Pu Zhiqiang

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Pu Zhiqiang
Pu Zhiqiang crop.jpg
Born (1965-01-17) January 17, 1965 (age 50)
Nationality Chinese
Occupation Attorney
Known for Civil rights advocacy
Pu Zhiqiang
Chinese 浦志强

Pu Zhiqiang (born 1965) is a civil rights lawyer in the People's Republic of China specializing in press freedom, defamation, and product safety, among other issues.[2][3] Based in Beijing, he is an executive partner of Beijing Huayi Law Firm,[4] Pu is a prominent figure in the Weiquan movement, having advocated for writers and journalists in a number of high-profile cases.[4] 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, and is currently in custody.[5][6]


Pu Zhiqiang 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.[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 as an inveterate blogger on the Weibo platform, and known 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 crusader of human rights in China, and his blogging has always carefully navigates the legal minefield.[8] His following numbers in the tens of thousands.[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, 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 Zhang Xide, a local Communist Party official, 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 a legal professor, Zhou Yezhong, had plagiarized over 5,000 words of Wang's 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. Pu told the South China Morning Post that he believed the court's decision may have been politically motivated.[10]

In 2012, Pu represented Ai Weiwei when his company sued Beijing tax authorities.[11] That same year, he also represented Tang Hui, sent to a labour camp for peacefully petitioning against the lenient sentences given to criminals who raped and forced her 11-year-old daughter 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 labour for "seriously disturbing the social order and exerting a negative impact on society". Tang's sentence caused thousands of citizens to call for the abolition of the penal system.[12] Pu was one of three lawyers defending dissident blogger Fang Hong, who had been sent to one year in a labor camp for writing a poem mocking former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai. Following Bo's fall from power, Fang filed to have his guilty verdict overturned, and sought compensation from the court.[13]

Postings on Sina Weibo[edit]

The selection of Pu’s comments assembled by investigators also offers insights into the ruling Communist Party’s abiding fears over its history, legitimacy and the country’s territorial unity, which have driven an intense crackdown on dissent.[14]

Pu mocks propaganda extolling the party’s beloved model soldier Lei Feng; laments policies in the western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic violence has deepened; and raises the idea of turning China’s top-down state into a looser confederation. Here is a selection of Pu’s comments, which excludes any that he said he might not have written.[14]

On Lei Feng:

One of the biggest lies of the past 60 years is Lei Feng, he swindled me for 20 years! He pandered to his promoters, his diary was a collective concoction. His allowance of seven or eight renminbi a month turned into hundreds of renminbi in donations. It was either corruption or it was a scam. (June 8, 2013)

On Xinjiang and ethnic violence, including an attack on March 1, 2014, by Uighurs, the mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people native to Xinjiang, at the train station in Kunming, in southwestern China, that killed 31 people:

If you say Xinjiang belongs to China, then don’t treat it as a colony, don’t act as conquerors and plunderers, striking out against any and all before and after, turning them into the enemy. This is an absurd national policy. (May 7, 2014)

The Kunming incident was too brutal, the attackers’ sins were grievous. If you say Xinjiang is producing terror, now I believe it, but this is effect, not cause. The deaths and injuries were utterly horrendous, the repercussions too grave. You tell me that you bear no responsibility for the savagery of the Xinjiang independents, then I’m not satisfied. (March 2, 2014)

On China’s political system:

The successes and mistakes of reform and opening up are there to see, but political system reform has gone from standstill to going backwards, so every natural disaster becomes a man-made one, and every natural disaster is magnified. The ordinary people have had enough, and it’s tough for the authorities to hang on. Well, don’t just do a few trial direct elections in counties and towns, copy the other side of the Strait [i.e. Taiwan]: reclassify [the eastern Chinese province of] Fujian as a co-province of Taiwan. (Aug. 15, 2011)

Frankly, when patriot-scoundrels treat me as a traitor, that’s no slur. I didn’t choose Communist Party rule, it never sought my approval as one of the ruled, I just had to unconditionally take it — there’s no sense in that. I believe that governing the mainland divided in several pieces would be much better than grand unity without law or reason. Divided government wouldn’t be chaos. (Nov. 3, 2013)

2014 Arrest[edit]

In May 2014, Pu was arrested and jailed by police, charged with "causing a disturbance". The arrest followed his attendance at a meeting of dissidents campaigning for official recognition of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Four other lawyers who attended the event were also jailed.[15] Prosecution scoured his personal history, notes and his computers, interrogated people around him, and failed to find anything evidence of treason, sexual misconduct, or corruption. The only thing incriminating appears to be what he had written in blog posts.[8] He remains in custody despite the courts rejecting the case for lack of evidence.[9][16]

On May 6, 2015, The US State Department urged Beijing “to release and remove all restrictions on Pu Zhiqiang, and to respect his rights in accordance with China’s international human rights commitments.” On May 7, 2015, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing 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.” [17]


  1. ^ Profile of Pu Zhiqiang, Candidate for 2007 Young Leaders, Nanfang People Weekly, 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.
  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 http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/feb/09/china-pu-zhiqiang-inventing-crime/
  9. ^ a b c d "Renowned Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Still Detained After 10 Months". Global Voices. 
  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. "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. ^ a b "Comments Used in Case Against Pu Zhiqiang Spread Online". nytimes.com. January 29, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2015. 
  15. ^ Murdoch, Scott (7 May 2014). "Chinese dissident detained by police". The Australian. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 
  16. ^ http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-31018617
  17. ^ "China Rebukes U.S. Over Criticism of Civil Rights Lawyer’s Detention". nytimes.com. 7 May 2015. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 

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