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ATTORNEY URGENT  ALERT

 

CHINA

 20 April  2010 

  Harassment over

Lin Hongnan escalated

    

 Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice forcibly ordered the dissolution of Fawei Law Firm, the law firm defending Fujian Netizens  .

 

Source : 

 

 

 

Law Firm of Lawyer Defending Fujian Netizens Ordered to Dissolve Fawei Law Firm, the law firm at which Lin Hongnan  attorney for convicted Fujian digital activist Wu Huaying , was a partner, was informed on April 21 by the Fuzhou Bureau of Justice that it must close within 15 days.

Harassment over the Fujian lawyer, Lin Hongnan, who took up the case of “Three Fuzhou Netizens” escalated. After suspending his license for 1 year in December 2009, the Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice forcibly ordered the dissolution of Lin’s law firm by accusing the firm of holding unlawful statutory conditions of establishment

 

The notice received by the firm, dated April 20, gives the following explanation: in December 2009, Lin's lawyer's license was suspended for one year. Since Lin was a partner at the firm, and could no longer continue in that capacity without his license, the firm was obligated to name another partner to replace him. The Bureau of Justice cites Articles 22 and 53 of the Lawyers' Law in its notice. Lin's license was suspended in retaliation for his handling of "sensitive" human rights cases, including defending Wu Huaying, though officials cited a 2001 case in which Lin allegedly "divulged secrets" in justifying their decision. Before he went into private practice, Lin, who turns 71 this year, was a government official in Fuzhou who once headed the Lawyers' Management Office of the Fuzhou Bureau of Justice—the same office which is now retaliating against him and his firm.

 

A few days after the three netizens were convicted of libel, Lin received another notice from Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice, enforcing the dissolution of his law firm.

On 20 April 2010, a few days after the three netizens were convicted of libel, Lin received another notice from Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice, enforcing the dissolution of his law firm. Citing that Lin couldn’t assume duty as a law firm partner during his license suspension, the Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice implicated his firm failed to maintain the statutory conditions of establishment by having less than 3 partners. The firm was ordered to go into liquidation within 15 days.

The regulation cited on the notice, “Administrative Measures for Partnership Law Firms”  which was issued on 18 June 2004, should have been replaced by a newer regulation, “Administrative Measures for Law Firms” (Order of the Ministry of Justice No.111) issued on 18 July 2008 according to the “Decision of the Ministry of Justice on Abolishing Twelve Pieces of Rules Promulgated by the Ministry of Justice”  (Order of the Ministry of Justice No.116) announced on 26 February 2009. As stated in Article 26 and 27 of the “Administrative Measures for Law Firms”, law firm could apply for change of registered partner and forms of organisation.

According to the source, Lin has been processing the application for the change of registered partner before receiving the notice of dissolution. Yet, the application procedures are complicated and time-consuming. Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice indeed has given no notice of suspension for rectification beforehand. Thus, the Bureau shouldn’t simply by quoting the “Law on Lawyers” ,  Clause 1 of Article 22, “for those who cannot maintain the statutory conditions of establishment and cannot meet the requirements after rectification within the limit of time”, and the repealed “Administrative Measures for Partnership Law Firms”, Clause 1 of Article 37, “for Partnership Law Firms having less than 3 partners and fail to fill that up within 3 months”, to order the dissolution

The case of “Three Fuzhou Netizens” aroused territory-wide concern. The three netizens, Fan Yanqiong, Wu Huaying and You Jingyou were accused of “false accusation and defamation” after helping a petitioner, Lin Xiuying to post up records of her grievance on internet. Lin took up the case and defended for Wu Huaying. About 5 days before the first trial in December 2009, Lin Hongnan received a penalty notice from Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice, ordering a 1-year suspension of his license, thus, immediately restricting him to legally represent the three netizens.

 .

Moreover, the recent promulgation of “Punishment Measures for Illegal Acts of Lawyers and Law Firms” ( Order of the Ministry of Justice No.122) and “Measures for the Annual Inspection and Evaluation of Law Firms” (Order of the Ministry of Justice No.121) has similarly created more hurdles to inhibit lawyers and law firms from normal practicing. These administrative regulations only aimed at harassing human rights lawyers, depriving their rights to practice and defend, but have made no contribution to the judicial reform. Why does the nation who often proud of his judicial system and rule of law, keep imposing administrative regulations to interpret his existing law? Isn’t that an unlimited extension of the rule of law to rule by party?

 

IDHAE  criticises the judicial authorities for making use of the administrative regulations to harass lawyers and law firms. We reiterate our condemnation against the Ministry of Justice for imposing all kinds of administrative regulations in violation to the rule of law.

 

 

Idhae has sent the official letter.

 

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW

 

Send The IDHAE LETTER TO ADRESSES MENTIONNES BELOW

 

[Your name here]

 

To the PRC Ministry of Justice

To the All China Lawyers’ Association

 

Lawyer Lin Hongnan, defence lawyer of defendant Wu Huaying in the Case of the Fujian Netizens  has been given an administrative punishment in the form of a one year suspension from practice by the Justice Bureau of Fuzhou City, at a time when the time limit within which a verdict ought to be announced in the Fujian Netizen Case has already been exceeded.

 

On 20 April 2010, a few days after the three netizens were convicted of libel, Mr. Lin received another notice from Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice, enforcing the dissolution of his law firm by accusing the firm of being subject to unlawful statutory conditions of establishment.

 

  Lin Hongnan, took up the case of “Three Fuzhou Netizens”, which aroused territory-wide concern. The three internet users, Fan Yanqiong, Wu Huaying and You Jingyou, were accused of “false accusation and defamation” after helping a petitioner, Lin Xiuying, to post up records of her grievance on internet. Mr. Lin took up the case and defended Wu Huaying.

 

About 5 days before the first trial in December 2009,   Lin received a penalty notice from the Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice, ordering a 1-year suspension of his licence, thus immediately preventing him from legally representing any of the three defendants.

 

Citing the fact that Mr. Lin could not assume his duty as a law firm partner during his licence suspension, the Fuzhou City Bureau of Justice stated that his firm had failed to maintain the statutory conditions of

 

Lawyer Lin Hongnan, president of the Fujian Fawei Law Firm and a famous senior lawyer now in his seventies, has throughout his professional career respected and preserved professional ethics and consistently taken facts as the basis and the law as the standard.

 

In taking on cases of nationwide significance such as the Fuqing City Discipline Committee Bomb Attack Case, the ‘Fuzhou Police and Bandits Collusive Murder Case’ and the ‘Fujian Netizen Case’ of the netizens accused of making false accusations, he has always sought to obtain the fullest possible protection for citizens’ legal rights, and ensure respect for the laws of the state.

 

But due to Lawyer Lin Hongnan’s insistence on respecting the minimum requirements of justice and conscience, and due to his persistence in speaking up in the interests of justice, he has now himself become a victim of injustice. Five days prior to the hearing in the case of the Fujian internet activists, during a meeting with the defendant Wu Huaying, Lawyer Lin was suddenly served with a ‘Notification of the hearing in the case of an administrative punishment imposed on Lawyer Lin Hongnan’.

 

The purported reason for the Fuzhou City Justice Bureau’s 23 December 2009 decision to suspend Lawyer Lin Hongnan from practice for one year was that in 2002, when Lawyer Lin Hongnan was acting as defence lawyer in the ‘Fuqing City Discipline Committee Bomb Attack Case’ (NB a case that was not classified as secret and that was tried publicly), he had without having obtained the Court’s permission photocopied the minutes of a Fuqing City Discipline Committee meeting designated as ‘secret’ and handed a copy to the family of the defendant, with the result that the contents of this document were later disclosed on an overseas website.

 

We believe that the evidence for this administrative punishment is insufficient, that it was procedurally incorrect, that the decision violates Lawyer Lin Hongnan’s legal right to exercise his profession and that it is contrary to the principle of ruling the country in accordance with law.

 

1) The administrative punishment seriously lacks factual evidence

 

The document referred to by the Fuqing City Justice Bureau is a document entitled ‘Minutes of a meeting on the handling of three major suspected lapses of discipline of Wu Jianxi;’ these ‘minutes’ were materials relevant to the case of the Fuqing City bomb attack and they were included in the file of this case kept by the investigating authority, the police. Having undergone scrutiny by the prosecution office at two levels, followed by public indictment, they were transferred to the Court; and [the minutes] were produced at trial and their value as evidence discussed then. The Fuqing City bomb attack was a case that was tried in public and attracted nationwide attention; the aforementioned minutes were part of the case file and they were in no way ‘secret’ within the meaning of the State Secrets Law. Apart from this, Lawyer Lin Hongnan was only one among ten lawyers for the six defendants in this case. All of these lawyers could have made a photocopy of the document when accessing it in the Court. The Fuzhou City Justice Bureau has no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate that the document was leaked by Lawyer Lin Hongnan; and it cannot even be excluded that it was taken out by a member of the court or the prosecution office.

 

2) Even if the evidence could be established, the administrative punishment in this case would still violate the statutory time limitation [for administrative punishment] of two years.

 

The ‘notice on a hearing regarding the administrative punishment against Lawyer Lin Hongnan’ was served on 6 November 2009 and the hearing took place on 20 November 2009. But this hearing procedurally violated the ‘Administrative Punishment Law’ and section 22 of the ‘Procedural Rules for Hearings on Administrative Punishments by Justice Administration Authorities.’ The justice administration authority failed to make the ‘Suggestion Letter on Administrative Punishment’ and the evidence in this case available to the Applicants, and the appraisal authority in this case, the State Secrets Bureau, did not appear at the public hearing. The witnesses Chen Kebin, Wu Huaying, Chen Wei and others did not attend the hearing, There was no opportunity for the affected party to discuss the evidence in the presence of the appraisal authority and witnesses, and thus the party was not given its full rights to present its own summary of the case and engage in advocacy to make its case. Several lawyers tried to attend the hearing but were not admitted to it; yet the affected party was not informed in advance of the reason why the hearing was not public. There has moreover been a violation of section 22 of the ‘Procedural Rules for Hearings on Administrative Punishments by Justice Authorities’ which requires that the parties in a hearing on administrative punishment be given a written decision within fifteen days; no such written decision was provided within fifteen days.

 

An further aspect is that the photocopying of the minutes of the meeting took place in 20002 and that in November 2004 the Fuzhou City criminal investigation squad of the police already called Lin Hongnan and three other lawyers in for question, and that Lin Hongnan at the time gave an explanation, after which the police neither produced an assessment nor took any further measures. From this it can be seen that the time limitation for administrative punishment of two years had already been exceeded.

 

On this basis, we call upon the Ministry of Justice and the All China Lawyers’ Association to discharge its responsibility for protecting the professional rights of the legal profession, and to set up an investigation team to examine the case of Lawyer Lin Hongnan.

Sincerely yours,

 

[Signature]

 

Minister Wu Aiying 

Ministry of Justice of the People’s Republic of China

No. 10, Nandajie, Chaoyangmen

Beijing, People’s Republic of China, Postal Code: 100020

Fax: +86 (010) 84772883

Email: minister@legalinfo.gov.cn         

 

 

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