Pu Zhiqiang the best known human rights lawyer in China has been found guilty of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels” on his social media posts. Zhiqiang represented the dissident artist Ai Weiwei on tax evasion charges, that many believe were politically motivated. He also campaigned for the eventual abolition of the labour camp system, under which suspects could be detained for years without trial.
The court sentenced him to three years in prison but also suspended the sentence. He is the latest to be tried in a crackdown on dissidents in China. Mr Pu has been detained since May 2014, after he posting several messages on microblogging platform Weibo that were critical of the government. He had questioned the “excessively violent” crackdown on Uighurs in the restive Xinjiang region. He also alleged the Chinese Communist Party was an untruthful party, and mocked government rhetoric over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands which are also claimed by Japan.
Pu Zhiqiang was born in 1965 and practices as a civil rights lawyer in the People’s Republic of China specialising in press freedom, defamation, and product safety, among other issues. Based in Beijing, he is an executive partner of Beijing Huayi Law Firm. Pu is a prominent figure in the Weiquan movement, having advocated for writers and journalists in a number of high-profile cases. Due to the nature of his cases and his outspoken criticisms of official policies, Pu is monitored by security forces, has been detained and questioned on several occasions.
Mr Pu received his bachelor’s degree in History from Nankai University in 1986, and LL.M. degree from China University of Political Science and Law in 1991. When he was a graduate student, he joined the pro-democracy movement in 1989. Writing for the New York Review of Books, Pu described how he returns to the square annually with friends and family to mark the anniversary of the crackdown in fulfillment of a promise he made in 1989.
Known as an inveterate blogger on the Weibo platform, and his “casual sarcasm”. His posts are characterised by NYRB as “short, Twitter-like” and are “unusual for their cleverness”. He is well known as a crusader of human rights in China, and his blogging has always carefully navigated the legal minefield. His following numbers in the tens of thousands, however, once his Weibo accounts reach a certain level of popularity, censors delete his account and he has to start again.