04/15/2016, 14.59
CHINA
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Stripped of his license, Pu Zhiqiang no longer able to practice law

The lawyer got three years in jail for posting subversive messages online, but his work for human rights is the main reason for his conviction. For a Hong Kong lawyer, Pu’s treatment is a “warning to others”, but it is not likely to work because many young lawyers “want to take on human rights cases”.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Chinese authorities have stripped lawyer Pu Zhiqiang of his license to practice law after he was convicted for posting subversive messages online, this according to his lawyers.

Mr Pu received a three-year suspended sentence last December, and remains under close watch.

"It was just a matter of time, following his sentencing," said Pu's friend and defence lawyer Shang Baojun. "We don't feel good about it, but we had made some mental preparation."

Pu will still be able to take on administrative tasks at his current law firm. However, he joins a long list of dissidents convicted and jailed for their commitment to human rights.

For Chinese Human Rights Defender (CHRD), Pu’s conviction makes a mockery of the rule of law in China.

His friends and fellow activists believe that his tweets on social media are not only one of the causes for his persecution.

In his posts, he described the Chinese Communist Party as not worthy of trust, and mocked China’s nationalist rhetoric vis-à-vis Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

However, the main target was his work as a lawyer, which began right after the Tiananmen riots when he represented several dissidents and human rights activists in court.

Pu has a Master of Laws degree from China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. He took part in the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989, and was one of 13 students who went on a hunger strike to protest against government corruption.

Over the past 25 years, he has always marked the 4 June massacre, visiting Beijing’s main square to remember the dead.

In 2008, he was among the first to sign Charter 08, a pro-democracy document drafted by Liu Xiaobo, who subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize and was given a 14-year jail sentence.

Hong Kong-based rights lawyer Albert Ho said Pu is not the first lawyer to lose his business license in China.

"The authorities do this as a warning to others, to create a chilling effect [for the legal profession]," Ho explained.

"But it doesn't seem to be working, because I have seen that there are a lot of younger lawyers coming up through the ranks in China now, who want to take on human rights cases," he added.

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