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Prominent human rights lawyer denied bail by Chinese authorities

There have been many detentions and arrests of politically-inclined lawyers in China.

Tiananmen Square

Pu Zhiqiang has been detained by Chinese police, but they will not let the well-known attorney post bail. He, along with dozens of other activists, was detained in Beijing before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest.

The official reason for Pu’s detainment was him “causing a disturbance.” He allegedly took part in a meeting held in someone’s apartment in Beijing to “discuss the 1989 military suppression on demonstrators,” The Associated Press reported.

Zhang Sizhi, who is representing Pu, predicted Chinese police will charge his client.

"I don't think he will be released any time soon," Zhang added. "A criminal charge is very likely, given the circumstances and the reasons of the detention."

Many of the other people who attended the meeting at the apartment, and were detained, were released after June 4, which is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest. In total, there were about a dozen people at the apartment during the discussion, Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, said. Among the others who were detained on charges of causing a disturbance were Xu Youyu and Hao Jian, both academics, Liu Di, a blogger, and Hu Shigen, an activist.

But much of the attention among human rights activists has focused on Pu. Pu has represented dissidents before Chinese courts, including Ai Weiwei, the noted artist, and advocated for the closing of labor camps, news reports said.

“I am not surprised that Pu Zhiqiang was denied bail, though it is terribly disappointing,” Rachel Stern, who teaches law and political science at the University of California, Berkeley, told InsideCounsel in a statement on Tuesday.

“Practically, it means he is not going to be released anytime soon. It is also likely that the government is preparing to bring criminal charges against him,” she added.

Looking at the big picture, Stern says there has been a “long string of detentions and arrests of politically-inclined lawyers” in China.

“Since at least 2004, the Chinese authorities have been watching the legal profession carefully and cracking down on outspoken lawyers, especially those who refuse to listen to warnings,” Stern said. “Pu is known for his eloquence as an advocate, as well as for his finely-developed sense of what the authorities will tolerate.”

How and why do they protest? Richardson has said in a commentary written for CNN that in China, recently, “The Internet and social media have replaced the hand-lettered placards at Tiananmen, but the messages are similar: accountability for abusive officials, transparency from the state, justice for all.”


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Contributing Author

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Ed Silverstein

Ed Silverstein ( is a veteran freelance writer and and editor for magazines, websites and newspapers. He writes frequently for ALM Media's

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