Jim Li, 66, of Tanners Road in Great Neck, was stabbed multiple times, including in his neck, and found unconscious and unresponsive shortly before noon inside his Flushing office on 39th Avenue, the NYPD said. A woman whose case he refused to take has been charged in the death, according to police and a friend of the victim. Newsday's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday staff; Photo Credit: Wayne Zhu; AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File

A prominent North Shore attorney, who spent nearly two years in prison in his native China for his role in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, was stabbed to death Monday in his law office by a woman whose case he refused to take, according to police and a friend of the victim.

Jim Li, 66, of Tanners Road in Great Neck, was stabbed multiple times, including in his neck, and found unconscious and unresponsive shortly before noon inside his Flushing office on 39th Avenue, the NYPD said.

The victim, who was also known as Li Jinjin, was taken to NYC Health and Hospitals/Elmhurst, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Police arrested Xiaoning Zhang, 25, of Flushing, and charged her with murder and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon. Zhang was not arraigned Tuesday and it was not immediately clear if she had an attorney.

Li, who is married with two adult sons, was a respected immigration attorney whose firm, Jim Li & Associates, also specialized in cases dealing with back pay and poor labor conditions.

Attorney Wei Zhu described Li as his best friend and said he had a reputation for providing free legal counseling to those who could not afford his services.

"Jim is a very kind hearted man," Zhu said outside his Flushing office Tuesday. "He always helped those people in need … new immigrants. If they are poor and can't afford legal fees he provided pro bono services. … Jim always placed justice above anything else. He didn't care if you were poor or you were rich."

An official with knowledge of the probe said investigators suspect the victim was attacked in a dispute over whether he would represent the suspect in an immigration matter.

Zhu said his friend had been looking into Zhang's asylum request, which had been recently denied.

The suspect, Zhu said he was told by Li's law office, wanted to sue her original attorney and an immigration services agency. But Li, who has been practicing law in the United States for more than two decades, said the case was groundless, Zhu said.

"He deserved much better than this," said Zhu, who was the last person to visit Li in the hospital before his death. " I didn't sleep last night. When I heard this happen it was a shock."

A steady stream of visitors stopped by LI's home Tuesday morning, some bearing flowers.

A woman who answered the door at his home identified herself as a family friend but declined to speak to the media.

The chairman of the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Cory Forman, said in an email that Li "devoted his life to helping those in his community, which is absolutely devastated by the news" of his death.

Neighbors in the quiet North Shore community said they were shocked to learn of the killing.

Ken Wu, who recently moved to the neighborhood, described Li as "very nice gentleman" with whom he would chat occasionally.

"I am very surprised to hear he was stabbed to death," Wu said. "It is really news to me. It's really stunning."

Li, who was raised in Wuhan, China, was a Ph.D. student at Peking University in Beijing when he took part in the 1989 student-led democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.

According to several published interviews, Li delivered speeches supporting the protests and eventually became the legal counsel for the budding Workers Autonomous Federation, an independent labor union that challenged China's workforce policies.

Li was later arrested and served 22 months in a Chinese jail — a tale he would document in his 2011 memoir "From the Square to QinCheng."

He moved to the United States in 1993, earning a law degree and remaining active in the Chinese democracy movement. His final post on Instagram was in support of Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

"He is a person with a very strong moral character," Zhu said. "I miss him. I lost my best friend in this world. … I can't describe how painful it is. He is my brother and my mentor."

With John Valenti, Anthony M. DeStefano and Shari Einhorn

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