Human Rights Group Urges China to Stop Persecuting Lawyers

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Originally published by Latin America Herald Tribune on July 9, 2018

BEIJING – A Chinese human rights group urged the government on Monday to probe the unlawful persecution of Chinese human rights lawyers, including arbitrary arrests and torture.

Three years ago, China had cracked down heavily on human rights lawyers, arresting more than 300, and since 2017 have revoked many licenses.

“Perpetrators should be held to account for the Chinese government’s ongoing persecution of human rights lawyers,” The China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) said in a statement.

Following mass arrests since 2015, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, “no police officers or other government personnel have been investigated, much less criminally prosecuted, for their role in committing violations against these lawyers.”

According to CHRD, these violations include “arbitrary detention on politicized charges of ‘subversion of state power’ or ‘inciting subversion,’” denial of access to a lawyer during detention, prolonged pre-trial detention, torture and retaliation against family members.

The lack of justice for victims and accountability on part of the authorities, who ordered or carried out the “arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and acts of torture, have gone hand-in-hand with escalating persecution of lawyers since the crackdown was launched,” the statement denounced.

In May, CHRD had submitted evidence to impose sanctions against Zhao Fei under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which authorizes the United States President to block or revoke visas of certain foreign nationals and impose sanctions against them.

Zhao, currently a member of the Tianjin government, was head of Tianjin police during the crackdown and, according to CHRD, was responsible for 19 cases of serious abuse.

CHRD has thus urged the US to apply the law on Zhao so that it “could have a deterrent effect on officials’ carrying out of President Xi Jinping’s repressive policies.”

In December 2017, the US government sanctioned Gao Yan, a police officer in Beijing, for his role in the arrest and death in custody of dissident Cao Shunli after denying him access to medical treatment, the statement said.

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