China: Crackdown on lawyers and legal activists
In a report released today, Amnesty documents an alarming escalation of the crackdown on lawyers and legal activists who have accepted the risk of human rights cases in China. This has not only threatened the legal profession but also the justice system and Chinese civil society as a whole.
- Warnings from the Beijing judicial authorities to a number of Beijing-based human rights lawyers not to take up any cases related to the unrest in the country’s northwest Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR);
- Warnings from Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau to all law firms in Beijing to be cautious in dealing with cases related to the violence that broke out in the XUAR
- The abrupt closure of the Open Constitution Initiative (OCI, also called Gongmeng in Chinese), a legal aid and research centre which has offered legal assistance to many victims of human rights violations and with a fine of more than 1.4 million yuan (approximately USD 200,000);
- The criminal detention Xu Zhiyong, one of the founders of OCI, and a staff member, on suspicion of “tax evasion”.
- Four human rights lawyers have had their professional licences invalidated by the judicial authorities, resulting in limited capacity to represent those seeking to obtain justice and redress for human rights violations and loss of livelihoods;
- Failure of at least another 13 human rights lawyers to pass their individual annual assessments or failure of the law firms where they are employed to pass their assessments.
Obstructing the work of these lawyers as they attempt to protect the rights of many of China’s most vulnerable groups and individuals is a major blow to the growing human rights defence movement.
The report, Breaking the Law: Crackdown on details the latest repression on human rights activists, lawyers and law firms who provided legal assistance to and represent victims of human rights violations in China.