China crackdown on lawyers expands

2011-06-30 13:00

Beijing - Chinese authorities are increasingly resorting to attacks and secret detentions in a crackdown on activist lawyers that has worsened this year amid government efforts to prevent the growth of an Arab-style protest movement, a rights group said on Thursday.

Amnesty International said the government also has suspended or revoked lawyers' licenses to stop them from taking sensitive cases, such as defending pro-democracy dissidents, members of banned religious movements or government critics.

"Intimidation, harassment, violence, arbitrary detention - were all increasingly used against lawyers and their families in 2010," the group said in a report released on Thursday detailing the crackdown over the past two years. "Such acts are carried out in more and more blatant ways, with officials abandoning even the pretence of obeying the law."

Ever-sensitive to any signs of dissent, China has kept a steady drumbeat of pressure on the small community of human rights lawyers who already face numerous difficulties working in China's tightly controlled legal system to press for civil liberties and combat abuse of power.

The pressure intensified in February as the government launched one of its broadest campaigns of repression in years. Dozens of activists, lawyers and bloggers have been questioned, detained or have simply disappeared in a bid to quash even the possibility of a pro-democracy movement forming along the lines of those sweeping the Arab world.

Among them are prominent rights lawyer Teng Biao, a law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, who disappeared in mid-February and resurfaced more than two months later. Beijing attorney Jiang Tianyong, who worked on cases involving Aids activists and freedom of religion, also vanished for two months.

Missing for a year

Though none of the lawyers were previously media-shy, all have come back refusing to speak to journalists, suggesting possible intimidation by authorities.

Authorities also use administrative measures to pressure lawyers. Amnesty International estimates that 30-40 rights lawyers have lost their licenses either temporarily or permanently since 2008, the London-based group's Asia Pacific Deputy Director Catherine Baber said.

One of the most high-profile targets of the crackdown on rights lawyers over the past few years is Gao Zhisheng, a charismatic and pugnacious lawyer who represented religious dissenters and advocated constitutional reform.

Gao, who has been missing for more than a year, has drawn international attention for the unusual length of his disappearance and for his earlier reports of torture he said he endured in detention.

The Ministry of Public Security and Beijing's municipal public security bureau did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on the report.

  • pawsaw - 2011-06-30 19:47

    Robert Mugabe learned this method well from his Chinese pals. It starts with silencing the lawyers who defend those against whom the State has committed acts of violence and silencing the press who comment on the rape of Lady Liberty a la Zapiro in the form of cartoons which use facts with satire against the State's abuse of the law in a democracy. Let us never forget that we the citizens of this country pay the fat salaries and perks of the politicians who seek to silence us should we feel that they are not using our money to benefit the poorest of the poor or are failing to deliver on their promises because they lack the skills that every woman has to know to feed her family and provide shelter. They are men after all who leave hungry crying and bored children to the mother to deal with somehow. In China there are no unions allowed, eugenics is common practice particularly because boys are valued more than girls. This is the direction in which our govt wishes to go but do the majority see this? If they don't why don't they see it? What are the pro's and cons of following this route? Survival of the fittest at the expense of the weak? Is that necessarily a bad thing in an overpopulated technological world?

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