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全球法律團體聯合聲明 — 強烈譴責中國政府以吊銷、註銷律師執業證之手段持續打壓維權律師

自2015年7月爆發轟動全球的「709大抓捕」起,中國政府打壓維權律師的行動已持續近三年。雖已接近尾聲,但打壓行動並未停止,而是從「刑事抓捕」轉變為更為隱秘的「行政懲戒」——即直接吊銷或註銷維權律師的執業證,剝奪維權律師的執業權。[1]據我們觀察,在最近8個月內,全中國已有17名維權律師及3間事務所陸續被吊銷或註銷執業證。對此,我們表示強烈譴責,並認為,中國政府的做法已嚴重違反中國憲法、律師法及國際法有關尊重和保障律師執業權利及公民權利的國家義務,中國政府應當立即無條件撤銷對受影響律師作出的吊銷或註銷執業證的各項決定,並停止對維權律師群體的一切管控和打壓。

我們注意到,從去年9月(即十九大前夕)開始,中國當局就已經在全國範圍內開展了新的一輪針對維權律師的打壓行動,並且愈演愈烈。在過去8個月時間裡,全中國共有9個省份的17名維權律師及3間律師事務所被吊銷或註銷執業證;僅過去一個月內,就有包括謝燕益、李和平、黃思敏丶文東海、楊金柱、覃永沛等在內的6名維權律師收到司法局發出的擬吊銷或註銷執業證的通知書;而廣西唯一一所維權律師事務所「百舉鳴律師事務所」,則更是被南寧司法局在其辦公場所強逼解散。儘管中國政府對外宣稱召開聽證會、給予律師申辯機會,但聽證程序卻極為不公開、不透明,救濟途徑形同虛設。而就在不久前召開的謝燕益律師的聽證會外,一名香港記者甚至被警方圍毆和非法扣留。[2]

同時,這一輪針對維權律師的吊牌運動,亦是「709大抓捕」的延續。在這17名被吊銷或註銷執業證的維權律師中,有超過一半是「709大抓捕」的涉案律師或涉案律師的辯護人,前者包括隋牧青、周世鋒、李春富、謝燕益、李和平等,後者包括余文生、文東海、楊金柱、覃永沛等。打壓前者,目的是要把維權律師群體的核心力量連根拔起;打壓後者,則是要把709抗爭運動中出現的後繼力量徹底剷除。

另外,我們亦注意到,中國政府正在以「行政懲戒」之名,行管控律師網路言論之實。儘管中國《憲法》第35條和聯合國《關於律師作用的基本原則》第23條均保障律師享有言論自由,且不應因其言論而遭受處罰,但如祝聖武、吳有水、余文生、楊金柱等律師都因為在網上公開批評中國共產黨及中國司法制度,而遭當局懲戒;玉品健律師則因他多次於網上撰文評論時政,而被當局向其事務所施壓並要求解雇;另外亦有彭永和、王龍德、王理乾等律師因為公開聲明退出律師協會,遭到報復而被註銷或吊銷執照。[3][4]由此可見,中國政府聲稱的「依法治國」只是欺騙世人的幌子,目的是企圖合理化其以言入罪、打壓異己的手段。我們注意到,前公安部副部長傅政華於今年3月開始擔任司法部部長,我們擔心未來局勢只會更加惡劣。

因此,我們強烈要求中國政府:
1. 立即無條件撤銷對受影響律師作出的各吊銷、註銷執照的各項決定;
2. 停止對維權律師群體的一切管控和打壓,確保律師不會因其代理的案件或發表的言論受到恫嚇、妨礙、不適當的干涉,或者起訴和行政制裁;
3. 切實遵守中國《憲法》、《律師法》及聯合國《關於律師作用的基本原則》有關保障律師權利的規定,尊重律師的執業權利及公民權利。
發起團體:
中國維權律師關注組,香港
聯署團體:
Human Rights Now,日本

律師助律師基金會,荷蘭

法政匯思,香港

臺灣聲援中國人權律師網絡,臺灣

臺北律師公會人權委員會,臺灣

日內瓦律師協會,瑞士
2018年6月6日

[1]根據《律師執業管理辦法》第23條,與所在律師事務所解除聘用合同,且在六個月內未被其他律師事務所聘用的律師,其律師執業證書將被註銷。儘管從法律層面講,註銷與吊銷性質不同,但過往經驗顯示,註銷的法律效果實質上與吊銷相同,律師一般都無法重新申請執業。
[2]https://hk.news.appledaily.com/…/…/article/20180520/20396145
[3]《中華人民共和國憲法》第35條:「中華人民共和國公民有言論、出版、集會、結社、遊行、示威的自由。」
[4]聯合國《關於律師作用的基本原則》第23條:「與其他公民一樣,律師也享有言論、信仰、結社和集會的自由。…..」

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Joint Statement to Strongly Condemn the Chinese Government’s Suppression against Human Rights Lawyers through Revocation and Invalidation of Lawyers’ Licenses

The Chinese government has continued its repression against human rights lawyers for almost 3 years since the start of the sensational and unprecedented “709 Crackdown” in July 2015. While the crackdown has seemingly come to an end, the suppression has not yet ceased. Apart from the manoeuvre of criminal detention, the Chinese government has now resorted to a subtler form of repression, administrative penalty, which involves revocation or invalidation of lawyers’ legal practice licenses, thus depriving them of their right to practice law.[1]

From our observation, at least 17 human rights lawyers and 3 law firms have had their licenses revoked or invalidated in China over the past 8 months. We, the undersigned, strongly condemn this manoeuvre. We believe that the acts of the Chinese government have seriously violated the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (“the Constitution”), the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Lawyers (“Lawyers’ Law”), and international human rights law which prescribes that state members shall respect and protect lawyers’ right to practice and the civil rights of all citizens. We urge the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all the decisions about revoking and invalidating lawyers’ licenses and to stop all forms of harassment, intimidation and repression against human rights lawyers in respect of their legal practice.

It has come to our attention that the Chinese authorities have launched another wave of nationwide suppression against human rights lawyers since September 2017 (i.e., the eve of 19thParty Congress), which has been intensifying. In the past 8 months, 17 human rights lawyers and 3 law firms from 9 different provinces have been deprived of the rights to practise as lawyers due to the revocation and invalidation of their practising licenses. In the past month alone, 6 human rights lawyers have already received notice from the Bureau of Justice that their licenses were to be revoked or invalidated, including Xie Yanyi, Li Heping, Huang Simin, Wen Donghai, Yang Jinzhu and Qin Yongpei. The sole human rights law firm in Guangxi, the Nanning Baijuming Law Firm, was also forced to be immediately shut down by the Nanning Municipal Bureau of Justice. Despite the Chinese government’s commitment to protect its citizens’ right to a fair and public trial which shall offer lawyers a fair hearing, the hearing procedures have never been truly open and transparent. All legal remedies are de facto futile. One Hong Kong journalist was even beaten by police and illegally detained while attempting to cover the hearing of lawyer Xie Yanyi.[2]

In the meantime, this wave of suppression of human rights lawyers is an extension of the notorious “709 Crackdown” in 2015. Amongst the aforementioned 17 lawyers, more than half are the 709 detainees or the defence lawyers for the 709 detainees. The former includes Sui Muqing, Zhou Shifeng, Li Chunfu, Xie Yanyi and Li Heping, etc., while the latter includes Yu Wensheng, Wen Donghai, Yang Jinzhu and Qin Yongpei, etc. The purpose of repressing the lawyers detained in the “709 Crackdown” is to uproot the core community of human rights lawyers, while the purpose of repressing their defence lawyersis to purge the honorable lawyers arising from the “709 Crackdown”.

It is also noted that the Chinese government has in fact controlled lawyers’ freedom of speech online by threatening to impose “administrative penalties”. According to Article 35 of the Constitution[3]and Article 23 of Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers (“the Principles”) by the United Nations,[4]lawyers are entitled to freedom of speech and expression. Lawyers shall not be punished simply for exercising their freedom of speech. However, lawyers Zhu Shengwu, Wu Youshui, Yu Wensheng and Yang Jinzhu all received punishment due to their online criticisms of the Communist Party of China and China’s judicial system. In the case of lawyer Yu Pinjian, the law firm he belonged to was pressured by the authorities to dismiss him because he had repeatedly made comments on current affairs and politics online. In addition, lawyers Peng Yonghe, Wang Londe and Wang Liqian had their licenses retributively revoked or invalidated due to their public announcements about quitting the officially-run Lawyers’ Association. Thus it can be seen that China’s alleged “rule of law” is just a veneer to deceive the public. The underlying purpose is to justify its unlawful acts of restricting freedom of speech and repressing dissidents. It is worth noting that the former deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security, Fu Zhenghua, was named Minister of Justice in March of this year. We share deep concern over the foreseeable exacerbation of the political situation.

In light of the above, we, the undersigned, solemnly demand the Chinese government to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally withdraw all the decisions in respect of the revocation and invalidation of lawyers’ practising licenses.
2. Stop all forms of political repression against human rights lawyers to ensure that lawyers do not suffer intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, prosecution or administrative sanctions for taking up sensitive cases or for giving speeches in accordance with their recognized professional duties.
3. Duly uphold and respect the legal rights enjoyed by Chinese lawyers, which include the right to practice and civil rights protected under the Constitution, relevant legislation governing the practice of lawyers in China, and the Principles of the United Nations.
Initiator:
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong

Co-signatories:
Human Rights Now, Japan

Lawyers for Lawyers, Netherlands

Progressive Lawyers Group, Hong Kong

Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network, Taiwan

Taipei Bar Association Human Rights Committee, Taiwan

The Geneva Bar Association, Switzerland
6th June 2018

[1]According to Article 23 of Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers, if a lawyer is dismissed by the incumbent law firm and not employed by a registered law firm for over 6 months, his or her legal practice license will be invalidated. From a legal perspective, the nature of “revoked” is different from that of “invalidated”. However, past experiences have shown that both statuses have same de facto outcome, lawyers generally cannot resume their practice.
[2]https://hk.news.appledaily.com/…/…/article/20180520/20396145.
[3]Article 35 of Constitution of the People’s Republic of China: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
[4]Article 23 of United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers: “Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly.”