March 2, 2018
Minister Zhang Jun:
We are among the lawyers who have been disbarred or prevented from practicing as a result of coordinated suppression by the Ministry of Justice in the year 2017.
We are well aware that open letters are regularly received by ministries, commissions, and high officials in the Party, state, and military — some angry, some polite, some beseeching… letters of every kind imaginable. There are simply too many people who, unable to find redress anywhere else, will put their hopes in making direct appeal to officials. Whereas local officials may occasionally respond to letters, writing to high-ranking officials in Party Central is like tossing a rock into the ocean.
There are also many, in particular human rights lawyers, who act with goodwill, out of a concern for the people and the country, and write to high officials of various ranks. In the end they often meet with trouble of various sorts — the loss of licences to practice law, or even the loss of their personal freedom and retribution of all kinds. A recent example is lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) who wrote to the National People’s Congress with suggestions about appointments, dismissals, and constitutional amendments. Subsequently his license was revoked, and he was detained on the baseless charge of “obstructing official business” (妨碍公务罪), and in the end was formally arrested and charged with “incitement to subvert state power.” He was then placed under residential surveillance at a designated location.
For another example, veteran lawyers Cheng Hai (程海) and Zhou Lihui (邹丽惠), among others, wrote you an open letter in October 2017 — a sincere, respectful, evidenced, and thoroughly rational address. Yet merely days after the new year, Cheng Hai’s law firm was forcibly shut down, and a lawyer who had heretofore proudly called himself a “rule-of-law lawyer” faced the threat of losing the right to practice, as many before him.