Arrest and detention of human rights defenders in China

Who we wrote to

The president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping.

We co-wrote the letter with Lawyers for Lawyers, the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe and others.

What’s the issue

We expressed our continued concern about the arrest and detention of human rights lawyers and defenders one year after the '709 crackdown' on 9 July 2015.

Currently 23 individuals are held under formal arrest:

  • nine human rights lawyers
  • one law firm staff
  • 13 human rights defenders

These cases have attracted international attention and have significant implications for the rule of law and exercise of the legal profession in China.

We’re disturbed by the many reports on the violations of national law and international human rights law in the handling of the cases implicated in the 709 crackdown, to which the Chinese government has so far not granted any clarification or explanation.

The violations include:

  • the use of national security-related crimes
  • the lack of access to self-selected defense counsel and right to visitation of families since the detentions started one year ago
  • police intervention into the selection and appointment of defense counsel
  • police pressure to obtain confessions
  • family members, friends and defense counsel of the detained being impacted by the proceedings against the accused and being subjected to strict surveillance, monitored by state actors, summoned to appear before the police, and harassed
  • the procuratorate and the court’s failure to uphold due process and having ignored or rejected inquiries and complaints submitted by defendants’ defense counsel and/or family members to ensure that due process is followed

What we asked for

We called on the president to dedicate their personal attention to ensure that the country honors its commitments to:

  • the Constitution
  • national law
  • the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers
  • international conventions on human rights protection

We asked the Chinese authorities to consider taking the following actions:

  • release all lawyers and others unlawfully detained
  • ensure access to counsel of one’s own choosing for all those arrested or held as criminal suspects
  • cease all interference into the families’ appointment of, and consultation with lawyers, and lift all measures that hinder their enjoyment of rights as citizens
  • make sure that the rights of those detained, including their right to adequate medical treatment and visitation rights, are fully enforced