Pu Zhiqiang
Current Status

Disbarred, under surveillance

Case Summary

Pu Zhiqiang, born in rural eastern China in 1965, is currently a partner at Beijing Huayi Law Firm.  Mr. Pu received a Bachelor’s in History from Nankai University in 1986 an a LL.M. from China University of Political Science and Law in 1991. He passed the bar in 1995. In the spring of 2005, Mr. Pu was a visiting scholar at Yale Law School, where he conducted comparative research on media and the law.

Although Mr. Pu practices in the areas of real estate, bankruptcy, anti-trust, finance, and criminal defense — including defending fellow lawyer Zheng Enchong and Tibetan environmentalist Karma Samdrop — he is best known as a pioneering free-speech lawyer.

Mr. Pu has come under scrutiny by Chinese authorities as a result of both his free-speech cases and his political beliefs. In 1989, Mr. Pu joined the pro-democracy movement; in 2008, he was one of the original 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.

In June of 2006, Mr. Pu sent out a text message to friends asking them to join him the following day to reflect on the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The police summoned him at 1 A.M. to have a “chat,” and then again at 10:20 A.M. the next day, after which he was detained and questioned the whole day. Mr. Pu was similarly summoned by police in response to the release of Charter 08 and after the announcement of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The government has also interfered in several of Mr. Pu’s trials, compromising his efforts to represent his clients. For example, in 2009, Mr. Pu defended Tan Zuoren, an earthquake activist, against charges of defaming the Communist Party regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. On the morning of August 12, the defense’s witnesses were woken by police in their hotel rooms, beaten, and prevented from attending trial. Mr. Pu’s client Mr. Tan was found guilty and received a five year sentence.

On February 8, 2013, Mr. Pu was temporarily banned from using Weibo after using his microblog to criticize former security chief Zhou Yongkang. On May 21, 2013, Mr. Pu discovered that he had been labeled a “key person” by the government when he was refused entrance into the Riu’an Hotel in Beijing.

In December 2015, Pu was found guilty of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “creating disturbance” by a court in Beijing after posting criticism of the Communist Party on social media, and sentenced to a suspended three-year prison term. Prior to the indictment, he was held in a detention center for 19 months. He is currently under “residential surveillance” and has since been disbarred.

Last updated July 18, 2018

Other Resources

Pu Zhiqiang, “Where Officials Serve the Devil,” The Age, Dec. 10, 2010, available at http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/where-officials-serve-the-devil-20101209-18rc3.html.

Pu Zhiqiang, “‘June Fourth’ Seventeen Years Later: How I Kept a Promise,” Aug. 10, 2006, The New York Review of Books, available at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2006/aug/10/june-fourth-seventeen-years-later-how-i-kept-a-pro/?page=1.


Keith B. Richburg, “China crackdown on dissidents continues despite citizen’s Nobel Peace Prize,” Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2010, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/28/AR2010102803774.html.

Philip P. Pan, “In China, Turning the Law Into the People’s Protector,” Washington Post, Dec. 28, 2004, Page A01, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30146-2004Dec27.html.

The New York Times, “Chinese Rights Lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang, Is Given Suspended Prison Sentence” https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/world/asia/china-pu-zhiqiang-sentence.html