Six years after Beijing police raided the offices and key members of the now-defunct Beijing Fengrui law firm, rights attorneys Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang say their profession no longer really exists in the wake of a prolonged crackdown by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The July 9, 2015 raid on Fengrui and the arrests of Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, and dozens of other rights attorneys, law firm staff, and associated activists launched a nationwide operation targeting the profession on an unprecedented scale.
Less than a decade later, attorneys who continue to take on cases deemed politically sensitive by the CCP can expect to lose their business licenses, which are subject to annual review, or are themselves detained, harassed, or sentenced to jail.
Wang Yu, who was honored by the U.S. as an International Woman of Courage (IWOC) this year, was once again held incommunicado in March after failing to attend an online award ceremony.
The award came as she and her husband Bao Longjun were assisting in the case of Niu Tengyu, who is currently serving a 14-year jail term for allegedly posting a photo of Xi Mingze, daughter of CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, to meme site Zhina Wiki, an act that was later blamed by police on Niu’s Vulgar Wiki.
She says there are still multiple restrictions on her daily life, despite having been released in the wake of the 2015 crackdown.
The fifth China Human Rights Lawyers Day will be held virtually on July 9, 2021.
The China Human Rights Lawyers Day was created on July 9, 2017 in acknowledgement of the tireless efforts of Chinese human rights lawyers in their struggle for justice and the rule of law. It commemorates the mass arrest of lawyers that occured on July 9, 2015, and celebrates the ideals, courage, and tenacity of human rights lawyers in China.
Most human rights lawyers are not famous, nor are they wealthy, but they have irrefutably stood out in the Chinese legal community, elevating the profession to a worthier height. Over the past two decades, they have represented clients in all aspects of human rights and public interest, including but not limited to freedom of speech, freedom of belief, political dissent, property rights, women’s rights, labor rights, minority rights, anti-discrimination, food safety, and redress of wrongful convictions and other grievances. Their clients are from all walks of Chinese society, including political dissidents, religious believers, human rights defenders, civil society activists, farmers who lost land to illegal appropriation, factory workers, NGO practitioners, private entrepreneurs, writers, journalists, ordinary netizens, street vendors, victims of miscarriage of justice, and even Chinese Communist Party officials who have become prisoners in the so-called anti-corruption campaign. Their clients are often either opponents of the authoritarian regime or those whose rights and dignity are trampled.
Human rights lawyers have performed their duties in the process of defending their clients under the law, but precisely because they take both the law and their duties seriously, they have been subject to increasingly strong hostility from the authorities. Since the emergence of the legal rights defense movement in the early 2000s, these lawyers have only faced worse repercussions for their work; many have been arrested and tortured, suspended and disbarred. But the mass arrests on July 9, 2015, marked the beginning of a broader persecution of human rights lawyers by the Chinese authorities. Dozens of human rights lawyers and their assistants were suddenly arrested and hundreds of lawyers were threatened across the country. The jailed lawyers were subjected to harrowing physical and mental abuse. They were deprived of legal representation, forcibly injected with unknown drugs, forced to make confessions. Over the past two decades, more than 70 human rights lawyers have been disbarred, and about 40 of them have had their licenses revoked or cancelled in the past five years. At least 50 human rights lawyers have been illegally barred from leaving the country.
Even though most of the 709 detainees have been released, imprisonment of human rights lawyers has not ceased. Today, 13 human rights lawyers remain in prison in China, and one has been missing for more than three years.
The 11th Day of the Endangered Lawyer which will be marked tomorrow, (22 January) focuses on Azerbaijan this year.
Protests and seminars will be organised in solidarity with human rights lawyers in Azerbaijan.
The Day of the Endangered lawyer is normally commemorated each year on 24 January, which falls on Sunday this year.
Protests organised by local lawyer associations are planned worldwide outside embassies and consulates of the Republic of Azerbaijan, in compliance with public health guidelines.
A petition supported by international, European and national lawyers‘ organizations will be presented to the respective embassies and sent to the Azerbaijan government.
Protests outside Azerbaijani embassies will be organised in Berlin and Rome and in Ankara and other Turkish cities.
A seminar at 2pm today, organised by the Law Society of England and Wales, will be supported by Lawyers for Lawyers, DAV DeutscherAnwaltVerein, ELDH – the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights.
ERASED: Wang Quanzhang was arrested in a mass crackdown by Chinese authorities in July 2015 and has not been seen by his family since, despite being sentenced to jail
Human rights groups and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday called attention to imprisoned Chinese lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), saying that his family do not know if he is alive and that the Chinese government has blocked all information regarding his case.
“We ask for Taiwanese and the international community to support this cause, as we believe Wang has been tortured and mistreated in prison, and all requests by his family to visit him have been rejected,” Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network convener Kuo Chi-jen (郭吉仁) said.
Wang was among more than 200 human rights activists and lawyers arrested in a mass crackdown by Chinese authorities on July 9, 2015, and was the last to go on trial.
A court in Tianjin, China, in January found him guilty of “subverting state power” and sentenced him to four years and six months in prison.
“The court conducted a secret trial, and Wang’s family and lawyer did not get to see him. Chinese authorities have imposed a total ban on any information about Wang and his case,” Kuo said.
Chinese authorities have prevented another top human rights lawyer from leaving the country, as he tried to board a plane for the democratic island of Taiwan.
Cheng Hai was stopped by security guards at the Hefei XinqiaoInternational Airport in the eastern province of Anhui on Tuesday, as he went through security.
“Cheng Hai may endanger national security after leaving the country,” a security official says in a video of the incident filmed by Cheng.
“With the approval of the relevant department of the State Council, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau is enforcing restrictions on your exit in accordance with the provisions of Article 12, Clause 5 of the Exit and Entry Administration Law of the People’s Republic of China,” the guard said.
In the video clip, Cheng argues with the guards.
“I tell you that you are committing a criminal act by preventing citizens from leaving the country, and abusing your power,” Cheng said. “You behave like a criminal gang, even though you are wearing police uniforms.”
Cheng had been hoping to fly from Hefei to Taipei, but declined tocomment on the reason for the trip.
Support is growing at home and abroad for a liberal law professor at China’s Tsinghua University who was recently suspended for criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But how big an impact the backlash will have on the university’s Communist Party-appointed leadership or in China’s academic circles remains to be seen, observers say. Xu Zhangrun is one of several dozen cases of academics recently silenced because of their dissenting views.
Two weeks ago, Tsinghua University launched an investigation into Xu after he wrote articles that boldly criticized the Communist Party’s repressive policies in recent years including last year’s constitutional amendments to scrap Xi’s two-term limits.
So far Xu has been silent about the investigation but has shown no signs of caving to the university’s suppression, according to Hu Jia, a rights activist in Beijing.
“He [Xu] came to the realization that, in times of crisis, so many people have taken his side and spoken up for him. This shows that justice naturally inhabits man’s heart,” Hu quoted Xu as saying after having exchanged messages with the professor on the Chinese social media app Wechat.
“It is Professor Xu’s belief that history will be on his side and justice will prevail. And no matter how hard those in power suppress him, the truth cannot be hidden,” Hu added.
Two of Taiwan’s highest-ranking officials on Saturday expressed support for a Chinese professor who was suspended this month after openly criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Xu Zhangrun (許章潤), a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing was suspended after writing several articles criticizing the Chinese government, among them an essay titled “Our Current Fears and Expectations” from last July, denouncing Xi’s cult of personality.
In a series of mobile phone messages, Xu said several Tsinghua University officials ordered him on March 25 to stop all teaching and research and indicated that a university “work team” would investigate him, focusing on the essays he has written since July, according to a report in the New York Times on March 27.
Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) both voiced their support for Xu on Saturday.
Chen said in a statement that the professional advice of scholars can serve as the conscience of society. In addition, a civilized society should respect diverse views as cracking down on different opinions, criticism and dissent only undermines harmony and stability.
OPEN LETTER:‘The EU’s broad and principled commitment to promoting human rights has not been matched in China with a willingness to act,’ the letter said
Ahead of next month’s EU-China summit, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights on Wednesday joined US government-funded non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch and several other international advocacy groups in issuing an open letter to EU officials to raise public awareness about the “growing human rights crisis” in China.
The coalition of groups urged the EU to fulfill its pledge to promote human rights globally by repeatedly calling for the release of political prisoners detained by the Chinese government, including poet Liu Xia (劉霞), the widow of journalist Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), and Taiwanese human rights advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲).
The letter is addressed to European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the July 12 to 13 summit, Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎) said yesterday.
Just weeks after last year’s summit, Chinese authorities ignored an international outcry, including pressure from several EU member states, and denied the wish of late 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo to leave China to seek medical treatment for liver cancer.
The letter also called on the EU to pressure China for the release of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, Tibetan-language education advocate Tashi Wangchuk and other people China has charged with crimes not recognized elsewhere in the international community, or detained for simply taking steps toward protecting human rights.
Chinese rights activist Huang Yan, a former torture victim who spoke out publicly in support of rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, has been granted a temporary stay in the democratic island of Taiwan after being recognized as a genuine refugee by the United Nations.
Huang abandoned a flight from Jakarta to Beijing during its stopover in Taiwan on Tuesday, and sought political asylum on the island instead, she told RFA in an interview on Wednesday.
“I am very happy,” she said. “When I left the airport in Taiwan, pushing my suitcase, I thought to myself that I am totally free. But at the same time, I am still suffering psychologically from all the years of persecution.”
“I was thinking that I would start revealing [my story], bit by bit, after I arrived in Taiwan,” she said. “There is so much to tell; I wouldn’t get done telling it if I spoke for several days and nights without stopping.”
Huang said she is very grateful to Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party, for letting her in on a 90-day permit while her application is being considered.
“Thank God, and thank Taiwan,” she said.
Huang arrived aboard a flight operated by the island’s flag-carrier China Airlines. Her ticket took her as far as Beijing, but she declined to board the second leg of the flight, and made herself known to Taiwan officials at the airport.
She was supported in her application by Yang Sen-hong, president of the Taiwan Association for China Human Rights, and his wife Ling Yao-chiu, its secretary-general.
The couple met Huang, 48, when she emerged at Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday.
A genuine refugee
Huang fled China after years of harassment, repeated incarceration, and torture at the hands of the mainland Chinese authorities linked to her rights activism.
Her escape to Thailand from the former British colony of Hong Kong, which runs a separate immigration border from mainland China, was assisted by Bob Fu, president of U.S.-based Christian rights group China Aid, and culminated in her being recognized as a genuine refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
COUNTING THE DAYS:It has been 438 days since Lee Ming-che’s arrest in China and 1,000 days since Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang disappeared
A coalition of human rights groups yesterday said it would hold a series of events on Monday to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre and called on people to stand up against Beijing’s human rights abuses.
China has over the past few years stepped up its suppression of human rights, targeting not only its citizens inside the country, but also Chinese nationals abroad and foreigners in China, Taiwan Association for Human Rights secretary-general Chiu Ee-ling (邱伊翎) said.
“China is no longer just trying to undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty — it is now a threat to global human rights,” she said.
It has been 438 days since Taiwanese democracy advocate Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was arrested in China and more than 1,000 days since Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) disappeared, she said, adding that Chinese poet Liu Xia (劉霞), the widow of Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), also remains under house arrest.
As China’s close neighbor, Taiwan must collaborate with the international community to make a stand against Beijing’s crackdown on human rights, she said.
In July 2015, during what later came to be known as the “709 crackdown,” Beijing arrested hundreds of human rights lawyers, many of whom were tortured, Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network convener Kuo Chi-jen (郭吉仁) said.
“Following the crackdown, things have continued to worsen,” he said. “Since August last year, the government has suspended the licenses of 17 human rights lawyers. While most of them were involved in the ‘709 crackdown,’ some were suspended simply because they defended a Falun Gong practitioner.”