China vs. Its Human Rights Lawyers

The New York Times
Date: JULY 31, 2015

Until two years ago, I lived in Beijing and belonged to a loosely organized group of legal 01xiao-blog427-v2professionals known among ordinary Chinese as weiquan lushi, or rights defense lawyers. The government called us “a criminal gang” that disturbed social order because we openly challenged the way the Communist Party controlled China’s legal system. Most of the people we helped were seen by officials as troublemakers: petitioners whose houses had been forcibly demolished, political dissidents, members of Christian house churches, Falun Gong practitioners, and migrant workers bullied by their urban employers.

In 2013, I came to the United States as a visiting scholar and continue my advocacy through research and writing. Most of my friends and fellow rights lawyers have chosen to stay in China and fight social injustices. Earlier this month, more than 200 of them were detained and interrogated, or placed under residential surveillance, in the most severe crackdown on the legal profession we have ever seen. Many of the lawyers were brought to secret locations; several have been pressured to confess their “criminal activities” during their incarceration.

The scope of the repression offers a glimpse of a grave situation. The public is questioning the government’s ability to manage the slowing economy, particularly the recent stock market dips, and President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign has caused deep divisions within the Communist Party. In this context, the increasing popularity of human rights lawyers, especially among the disgruntled and oppressed, and their rising influence on social media, has scared our leaders to such an extent that they felt it necessary to carry out the current wave of nationwide arrests.

A series of high profile cases this year has confirmed the leaders’ fear that the party might lose control and their legitimacy might crumble.     [FULL  STORY]


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