A group of prominent Chinese lawyers signed a letter on Friday calling on the Jinjiang People's Court [official website] to explain why it detained a lawyer who defended the Falun Gong [group website; BBC backgrounder], which is banned in China. An online statement from the court said that Wang Quanzhang [Human Rights in China backgrounder], a lawyer representing Falun Gong practictioner Zhu Yanian, had been detained for violating a court order [AP report] but did not provide further details. Li Fangping [CDT backgrounder], one of the lawyers who signed the letter, said the court's decision has created a climate of fear in China's legal community. Three years ago, China disbarred two lawyers [JURIST report] for defending Fulan Gong members.
China has come under international scrutiny recently regarding its human rights record. Last week police in China arrested and detained [JURIST report] the brother-in-law of Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy activist Liu Xiaobo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], which may have been retaliation for allegedly subversive activities by the Liu family against the Chinese government. In January China's Communist Party Politics and Law Committee head Meng Jianzhu [China Vitae backgrounder] notified Chinese media sources of the nation's plan to end its 56 year-old "re-education through labor" program [JURIST report], which authorizes government entities to legally detain citizens for as long as four years without trial. In December China adopted new rules which impose new restrictions [JURIST report] on the country's Internet Service Providers and individual users. In November UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] called on China to remedy long-held frustrations in Tibet [JURIST report] that have led to extreme protest tactics, including self-immolation.