Pu Zhiqiang 浦志强
Crime: Creating a disturbance, and inciting ethnic hatred
Length of Punishment: Three years, suspended
Court: Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court
Trial Date: December 14, 2015
Sentencing Date: December 22, 2015
Dates of Detention/Arrest: May 6, 2014 (detained); June 13, 2014 (arrested)
Place of Incarceration: Beijing No. 1 Detention Center (pre-trial detention); home (suspended sentence)
Pu Zhiqiang is a prominent human rights lawyer and partner at the Huayi Law Firm in Beijing. Police seized Pu on May 4, 2014, after he attended a private event the previous day commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, and he was criminally detained two days later. Pu was arrested just as the legal limit for holding him under criminal detention was set to expire. He told his lawyer during a visit in June 2014 that he was being interrogated for up to 10 hours a day and that his health was worsening, in part due to inadequate treatment for his diabetes. Pu also suffers from high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Officials confiscated his medication when he arrived at the detention facility in Beijing, and he was later offered pills that he did not recognize. Before Pu was arrested, an application for his medical bail was rejected, with officials stating Pu would “pose a danger to society” if released. In November, the public security bureau recommended he be tried on two additional charges – “inciting ethnic hatred” and “inciting separatism” – reportedly due to a social media post Pu had written that criticised government policies in Xinjiang. Beijing No. 2 People’s Procuratorate indicted Pu Zhiqiang on May 15, 2015 on charges of “creating a disturbance” and “inciting ethnic hatred,” dropping two of the charges. Three days after Pu’s indictment, police released his neice Qu Zhenhong (屈振红) on “bail pending further investigation.” Following Pu’s conviction and suspended prison sentence, Beijing judicial authorities disbarred him on April 13, 2016.
Born on January 17, 1965, in Tangshan City, Hebei Province, Pu Zhiqiang entered Nankai University in Tianjin in 1982, and graduated four years later with a degree in history. Afterwards he became a history teacher at a vocational school in Hebei, until he was accepted into a Masters of Law program at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. He took part in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, including in the hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. After earning his degree in 1991, Pu was blocked from employment because of his activism and refusal to write a statement of repentance. It wasn’t until 1995 that he took the bar exam and received his license, and he began working as a lawyer in 1997. He has defended a number of human rights defenders, activists, victims of Re-education through Labor (RTL), Tibetans, and other high-profile cases related to free expression. From 2000 to 2003, he was a professor at the Beijing Broadcasting Institute (later renamed Communication University of China).
Among his cases, Pu represented environmental activist Tan Zuoren (谭作人) in 2009, artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) in 2011, and petitioner Tang Hui (唐慧) in 2013; Tang had been sent to RTL after seeking justice for her daughter, who was raped at the age of 11. In 2012, he embarked on a series of RTL cases in Chongqing which helped raise public awareness of the system, and contributed to a wider debate about RTL in both foreign and domestic media. After the abolishment of RTL in 2013, he turned to taking on cases related to shuanggui, an extralegal disciplinary process for Party officials. In addition to practicing law, Pu Zhiqiang has been involved in promoting rule of law. He was one of the first signatories of Charter 08, a manifesto for political and legal reforms to advance democracy and human rights in China.
Pu Zhiqiang’s call for an investigation into former national security head Zhou Yongkang (周永康) in February 2013 was widely disseminated and discussed on Chinese social media before being deleted by government censors.Zhou, who had led the rapid growth of the state security apparatus before retiring from the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012, has been the focus of a CCP internal corruption investigation since 2013. Qu Zhenhong (屈振红), Pu’s niece who works as a lawyer in his firm, was arrested on June 13, 2014. The reason for Qu’s arrest has not been confirmed, but some activists speculate that she was seized for assisting journalists in “illegally obtaining personal information” about Zhou Bin (周滨), Zhou Yongkang’s son. Pu was charged with the same crime, which may be related to this case as well.