By LAOGAI Intern
On July 9th 2015, China began another crackdown against those that it believed to be fighting against its legal rulings. In rapid fashion, the regime systematically attacked the community of human rights lawyers in China. One after another, prominent human rights lawyers were “disappeared”. This term refers to the abduction of these lawyers and transportation to an unknown facility. Under Article 73 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, persons are allowed to be detained for up to six months without access to legal counsel in suspected crimes against national security(1). In many cases, the police completely denied and in some cases still deny that they have these persons. Family and lawyers are completely denied access to communicate with those accused.
Those that are detained are often forced to endure terrible coercion methods and denied even their most basic human rights. Many are starved and forced to make confessions to crimes that the government levies that they have committed. Many of those detained, after making their confessions, have supposedly “chosen” to dismiss their lawyers in favor of one given to them by the state（2）. If this is allowed to occur, those detained will likely have expedient trials by the courts to find them guilty, and be swiftly sent to prison. The crime that the 24 or so lawyers and assistants that are still detained have been accused of committing is state subversion which carries the possibility of a life sentence.
The government, through the use of its police state, is able to monitor the whereabouts of the lawyers and assistants it believes to be against the Communist Party. Many have been tracked down through their social media activity and use of technology. After being disappeared, many lawyers and their families have been put under house arrest with surveillance by unmarked policemen in the vicinity. In one case in particular, Bao Zhuoxuan, after being abducted with his parents who are human rights lawyers, had his passport taken away（3）. With the help of friends, he was able to leave the country, but was caught and forced to return through Myanmar. He lives with his aunt under heavy police surveillance and pressure from party representatives in his school and area. This form of control is used to scare off others from potentially speaking out. The surveillance system deters others from acting against the government. By confronting the government, those people jeopardize their own and their families’ lives.
The government has focused much of its efforts against the Fengrui Law Firm for attempts to subvert its message and control, although they are by no means the only group persecuted. The Fengrui Law Firm has previously organized flash mobs and advocated on social media for human and political rights. In response, the Chinese government has waged a war against the image and character of the law firm. The media has portrayed the firm as paid by foreign constituents to subvert China itself. Xinhua and People’s Daily, two mouthpieces of the Communist regime, further claim that the firm “plotted to stir up more than 40 legal cases since July 2012, seriously interfering with the regular administration of justice, and severely disrupting social order,” citing preliminary police findings（4）.
However, through all of this adversity, the community of human rights lawyers and their families in China has stayed resilient and stood resolute. The community has continued to call for the release of those still detained even at the risk of further backlash. The community came together recently to issue a letter to the government advancing the release of all detained lawyers. The wives of those still detained have rallied to protest against the continued efforts by the government to jail their husbands. They recently organized a bucket show protest at the entrance of one of the branches of Tianjin People’s Procuratorate. They were threatened and told that, if they continued, they would be interrogated. Nevertheless, the human rights lawyers（5） and their families continue to stay in high spirits and fight for the ones who can’t fight themselves.
1 Pils, Eva. “709 Crackdown” https://chinachange.org/tag/709-crackdown/
2 CHRD. “Forced ‘Switch’ to Police-Appointed Lawyers Further Erodes Protections for Detained Rights Defenders (3/15-3/21, 2016)” https://www.nchrd.org/2016/03/chrb-forced- switch-to- police-appointed-lawyers-further- erodes-protections- for-detained- rights-defenders- 315-321- 2016/
3 Pils, Eva. “709 Crackdown” https://chinachange.org/tag/709-crackdown/
4 Wong, Chun Han. “Human-Rights Lawyers Detained in China Confess, State Media Reports” http://www.wsj.com/articles/human-rights- lawyers-detained- in-china- confess-state- media-reports-1437307686
5 Asian Correspondent Staff. “China: Human rights lawyers, family members call for release of remaining detainees on first anniversary of ‘709 crackdown’” https://asiancorrespondent.com/2016/07/china-709-crackdown-anniversary/
6 Lei, Wang. “Wives of Lawyers Detained in ‘709 Crackdown’ Taken Away for Carrying out ‘Bucket Show’ Protest, Defense Lawyers Reprimanded by Police” http://www.hrichina.org/en/citizens-square/wives-lawyers-detained- 709-crackdown- taken-away- carrying-out- bucket-show- protest