Huang Liqun, Deputy Chief of the bureau for letters and calls of the National People's Congress has resigned and joined a law firm in Beijing. The 56-year-old former government official is now working as an intern for the minimum wage.
The news was confirmed by several lawyers at Beijing Fei Rei Law Firm where Huang is now working. Zhou Shixin, director of the law firm and also Huang’s former classmate at Peking University Law School, will be Huang’s supervisor during his one-year internship.
Zhou said he would help to familiarise Huang with the firm and its working practices. The aim is for Huang to specialise in petition-related cases.
Liu Xiaoyuan, another lawyer at Fei Rei Law Firm, said that Huang’s move should be viewed as a personal choice rather disappointment in the Chinese legal or petition system.
“Every year, a large number of judges become lawyers, and many government officials resign,” said Liu. “It’s normal.”
But Zhou thinks it does reflect disappointment in the current system.
“I was joking with him that now he has chosen the bright side, and I think it’s a relief to him,” said Zhou. “He has seen me rise from being nobody to someone in charge of a big law firm. He once said, ‘I can’t lock myself in a cage anymore or I will be marginalised by society’.”
Both of Huang’s parents were Supreme People’s Court judges, which meant Huang had hardly any experience of the environment outside of the Communist Party system. While it was not a hard decision for him to try something new, officials at the National People’s Congress had tried to convince him to stay, Zhou said.
“It’s a normal career choice, but his case is special because he held such a high position in the petition system,” said Lawyer Zhu Mingyong who posted the news on his Weibo account last night. “I think being a lawyer can give him more freedom. Maybe working as a government official in the petition system can’t help him achieve his ambition of pursuing justice and fairness.”
Huang’s decision also evoked a heated discussion online. Journalism professor Zhan Jiang from Beijing Foreign Studies University wrote, “Senior government official says goodbye to the system and comes over to the people’s side?”
A reporter called Chen Yuming commented, “It is indeed a good thing that officials can go into business and become lawyers. I hope one day it can be the other way around; that lawyers can go into the system to be officials. A total of 26 of the 43 presidents of United States were lawyers.”
While many comments showed support for Huang’s decision, calling it a “conscientious choice”, some expressed doubts.
“Isn’t it that he knows better how to deal effectively with petitioners?” A commentator asked.
“Now he can use his connections to make more money, since he is officially going into business,” a commentator wrote on Weibo.
Fu Yang, son of Peng Zhen – Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, also resigned from his job at the Congress and established a well-known law firm in Beijing.
The bureau for letters and calls of the National People's Congress is the main organ of the Chinese government responsible for receiving complaints and petitions from the public. The modern petition system in China has been reformed several times and is now regulated by the Regulations Concerning Letters of Petition. However, complaints about the bureau’s poor service and the dangers associated with submitting a petition have led to calls for the current system to be scrapped.