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HRW: China authorities should release 38 detained lawyers and activists

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday urged [HRW report] the Chinese authorities to release 38 lawyers and activists associated with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm who have been held in "designated residential surveillance" since July. Designated Residential Surveillance allows legal incommunicado solitary detention in secret locations for up to six months. Citing the fact that January 9 will mark six months, HRW said that the Chinese authorities should release the detainees as required by law. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch said that, "[t]he secret detention of dozens of lawyers makes a mockery of President Xi Jinping's claims that China is governed by the rule of law ... [and] [t]he failure to release all 38 by the six-month legal deadline would shred any credibility the government has on upholding its own laws."

Chinese state media recently criticized [JURIST report] detained human rights lawyers for undermining the rule of law. Last month prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was released [JURIST report] after receiving a suspended sentence. Pu was detained in 2014 on a charge of "causing a disturbance" after he attended a weekend meeting that urged an investigation into the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and was subsequently denied [JURIST reports] bail. The Tiananmen protests began in April 1989 with mainly students and laborers protesting the Communist Party of China. The Chinese government declared martial law in May and initiated the violent dispersal of protesters by the People's Liberation Army on June 4. The Chinese government has never publicized official figures, but the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy [advocacy website] reported last year that unnamed sources had estimated 600 people were killed [ICHR report, in Chinese].

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