February 15, 2017
Lawyers who defend human rights activists and dissidents targeted by China’s communist government have increasingly themselves become subject to political prosecutions, violence and other means of suppression, according to a report released Thursday.
The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of groups working within and outside China, identified six occasions last year that lawyers were beaten by plaintiffs, police officers or assailants likely hired by authorities. In more than a dozen cases, the report found, detainees were pressured to fire their own lawyers and accept government-supplied attorneys.
“The government is trying to give this impression that it’s abiding by the rule of law,” said Frances Eve, a researcher for the network. “In fact, it’s just legalizing repressive measures.”
Under President Xi Jinping, China has widely suppressed independent organizations and dissenters, as well as lawyers defending people caught in its crackdown. The report says 22 people have been convicted since 2014 of subversion or other crimes against state security, including 16 last year alone.
Dozens of lawyers have been questioned or detained in an ongoing campaign against dissident lawyers known as the 709 crackdown launched in July 2015.