ICC Note: This article provides a glimpse into what may behind the recent Chinese government crackdown on human rights lawyers – not just isolated events, but part of a greater scheme.
By Wen Jian and Xin Lin
07/21/2015 China (Radio Free Asia)
China’s relentless crackdown on rights attorneys and paralegals comes amid a further tightening of controls on civil society since the beginning of the year, according to a prominent rights group.
By 5.00 p.m. local time on Tuesday, the authorities had detained or questioned at least 242 people in a nationwide operation that began with a July 10 raid on the Beijing-based law firm Fengrui and the detention of a number of its staff.
A total of 12 lawyers and two non-lawyers are being held under criminal detention or residential surveillance at secret locations, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG) said in a statement on its website.
Nine lawyers and several other staff members of Beijing’s Fengrui law firm have been charged with disrupting public order and violating trial proceedings, according to ruling Chinese Communist Party newspaper the People’s Daily.
A survey carried out by the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group in the first half of the year found that the number of repressive incidents under China’s “stability maintenance regime” stood at 95 points out of a maximum 100 points, in a scoring system that tries to measure the severity of official responses to civil-rights campaigns, petitions and popular protest.
“China’s stability maintenance index scored 95 points in the first half of 2015, showing that the alert level is currently in the emergency red zone,” the group said.
Hubei rights activist Wu Lijuan said the crackdown on lawyers is foremost in the minds of many of their former clients, who are often petitioners seeking some form of redress over official mistreatment or forced evictions.
“If we had the rule of law, then the Chinese government wouldn’t be detaining so many lawyers,” Wu said.
“If we had the rule of law, the Chinese government would allow ordinary people to express different opinions, and people wouldn’t need to scale the Great Firewall to see accurate news reporting on the Internet,” she said, in a reference to tight government censorship of what Chinese people can see online.