New Zealand Law Society - China told to end relentless repression of human rights lawyers

China told to end relentless repression of human rights lawyers

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Chinese authorities must end their relentless repression against human rights lawyers, Amnesty International has said in a statement on the first anniversary of the start of a Chinese crackdown on lawyers.

At least 248 human rights lawyers and activities were targeted during the nationwide sweep which began on 9 July 2015.

Amnesty International says that one year on, 17 individuals caught up remain detained, eight of whom could face life imprisonment after being charged with "subverting state power".

"Human rights lawyers have faced the full wrath of China's secretive machinery of repression. The detained lawyers must be released and this systemic assault against individuals defending the rights of Chinese people must end," says Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

"President Xi Jinping has the gall to claim the Chinese government upholds the rule of law even when lawyers face life in jail for trying to do just that."

Amnesty International says the authorities have used an armoury of repression in an attempt to break the lawyers. Most of those detained in the crackdown were denied legal counsel and contact with their family, a clear violation of their rights.

"Missing lawyers and activists - including prominent Beijing lawyer Wang Yu whose vanishing marked the start of the crackdown - were placed under a form of secret detention known as 'residential surveillance in a designated location', the statement says. 

"This allows the police to hold suspects for up to six months outside of the formal detention system, without access to anybody outside, and places suspects at great risk of torture and other ill-treatment."

Law Council of Australia calls for release

The Law Council of Australia has urged Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to redouble its efforts with the Chinese government to secure the release of the detained lawyers and activists.

A statement from the Law Council expresses its continued concerns with China's respect for the rule of law and a rules-based international order