Human Rights

China cracks down on lawyers said to have 'sabotaged the legal order'

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China’s crackdown on lawyers is likely intended to crush a movement to defend the rights of individuals, according to an editorial.

Chinese authorities have detained more than 200 lawyers and associates in recent weeks, and some believe it is the most serious assault on lawyers in decades, according to the editorial by the New York Times. The movement challenges Communist Party restrictions on expression and the legal system, the New York Times reported in this July 10 story.

More than 120 of those detained were lawyers, according to a July 22 story by the New York Times. Other detainees included law firm staffers, lawyers’ family members, and civil rights activists.

Twenty of those detained were still in custody when the New York Times published its July 22 story.

A commentary by the state news agency Xinhua said detained lawyers “sabotaged China’s legal order and so should face legal punishment.”

One of the law firms targeted in the crackdown is the Fengrui Law Firm. Authorities detained the firm’s director and at least four other lawyers. The firm has represented a dissident artist, a human rights campaigner who died in police custody, and an academic sentenced to life in prison.

The Times spoke with Yu Wensheng, a commercial lawyer who was arrested after he was refused access to a jailed client and decided to stage a protest. In jail, he said, he suffered an abdominal hernia as a result of physical abuse.

“I used to think being a lawyer was just a tool to make money,” he told the Times. “But now I believe we have a greater mission to change a broken system. The crackdown is fierce, but we rights defense lawyers will fight back.”

See also:

ABA Journal: “The most dangerous job in law”

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