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China 4 March 2005

Lawyer for several journalists and cyberdissidents banned from practising for one year

Reporters Without Borders expressed dismay at the hounding of lawyer, Guo Guoting, after a Shanghai court on 4 March banned him from practising for one year for "anti-constitutional speeches and acts".

Urging Shanghai’s justice department to review its decision, the worldwide press freedom organisation said the ban would deny several journalists and dissidents currently in prison of their fundamental right to be defended.

(JPEG) Guoting (picture) appeared at a hearing that lasted less than an hour, in the company of his lawyer, Wei Ru-Jiu. The suspension was announced at the end of the hearing and he immediately said he would appeal.

The authorities accused Guoting of "on several occasions adopting positions and making statements contrary to the law and the Constitution" of China. They showed him a number of articles posted online which Gouting accepted he had written.

After the hearing, Guoting said it was an "unjustified official punishment". Wei Ru-Jiu told Reporters Without Borders that the ruling was "illegal".

Guoting had contributed an article to the website of the magazine Epoch Times on 16 February, in which he explained why he had defending a member of the Falungong spiritual movement, Qu Yanlai, imprisoned near Shanghai.

Guoding, also known as Thomas Guo, is one of very few Chinese lawyers prepared to defend journalists and cyberdissidents. He recently took on the cases of dissident journalist Yang Tianshui, just released after a month in prison in Hangzhou in the southeast. He also accepted the cases of journalist Shi Tao, whose trial for "divulging state secrets abroad" is to be held behind closed doors in Changsha on 7 March and of cyberdissident, Huang Jinqiu, sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2004.

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