[JURIST] The Beijing Judicial Bureau [official backgrounder] has refused to renew the licenses of a number of Chinese human rights lawyers before a Saturday deadline, a China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group [advocacy website] official said Friday. The bureau originally denied renewals to 500 lawyers, but eventually agreed to renew some licenses after the lawyers released a letter of complaint on the Internet. It was not clear how many lawyers were still being denied. Human Rights Watch named two of the denied lawyers as Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong [HRW report], both of whom have defended political dissidents, and suggested that the government was denying licenses in a bid to discourage vocal criticism of its human rights record. China is expected to enact new amendments to its Law on Lawyers [text] on Sunday, but HRW expressed skepticism that the changes would grant lawyers adequate protections against government retaliation. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.
Lawyers in China have been subjected to increasing persecution and intimidation by the Chinese government, according to a report [text; press release] released last month by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report found that rights lawyers working on cases involving sensitive issues, including land evictions [JURIST report], face the greatest opposition from authorities. Several rights lawyers have been detained or prosecuted for suspected "subversion of state power" or other dissident activities during the past several months, including Yang Maodong and Gao Zhisheng [JURIST reports]. In March, Teng Biao was released by the Chinese government after spending two days in custody [JURIST report]. China has been severely criticized for cracking down on human rights activists and political dissidents [JURIST report] ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.