The remarkable crackdown on lawyers in China in July 2015

July 29, 2015

On 10 July 2015 over 250 lawyers and support staff were detained or questioned by the police in China in one of the largest crackdowns in recent years. Many newspapers and NGOs have reported on this phenomenon. This is the situation on 29 July:

The Economist of 18 July calls the round-up “remarkable for its speed, geographical extent and the number of people targeted”. It added that state media have vilified them as “rabble rousers seeking celebrity and money“.

Of those, 230 have since been released, but 12 lawyers and three non-lawyers are still being held in undisclosed locations. Radio Free Asia [RFA] on 27 July reports that  a Chinese lawyer, Yu Wensheng, has filed a formal information request to police in the northern city of Tianjin in a bid to find out the whereabouts of his lawyer, Wang Yu, who has been held at an unknown location since 9 July and marked the start of a nationwide crackdown on the legal profession.

Wang Yu in an undated photo. Photo courtesy of Wang Yu’s microblog
Yu Wensheng filed the freedom of information request on Saturday, calling on Tianjin police to reveal her location, and what crimes she is suspected of committing. “Nobody knows what has happened to Wang Yu, and we only know that she was criminally detained through the media,” Yu told RFA. “Even her relatives and her defense attorneys don’t know.” “Wang Yu was also my defense attorney, and because I am currently out on bail, from a legal perspective, I have an interest in her case, and I also believe I have a duty to understand her whereabouts and the nature of the charges against her,” he said. “That’s why I filed the freedom of information request with the police.” (Rights lawyer Chen Jiangang said that information on the whereabouts of detainees should be given to relatives and lawyers as a matter of course.)
Among those still detained, in addition to Wang Yu, are her husband Bao Longjun, and [law firm] Fengrui colleagues Wang Quanzhang, Huang Liqun and Zhou Shifeng. Wang Yu has represented activists, scholars, members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual group, farmers who lost their land, forced evictees and petitioners seeking to protect their rights. Wang was also representing Cao Shunli, the 2014 MEA Final Nominee.
The event has led to strong reactions from the human rights community including:
– An Open letter to the President of China by 24 legal organizations. The open letter (dated 22 July) strongly condemns the recent detention campaign. The letter notes that the wave of arrests followed the disappearance of lawyer Wang Yu on 9 July 2015. Most of those detained were part of a group of over 100 lawyers and rights activists who signed a public statement on 9 July 2015 condemning Wang Yu’s disappearance.
– Thursday 16 July, several UN human rights experts, including the Special Rapporteurs on the independence of judges and lawyers, the situation of human rights defenders and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, called on the Chinese authorities to stop the targeted police harassment and intimidation. The experts expressed dismay at the ever-growing number of lawyers and persons associated with their work, including law firm personnel, legal assistants and human rights defenders, who have been arrested and detained, including incommunicado, or summoned and questioned since 9 July 2015.

….“We are particularly concerned about the physical and mental integrity of 10 individuals, including 6 lawyers, who are currently held in police custody or under ‘residential surveillance’ in unknown locations, in most cases incommunicado since their arrests,” they said. The experts expressed further concern that these persons may have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in contravention of not only the UN Basic Principles of the Role of Lawyers and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but also the Chinese Criminal Procedure Code. “The fate and whereabouts of another 12 persons, including 3 lawyers, who have disappeared in unknown circumstances, are also worrying,” they noted.  “We call on the Chinese authorities to investigate these cases urgently and provide full disclosure on the results.”

[The experts: Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Michel Forst; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez.]

– Moreover, China’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, is now being attacked citing this crackdown. A group of intellectuals, ethnic minorities and NGOs stay that awarding Beijing the Olympics is a contradiction of the Olympics’ goal of “promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” [see also:].

“Lawyers need to be protected not harassed” – UN experts urge China to halt detentions.

11 Responses to “The remarkable crackdown on lawyers in China in July 2015”

  1. […] were detained on 10 July 2015 in the midst of a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers [] and placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location‘. Article 73 of […]

  2. […] [Since 9 July 2015, over 300 lawyers, legal assistants, human rights defenders and their family members have been detained, summoned for questioning, harassed or subjected to travel bans. It is believed that at least two dozen human rights defenders remain in some form of police custody, with the whereabouts of the majority of the detained unknown. See also: [] […]

  3. […] 2016 Human Rights Watch published an open Letter from Legal Experts on detained lawyers in China. []. The letter, reproduced below, tries to link the Chinese leaders to their earlier promises that […]

  4. […] At least 290 lawyers are currently being held in detention in China, for nothing more than undertaking their professional responsibilities. Many have had their licences revoked. Almost all of them have been detained in secret detention centres for periods ranging from three to six months before the government formally arrested them. …What is portrayed as the justice process in China is a military trial. It is presented as a civilian justice process that begins and ends with the questioning of the accused. The Procuratorate wields more power than a judge. In such an environment, where independent judges and lawyers are absent, the state holds the ultimate power to decide who must and must not be convicted. [see also:] […]

  5. […] On the occasion of the second anniversary of her death, Front Line Defenders once again calls for an independent, impartial investigation into the death of Cao Shunli and that those responsible for her treatment are brought to justice. ….Rather than examining their procedures in the wake of Cao Shunli’s death, the Chinese authorities have instead doubled down on the reprisals against human rights defenders and despite the rhetorical emphasis on ‘rule of law’, it is evident that rule of law as it relates to human rights defenders is further away than ever. Indeed Cao Shunli’s lawyer, Wang Yu, who bravely battled the authorities on her behalf, is now herself behind bars and facing a charge of ‘subverting state power’. She is one of scores of human rights defenders around the country who have been detained or sentenced in the past year.[] […]

  6. […] A Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang admitted to getting “brainwashed” overseas at the opening of his trial on Monday, the court said. Xie Yang, who had worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party, was among hundreds of legal staff and activists detained in a crackdown in the summer of 2015.  [see also:… and The Changsha Intermediate People’s Court announced the trial’s start on its account in a microblogging website, saying that Xie was charged with “inciting subversion of state power and disrupting court order.“ […]

  7. […] This in contrast to the decision the same day in the case of human rights lawyer Xie Yang who was not sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” Xie was released on bail in May after what critics described as a show trial. He had previously claimed that police used “sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations” on him. But on Tuesday he denied he had been tortured, according to a video on the court’s official Weibo social media account. “On the question of torture, I produced a negative effect on and misled the public, and I again apologize,” he told judges. The court said he would face no criminal penalties following his full confession. (Xie Yang is one of China’s “709 lawyers”, taken into custody in 2015 during an extensive government crackdown see: See also:… […]

  8. […] a good overview of what has happened to the Chinese lawyers since the crackdown five year ago [see:…%5D. Human rights lawyers are a cornerstone of China’s human rights movement: they represent victims […]

  9. […] The signatories are from China and other countries, including Chinese human rights lawyers Bao Longjun and Jiang Tianyong who have been targeted by authorities in their country. [see:…%5D […]

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