Chinese Authorities Detain and Denounce Rights Lawyers

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Originally published by The New York Times on July 11, 2015

HONG KONG — At least five Chinese lawyers from a firm that specialized in rights cases have been detained by the police in Beijing and accused of running a criminal syndicate to smear the Communist Party and “create social chaos” through their litigation, state-run news media said on Saturday.

The accusations bear the hallmarks of a concerted operation, and signaled one of the most high-profile efforts by the party under President Xi Jinpingto discredit the “rights defense movement,” which has tried to challenge state power through litigation and publicity, said experts and rights advocates.

“Their objective was to win fame and profit and to create social chaos,” said the news report laying out charges against the rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng and his colleagues, which was published online by People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s leading newspaper; Xinhua, the main state news agency; and other outlets.

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