Mo Shaoping was born in 1958 in Beijing and is a veteran of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. After studying law at the Beijing College of Politics and Law and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, he founded the Mo Shaoping Law Firm, one of China’s first and most successful law firms. In 2007, he was awarded the French Government’s Human Rights prize.
Mo Shaoping was one of the initial signers of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for fundamental changes in China, including an independent legal system, freedom of association, and the elimination of one-party rule. He has defended, pro bono, a number of dissidents charged with being threats to state security, such as Democracy Party of China (DPC) organizer Xu Wenli and labor activists Yao Fuxin and Xiao Yunliang. He also helped defend Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned co-author of Charter 08 and winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Mo Shaoping has not been treated as severely compared to many other Chinese defense lawyers, who are sometimes treated as harshly as the clients they defend. Nonetheless, the difficulties that he has faced highlight the vulnerability of lawyers in China, who face unlawful harassment and professional impediments on a daily basis.
Mr. Mo has repeatedly been denied access to clients by government agents. After Liu Xiaobo was arrested in December of 2008, Mr. Liu’s wife retained Mr. Mo to defend him. Mr. Mo filed several complaints challenging the legality of the arrest, but was informed by the police that he would not be permitted to defend Mr. Liu because, like Mr. Liu, he had been a signer of Charter 08. There is no basis in Chinese law for such a restriction.
Similarly, Mr. Mo was denied access to his client Liu Xianbin, who was charged with “incitement to subvert state power” for posting online about the 1989 massacre of protesters in Tiananmen Square and the imprisonment of fellow dissident Liu Xiaobo. Following the transfer of Liu Xianbin’s case from the procuratorate to the court in August of 2010, his lawyers were barred from meeting with him or reviewing evidence submitted by the prosecution.
Mr. Mo has also been subjected to surveillance, including the stationing of police outside of his home to monitor his movements during President Obama’s visit to China in 2009.
Mr. Mo’s freedom of movement has also been restricted. On November 9, 2010, he was prevented from flying to London for an academic conference. Police barred Mr. Mo and his travelling companion Professor He Wiefang from boarding the plane and questioned the two men for forty minutes. When pressed to give reasons for why the two could not leave China, police officers only stated that their trips to the United Kingdom posed “a threat to China’s national security”—which the lawyers believe referred to their invitation by Liu Xiaobo’s wife to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. However, the conference had been organized several months previously and was unrelated to Liu Xiaobo’s case.
Additionally, police removed Mr. Mo from his office on December 10, 2010 and held him under soft detention at Jiuhuashanzhuang, outside of Beijing. Although he was released the following day, his cell phone service was subsequently blocked.
Mo Shaoping continues to represent human rights activists in court, including Shanghai-based scholar and human rights activist Feng Zhenghu in March 2013.
Last updated June 5, 2013
Mo Shaoping, “China’s Lawyers Confront Systemic Dangers,” speech translated by Elizabeth M. Lynch, July 10, 2010, available at http://chinalawandpolicy.com/2011/02/16/translation-speech-by-mo-shaoping-discussing-the-dangers-for-china%E2%80%99s-lawyers/; available in Chinese at http://www.caijing.com.cn/2010-07-20/110482410.html.