I’m a moderate, and the government has treated me well. I’m a veteran lawyer and haven’t made mistakes in my career. I’m not radical, and I don’t threaten the government.
Pu Zhiqiang is a prominent civil rights lawyer in Beijing, well known in the mainstream Chinese media for his work in protecting free speech and abolishing labour camps in China. He has been involved in a number of high-profile cases defending media organizations, journalists and artists, including Ai Weiwei. He was also one of the defence lawyers for authors Chen Guidi and Wu Chuntao, who wrote a best-selling expose on rural corruption.
He also won a landmark victory for China Reform magazine against libel charges filed by a state-owned real estate developer in 2004. The victory in that case was seen to be an important advance in the protection of independent media in China.
Pu has been written about and profiled in many mainland publications. More recently, in January 2013, he was featured in an 18-page cover story by Southern People’s Weekly, part of the Nanfang Media group. Pu was also selected as “Person of the Year in Legal Affairs in 2013” by the Renwu (People) Magazine under the People’s Daily Press.
Pu first gained international attention when he was featured in a Washington Post article in 2004. Slate Magazine also wrote a long feature on Pu, highlighting the difficulty of being a human rights lawyer in China in 2012.
In an interview with CNN in the summer of 2013, Pu said he considered himself a moderate. “”I think I’m fine,” he said. “I’m a moderate, and the government has treated me well. I’m a veteran lawyer and haven’t made mistakes in my career. I’m not radical, and I don’t threaten the government.”
Pu first joined the pro-democracy movement of 1989 as a graduate student. In 2006, in an article published in the New York Review of Books, Pu wrote about the promise he made to his student self, huddled at the Martyr’s Monument in Tiananmen Square in 1989 with other student protesters. He vowed then that if he did not die that night, he would come back every year on June 4th to remember the victims.
Later in 2008, he was one of the first to sign Charter 08, a manifesto calling for fundamental changes in China, including an independent legal system, freedom of association and the elimination of the one-party rule.
Pu holds a master of laws from China University of Political Science and Law. He was a visiting scholar at Yale Law School’s China Centre in Spring 2005, to conduct comparative research on media and law. Pu has also been a China Media Project fellow at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong since 2004.