In March 2005, the Shanghai Bureau of Justice banned accomplished Chinese lawyer Guo Guoting from practicing for one year. Charged with ¡°defiling and slandering¡± the Communist Party and government, this recent action is only the latest in a series of harassment Mr. Guo has faced in past months for his legal work on behalf of activists.
Labelled the ¡°accidental activist¡± by the New York Times, Mr. Guo is a respected, nationally known attorney in China who specialized in maritime law for over twenty years before he began human rights practice in 2003. A founding partner of Shanghai Tian-yee Law Group, Mr.Guo is Arbitrator of the China Maritime Arbitration Commission, a member of the International Bar Association, Committee of Maritime Law and Committee of International Trade Law, and visiting professor of Wuhan University, Shanghai Maritime University and China Economic and Trade University. He has also translated and authored over a dozen law books and published more than 200 papers in the fields of commercial litigation, arbitration practice, international trade law and maritime law.
Guo Gouting, also known as Thomas Guo, first raised the ire of Chinese authorities when he represented fellow Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong, who had been jailed after a five-hour secret trial for defending the right-to-housing for Shanghai residents. Zheng, who was sentenced in October 2003 to three years in prison, was formally charged with ¡°supplying state secrets to foreign entities¡± after faxing public documents about a real estate case to a human rights group in the United States. Guo¡¯s client had angered Shanghai officials by filing hundreds of lawsuits on behalf of dispossessed Shanghai residents amidst alleged official corruption in land sales.
Since 2003, Guo has been legal counsel on a number of controversial cases involving Falun Gong members, activist journalists and cyber-dissidents, including imprisoned writers Shi Tao, Zhang Lin and Huang Jinqiu. Guo was handed a year-long work ban after being accused of ¡°defiling and slandering¡± the Communist Party and state government. In their decision, authorities cited articles written by Guo and posted online, including a piece for the Epoch Times online magazine on February 16, in which he explained his defence of Qu Yanlai, a Falun Gong practitioner imprisoned near Shanghai (http://english.epochtimes.com/news/5-2-16/26439.html).
Guo has faced significant official harassment and intimidation designed to prevent him from carrying out his duties as a defence lawyer. Authorities have illegally prevented Mr. Guo from meeting with his clients and have stormed his office, seizing his computers and licence. He was also placed under house arrest and may face imprisonment.
Mr. Guo’s case has drawn the attention of international human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders.
On April 7, 2005, a letter of concern written by Clive Ansley, LRWC China Country Monitor, was sent to Mr. Hu Jintao, President of People¡¯s Republic of China, with copies sent to the Minister of Justice and Director of the Shanghai Justice Bureau. The letter expresses grave concern for the safety of Guo Guoting, and for the acts of intimidation perpetrated against him by the Shanghai Justice Bureau and the Chinese Public Security Bureau. The letter reminds President Hu of China¡¯s legal responsibilities under the country¡¯s own constitution as well as numerous binding international conventions to which it is a signatory.
LRWC laments the treatment of Lawyer Guo Guoting, whose case is indicative of the lack of progress on issues of human rights and the rule of law in China.