Shengzhi closed down after making human rights stand

Beijing-based law firm Shengzhi Law Office has had its operations suspended for a year by the Chinese authorities, raising questions about how liberal the legal market in China actually is.

The closure came after the firm’s director Gao Zhisheng sent an open letter to Chinese president Hu Jintao, calling for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China. It is believed the firm’s closure was linked with the letter.

It is understood that Zhisheng received an official closure notice from the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice on 4 November.

The official reason given for the closure was that the firm failed to notify the authorities about its change of address.

Shengzhi Law Office is one of a small number of law firms in China to have taken on cases involving human rights issues.

As well as campaigning on behalf of Falun Gong practitioners, the firm has also recently been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including a land dispute case filed against locally-elected officials in the Taishi village in the Guangdong province, which has been recognised as a test case for local democracy in China.