Human rights organizations urge international community to defend China lawyers News
VOA Chinese, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Human rights organizations urge international community to defend China lawyers

A coalition of over 60 human rights organizations, bar associations, scholars and Chinese human rights defenders Monday issued a global call for action against China’s treatment of human rights lawyers to mark “China Human Rights Lawyers Day.” Their statement commemorates the eighth anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s mass arrest of over 300 human rights lawyers and legal assistants—also known as the “709 crackdown”.

The statement is the culmination of years of international pressure, which started in 2020 when UN experts stated, “[T]he profession of human rights lawyer has been effectively criminalised in China.” Echoing the UN, the groups’ statement condemns China’s alleged “abuse of national security, in law and practice, to target human rights lawyers and activists.” Specifically, the statement asserts that China relies upon criminal charges such as “subversion of State power” and “inciting subversion” to supress human rights.

The groups also raise concerns that Hong Kong’s national security law is being used to silence dissidents in Hong Kong. Recently, Hong Kong offered HK$1 million bounties for the information to aid in the arrest of eight exiled democracy activists, who are accused of violating the National Security Law. Over the last month, Hong Kong authorities raided the family home of pro-democracy activist Nathan Law, convicted a man for producing a video using a protest song and arrested five individuals under conspiracy charges based on the National Security Law. 

In response to this crackdown in both China and Hong Kong, the groups have called upon the international community to urge the Chinese government to take three core steps. First, the group calls upon China to end “its crackdown on lawyers and human rights defenders.” In line with this, second, the groups also demand China release all of those held in arbitrary detention. And third, the group asks that China and Hong Kong amend all laws—like Hong Kong’s National Security Law and China’s national security legislation—to bring the countries into compliance with international human rights standards.