[JURIST] At least five Chinese lawyers from a human rights law firm were detained [press release in, Chinese] on Saturday after being accused for running a criminal syndicate and smear campaign against the Communist Party [BBC backgrounder]. The arrests come amid President Xi Jinping’s [BBC profile] attempts to discredit the rights defense movement [NY Times report] which has been challenging the government through protests and litigation. Amnesty International (AI) [official website] reported [press release] that it is believed that more than 50 human rights lawyers and activists have been targeted by authorities since a nationwide crackdown began on Thursday.
China has faced international criticism for its crackdown on dissidents. In May Chinese prosecutors said [JURIST report] that prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang had officially been indicted on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking trouble for comments that he posted online. He had already been detained for one year. Also in May Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report [JURIST report] detailing the continued abuse of criminal suspects by Chinese police. The interviewed detainees reported instances of torture, including being shackled to a “tiger chair” for days and being hung by the wrists. In March the Chinese government refused [JURIST report] to discharge five women’s rights activists despite overwhelming calls for their release from the international community. In September the legal defense team representing prominent Chinese human rights activist Guo Feixiong decided to boycott [JURIST report] the start of Guo’s pending trial over procedural irregularities, which resulted in adjournment of the proceedings at the Guangzhou People’s Court in Southern China.