November 13, 2018
The Chinese law firm raided at the start of a nationwide police operation targeting rights attorneys, law firms and activists in July 2015 has now “ceased to exist,” RFA has learned.
Police raided several prominent members of the Beijing Fengrui law firm on the night of July 9, 2015 and in the days and weeks that followed, detaining many of them on suspicion of subversion.
International rights groups have repeatedly called on China to release all human rights lawyers who remain behind bars, after more than 300 lawyers, law firm employees, and activists were detained and questioned in the crackdown.
While many were released from immediate detention, some lost their license to practice, while others found themselves and loved ones subjected to round-the-clock police surveillance and travel bans.
Former Fengrui partner Liu Xiaoyuan said officials at the Beijing municipal justice bureau, which overseas the legal profession, issued notification that its license to practice law had been revoked.
“Now that the license to practice has been revoked, Fengrui law firm has completely ceased to exist,” Liu told RFA on Tuesday.
“It is unable to carry out any activities related to [legal] practice,” Liu said.
In its early days, Fengrui was run by its founder Zhou Shifeng, later evolving into a partnership with more than 60 lawyers working on “sensitive” cases, with clients ranging from victims of the melamine-tained infant formula scandal, practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, and dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
Nine of its lawyers and administrative staff were detained in the initial July 2015 crackdown, and while some have been released, they have all been stripped of their license to practise, Liu said.