China: Zhu Shengwu – the first lawyer having his licence revoked because he speaks online

October 3, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Zhu Shengwu, practising lawyer in Shandong has recently been accused of making online speeches that “endangered state security”.  With the decision to penalise made by the Judicial Department of the Shandong province, Zhu has become the first ever lawyer to be forcefully stripped of his practising licence by administrative measure, not as a result of any professional misconduct but of exercising his civil right of expression.

Zhu’s case came after Zhenjiang lawyer Wu Youshui’s penalty by the local lawyers association of “a 9-month suspension of membership”, also because of his online speeches.  The Lawyers Law in China stipulates that all practising lawyers have to be members of the lawyers association.
Lawyer Zhu began his practice in January 2012. He has served in several law firms. He has been the director of Shandong Xinchang Law Firm in 2017 and he started taking up human rights cases in the same year.  Apart from his professional duties, lawyer Zhu has also been posting his comments on the social media in China on issues of social and political concerns.
On 16 September 2017, the Shandong Judicial Department issued a first notification of administrative penalty to lawyer Zhu Shengwu to revoke his licence of practice.  Zhu was accused of having posted on Sina microblog “speeches that negate the constitutionally established political system, the fundamental principles and that endanger state security”.  He was also allegedly having “seriously damaged the professional image of lawyers by refusing to correct himself but continued with his acts of law-violation despite the many interviews the judicial administration organ had had with him.”
On 10 September, lawyer Zhu requested the Judicial Department to hold a public hearing on the matter, which subsequently took place on 21 September. The authorities however confirmed that Zhu “had used the internet to incite discontent against the Party and the government” and should hence be “heavily punished”.  The decision to revoke the licence was upheld in an official notice dated 22 September 2017.

The roughly 10 online posts were issued between April and June this year (see attached). They either criticised or ridiculed the CCP, the government and or the leaders; and were mainly comments on government performances or expressions of one’s aspirations for freedoms and democracy.  It does not look that they have constructed any objective or concrete threat on state security.
It is worth noting that although the two Measures, that on the Administration of Law Firms and that on the Lawyers Practice,  effective since November 2916, provide the judicial administration organs with the power to supervise and instruct law firms and lawyers, the prescribed power is confined to the behaviours and performances in the professional realm.
The issue has raised strong queries that the revocation of Zhu’s licence by the Shandong Judicial Department lacked any legal or factual grounds. It could amount to power abuses and violation of civil rights on the part of the Shandong authorities.

When the authorities tackled issues of lawyers’ speeches or expressions in the past, they were more prone to using the criminal procedures. But in Zhu’s case, the judicial administration organs have gone beyond the power that the law prescribed them and proceeded directly to revoke a lawyer’s licence.
In this way, the complicated criminal procedure could be sidestepped, and the judicial administration organs might then extend their monitoring on lawyers’ conducts relatively easier and with lower cost.

There is another aspect of concern in Zhu’s case. Lawyer Zhu was born in the 80s and he is a new member to the community of the new lawyers.  He only started taking up rights defence cases in 2017 and early in the year, he pleaded non-guilty for Shandong petitioner Wang Jiangfeng who was accused of using abusive language against the old and new leaders in China, calling them “Mao thugs” and “Xi Baozi”.  In April, Wang was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”.  The case is pending for appeal.  [1]
To apply the extreme administrative penalty but without justifiable legal grounds, it is worried that the move of the Shandong Judicial Department is also a sign of warning those who are new to join the rights lawyers’ community
Over the recent weeks and months, at least 6 law firms across the country have been searched by taskforce formed by multi-government departments, 3 well-known lawyers are forced to change firms and at least lawyers including lawyer Zhu Shengwu have had their rights to practice either suspended or revoked for their online expression.
In the wake of the 709 Crackdown, the situation of rights lawyers in China will still warrant further international attention as they are being made target of another round of squelching.
Lawyer Zhu has appointed Guangdong lawyer Sui Muqing to take legal action for his case. [2]

 

For Enquiries:

Lawyer Zhu Shengwu (mainland China):  +86 186 6893 6828 (please whatsapp first)

Lawyer Sui Muqing (mainland China): +86 137 1112 4956 (please whatsapp first)

Kit Chan, China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (Hong Kong): +852 9735 1611

[1] “Zai Weixin shag chen lingdaoren xibaozi, Shandong wangmin Wang Jiangfeng zao panxing 2nian” Hong Kong 01, 15/04/2017https://www.hk01.com/sns/article/84627  (visited 29/09/ 2017)

[2]  According to the Law on Administrative Review (2009), lawyer Zhu may apply for administrative review at the Shandong Provincial government within 60 days after receiving the notice on the decision to penalise. He may also apply in accordance to the Administrative Litigation Law for administrative litigation in the court within 6 months.

===================================================================

新聞稿 (供即時發放)

祝聖武:首位因言論而被吊照的律師

山東執業律師祝聖武被指網上言論危害國家安全,拒絕改正,日前被山東省司法廳提出行政處罰,成為首位因行使公民言論自由權利,而當局未有指控涉及任何專業行為失當情況下,被以行政手段,強行褫奪其專業資格作為懲治的律師。

這是繼浙江吳有水律師因微博言論被當地律師協會「暫停律協會員資格9個月」後;再有中國律師因為個人言論而遭受嚴厲的行政處分。

祝聖武於2012年1月開始執業,曾於多間律師事務所工作,2017年為山東信常律師事務所主任,同年開始代理維權個案。除專業職務外,祝律師亦不時於微信及微博發表的帖文,針砭時政。

2017年9月6日,山東省司法廳向祝聖武律師發出行政處罰通知,指其在新浪微博發表「否定憲法確立的根本政治制度、基本原則和危害國家安全的言論」,並「在司法行政機關多次約談後,拒不改正並繼續實施違法行為,嚴重損害了律師行業形象」,決定吊銷其執業證。

祝律師於9月10日要求司法廳就此召開公開聽證。有關聽證會已於9 月21日進行,山東省司法廳最終認定祝律師「利用網路挑動對黨及政府的不滿」,有必要「從重處罰」,決定維持原判。

縱觀祝律師約十個網上帖文,均發表於今年四到六月期間(見附件);雖然涉及對中國共產黨、政府及領導人的批評或調侃,但內容都以月旦施政及表達對民主自由追求為主,屬於中國憲法保障的言論自由範圍之內,未見得會對國家安全構成任何客觀或是實際的威脅。

儘管在2016年11月生效的《律師事務所管理辦法》和《律師執業管理辦法》中均有規範律師言論的條文,亦明言司法行政機關可依照《律師法》和上述管理辦法的規定對律師及律師事務所進行監督指導,但條文授予司法行政機關的權力,均限於監管執業行為和範疇。

是次事件令人強烈質疑,山東司法廳吊銷祝律師的執照,不但缺乏法理及事實基礎,亦有濫權和侵害公民憲法權利之嫌。

在祝案中,當局避開過往在針對律師言論時慣用的刑訴手段,改由司法行政機關以超越法律所賦予權限的方式,直接吊銷律師執照。

這種做法繞過繁複的刑事司法程序,不但讓司法行政機關得以擴大對律師日常行為的管控,而且管控的成本也相對低和省事。

事件另一值得注意的地方是,80後的祝聖武律師,是人權律師社群的新進成員,今年才開始辦理維權案件;於年初曾代理山東招遠訪民王江峰案,去年被指在微信朋友圈進行政治謾罵,曾以「毛賊」和「習包子」等評論中國新舊領導人,今年四月被判「尋釁滋事」罪成,判囚兩年,案件上訴中。[1]

山東司法廳在未有合法理據下對祝律施以行政極刑,也難免令人質疑當局想要向新進的人權律師起示警作用。

近月發生多宗涉及不同省份的至少3位知名人權律師被迫轉所,6間律師事務所被大規模搜查的事件,以至包括祝聖武律師在內的2位因言論而被暫停或取消執業權利的案件,正好反映了中國維權律師社群,在經歷709抓捕後,很可能在面對政府的另一波打壓懲治,後續發展,需要國際注意。

祝律師現正委託廣東隋牧青律師就上述處罰提出法律行動。[2]

 

查詢:

祝聖武 律師 (中國大陸):+86 186 6893 6828 (請先whatsapp)

隋牧青 律師 (中國大陸):+86 137 1112 4956 (請先whatsapp)

陳潔文-中國維權律師關注組 (香港): +852 9735 1611

 

[1] 《在微信上稱領導人「習包子」 山東網民王江峰遭判刑2年》香港01, 15/04/2017 https://www.hk01.com/sns/article/84627  (瀏覽29/09/ 2017)

[2]  祝律師可根據《行政覆議法》(2009)於收到處罰決定書起60日內向司法部或山東省人民市政府申請行政覆議;或根據《行政訴訟法》於六個月內向法院提出行政訴訟。

 

Little-Known Chinese Lawyer Disbarred for Defending Freedom of Speech

http://www.idhae.org/observatoire-fr-wews170922.htm (FRANCAIS)

Tagged:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: