Prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was disbarred by Chinese legal authorities on Thursday due to writing internet posts, which -according to the government- incited ethnic hatred.
According to activists, the three-year suspended sentence for Pu Zhiqiang would serve as a strong reminder to other rights lawyers that the Communist Party, currently engaged in a severe clampdown on dissent, would brook no challenge to its rule.
Pu’s case attracted wide concern in Western capitals, since he has represented many dissidents, including artist Ai Weiwei and activists of the "New Citizens’ Movement" which calls on Chinese leaders to make their wealth public.
Pu told Reuters he had received the formal notification from the Beijing City Judicial Bureau that his lawyers' license had been revoked. He declined further comment, saying he was not supposed to accept interviews.
Due to the fact that a person found guilty of a criminal offence is not allowed to practice law, rights lawyer and friend of Pu, Shang Baojun, told Reuters the disbarment had been expected since Pu's conviction in December.
"Unless one day his conviction is overturned, then he'll never be allowed to practice law again. It's really the end of his career," Shang said.
His lawyers believe that the charges against Pu are based on seven microblog posts that he had published online, in which he criticised the government's ethnic policy in the troubled western region of Xinjiang and several officials.
The news of the disbarment comes as the US State Department criticised Beijing's "severe" crackdown against lawyers and law firms handling cases that authorities consider politically sensitive.
China has always strongly denied accusations of human rights abuses, saying people like Pu are punished because they break the law and that nobody in China is above the law.
China has also criticised the United States for ignoring its own human rights problems, such as racism and police brutality.