Derechos Humanos y Defensa de la defensa

The UIA Condemns China Targeting Human Rights Lawyers in a Crackdown

The Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA - International Association of Lawyers) strongly condemned the recent arrests of a large number of human rights lawyers, law firm staff and activists as part of an unprecedented crackdown by Chinese authorities.

At the beginning of July, at least 287 lawyers, law firm staff and human rights defenders have been detained, arrested, held incommunicado, summoned, or otherwise had their freedom temporarily restricted in several Chinese provinces and specially in Beijing, Guangzhou y Shanghai.


The wave of arrests followed the disappearance of lawyer Wang Yu, who works at Fengrui, the Beijing-based law firm, on July 9, 2015. Ms. Wang Yu has represented people involved in politically sensitive cases, including practitioners of Falun Gong, the religious group banned in China, and the five Chinese women's rights activists arrested in May 2015 for "causing a quarrel" after they had planned a public campaign to end sexual harassment.


Ms. Wang Yu and her husband, Lawyer Bao Longjun, who was also arrested on July 9, have been placed under residential surveillance at an unknown location on suspicion of “inciting the subversion of state power.”


Shortly after Ms. Wang Yu’s arrest, a group of over 100 lawyers and rights activists signed a public statement condemning her disappearance. Many of these individuals were also arrested along with other lawyers from the Fengrui law firm, including its head, Mr. Zhou Shifeng. Mr. Shifeng represented the Chinese journalist Zhang Miao, who had worked with a German magazine reporting on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2014.


In most cases, shortly after the wave of detentions began, the Chinese state media publicized unsubstantiated allegations against lawyers, activists, and the Fengrui Law Firm, accusing them of running a “a major criminal gang” that “aim[s] to create disturbances and disturb public order” in the name of “defending [human] rights.” The media also attacked activists who recruited protesters to put pressure on courts.


While most of the people detained or questioned have been released, as of September 25, 2015, 16 people remain in residential surveillance, incommunicado, for the most part, since their arrests and/or with no access to independent counsel. The whereabouts of at least 3 people, including the lawyer Li Shuyun, are still unknown.


The UIA, together with the AIJA, sent a letter to the Chinese authorities requesting the immediate release of these lawyers, law firm staff and human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty (see here). The UIA will continue to closely follow the situation.


Mr. Yiu-Leung CHEUNG, Founding Member and Vice-Chair of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (HRLCG) plans to attend the Assembly of Worldwide Lawyers in Defence of the Defence.