New York, NY (February 28, 2015) – Employing a broad spectrum of tactics and weapons, the Chinese government has ratcheted up a campaign to control and silence lawyers who represent politically sensitive clients and causes, according to a new report released today by the Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers and the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice at Fordham Law School.
Plight and Prospects: The Landscape for Cause Lawyers in China combines both legal analysis and powerful individual testimonies to demonstrate how Chinese authorities have amplified their efforts to constrain China’s small but growing community of rights defense lawyers and legal advocates since Xi Jinping rose to power. A widespread crackdown ensnaring hundreds of lawyers across China in the summer of 2015 is the latest example of this strategy. Drawing on in-person interviews with rights lawyers and their loved ones, the 83-page report paints a chilling picture of how the government’s strategic assault on lawyers aims to destabilize the personal and professional lives of lawyers and their families. The report further describes the broad spectrum of government tactics used against lawyers, including both law-based and extra-legal measures, ranging from abuses in licensing procedures, limitations imposed on access to clients, overt detentions and disappearances of lawyers themselves, to family intimidation, surveillance and monitoring, and a media campaign branding rights lawyers as criminals.
“The latest wave of detentions of rights lawyers is only the most recent example of the Chinese government’s blatant disregard for fundamental human rights,” said Elisabeth Wickeri, Executive Director of the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice and member of the Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers. “Silencing and controlling lawyers in particular reveals that recent high-level statements committing to the rule of law are empty; the aim seems instead to be to remove lawyers and legal defenders and leave vulnerable citizens, activists, and anyone entangled in the criminal justice system exposed and susceptible to abuse.”
Released on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s address to the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York, Plight and Prospects: The Landscape for Cause Lawyers in China includes recommendations to the Chinese government as well as the international community directed to strengthening protections to ensure that all lawyers are able to carry out their professional obligations without intimidation, hindrance, harassment, or improper interference, in conformity with international standards, including the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. The report also calls on Chinese authorities to immediately disclose the whereabouts and status of all reportedly disappeared lawyers and other individuals in connection with the most recent crackdown.
“Lawyers in China who are willing to take on politically sensitive cases that are unpopular with the authorities take enormous risks simply to fulfill their professional obligations as lawyers,” Wickeri said. “It is crucial that all members of the legal profession worldwide stand up and speak out for our Chinese colleagues, who are being harassed, intimidated, attacked, detained, and even forcibly disappeared—all for undertaking the professional work of being a lawyer, something many of us take for granted every day.”
The full report can be viewed and downloaded at http://bit.ly/1JxiElW.