Tag Archives: China

Hong Kong police file complaints to lawyer groups over national security case

12/05/22

Hong Kong police said on Thursday they had filed complaints to the city’s main professional legal bodies over a national security case involving a fund that had assisted pro-democracy protesters to pay for legal services.

Five trustees of the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund were arrested by police this week, including Cardinal Joseph Zen, 90, one of the most senior Catholic clerics in Asia; and leading senior barrister Margaret Ng, 74.

The five were arrested for suspected “conspiracy to collude with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security” under a China-imposed national security law, and released on bail.

The police said its investigations had “revealed that a number of solicitors and barristers were suspected of professional misconduct when providing legal services” without giving names or specifics.

Complaints were lodged to the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Hong Kong Law Society, police added.

Neither body replied to a Reuters request for comment.

The others arrested are pop singer Denise Ho, former academic Hui Po-keung and former lawmaker Cyd Ho. The national security law, enacted in June 2020, punishes crimes such as subversion, terrorism, secession and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life imprisonment. nL2N2X31EL]

Zen, Ng and the others have been forceful advocates of fundamental rights in Hong Kong. Critics of the security law say it erodes the freedoms promised by China under a “one country, two systems” arrangement when Hong Kong was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

[…]

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/hong-kong-police-file-complaints-to-lawyer-groups-over-national-security-case/47588614

https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/hong-kong-police-file-complaints-lawyer-groups-over-national-security-case-2022-05-12/

https://www.lawsociety.ie/gazette/top-stories/2022/hong-kongs-cardinal-zen-90-arrested-with-three-others

https://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/

Hong Kong national security police arrest prominent barrister Margaret Ng

11/05/22

Hong Kong national security police have arrested prominent barrister Margaret Ng and Cardinal Joseph Zen, HKFP has learned. Singer-activist Denise Ho has also been arrested, local media report.

The four helped run the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which aided thousands of protesters during the 2019 unrest by providing legal assistance, funds for psychological counselling and medical treatment and emergency relief.

Legal sources told HKFP on Wednesday that Ng and 90-year-old Zen were arrested a day after cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung was arrested at Hong Kong International Airport.

They stand accused of colluding with foreign forces.

Last September, the police cited potential national security violations and served a court order to the fund, requesting information on its operations and financial transactions. Local media reported at the time that the documents included bank account details, donor information and details of the fund recipients.

[…]

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220511-hong-kong-defence-fund-trustee-arrested-at-airport-sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Ng

https://www.la-croix.com/Monde/Le-cardinal-Joseph-Zen-arrete-rafle-eclair-Hong-Kong-2022-05-11-1201214609 (FRANCAIS)

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Ng

https://www.prealpina.it/pages/hong-kong-media-arrestato-il-cardinale-joseph-zen-276489.html (ITALIANO)

USA: Commissioners Urge a UN Committee on Torture Review of China

21/04/22

Commissioners from the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) released today a letter to Mr. Claude Heller, the Chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture urging him to not delay a robust review of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because of the PRC’s failure to submit its country report in a timely manner. The Commissioners note that the “human rights situation in China has demonstrably worsened since the Committee’s last review in 2015, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” and remind the Committee Against Torture Chair that the Committee has the power to move ahead with a review without a country report.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), the CECC’s Chair and Cochair respectively, were joined on the letter by fellow CECC Commissioners Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Representative Thomas Suozzi (D-NY). The letter includes information about the torture and ill-treatment of individuals detained in China drawn from the CECC’s 2021 Annual Report on human rights conditions in the PRC.  An Executive Summary of the 2021 Annual Report can also be downloaded.

The full text of the letter is below and here

[…]

In the 2015 Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed serious concerns “over consistent reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment is still deeply entrenched in the criminal justice system, which overly relies on confessions as the basis for convictions.” In addition, former detainees, including those of mass internment camps in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), have documented the prevalence of torture in extrajudicial detention facilities in recent years. Regrettably, credible reports postdating the Concluding Observations continue to show that torture and ill-treatment of detainees at the hands of Chinese government officials have not abated. To give but a few recent examples—

[…]

In October 2020, authorities in Baoji municipality, Shaanxi province, detained lawyer Chang Weiping a second time in one year not long after he accused authorities of having tortured him during the earlier detention in January 2020. Chang has been legal counsel in health discrimination lawsuits, among others. Chang’s detention is linked to a civil society meeting held in Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, in December 2019. Authorities also detained and reportedly tortured lawyer Ding Jiaxi and legal expert Xu Zhiyong in connection to their participation in the Xiamen meeting.

[…]

https://www.cecc.gov/media-center/press-releases/commissioners-urge-a-un-committee-on-torture-review-of-china

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/04/19/un-high-commissioner-must-uphold-principled-and-coherent-response-chinas-human

Ongoing concerns on the situation in Hong Kong and the independence of the Bar Association

14/04/22

Lawyers for Lawyers has previously raised concerns on the position of lawyers in Hong Kong after the National Security Law (NSL) has entered into force on 1 July 2020. The NSL has been in place for almost two years now. Lawyers for Lawyers has growing concerns about the situation of lawyers in Hong Kong and the independence of the Bar Association in Hong Kong in connection to the NSL.

The NSL criminalizes acts that China deems challenging to its authority. This includes acts of secession and collusion with foreign forces. We were informed that the charges under the NSL are loosely defined and open to interpretation. The NSL creates offenses that fall under the laws of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), rather than under the laws of Hong Kong.

Recently, UK judges withdrew from the Hong Kong Court of final appeal, concerned that their continued participation in the Hong Kong judiciary would appear as an endorsement of the current “department from values of political freedom and freedom of expression”. Judges of the UK Supreme Court had sat on the Hong Kong final court of appeal since 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to China.

According to some Hong Kong lawyers, the NSL has infringed upon Hong Kong’s autonomy and the NSL exposes Hong Kong lawyers to a possible crackdown on human rights defenders, similar to those taking place in China since 2015. The last two years, the NSL has indeed had a chilling effect on lawyers in Hong Kong in the last years. Many lawyers involved in human rights cases have discontinued their work or even left Hong Kong out of fear of repercussions.

[…]

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-02/hong-kong-ex-bar-chair-flees-city-after-police-probe-media-says

https://www.finews.asia/people/36634-u-k-judges-resign-from-hong-kong-s-top-court

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/hong-kong-leader-rejects-barrister-nominee-sensitive-judges-panel-appoints-2022-03-25/

ACTIVISTS AND JOURNALISTS IN CHINA FACE PERSECUTION DURING AND AFTER WINTER OLYMPICS

11/04/22

The state of civic space in China remains ‘closed’ in ratings published by the CIVICUS Monitor in December 2021.

As reported by civil society groups, the human rights situation across China with President Xi Jinping at the helm continued to deteriorate in 2021. Human rights lawyers and activists reported harassment and intimidation; unfair trials; arbitrary, incommunicado and lengthy detention; and torture and other ill-treatment for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression and other human rights.

Authorities harassed, detained, or prosecuted numerous people for their online posts and private chat messages critical of the government, while censorship was pervasive. The government also implemented far-reaching policies that severely restricted the freedoms of Muslims in Xinjiang as well as committing crimes against humanity. Authorities in Tibetan areas also continued to severely restrict freedoms of religion, expression, movement and assembly.

In January 2022, human rights activists issued a call to action against the Beijing Winter Olympics, imploring athletes and sponsors to speak out against what they call the “genocide games.”

[…]

Association

Human rights lawyer detained for subversion

Radio Free Asia reported that the authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan had formally arrested prominent rights lawyer Xie Yang on 17th February 2022 for subversion. Sources suggest his online support for a primary teacher forced into psychiatric “treatment” for her outspoken comments on social media could be a factor.

Hunan teacher Li Tiantian was held for several days in a psychiatric hospital after she spoke out over the expulsion of a Shanghai journalism lecturer who encouraged her students to verify official accounts of the Nanjing massacre. Another reason could be a video he posted containing a satirical reference to ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping.

Xie, whose licence to practise law was revoked by Chinese officials after he reported being tortured in detention, has also been an outspoken supporter of jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, whose family say she is close to death following months of hunger strike. He has previously defended Christians and democracy activists.

[…]

https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2022/04/11/activists-and-journalists-china-face-persecution-during-and-after-winter-olympics/

https://ishr.ch/defenders-toolbox/resources/ding-jiaxi-story-an-illustrated-example-of-how-rsdl-works-in-china/

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/lawyer-arrest-02232022141944.html

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/henan-dissident-04082022122142.html

https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/peng-shuai-china-disappeared-how-beijing-silences-critics

China: Interview: ‘They have been wiping out the whole profession’

18/03/22

Yaxue Cao of China Change talks about her recent documentary about China’s human rights attorneys.

Yaxue Cao, editor-in-chief of the U.S.-based website China Change, has been tracking human rights issues in China for years. With the help of human rights attorneys in China, dissident artist Ai Weiwei, professor and film-maker Ai Xiaoming and overseas-based rights activist, she recently released an hour-long film about the crucial role played by Chinese lawyers in defending people’s basic rights. The documentary, titled “The Defenders — 20 Years of Human Rights Lawyers in China,” offers rarely-seen footage of top rights attorneys including Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong and Pu Zhiqiang to an overseas audience. Cao spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service about the project:

RFA: How long did the film take to make?

Yaxue Cao: There were only two of us [making the documentary]. I wrote the script and collected and selected the material, while video editor cut it all together and added subtitles. Production started last year, and it took us three months in all.

RFA: This documentary spans a long period of time. How did you find all of the footage and the interviewees?

Yaxue Cao: The main point about this film is that it is based on existing footage. Half of the footage we use comes from interviews carried out for China Change, while we also collected a lot of footage, still photos and audio from news organizations and other films, including [two] made by Ai Xiaoming and Ai Weiwei’s long interview with lawyers Li Heping and Jiang Tianyong in 2011. There were also some images of lawyer Pu Zhiqiang in [another] documentary. The fact that they were willing to share this material with us was a huge help.

RFA: According to my calculations, at least 33 lawyers appear in this film in some form. What kind of people are they?

Yaxue Cao: Well first of all, there should be more than 300,000 lawyers in China, but even at the peak [of legal representation], when human rights lawyers were most active, there were only about 300 of them. But people have quit or stopped speaking out under successive rounds of repression, while others do the work but don’t want to be referred to as a human rights attorney. For example, more than 20 lawyers defended [pro-democracy agribusiness mogul] Sun Dawu, but none of them were in contact with us, or with the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. Nonetheless, to me, they were still human rights lawyers.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/documentary-03182022132837.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3171042/chinese-legal-activists-girlfriend-charged-inciting-subversion

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/03/18/joint-ngo-letter-ahead-eu-china-summit

US grants asylum to son of Chinese language 709 rights lawyer – NEWPAPER24

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/lawyer-arrest-02232022141944.html

https://ishr.ch/defender-stories/lawyer-yu-wensheng-the-man-who-never-yields/

https://ishr.ch/latest-updates/a-brief-overview-of-principles-on-the-role-of-lawyers-in-china/

https://www.rfa.org/mandarin/yataibaodao/renquanfazhi/jt-03172022101927.html#.YjPJt4ObEAE.twitter (CHINESE)

Chinese New Year: Looking back on another year of crackdowns on China’s legal profession

01/02/22

Chinese New Year: Looking back on another year of crackdowns on China’s legal profession

Today, 1 February, marks the start of the Chinese New Year and the start of the Spring Festival. Hopefully, the start of the Year of the Tiger will bring a better tide for China’s human rights lawyers compared to the ongoing crackdown on lawyers in the previous years. However, the outlook is grim. Even though the Year of the Tiger is associated with bravery, confidence and strength, lawyers in China are punished for exhibiting those very traits in defending human rights and the rule of law in their country.

As millions of Chinese return home to celebrate the New Year, many human rights lawyers remain in state custody. They are held and questioned in conditions that are questionable at best: it is alleged that the detainees’ health issues are scarcely dealt with and that their legal representation is barred from attending pre-trial questioning and trials. Those lawyers that are eventually freed from prison are frequently placed under house arrests.

Over the last year, Lawyers for Lawyers has handed in a mid-term report and a submission to the Special Rapporteur to the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, detailing the issues that Chinese lawyers face. Furthermore, two members from Lawyers for Lawyers’ Focus Group China have participated in a session for China’s mid-term review in Geneva.

Criminal prosecution

Over the last year, Lawyers for Lawyers has followed the cases of a large number of lawyers who faced criminal prosecution and arbitrary arrests. Within this group, Lawyers for Lawyers has also seen that the practice of ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ (RSDL), which is effectively a form of enforced disappearance, has continued to be used against lawyers.

An example of this is the continued enforced disappearance of Chang Weiping. In May 2021, Lawyers for Lawyers issued a joint statement to draw attention to Mr. Chang’s case. Chang Weiping is a human rights lawyer known for his public interest litigation in the defense of the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. According to our information, on 22 October 2020, Mr. Chang was taken into custody and was held at an undisclosed location under RSDL. Mr. Chang was able to meet his father shortly on 25 November 2020, but his family and lawyers have not been able to contact him since then. Mr. Chang spent six months in RSDL. He was first able to meet with his lawyer on 14 September 2021 and recounted being subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane punishment during his time in RSDL.

[…]

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/01/this-is-not-justice-chinese-activists-held-for-two-years-await-trial

https://fa.news/articles/china_faces_harsh_jail_time_for_activists-114077/

Famed blind lawyer Joy Luk has fled Hong Kong and wants refugee status in Canada

31/01/22

Joy Luk is a Hong Kong lawyer who fought for disabled people and anti-government protesters. She has recently arrived in Canada and is asking to be allowed to stay.

From her apartment in Toronto, famed Hong Kong lawyer Joy Luk says she wants to apologize to her family — one she doesn’t think she’ll ever visit again in her beloved hometown.

Luk, who is blind, rose to notoriety fighting for people with disabilities and helping pro-democracy protesters on the front lines of demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2019 with instant legal counsel. Images of Luk, a bullhorn hanging off her shoulder, grabbed attention around the world during those protests.

But on Dec. 20, after about 10 minutes of questioning by authorities, the 44-year-old took a morning flight out of the city to South Korea and on to Toronto, where she says she intends to stay. Luk has applied for refugee status, pointing to harassment by authorities in Hong Kong over her political activism and fears for her safety there.

Her decision has been kept a secret until today.

“I would like to say sorry to my family members there. I will put them in trouble,” Luk told the Star, “because of my active participation in this campaign for freedom in Hong Kong.”

Luk’s grandfather swam to freedom from mainland China to Hong Kong with his family, including her father who was not yet 10 years old at the time, in the 1950s. Her grandfather told her the Chinese Communist Party is not trustworthy, and she holds the family’s story close with her belief that freedom and democracy are a core value for humanity.

Monday, the day she reveals her intent to stay in Canada, is the first anniversary of her father’s death.

Now, with many of her friends in jail or having been arrested — including Canadian singer Denise Ho — for their involvement in the pro-democracy movement, Luk said she comes to Canada under a shadow of sadness.

In Hong Kong, Luk fought for better accessibility for people with disabilities before unrest in the city grew into massive protests against laws that opponents charged would be used to silence critics of Beijing and breach the autonomy guaranteed to the region by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which laid out the stipulations of Hong Kong’s handover to mainland China in 1997.

But she said she has no intention of settling into a quiet life and is vowing not only to continue her fight for Hong Kong’s civil rights, but also to expose the Chinese Communist Party’s influence campaigns in Canada.

[…]

https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2022/01/31/famed-blind-lawyer-joy-luk-has-fled-hong-kong-and-wants-refugee-status-in-canada.html

https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ts/news/canada/2022/01/31/famed-blind-lawyer-joy-luk-has-fled-hong-kong-and-wants-refugee-status-in-canada.html

https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/chinese-human-rights-lawyer-detained-for-inciting-state-subversion-police-2716858

https://thehill.com/news-by-subject/foreign-policy/590370-china-detains-high-profile-activists-ahead-of-olympics

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-01-20/review-unsilenced-chinese-censorship-leon-lee-sam-trammell

China: Concerns about harassment Song Yusheng, Wang Yu and Xie Yang

28/01/22

Concerns about harassment Song Yusheng, Wang Yu and Xie Yang

Lawyers for Lawyers has learned that Chinese lawyers Xie Yang, Wang Yu and Song Yusheng have been detained, disbarred or harassed in January 2022. In a statement we express concern about the recents acts of harassment against the lawyers.

Beijing-based lawyer Song Yusheng was summoned to a disbarment hearing in Beijing on 11 January 2022. Song Yusheng defended human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng in 2018, and was until recently engaged in the defence of (some of the) 12 Hong Kong citizens that were arrested at sea whilst trying to flee to Taiwan after their involvement in protests against the National Security Law in Hong Kong. According to news reports, he faces disciplinary action for his speech in defence of his client(s). Mr. Song is the fifth lawyer who faces disciplinary sanctions after involvement with the case of the 12 Hong Kong citizens.

Beijing lawyer Wang Yu, a victim of the ‘709-crackdown’ has not only lost her license to practice law in November 2020, she is also forbidden from applying for a passport and traveling overseas. After her disbarment she continued handling legal cases and giving legal advice as a “citizen agent”. It has been reported she was publicly assaulted outside a court house on 13 January 2022 because of a case she was handling in Suzhou. The police have reportedly failed to make a report or to seek out surveillance camera footage of the assault. This comes after Wang Yu went missing for a week in March 2021 after being given an International Women’s Day Award by the United States government.

Furthermore, according to the information received, human rights lawyer Xie Yang was detained by national security police on 11 January 2022 for “inciting subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, often used as catch-all charges to detain lawyers and human rights activists in China. According to his wife, who lives in the United States, his phone was operational but calls were forwarded to voicemail. Xie Yang was first detained in Changsha No. 1 Detention Centre, but his current whereabouts could not be determined with certainty. Xie Yang had been detained previously after being targeted during the ‘709-crackdown’ and lost his license to practice law in 2020.

[…]

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220119-chinese-rights-lawyer-detained-for-inciting-state-subversion

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220126-china-restricts-activists-social-media-ahead-of-olympics

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-detains-prominent-activists-as-olympics-near-citing-state-security-11642588558

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Yu_(lawyer)

https://www.bayl.eu/2022/01/14/lepouse-du-celebre-avocat-chinois-des-droits-de-lhomme-xie-yang-denonce-sa-disparition-international-telediffusion-detudes-de-marche/ (FRANCAIS)

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/reuters/new-leader-of-hong-kong-barristers-vows-to-defend-rule-of-law/47278506

China: Human rights defender Qin Yongpei tried on New Year’s Eve, verdict pending

11/01/22

Qin Yongpei

After spending more than two years in pre-trial detention, human rights lawyer Qin Yongpei was tried at the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court on 31 December 2021. His family and lawyer were informed of the trial date only on four days before, on 27 December 2021. The presiding judge rejected the request by the human rights defender’s lawyer to call defence witnesses. Apart from his lawyer and his wife, who obtained permission to defend her husband in court, no other family members, including the human rights defender’s daughters, were allowed to attend the trial. The trial ended without a verdict.

In a legal career spanning more than a decade, Qin Yongpei has defended other human rights lawyers facing reprisals from the authorities, provided legal assistance to vulnerable groups, and took up cases involving unlawful administrative detention, industrial pollution, forced demolition of housing, and wrongful convictions. He is the founder and director of the Guangxi Baijuming Law Firm, where several human rights lawyers in Guangxi also worked. In July 2015, he was briefly taken and questioned by police in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown” targeting human rights lawyers and other defenders across China. He has often taken to online platforms to comment on State policies and actions, including incidents of abuse of power by officials and human rights violations. He has had multiple social media accounts shut down because of his online postings critical of the government.

On 30 September 2021, the Nanning Intermediate People’s Court contacted human rights defender Qin Yongpei’s lawyer and his wife, Deng Xiaoyun, and invited them for a pre-trial preparatory meeting on 13 October 2021. In May 2021, the Court approved an application by Deng Xiaoyun to be Qin Yongpei’s defender.

[…]

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/qin-yongpei-trial