October 19, 2015
(Image: Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China)
Criminal detention, residential surveillance and enforced disappearances: Human rights lawyers in China are under attack, and Hong Kong has a vital role in speaking out. Anna Cummins and Emma Russell meet the people standing up for our rights.
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” That’s what rebel leader Jack Cade’s henchman Dick the Butcher suggests in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, when thinking of ways to appease the people and instil social revolution. These words have a macabre prophecy in the context of the ongoing crackdown on human rights lawyers across mainland China, which began at the Beijing Fengrui law firm in July this year and within one week saw 159 people – lawyers, staff of law firms and their family members – criminally detained, questioned, placed under surveillance or blocked from leaving the country. A total of 293 people have been implicated as of mid-October, with 32 still ‘detained’. There are chilling reports of lawyers waking up to their door being kicked in and being led away, with others simply vanishing en-route to work.
One of those who are missing, Beijing Fengrui’s head Zhou Shifeng, had been representing news assistant Zhang Miao. Zhang was detained last October for ‘creating a disturbance’ after she worked on a report about Occupy Central for German newspaper Die Zeit.
October 21, 2015
The signatures of about 29,000 people who are demanding the release of 230 lawyers in China have been handed in to the Chinese ambassador in London in anticipation of the visit this week of the President of the People’s Republic.
Amnesty International has thanked the 29,000 people who submitted their signatures and who hope that the plight of the lawyers attracts attention during President Xi Jinping’s UK visit.
October 20, 2015
(Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu in Beijing on April 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein))
On Oct. 6, Chinese and Burmese police raided a hotel in a border town,abducting the teenage son of well known rights activists and his two traveling companions. Now, Bao Zhuoxuan is under house arrest in his grandmother’s home in Inner Mongolia, being held as a hostage while his parents languish in custody awaiting trial.
The incident has attracted intense international focus, given that the boy is guilty of nothing other than being the son of two activists targeted by the Communist Party.
The episode has also shone a light on the technique of “collective punishment” in modern-day China. The persecution of family members has become a well-wrought weapon in the Party’s arsenal against Chinese who defy its rule. Its history traces back to ancient times, though it was dusted off by the communists before they took power, then rapidly expanded until enjoying a dark renaissance over the last decade.
October 21, 2015
(Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun have been detained under a form of solitary confinement without access to a lawyer for more than 100 days.)
State broadcaster CCTV has broadcast the distraught reaction of jailed dissident lawyerWang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun as state security agents tell them they have stopped their 16-year old son trying to leave China.
Bao Zhuoxuan, who goes by the nickname “Mengmeng” and wants to study law when he graduates, was picked up by Chinese security forces in Burma (Myanmar) as he tried to flee to take up his studies abroad.
Both Ms Wang and her husband, a legal activist, break down in tears on being told of the failed attempt to smuggle their son overseas, with the scenes broadcast on national television.
October 20, 2015
(A protestor holding a Tibetan flag is encircled by supporters of Chinese President Xi Jinping holding up a Chinese dragon before he passed by on a horse-drawn carriage with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on the Mall en route to Buckingham Palace in London, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Britain Monday for a four-day state visit as part of a push to increase trade ties between the two countries. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press))
Dissident Chinese lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng has attended a protest during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain and urged British leaders not to ignore the issue of human rights.
Chen says many rights lawyers like him continue to suffer persecution and torture in China. In an interview with the BBC, Chen said the British government should engage with the Chinese people, not just the Chinese Communist Party.
Chen said he doesn’t believe there is any conflict between trade and human rights — he says while trade is important, human rights are “like air and water, and no one can live without it.”
The blind activist escaped house arrest in China in 2012, fleeing to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. He is now based in the United States.