Tang Jitian was born in Jilin on September 1, 1969. He began practicing law in 2005 in Guangdong. He relocated to Beijing in 2007, where he practiced with the Beijing Anhui Law Firm until his law license was revoked in 2009.
Mr. Tang is an outspoken advocate on behalf of those persecuted for their religious beliefs, such as Falun Gong practitioners. A law reform activist, he has pushed for direct elections in the Beijing Lawyers Association and 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.
As a consequence of Mr. Tang’s work and activism, both his personal law license and that of his firm were revoked.
In 2009, Mr. Tang’s employer, the Beijing Anhui Law Firm, failed a so-called licensing assessment. It was told it had failed because of the many controversial cases and clients the firm had taken on, including mass cases, victims of land grabs, detainees subjected to re-education through labor, Falun Gong practitioners and families of children poisoned by melamine-tainted milk powder. Additionally, firm attorneys had called for democratic elections within the Beijing Lawyers Association. Two partners in the firm were then forced to resign, leaving Anhui without the requisite two partners needed for a law firm license.
Mr. Tang’s personal law license was revoked in 2010 after he defended a Falun Gong practitioner in Sichuan. During the course of the trial on April 27, 2009, the judge repeatedly stopped Mr. Tang and fellow defense lawyer Liu Wei from speaking on behalf of their client. In 2010, the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau accused Mr. Tang and Mr. Liu of having “disrupted courtroom order and interfered with the regular litigation process” during the trial, in violation of Article 49(1), Clause 6, of the PRC Law on Lawyers. Their licenses were revoked, and although Mr. Tang appealed revocation, his appeal was unsuccessful. He then sued the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice for reinstatement and an apology.
In May 2010, Mr. Tang and Mr. Liu separately filed a criminal complaint with the Beijing Xicheng District Procuratorate against Xiao Lizhu, head of the Bureau’s Lawyers’ Management Department, claiming that she criminally abused her power by retaliating against them for their law reform efforts. Previously, Mr. Tang and Mr. Liu had made a criminal complaint against Ms. Xiao and other Bureau officials for extorting exceptionally high annual license renewal fees from lawyers.
Mr. Tang has suffered other punishments in addition to the revocation of his license. In May 2010, Shenzhen customs officials prevented him from crossing into Hong Kong. No explanation was given. On December 12, 2010, during a security crackdown against Charter 08 signers that coincided with the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Mr. Tang was seized in Beijing by National Security officers and forced to return to Yanji, Jilin province, the city where his household was registered.
On February 16, 2011, Mr. Tang attended a luncheon in Beijing at which he and other lawyers and activists discussed ways of helping Chen Guangcheng, a fellow rights lawyer then under house arrest. That evening, police forced their way into Mr. Tang’s home and took him into custody, where he was reportedly tortured. He was released on March 5, 2012 and placed under strict house arrest.
On February 1, 2013, Mr. Tang was detained by police and questioned for two hours when attempting to attend the appeals trial of former policeman, Wang Dengchao.
On May 13, 2013, Mr. Tang was among eight lawyers taken into custody in Ziyang County after going 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 being escorted out of Yingjie Township on May 14.
In June 2016, Mr. Tang was detained by authorities on the charge of “disturbing order in a workplace” and was reportedly tortured by police after protesting outside a detention center in Jiansanjiang. In November 2017, he was barred from entering Hong Kong for medical treatment after being refused surgery in Beijing, and is currently still banned from leaving China.
Last updated July 18, 2018
Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, “Our Response to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice’s Revocation of Our Lawyer’s Licenses as a Penalty,” April 20, 2010, available at http://monitorchina.org/en_show.php?id=8596.
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.
Tang Jitian, “Fighting for Rights Continues Even as Persecution Escalates — A Human Rights Attorney’s Experience and Perseverance,” 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, ¶78 & 86, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/11/41/Add.1 (May 19, 2009), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/11session/reports.htm.
Elizabeth Lynch, “The Rule of Law and China’s Recent Assault on Lawyers,” The Huffington Post, Feb. 21, 2011, available at www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-lynch/reality-or-myth-chinas-ru_b_825921.html.
China Human Rights Defenders, “Disbarment,” available at http://chrdnet.org/2010/06/03/disbarment/ (video in Chinese with English subtitles).
Edward Wong, “2 Chinese Lawyers Are Facing Disbarment for Defending Falun Gong,” New York Times, April 21, 2010, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/world/asia/22beijing.html.
Human Rights in China, “Lawyers Facing License Revocation Detail Irregular Courtroom Activities Permitted by Judge,” April 20, 2010, available at http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/press?revision_id=174069&item_id=174065.
The Guardian, “Four Chinese rights lawyers allege torture by police” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/15/chinese-rights-lawyers-police-torture
Hong Kong Free Press, “Rights activist Tang Jitian barred from leaving China to seek medical treatment” https://www.hongkongfp.com/2017/11/13/mainland-rights-activist-tang-jitian-barred-entering-hong-kong-seek-medical-treatment/