HRW decries crackdown on China’s defense lawyers

Human Rights Watch rightfully condemns one of the government’s most repellent strategies for maintaining its police state.

Chinese lawyers who defend human rights and expose the absence of an independent judiciary are under increasing attack from state authorities, Human Rights Watch said today. The central government must respond to the recent spate of harassment, detentions, and physical attacks on human rights lawyers. Human Rights Watch also urged the central government, which has so far failed to intervene on the lawyers’ behalf, to state publicly that attacks against lawyers will not be tolerated, and to take immediate steps to ensure the effective protection of lawyers.

“It’s unclear whether China’s central authorities have ordered, condoned or ignored the recent attacks on lawyers,” said Sophie Richardson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “But it’s crystal clear that the government should uphold the law and stop this blatantly illegal persecution of lawyers.”

Two of China’s most prominent lawyers are currently facing prosecutions that seem to be politically motivated. Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng, an outspoken advocate of the rights of victims of government violations and abuse of power, was detained on August 15 on charges of alleged involvement in criminal activities. In 2005, authorities stripped Gao of his right to practice law.

On August 18, the trial of another legal activist, Chen Guangcheng, turned into a mockery of justice when his lawyers were physically assaulted and then forcibly detained by Public Security to prevent them from attending. The court, in Yinan county, Shandong province, has charged Chen with intent to damage public property and inciting others to join him to disrupt traffic intent to damage public property and inciting others to join him to disrupt traffic….

“The Chinese authorities can no longer have it both ways,” said Richardson. “Beijing should either uphold the rule of law and tolerate legal challenges or drop this facade of commitment to legal reform. The actions against Chen, Gao and others make it difficult to believe that everyone in China is equal before the law.”

Don’t hold your breath, Ms. Richardson. The government professes in public to encourage myriad reforms – a more open press, peasant’s land rights, tax reform, etc., etc., etc. – that are then summarily forgotten whenver they feel the least bit threatened. The way we are seeing these attorneys treated is completely consistent with the government’s one sincere and fiercely adhered-to vision: that the party remain in power, unchallenged and unaccountable, forever.

The Discussion: One Comment

Why is it that everyone complains about lawyers but only China does anything about it?

I just love the way the authorities act in this farce. Just before the trial they charge the lawyers with theft. What did they steal? A book? Not long after the blind lawyer Chen GuangCheng sued local authorities over forced abortions and sterilization he was jailed for… get this…blocking traffic.

That is what is so priceless about this game: how unbalanced it is. On the one side we have we have the earnest, activist lawyers who have the law, justice and fairness on their side. On the other side we have the party dudes can do well, whatever they want. Game over player one.

The thing that gets me about the party leaders is that they don’t need to pay attention to petty things like courts and laws. But they insist on pretending that they do.

There is a good video of a state-sponsored carjacking on my blog . Another of Chen Guangcheng’s lawyer’s, Li Jinsong, is assaulted and his car gets rolled. The video shows the beginning of the action but you can clearly see how mundane this type of violence is.


August 28, 2006 @ 3:25 pm | Comment

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