America and Europe’s Failure in Securing the Release of Lawyers and Activists in Connection With the ‘709 Incident’

Jiang Tianyong, July 17, 2016




Recently I’ve been thinking: Leading up to 1949, the Chinese Communist Party had been able to steadily grow its strength partly because of the United States. And a major reason the Party has become the disruptive and powerful giant it is today is because of the greed and appeasement of the United States, Europe, and other Western countries.

This became particularly clear with regard to the “709 Crackdown” last year, when the new communist boss, “Xitler,” directed a massive campaign of arrests in just a few days, targeting the most influential and active human rights lawyers and activists. As the only country with the actual leverage to exert pressure on the Communist Party (leverage being only one of the many reasons to speak out), the United States failed to do so in a forceful and timely manner. This is due to an opportunistic approach to the Communist Party, which favors policies of appeasement and prioritizes trade above all else. Thus, it appeared that President Obama, looking forward to “Xitler” visiting the United States, was afraid to anger the regime and lose out on business and other deals. If Obama could think of anything else but trade and empty rhetoric — if he could truly consider for a moment the value of liberty and human rights — then he ought to be able to think of the real, living people like Hu Shigen (胡石根) and Li Heping (李和平), both of whom are recipients of awards by the National Endowment for Democracy; Wang Yu (王宇), a prominent female lawyer that Hillary Clinton and other politicians have repeatedly mentioned, and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋). He’d then work hard at making sure these people are freed!

Xi Jinping’s trip to the United States last September would have been the absolutely perfect opportunity. Right then, “Xitler” had placed great importance on the trip to America, and desperately needed it to be a success. At the same time, those who had been detained were merely “disappeared” — they hadn’t been formally arrested, and so, under pressure, it would have been easy for the regime to release them without losing face. It’s entirely possible that the 709 Incident could have had the same outcome as the 2011 Jasmine Movement, where the majority of those extralegally abducted and disappeared were ultimately released.

Grumbling about it now doesn’t do much good, given that the perfect opportunity to rescue the lawyers was lost last September during the Xi Jinping and Obama summit. But there is no reason for the U. S. and Europe to miss the next opportunity: the G20 Summit in Beijing this year.

However, we are witnessing with deep regret that this important opportunity is now also slipping away, an opportunity that will not be in a long time to come, if it hasn’t been lost already.

Precious time for rescuing the 709 detainees has been lost. Now that the CCP has suffered a defeat on the South China Sea issue, they’re stepping up anti-Western propaganda domestically. It’s at this juncture that they began to process the “709” cases, indicting the four on July 15. Thus, pressure at the G20 Summit to release the lawyers has already lost much of its force.

A great misfortune is happening in front of our eyes.


Photo: @chrlcg

The 709 Incident is now heading in the worst possible direction: it has been handled in a black box manner, the trials will be secret, and these pioneering advocates of peaceful social progress will be given heavy prison sentences. The consequences are extremely severe for all stakeholders.

For Xi Jinping, he has completely lost both the opportunity and qualification to lead China’s future transition to a constitutional democracy. All he can do now is continue down the path toward greater totalitarianism and dictatorship. He should thank the heavens if he’d be given a dignified trial in the future — more likely he’ll be lynched by an angry mob, venting its fury as the regime collapses, like Gaddafi.

For the Chinese people, the terrible denouement of the 709 Incident will be a heavy blow to their confidence and psyche. It will trigger a new wave of exiles; it will make a portion of peaceful resisters reconsider their means, methods, and strategies of protest; and it will suck all hope from the bullied and humiliated masses on the bottom rungs of society. As the economy continues to deteriorate, there will be a large number of people who lose their jobs, feeling angry and trapped. More frightening is the fact that this disenfranchised population has already lost its peaceful and rational leadership, all of whom have been jailed or forced into exile. In the end, China’s peaceful path toward the future has just become that much more difficult.

At that point, will a China that is absent peaceful and rational leadership be in the interests of the United States and Europe? Who can say that the crazed, xenophobic, and lawless Xitler and Communist Party won’t start on the path toward a new Third Reich?

The United States and Europe will suffer the consequences of their greed and myopia for years to come.



Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a Chinese human rights lawyer based in Beijing. Due to his taking on politically sensitive cases, including those of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, petitioners, and others, he has had his license to practice law cancelled. In 2011 he was taken into custody by Chinese security forces for two months, during which time he was tortured. He was also briefly detained in the recent crackdown.


After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, July 15, 2016


Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, Ji Dunhuang, January 28, 2016


From China, Messages to President Obama Before Xi Jinping’s Visit (2), Jiang Tianyong, September, 2015.


China’s Shattered Dream for the Rule of Law, One Year On, Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016.

Translated from Chinese by China Change.



One response to “America and Europe’s Failure in Securing the Release of Lawyers and Activists in Connection With the ‘709 Incident’”

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