China: Human rights lawyers increasingly targets of assault, arrest – report

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Originally published by Asian Correspondent on February 17, 2017

LAWYER’S of human rights activists in China are being subject to beatings and suppression by paid assailants hired by the authorities, a report has claimed.

The report, released Thursday by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD ), a coalition of groups working within and outside China, details how lawyers who defend human rights activists and dissidents targeted by China’s communist government are increasingly themselves become targets of political prosecutions and violence.

The network identified six times last year that lawyers were beaten by plaintiffs, police officers or assailants likely hired by authorities and said there had been no prosecutions of the assailants.

The cases illustrate the dangers Chinese lawyers face both inside and outside courtrooms and detention facilities, the report said.

The group also found detainees were pressured to fire their own lawyers and accept government-supplied attorneys.

“The Chinese government seems intent on eliminating civil society through a combination of new legislation restricting the funding and operations of NGOs, and the criminalisation of human rights activities as a so-called threat to national security,” Frances Eve, a researcher at CHRD , said, as quoted by the Guardian.

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The coalition said in the first case of the year, bailiffs in Heilongjiang attacked lawyer Wang Zichen in March after he tried to file a court case in Tieli City.

In June, the coalition said, authorities in Guangxi investigated and offered compensation to lawyer Wu Liangshu after bailiffs beat him and ripped his clothes in an attack following his refusal to hand over his phone for inspection.

“The investigation took place only after news of the incident went viral on social media.”

In another incident in Hebei, bailiffs assaulted lawyer Dong Qianyong in October after he objected to a judge’s order to bar him from bringing his court files into court. The coalition said this was the second time lawyer Dong had been violently beaten in a court in the past few years.

The remaining lawyers Liu Shihui, Yang Zaiming, and Zhang Xinsheng were attacked in Shanghai, Shandong, and Hubei, respectively, by thugs and plainclothes police, the coalition added.

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Under President Xi Jinping, China has widely suppressed independent organizations and dissenters, as well as lawyers defending people caught in its crackdown.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to faxed questions about the report.

The report also noted that last year, authorities under Xi continued to ramp up restrictions on freedom of expression. Mass media and Internet content in China remained highly censored, and personal
communications and online activities were closely monitored by the state, the coalition said.

“Under such conditions, HRDs (human rights defenders) in China have very restricted means for sharing or disseminating information,” the report said.

“Limits on free expression and the press directly obstruct civil society efforts to promote and
protect human rights. Rights defenders, in particular, have been persecuted for speech critical
of government policies or for reporting on rights abuses.”

The coalition added they often faced criminal charges for serious political crimes, including “subversion,” “inciting subversion,” and “leaking state secrets.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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