Pu Zhiqiang

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Pu Zhiqiang
Pu in 2013
Born (1965-01-17) 17 January 1965 (age 59)
EducationChina University of Political Science and Law (LLM)
Alma materNankai University
Known forHuman rights advocacy
MovementWeiquan movement
Criminal chargesIncitement of ethnic hatred, "picking quarrels and provoking trouble"
Criminal penaltyImprisonment (3 years, suspended)
  • Global Freedom of Expression Prize (2016)
Pu Zhiqiang
Simplified Chinese浦志强
Traditional Chinese浦志強

Pu Zhiqiang (born 17 January 1965) is a Chinese civil rights lawyer who specialises in press freedom, defamation, and product safety, and other issues.[2][3] Based in Beijing, he is an executive partner of the Huayi Law Firm.[4] Pu is known for being a prominent member of the Weiquan movement, having advocated for writers and journalists in a number of high-profile cases.[4] Due to the nature of the cases he has taken on and his criticism of official Chinese policies, Pu's actions are monitored by the Chinese state security services, and he has been detained and questioned on several occasions.[5][6]


Pu at the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests

From Luanzhou, Tangshan, Hebei Province, Pu Zhiqiang received an undergraduate degree in history from Nankai University in 1986, and a Master of Laws degree from China University of Political Science and Law in 1991. When he was a postgraduate student, he joined the pro-democracy movement in 1989.[7] 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.[5]

Pu is known for being a prolific blogger on the Weibo platform, and for 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 human rights activist, and his blogging has tested the boundaries of Chinese government censorship.[8] He has tens of thousands of followers.[9] However, once his Weibo accounts reach a certain level of popularity, censors delete his account, and he has to start again.[8][9]


Pu has been involved in a number of high-profile freedom of speech cases in China, defending dissident writers and journalists. In 2004, he defended writers Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao. The couple was facing libel charges for their portrayals of local Communist Party official Zhang Xide in their best-selling book A Survey of the Chinese Peasants. The case—and Pu's litigation in court—garnered international attention. Philip Pan of the Washington Post wrote that "by the time [Pu] finished his cross-examination, the mood in the courtroom had begun to change. When the trial ended three days later, ... it seemed as if Zhang – and the Communist Party itself – were the ones on trial."[7] The same year, Pu won a landmark victory on behalf of the China Reform magazine, which was similarly facing libel charges for its critical reporting on a real estate developer. The court decided in the magazine's favor, ruling that journalists are entitled to legal immunity on the condition that their stories are based on a reasonably believable source, rather than hearsay or fabrication.[4]

In 2006, Pu represented dissident writer Wang Tiancheng, who charged that legal professor Zhou Yezhong had plagiarised over 5,000 words of his writings without attribution. Although the court recognized that plagiarism had occurred, it ultimately ruled that the copied material represented too small a portion of the Zhou's book to constitute a crime. Pu told the South China Morning Post that he believed the court's decision may have been politically motivated.[10] In 2009, Pu represented Tan Zuoren, who documented deaths that occurred as a result of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

In 2012, Pu represented artist Ai Weiwei when his company sued the Beijing tax authority.[11] That same year, he also represented Tang Hui, who had been sent to a labor camp for peacefully petitioning against the sentences given to the people who raped her 11-year-old daughter, and then forced her into prostitution.[9] Tang, who repeatedly petitioned officials in Yongzhou in her daughter's case, was eventually sentenced to 18 months in "re-education through labor" for "seriously disturbing the social order and exerting a negative impact on society." Tang's sentence sparked calls for the abolition of the supposed system of re-education through labor.[12] Pu was one of three lawyers who defended Fang Hong, a dissident blogger who had been sentenced to one year in a labor camp for writing a poem mocking former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai. After Bo's fall from power over a corruption scandal, Fang filed to have his guilty verdict overturned. He also sought compensation from the court.[13]

2014 arrest[edit]

Pu was arrested by the Chinese police in May 2014, ostensibly for having "caused a disturbance." The arrest followed Pu's attendance at a meeting of dissidents who were campaigning for official recognition of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Four other lawyers who attended the event were also jailed.[14] The prosecution examined his personal history, notes and computers, and interrogated his associates, but failed to find any evidence of treason, sexual misconduct, or corruption. The only evidence provided by the prosecution consisted of provocative blog posts.[8] He remained in custody despite the courts having rejected the case for lack of evidence.[9][15]

A statement released by the American foreign ministry on 6 May 2015 asked that Pu be released, saying that this was in accordance "with China's international human rights commitments." Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded the next day, saying that "I think lots of people have the same feeling with me, that some people in the United States have hearts that are too big and hands that are too long. Washington should address human rights problems at home and stop trying to be the world's policeman or judge."[16]

In December 2015, Pu was put on trial in Beijing for online social commentary critical of the ruling Communist Party.[17] On 22 December 2015, Pu was found guilty of picking quarrels and inciting ethnic hatred and given a suspended three-year prison sentence.[18] Pu reported that he had been disbarred in April 2016, due to his postings on social media.[19]

Pu was nominated by an international group of writers, scholars, activists and legal observers for the 2016 Global Freedom of Expression Prize sponsored by the Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression Center.[20]


  1. ^ Profile of Pu Zhiqiang, Candidate for 2007 Young Leaders, Nanfang People Weekly [zh], 18 April 2007.
  2. ^ John Kennedy, China: Book banned prior to printing, Global Voices Online, 21 March 2007.
  3. ^ New York Review of Books, Contributors: Pu Zhiqiang.
  4. ^ a b c University of Hong Kong, China Media Project, Fellows: Pu Zhiqiang Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b Pu Zhiqiang, ‘June Fourth’ Seventeen Years Later: How I Kept a Promise, New York Review of Books, 3 June 2006.
  6. ^ William J. Dobson, The World’s Toughest Job: Try being a human rights lawyer in China, Slate magazine, 6 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b Philip P. Pan, In China, Turning the Law Into the People's Protector, Washington Post A01, 28 December 2004.
  8. ^ a b c Link, Perry (9 February 2015). "China: Inventing a Crime".
  9. ^ a b c d "Renowned Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Still Detained After 10 Months". Global Voices. 27 February 2015.
  10. ^ Vivian Wu, "Dissident writer loses 'political' copyright case," South China Morning Post, 22 December 2006.
  11. ^ "Ai Weiwei, Pu Zhiqiang". The Big Story. AP.
  12. ^ Tania Branigan (16 August 2012). "Outcry in China over mother sent to labour camp after daughter's rape". the Guardian.
  13. ^ Isolda Morillo and Christopher Bodeen, China blogger seeking redress over labor camp term, Associated Press, 8 May 2012.
  14. ^ Murdoch, Scott (7 May 2014). "Chinese dissident detained by police". The Australian. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  15. ^ Hatton, Celia (28 January 2015). "The case against Pu Zhiqiang". BBC News.
  16. ^ "China Rebukes U.S. Over Criticism of Civil Rights Lawyer's Detention". The New York Times. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  17. ^ "Lawyer on trial in Beijing as police scuffle with protesters". Archived from the original on 17 December 2015. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  18. ^ "Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang gets suspended sentence". CNN. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Prominent Chinese lawyer says he is formally disbarred". Taipei Times. Reuters and Associated Press. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  20. ^ "China Convicts Prominent Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang of Speech Violations While Nominated for Columbia 2016 Global Freedom of Expression Award". HuffPost. 22 December 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.

External links[edit]

Media related to Pu Zhiqiang at Wikimedia Commons