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709 Crackdown Three Years on: Keynote Address on the Second China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day, July 8, 2018, New York City

Terence Halliday, July 9, 2018


Halliday_prize to Gao Zhisheng's wife

Halliday gave the China Human Rights Award for Gao Zhisheng to Gao’s wife.


Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.



In the last days of June 2015 I spent many hours in coffee shops and hotels and restaurants and offices with many of China’s notable rights lawyers.

Wang Yu (王宇) and I discussed the extraordinary nationwide attack on her reputation.

Yu Wensheng (余文生) described his unbearable torture in the hands of the security apparatus.

Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) talked about the emotional pain of being separated from his family and having no permanent place to live.

Li Heping (李和平) imagined a society where compassion and justice and religious freedom were embraced by all leaders and citizens.

In those last days of June, 3 years ago, what was their state of mind?

They all knew that clouds were gathering.

They all had suffered in the past and they knew they might suffer in the future.

They all had hope that signs of deepening repression in the near future would be temporary. They all looked in the far future to a new New China which respected human rights, protected basic legal freedoms, allowed for an open political society and the rule of law.

Yet, none expected how quickly a great storm was about to break over their heads.

On 9 July, 2015, exactly three years ago, a massive storm swept them all away. It began with Wang Yu’s disappearance in the middle of the night. It spread rapidly over hours and days and weeks and swept away more than 300 rights lawyers and activists across all of mainland China.

Today we remember the 709 crackdown. But we do more than remember. This is not an historical incident that is fading in our memories.

It is not a monument to the past, only to be recorded in history books.

This Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ shows that the 709 Crackdown is present in this moment. It reveals to China’s citizens, to lawyers across the world, to rights activists and the defenders of minorities, to international organizations, to states that still champion global standards of liberal constitutional orders, that a mighty struggle continues.

The end is not near. Indeed, the struggle deepens inside China and across the world.

And so today, we must ask: What does the 709 Crackdown and its shockwaves tell the world about China and its rulers? What have we learned about China’s rights lawyers and the struggle for freedoms? What of the future?

I. What Does the 709 Crackdown Tell Us About China and Its Rulers?  

What does it tell the world about the real China, not the propaganda China, not the mythical China, not the face of China that the Party likes to show the world, but the actual China, the empirical China, the China that free scholars and free media and free international observers report without censorship?

The world is waking up.

The world is waking up to the dark side, the cruelty, the brutality of China’s rulers, and we can see these in the way it treats rights lawyers.

This is:

A China where a single person, such as Wang Yu, is humiliated nation-wide in the state-controlled media

A China where brutalized lawyers are forced to make public confessions and mouth wooden words far removed from the values they expressed in my research on China’s defense lawyers

A China where authorities arbitrarily replace a lawyer’s chosen counsel with a government-friendly substitute.

A China that has expanded its repertoire of torture, intensifying and reinforcing the ways it seeks to break the ideals, the minds, even the bodies of rights lawyers

A China where lawyers are disappeared for weeks, months, years in so-called “designated residential surveillance” sites so they are completely removed from families, lawyers, observers, and exposed to extreme psychological and physical pressure, some of it medieval in its primitive methods.

A China where lawyers are subjected to new tortures, not least being forcibly injected with excruciatingly painful disorienting drugs to alter their minds and leave scars for the short-term or long-term or the rest of their lives.

A China where brothers are compelled to pressure brothers, or children are used against their parents, or parents are pressed to change the minds of their children, or where wives are refused access, even knowledge, about their husbands.

A China that has ratcheted up the charges and sentences for detained lawyers.

A China where secret trials have become a new norm for lawyers who most implausibly have betrayed “state secrets.”

The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a country that runs on the fuel of fear.

China’s leaders fear their own people.

When we view China through the eyes of its criminal defense and rights lawyers, we see a fragile China. Across China enormous grievances accumulate for hundreds of millions of Chinese. Pollution, property-takings, religious persecution, suppression of minorities, forced abortions, magnifying inequality, exploited labor, rampant corruption, unjust treatment by police, tainted food.

China’s leaders are afraid:

— civil society

— of Uyghurs

— of Muslims

— of workers

— of Tibetan Buddhists

— of unofficial Christian Protestant churches

— of women

— of unofficial Roman Catholic churches

— of Hong Kong’s fight to preserve its legal freedoms and open civil society

— and of Taiwan – a country which shows that ethnic Chinese, that inheritors of the Confucian tradition, that non-Han indigenous peoples together can build an open political society that adheres to global norms crafted in part by a pre-revolutionary China,

— of foreigners who care about the dignity and freedom of China’s people

The 709 crackdown has cast a long shadow. The world now sees it is one notable move against lawyers as part of many other “againsts.”

The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a deviant state.

It deviates from global standards on arbitrary arrest and detention, on torture, on disappearances, on fair trials, on an independent judiciary, on access to lawyers, on freedom of speech and association and religion.

The world has woken up to an awareness that this mighty nation, a nuclear power, a state flexing its military muscle, and an economic and geopolitical giant, nevertheless is afraid of these few lawyers and the 1000s of other lawyers who share their values.


709 律师节会场,纽约

The audience watch a short video about the human rights lawyers and legal activists.


II. What Does 709 Tell Us Today About These Rights Lawyers?  

We’ve learned that activist lawyers are now spread across the country. Once they were largely concentrated in Beijing. Today they are everywhere.

We’ve learned that the struggle for basic freedoms is now nationwide.

In every region ordinary people cried out for justice, for dignity, for their children, for safe food and clear water and pure air, for their property, for their religious beliefs.  And rights lawyers responded.

We’ve learned that rights lawyers fight for a core of ideals fundamental to all peoples in our 21st century world. They fight for basic legal freedoms.

  • They demand procedural protections for their clients, such as freedom to choose or meet with a lawyer, protection of clients from coerced confessions
  • They insist on standards of fairness in court such as seeing and cross-examining evidence.
  • They want fair trials and neutral judges.

They fight for an open civil society where there is freedom of speech and association, including the ability of lawyers to form bar associations independent of state control.

They struggle for freedom of religion and protections for all believers, including the savagely repressed adherents of Falun Gong. They want open exchanges of views and beliefs where citizens are freed from stifling censorship.

They fight against the tyranny of a one-party state where all power is concentrated in the hands of supreme rulers. They insist that political power be divided. That the tyrannies of absolute state power be checked by law and other centers of power inside the state and outside of it.

We’ve learned that lawyers’ ideals are so strong they will suffer terribly to maintain their ideals. We’ve seen that wives and daughters and sons – including those joining us today – have stood up to cry out for the most basic standards of justice and human decency.

And, most important, China’s activist lawyers have shown the world that inside China’s beating heart there is an impulse for justice, for freedoms, for a normal society. It is a society where rulers are not afraid of their own people but welcome their views, where leaders do not fear lawyers but welcome their peaceful respect for a just legality.

Inside China’s beating heart there is a tiny minority that gives voice to wrongs and gives vision for the future.

III. What of the Future?   

I submit to you that we already know the end of this struggle but we do not know when or how.

For 25 years social scientists, legal scholars and historians have investigated the role of lawyers in the creation of open political societies. These are societies where rights are embedded in constitutions and constitutions are implemented in practice.

Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.

Lawyers have fought against absolute monarchs, Big Man regimes, military dictatorships, communist parties, fascist regimes. Lawyers wave the flag of legal rights, civil rights, political rights.

Time and again lawyers and their allies – workers, women’s groups, religious believers, the media – have been defeated, and time and again they have fought back from defeat. The struggle is never over, even in countries where lawyers’ ideals have been instituted for decades or centuries.

Hope is still alive among China’s activists. Now is a dark hour, a moment when defeat seems possible. The darkness may last a long time, years, decades, longer, but the end is never in doubt. Victories and defeats have already been the experience of China’s lawyer activists. And defeats and victories will continue.

Today, the Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ keeps hope alive.

This event expresses a solidarity that crosses nationalities, that goes beyond citizenship that binds together persons of every ethnicity and believers from different religions, that crosses continents and knits together peoples and organizations and states in every place.

It is not only China’s hope but a universal hope – a hope in human dignity, in human flourishing, in legal freedoms, in an open political society, in a future where all may worship as they choose, where every person may speak the language of her or his childhood, where all may honor the cultural traditions in which they are embedded.

This hope is maintained by China’s lawyer activists and sustained by those that stand with them. Today we honor them by standing with them for China and for all peoples who long for freedom and justice.



Terence Halliday is a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, and co-author of Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work (Cambridge U Press, 2016).





Announcement Regarding the Annual ‘China Human Rights Lawyers Day’ Event

June 24, 2018


China human rights lawyers day


China’s community of human rights lawyers have made enormous sacrifices to defend the rights and freedoms of citizens and promote China’s progress toward the rule-of-law and democracy. As representatives of China’s wider community of lawyers, human rights lawyers have, since the beginning of the rights defense movement in early 2000s, been the constant target of severe government repression. This has included, without letup, cancellation of legal licenses, being stalked, being threatened, being publicly defamed, being kidnapped, being secretly disappeared, and being subject to forced labor, long-term incarceration, or torture.

On July 9, 2017, marking the second anniversary of the Communist Party’s most brutal persecution of human rights lawyers with the ‘709 incident,’ 14 human rights organizations held an ‘Inaugural China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day’ in Washington, D.C. Through speeches, a photographic exhibition, a documentary, a march, and a live broadcast online, we showed to the world the bearing and courage of China’s rights defense lawyers, and brought their plight and peril to the attention to the wider world.

A year has passed, and Zhou Shifeng (周世鋒), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Tang Jingling (唐荊陵), Xia Lin (夏霖), and others are still imprisoned. Yu Wensheng (余文生) and Li Yuhan (李昱函), among others, have been newly arrested and jailed. Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) remains disappeared, with no news of his whereabouts or condition for three years now. Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) has once again been disappeared, now for 11 months. Over 20 lawyers have had their licenses cancelled or face disbarment. Tragically, two outstanding rights defense lawyers, Li Subin (李蘇濱) and Li Baiguang (李柏光), have left us forever.

The persecution continues, and human rights defenders continue to hold their ground and resist. This year we hold in New York a second ‘China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day,’ and also to establish a ‘709 Rights Defense Lawyer Award.’ The date of July 9 now symbolizes the glorious and thorny road that China’s human rights lawyers walk. Every July 9, we — coming from around the world, including Chinese rights defenders and those who care deeply about the struggle for a free and democratic China — will mark ‘China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day’ and support one other through this dark time.

We firmly believe that one day in the future we will be marking the occasion of July 9 in a free China with the rule of law.

Time: July 8, 2018     2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT
Location: Bateman Room, Fordham Law School (2nd floor of 150 West 62nd,New York)
Hashtags:  #中國人權律師節 or #709lawyers on social media


Humanitarian China (U.S.A)
China Change (U.S.A)
China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (Hong Kong)
Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network (Taiwan)
Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers(U.S.A)
Chinese Democracy Education Foundation (U.S.A)
Dialogue China (U.S.A)
ChinaAid  (U.S.A)
Taiwan Association for China Human Rights (Taiwan)
Human Rights Law Foundation (U.S.A)
New School for Democracy (Hong Kong)
Visual Artists Guild (U.S.A)
China Anti-Torture Alliance (US/China)
Institute for China’s Democratic Transition (U.S.A)
Uyghur Human Rights Project (U.S.A)
China Strategic Analysis Center (U.S.A)
Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers/
International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) (France)
Safeguard Defenders (Hong Kong)
Students for a Free Tibet (U.S.A)
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights (JBI)

Special Thanks

Alexandre (艾飞力) Law Firm (NYC)
Law Office of Yujian Zhang, P.C. (NYC)


Jerome Cohen (孔傑榮), law professor and faculty director of U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University.
Andrew Nathan (黎安友), Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University.
Albert Ho (何俊仁), solicitor, chairman of China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, current chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.
Martin Flaherty, Leitner Family Professor, Co-Director of Leitner Center for International Law and Justice.
Terry Halliday, Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation.
Rob Precht, Founder & President of Justice Labs.
Felice Gaer, Vice-Chairperson of the Committee against Torture, UCLA professor.


Teng Biao,
Yaxue Cao,
Zhou Fengsuo,









【時間】2017年7月8日 美東時間下午2:00-4:30

【地點】Bateman Room, Fordham Law School (2nd floor of 150 West 62nd,New York)

【社交媒體標籤】 #中國人權律師節 #709lawyers


China Change (美國)
自由西藏學生運動 (美國)


Alexandre Law Firm
Law Office of Yujian Zhang, P.C.


孔傑榮/Jerome Cohen(紐約大學法學院教授,亞美法研究所主任)
黎安友/Andrew Nathan(哥倫比亞大學政治系教授、東亞研究所主任)
Martin Flaherty(福特海姆大學法學院教授,紐約律師協會人權委員會主任)
Terry Halliday(美國律師基金會教授)
Rob Precht(Justice Labs創辦人及主席)


滕  彪
周鋒鎖 Email:





Announcing the Inaugural China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day

July 4, 2017


709群像 2017 big black big

Cartoon by @baduicao



China’s human rights lawyers have since 2003 become one of the most active and effective forces in the country advancing the ideals of universal values, because of their unique role and professional positions. Their work defending the civil rights and liberties of Chinese citizens extends from the internet to the streets, from courtrooms to jails. They’ve fought hard to promote the rule of law and democracy in China.

As prominent representatives of Chinese lawyers, human rights lawyers have been the target of the Chinese government’s persecution since the beginning of the rights defense movement. They’ve had their licenses to practice law revoked, they’ve been followed, threatened, publicly slandered by state media, abducted, disappeared, sent to forced labor camps, imprisoned for lengthy periods, and tortured. Persecution has become commonplace.

The persecution of rights lawyers in China reached its peak on July 9, 2015, when hundreds were detained and interrogated; the crackdown is now known as the “709 Incident.” The barbarism, cruelty, and absurdity with which the Chinese Communist Party began persecuting 709 lawyers and activists, and the torture and humiliation they suffered, has shocked the world. The 709 lawyers’ own defense attorneys and supporters have put up courageous resistance. The unyielding support and advocacy by the wives of human rights lawyers, through smiles and tears, have become iconic images.

The 709 Incident isn’t over, yet it has already left a profound mark on the development of Chinese civilization. It’s far reaching political and historical significance will become clearer in time.

The date of July 9 must become one that we remember and mark from now on. For this reason, we call for the establishment of July 9 as “China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day.” To inaugurate the occasion we will hold an event in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the bravery, wisdom, and will to resist exhibited by human rights lawyers in China. We’ll recall their suffering and sacrifices, demand accountability for the crimes committed against them, whether by the regime or individuals, and call for the international community to continue monitoring their plight and advocating on their behalf.

We firmly believe that someday in the future, in a constitutionally-governed, democratic, and free China, we’ll mark July 9 as a day to honor and celebrate human rights lawyers, and it will become a day that belongs to all of China’s lawyers.

Plans for the Inaugural Chinese Human Rights Lawyers’ Day are as follows:

Location: 1701 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(Taipei and Hong Kong events to be announced later.)

Time: 10:00 a.m. July 9 (Eastern U.S. time)

Format: Exhibition of photographs, screening of a new documentary film about Chinese human rights lawyers, luncheon, discussions, and a march — broadcast online to the world

Social media tags: #709lawyers  #中国人权律师节


Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (Hong Kong)
China Change (U.S.A)
Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers(U.S.A)
Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network (Taiwan)
China Aid  (U.S.A)
Initiatives for China (U.S.A)
International Association of People’s Lawyers(Netherlands)
Humanitarian China (U.S.A)
Institute for China’s Democratic Transition (U.S.A)
Day of the Endangered Lawyer (Netherlands)
Taiwan Association for China Human Rights (Taiwan)
New School for Democracy (Hong Kong)
The International Observatory for Lawyers at Risk (OIAD, Europe)
Visual Artists Guild (U.S.A)


Teng Biao:       Tel: (617)396-6099     Email:
Yang Jianli      Tel: (857)472-9039    Email:











【时间】2017年7月9日 美东时间上午10点

【地点】美国华盛顿 1701 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009


【社交媒体标签】#中国人权律师节 #709lawyers


台湾支持中国人权律师网络 (台湾)
公民力量 (美国)
国际人民律师协会 (荷兰)
人道中国 (美国)
中国民主转型研究所 (美国)
国际危难律师日 (荷兰)
台湾关怀中国人权联盟 (台湾)
华人民主书院 (香港)
视觉艺术家协会 (美国)


滕   彪  电话:(617)396 6099;
杨建利  电话: (857) 472 9039;  Email: