China revokes rights lawyer's licence over criminal conviction

Pu Zhiqiang, a celebrated human rights lawyer in China, has had his licence to practise law revoked after making comments that criticised the Party.
Pu Zhiqiang, a celebrated human rights lawyer in China, has had his licence to practise law revoked after making comments that criticised the Party. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Authorities have revoked the licence of one of China's most celebrated human rights lawyers, he confirmed on Thursday (April 14), in the latest move to suppress critics of the ruling Communist Party.

Pu Zhiqiang posted a Beijing government statement on social media declaring his licence to practise law was withdrawn due to a December conviction over online comments that criticised the Party.

Pu, who has represented labour camp victims and dissident artist Ai Weiwei, was handed a three-year suspended prison term for "inciting ethnic hatred," and "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," in case which drew international condemnation.

"I was a lawyer for 19 years, and from today I am one no longer," he wrote in a post on the WeChat messaging service.

"I believe in the future, and I believe that in the future there will be change."

The revocation of his license was the latest episode in a widening crackdown on civil society under President Xi Jinping that seen more than 200 lawyers and legal activists detained or called in for questioning since last summer.

Pu, who is under surveillance in Beijing, told AFP he received the notice on Thursday.

The lawyer spent more than a year and a half in police custody before he was convicted. Rights groups, the US and the EU condemned his sentence.

In the comments for which he was tried, Pu said China did not need Communist rule, writing: "Other than secrecy, cheating, passing the buck, delay, the hammer and sickle, what kinds of secrets of governance does this party have?" He also condemned government policy in the mainly Muslim far-western region of Xinjiang as "absurd".

For the next three years Pu will be subject to police monitoring and will need permission to leave the capital, his lawyers have said.

If he breaks the law, or any conditions of his release, he will be sent to prison.