BHRC has issued a statement raising concern for the continued detention of human rights lawyers on the third anniversary of the 709 Crackdown, a nationwide programme of arrests beginning on 9 July 2015. During the period of a few weeks, nearly 250 Chinese human rights lawyers, their staff and human rights defenders were arrested and detained by police. Some of those arrested were subsequently charged with vague crimes against the State, based on insufficient or non-existent evidence. Many more have had no charges brought against them yet have faced intimidation, detention and administrative sanctions for their work.
Three years since the Crackdown began, the independence of the legal profession remains under threat in China, with many lawyers still detained or missing. Moreover, lawyers who were appointed to defend some of those charged following the Crackdown have also been threatened or arrested for conducting their professional duties.
In its statement, BHRC raising concern for the continued violations of fundamental human rights including:
- The detention of lawyers incommunicado and without their families’ knowledge of where they are being detained
- The prosecution of lawyers and legal assistants under broadly defined national security-related crimes
- Prolonged periods of detention without access to a legal representative or visits with family
- Inability to access a legal representative of their choosing
- Using undue pressure to secure incriminating statements and confessions from defendants
- Revoking licenses to practice, imposing residential surveillance or preventing travel abroad.
BHRC highlights that the threatening and detaining human rights lawyers and defenders for lengthy periods and charged with vague crimes against the State on insufficient evidence violates some of the most fundamental human rights standards, including the right not to be arbitrarily detailed, the right to a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, the right to freedom of expression and the right to effective safeguards for those providing legal representation.
As such, BHRC calls upon Chinese authorities to:
- Releasing all human rights lawyers and others unlawfully detained, including Zhou Shifeng, Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jingling, Xia Lin, Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan, Wang Quanzhang and Gao Zhisheng;
- Promptly and officially informing those facing prosecution of the specific charges and evidence against them;
- Allowing those detained to be given access to a legal representative of their choosing and allowing those lawyers to undertake their role effectively, without harassment or impediment; and
- Ceasing the intimidation of family and friends of those detained, and allowing visitation with their loved ones.
You can read the full statement here.
BHRC has continuously raised concern for human rights lawyers and defenders in China. You can read BHRC’s other statements on behalf of these lawyers and defenders here.