An outspoken Chinese lawyer known for representing clients with complaints of official corruption and police abuse is being stripped of his law license, an official and a colleague said Tuesday.
Gao Zhisheng, who works in Beijing, has defended people who say their land has been seized by corrupt officials and followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement who complain of police abuse.
Gao's law license will be confiscated Wednesday if he did not voluntarily turn it in, said lawyer Li Heping, who handles similar cases and works at another law firm.
The director of lawyers' affairs at the Beijing Bureau of Justice, who would only give his surname of Cai, confirmed that a decision to remove Gao's license had been made "some time ago." Cai refused to confirm that it would be revoked Wednesday.
Gao's wife, Geng He, said that Gao was out of town and unavailable for comment. Geng said her husband's firm, which had about 14 lawyers, had already disbanded.
Law firm forced to close
Last month, the Beijing Bureau of Justice ordered Gao's firm to close for one year on the grounds that it failed to inform authorities of an address change, Li said.
"I will continue to work for the rights of ordinary citizens, as an ordinary person myself if they refuse to let me operate as a lawyer," Gao told Radio Free Asia last month after his law firm's permit was suspended for one year.
The bureau also decided to strip Gao of his individual right to practice law, according to Li, who has seen the judgment. He said the judgment violates Chinese law.
Gao's wife said for the past several months that their house has been under constant police surveillance and Gao is frequently followed.
"He is a great Chinese lawyer and very courageous. He has done many things that the government is not in favor of, which is, I think, why he is having these problems," said Li, who works for the Beijing firm Gaobo Longhua Law Group.