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