Li Subin
Current Status

Practicing attorney

Case Summary

Li Subin was born in 1956 and originally practiced law in Luoyang, Henan Province. In 2002, Mr. Li sued the local authorities at the Henan Justice Bureau to stop them from collecting unauthorized registration fees from lawyers. In retaliation, his license to practice law was suspended. Although he successfully sued the Luoyang and Henan Judicial departments for reinstatement, he was unable to successfully regain his license.

In 2005, Mr. Li relocated to Beijing and joined the Yitong Law Firm as an administrator. While he was employed there, the firm defended the blind, self-educated legal activist Chen Guangcheng. Mr. Chen, who had exposed large-scale abuses by the family planning authorities in Linyi, Shangdong Provence, was charged under articles 275 and 291 of the Criminal Law with “damaging public property” and “gathering people to block public traffic.”

On October 4, 2005, Li Subin, together with lawyer Li Fangpin and law lecturer Xu Zhiyong attempted to visit Mr. Chen, who was then under house arrest. The three were accosted by more than a dozen unidentified men, detained, and taken to the Shuanghou police station where they were interrogated until the next morning. The three lawyers were then escorted back to Beijing without having been able to visit Mr. Chen.

On June 27, 2006, while Li Subin and lawyer Li Jinsong were driving to Shandong, a group of 20 men stopped them and overturned their car. Li Jinsong was detained and interrogated overnight.

In March 2009, the Beijing Haidian District Judicial Bureau ordered the law firm where Li Subin worked as an administrator, the Yitong Law Firm, to be shut down for six months because it had allegedly allowed Mr. Li to practice without a license—even though the firm’s founder insisted that Mr. Li had never engaged in the practice of law.

After the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo, Li Subin’s freedom to travel was restricted. On October 30, 2010, he was stopped at the Beijing Airport and prevented from making a planned two week trip to the United States, where he had been invited to observe the midterm elections and meet with congressmen, U.S. district court judges, and legal scholars. In late January and early February 2011, Li was twice prevented from crossing from Shenzhen into Hong Kong, from where he intended to fly to Washington D.C. to attend a human rights conference.

In early 2011, the Yitong Law Firm was allowed to resume operations, and Li Subin’s license was renewed. Li Subin continues to work as an independent legal activist. In late 2012, Li Subin was denied access to his client, fellow lawyer Gao Zhisheng, after Li Subin travelled to meet with him at Shayar prison in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Last updated July 18, 2018

Other Resources

Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, Addendum, Situations in specific countries or territories, ¶78, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/11/41/Add.1 (May 19, 2009), available at

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, ¶656-60, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/10/12/Add.1 (March 4, 2009), available at

Human Rights Watch, Against the Law: Crackdown on China’s Human Rights Lawyers, (June 2011), available at


Yang Yifan, “Interview with Li Subin: The last battle between Chinese lawyers and the Bureau of Justice,” ChinaAid, May 20, 2010, available at