Chinese officials on Friday suspended the law license of prominent human rights lawyer Li Jinxing. The Justice Bureau of the city of Jinan, where Li’s license is apparently registered, made the announcement [WSJ report] in an official notice. The bureau stated that it was taking this action as a response to Li’s unacceptable behavior in court while defending his client Yang Maodong. Specifically, according to the bureau notice, Li interrupted a judge, verbally abused court officials and interfered with formal court proceedings. Yang, better known as Guo Feixiong, is a free-speech activist who was sentenced to a six-year prison term after he displayed a banner calling on government officials to disclose their assets. The bureau has given Li three days to apply for a hearing on the suspension of his license, but Li stated that he is yet to decide whether he would appeal the ruling. Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] stated that the “government has just become increasingly intolerant of anyone challenging its power … Despite the promise of President Xi’s rule of law, these lawyers who are basically fighting to promote the rule of law on the ground are being punished.”
Li is a highly reputed lawyer well known for his civil rights advocacy in China’s human rights circle. Li, together with Beijing Institute of Technology professor Xu Xin, co-founded the Innocence Project of China [ABA report], modeled after its counterpart started in the US by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld in 1992. Through this organization, Li has managed to overturn approximately half-a-dozen wrongful convictions [WSJ report] in China in recent years. Specifically, in 2014 Li managed to overturn the convictions of four men accused of bombing a Communist Party office, and of a man accused of poisoning his neighbors. The defendants in both cases claimed that the confession was obtained through torture [ABA report]. Li’s work was highlighted in a report [WSJ op-ed] in July.