Mr. Li began his legal career as a specialist in intellectual property law, becoming a partner at the Beijing Global Law Firm. In the late 1990s, Mr. Li began advocating for civil rights cases, especially those involving persecuted religious groups.
In September of 2007, Mr. Li reported being followed and harassed by state security personnel. On September 29, 2007, one of these men invited Mr. Li to get into his car; when Mr. Li refused, he was seized, hooded, bundled into a vehicle, and driven out of Beijing. Over the next 6 hours, Mr. Li was beaten and shocked with electric batons. The safety of Mr. Li and his family was threatened if he did not end his law practice and leave Beijing. He was then driven to the woods at Xiao Tang Mountain, released in the middle of the night, and left to find his own way back to Beijing.
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.
On July 9, 2009, the Beijing Justice Bureau announced that Li Heping’s license to practice law would not be renewed, along with those of Jiang Tianyong, Li Xiongbing, Li Chunfu, Wang Yajun, and Guo Shaofei. The Bureau provided no justification for their decision concerning Li Heping beyond stating that he had failed his assessment. His license was not reinstated until six months later.
Mr. Li has continued to be harassed by authorities. He has been repeatedly placed under surveillance and house arrest, including for the length of U.S. President Obama’s visit to Beijing in 2009, and after the announcement of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Additionally, when departing from a fellow rights defense lawyer’s home in May of 2010, Mr. Li was detained until evening by police “on suspicion of burglary.” Similarly, when a group of lawyers and activists planned a lunch to discuss ways of helping Chen Guangcheng and his wife, Mr. Li was placed under house arrest to prevent his attendance.
On May 13, 2013, Mr. Li was taken into custody after he and four other lawyers rushed to Ziyang County seek the release of seven lawyers who had been detained after attempting to visit the Ziyang Legal Detention Center, allegedly the largest “black jail” in Sichuan Province. While in custody the lawyers were beaten by police and interrogated before all twelve lawyers were escorted out of Yingjie Township on May 14.
Mr. Li was detained between 2015 and 2017 during the “709 Crackdown”, emerging “emaciated” and “unrecognizable,” according to colleagues. He was released from government custody after being convicted on the charge of “subversion of state power”, for which he was tried in April 2017 in a closed session. Although he is now reunited with his family, Li was given a suspended three-year prison sentence following at his secret trial.
Last updated July 18, 2018
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, ¶345-52, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/13/22/Add.1 (Feb. 24, 2010), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/13session/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, ¶450, 484-487, 588-90, 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, ¶86 & 90, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/8/4/Add.1 (May 28, 2008), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/8session/reports.htm.