February 16, 2017
Promoting and protecting human rights remained a high-risk activity in 2016, says CHRD in its annual report released today on the situation of human rights defenders in China, They Target My Human Rights Work as a Crime. The Chinese government intensified crackdowns on human rights defenders (HRDs) and criminalized rights activities as “political” threats to “national security.”
In 2016, many human rights activists and lawyers suffered reprisals. The Chinese government punished them with arbitrary detention, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, and torture. In addition, their families faced collective punishment. Police systematically deprived detained HRDs of due process rights, such as the right to a fair trial and access to independent legal counsel. Authorities also rolled out a series of draconian laws and regulations that give police even more power to criminalize human rights activities.
“These measures take aim at closing off the already diminishing civil society space,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s international director. “The laws and regulations effectively legalized Xi Jinping’s harsh crackdowns on activists and lawyers who tried to defend the rights of migrant workers, women, suppressed faith groups or ethnic minorities.”
The report finds an alarming trend in 2016, where authorities prosecuted detained and imprisoned HRDs in larger numbers for “political” offenses. According to CHRD’s documentation, almost one-third of human rights defenders convicted in clampdowns since 2013, when Xi came to power, were charged with “endangering state security” crimes such as “subversion of state power” or “inciting subversion.” These political crimes were used in most of the cases involving prominent human rights lawyers and activists in 2016.