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  • China accused of 'all-out attack' on lawyers
  • The Guardian - UK
  • 08/06/2009 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: The Rooster ( 258 articles in 2009 )
Human rights campaigners have accused Chinese authorities of an "all-out attack" on lawyers who take on sensitive cases, using methods ranging from the non-renewal of their licences to harassment, detention and house arrest.

The lawyers concerned have handled clients including dissidents, members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, farmers who have lost their land and Tibetans charged after last spring's unrest. They have warned that the increasing pressure could leave some of the most vulnerable groups in society without representation.

At least 17 rights defence lawyers did not receive the new licences they needed at the end of last month, in effect disbarring them. Three firms were also denied approval, affecting more lawyers.

In a joint statement, several of the advocates warned: "As the Chinese government bears down heavy-handedly to rein in petitioning citizens, free intellectuals, rights defenders, and religious figures, it has … intensified its full-scale repression of rights defence lawyers to an unprecedented degree. The process of building a country ruled by law has suffered a serious setback."

The measures follow the recent disappearance of Gao Zhisheng, a high-profile, self-taught advocate who once said that every human rights lawyer ended up as a human rights case. No one has been able to contact the Nobel peace prize nominee since police took him from his home in February.

Tang Jitian, a Beijing lawyer, was released last night after being held at a hotel for three days by public security officials over an alleged theft at an educational institution. He said: "It was just an excuse. It is a violation of the law … Even some of the police I spoke to in private said they were not proud of what they were doing and were just following orders.

"Some authorities don't like those lawyers who speak for the people. They think we are enemies."

Asked about his case, the local public security department said it was not authorised to talk to the media. The public information office of the Beijing public security bureau said it would only reply to a faxed request and was about to close for the day.

Several other lawyers were put under house arrest or heavy surveillance last week. They believe the measures were connected to the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, on 4 June, but also to a broader attempt to clamp down on dissidents, religious advocates and human rights lawyers in a sensitive year marking the 60th anniversary of Communist party rule.

"What police and the authorities are doing is destroying Chinese law," said Jiang Tianyong, who has not received a new licence and spoke from under house arrest.

"China evolving into a country with the rule of law would totally benefit China itself – it's part of a world trend. All these things I have done have completely obeyed Chinese law and benefited the people. The illegal treatment I have received is to China's shame."

Jiang said that on 3 June he was barred from leaving his home by officers who warned him: "Think about your wife and child."

He added: "My wife has felt under great pressure and even my six-year-old daughter knows what's happening."

Another lawyer said he had received his new licence but his firm wanted to fire him. He asked not to be named as he is still negotiating with his employers.

"I think the legal authorities applied pressure to my firm because they want to transfer the problem … I have represented some very sensitive cases," he said.

The US-based group Human Rights in China (HRIC) accused the authorities of "an all-out attack" on rights lawyers.

"This suppression will inevitably lead to grave consequences for society, creating greater disadvantages for already persecuted groups and greater social instability," said HRIC executive director Sharon Hom.

The recent moves come on top of existing pressures on rights defenders, who have repeatedly experienced harassment and physical violence in their work.

In April, Yang Zaixin, from Guangxi province, was beaten by thugs as he helped peasants challenging illegal land seizure by the government.

HRIC alleges that Cheng Hai was savagely beaten in April by government workers while working in Chengdu, and that last month Zhang Kai and Li Chunfu were beaten by policemen in Chongqing.

Source: https://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/08/china-lawyers-intimidation


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