Chinese New Year: situation of lawyers in the Year of the Rat
新年快乐 (happy new year)! Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year and the start of the Spring Festival. Unfortunately, the Year of the Rat does not seem to bring prosperity and happiness for many human rights lawyers and activists who have been questioned or detained by the Chinese authorities during the year-end.
As millions have returned home for the festivities during the Spring Festival, for dozens of human rights lawyers and activists the Year of the Rat will not have a happy start. They have been questioned, detained, subjected to travel bans or sentenced by Chinese authorities. Furthermore, some lawyers who were detained during the 709 Crackdown in 2015, remain in prison until this day.
Many human rights lawyers and activists have been questioned, detained or subjected to travel bans in December 2019 and January 2020. The reason for the nationwide crackdown by the Chinese authorities are unclear, however at least 8 arrests and questionings seem to be connected to a private meeting of activists and lawyers in Xiamen on 13 December 2019. In a joint letter of the Law Society of England and Wales and Lawyers for Lawyers, Lawyers for Lawyers has expressed its concerns and called upon the Chinese authorities to immediately release the detained lawyers, to end all acts of harassment against lawyers, and to guarantee that all lawyers may carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
In the Year of the Rat, Lawyers for Lawyers asks special attention for the dire situation of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang through the #FreeTheLawyers Campaign. After his initial arrest in the 709 Crackdown in 2015, Wang Quanzhang disappeared and was secretly detained for over three years until his trial began in December 2018. After the trial, where his wife, foreign journalists and diplomats were denied entrance, on 28 January 2019 Wang was found guilty of ‘subverting state power’ and sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment. When his family was finally allowed a 30 minute visit on 28 June 2019, he had not seen them in four years. In a joint open letter to the Ministry of Justice of the People’s Republic of China, Lawyers for Lawyers called upon the Chinese authorities to restore the freedom of Wang Quanzhang and all lawyers who have been imprisoned for political reasons.
Prospects of improvement; call upon Chinese authorities
The Year-end Crackdown does not seem to promise any improvement for Chinese Lawyers in the Year of the Rat. Lawyers for Lawyers has grave concerns about the situation of lawyers in China and urges the Chinese authorities to ensure that all lawyers in China can carry out their professional duties without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions. Specifically, Lawyers for Lawyers calls upon the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Wang Quanzhang.
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