Li Fangping, born in 1974, is a lawyer with Ruifeng Law Firm in Beijing. As a result of Mr. Li’s outspoken criticisms and unwillingness to bow to political pressure, he has been constantly harassed by police. He continues to practice law and actively encourages individuals to seek relief from the Chinese courts, even in politically-charged matters.
Mr. Li’s involvement in the defense of the blind, self-educated legal activist Chen Guangcheng led to repeated incidents with the police. Mr. Chen, who exposed large-scale abuses by the family planning authorities in Linyi, Shangdong Provence, was charged with “damaging public property” and “gathering people to block public traffic.” On October 4, 2005, Li Fangping, fellow Beijing lawyer Li Subin, and law lecturer Xu Zhiyong attempted to visit Mr. Chen, who was under house arrest. Over a dozen unidentified men attacked and seized the visitors, who were then taken to the Shuanghou police station. They were interrogated until the following morning, and then escorted back to Beijing.
On August 17, 2006, Li Fangping, lawyer Zhang Lihui, and Xu Zhiyong returned to Linyi to attend Mr. Chen’s trial, scheduled for the following day. A group of eight men followed them into a restaurant, where they physically intimidated the group and accused them of petty theft. Mr. Li and Mr. Zhang were released from detention after two hours, but barred from Mr. Chen’s trial; Mr. Xu was detained until it was too late for him to attend the proceedings.
On December 27, 2006, Li Fangping and lawyer Li Jinsong again traveled to Linyi to meet with Mr. Chen in order to discuss his second appeal. Two cars without license plates stopped their overnight bus; unidentified men boarded and dragged Li Jinsong out, beating him with metal pipes. When Li Fangping stepped off the bus, he was attacked as well, sustaining head injuries that required emergency care.
Li Fangping has been subject to frequent police surveillance and limitations on his freedom of movement. From May 25 to June 7, 2009, in anticipation of the 20th anniversary of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, police monitored Mr. Li’s movements, requiring that he be escorted whenever he left his home. His home was guarded by police off and on throughout October of 2010. On November 8, 2010, he was put under house arrest for one day to prevent him from attending a legal conference initiated by the French consulate.
Mr. Li’s professional responsibilities to his clients have continued to be subject to police interference. On November 15, 2010, Mr. Li attempted to visit his client Zhao Lianhai, a leading activist for parents of child harmed by melamine-tainted milk who was charged with “disturbing social order.” Officials at the Daxing Detention Center refused to allow him to meet with his client. The following week, when Mr. Li and lawyer Peng Jian again attempted to visit Mr. Zhao, they were handed a note firing them, purportedly from Mr. Zhao. Mr. Zhao was never permitted to speak directly to his lawyers, and it is suspected that he was coerced into dropping his appeal. Mr. Li and Mr. Peng were subject to tight surveillance immediately afterwards.
In the period surrounding the announcement and ceremony awarding Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Li’s freedom of movement was further restricted. On October 8, 2010, Mr. Li was placed under surveillance for three weeks. On December 7, two days before the ceremony, police took Mr. Li to the airport and sent him to the southeastern province of Fujian, warning him against speaking publicly about the prize and requiring that he travel in police vehicles.
On April 29, 2011, Mr. Li was kidnapped by unidentified persons from outside of the offices of the Beijing Yirenpeng Center, where he is a legal advisor. He was released from detention on May 4, 2011. Li Fangping continues to practice law at the Riufeng Law Firm in Beijing.
In June 2015, Li met with the Fujian activist Tu Fu (also known as Wu Gan), who was detained on charges of “defamation” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”. In a 2017 interview, Li described the details of his 2011 kidnapping, including a 30-hour interrogation session and being handcuffed to a chair as he slept. He reports that he was ordered to attend a “symposium” in August 2017 , which was organized by the Chinese government and demanded lawyers endorse a “declaration” accepting tighter control on the legal profession.
Last updated July 18, 2018
Li Fangping, “The Challenges Rights Defense Attorneys in China Face and Its Future Prospects,” July 5, 2009, available at http://www.cecc.gov/pages/roundtables/2009/20090710/FinalLawyersStatements_bob%20Fu.pdf.
Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, Addendum, Situations in specific countries or territories, ¶67, 85, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/11/41/Add.1 (May 19, 2009), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/11session/reports.htm.
Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, Addendum, Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received, ¶466, 588-90, 652-55, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/12/Add.1 (March 4, 2009), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/10session/reports.htm.
Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, Addendum, Situations in specific countries or territories, ¶88, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/8/4/Add.1 (May 28, 2008), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/8session/reports.htm.