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Weather the Dark Storm, Persevere for Rule of Law in China — A 2019 New Year’s Message From the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2019            

2018, the year of Wuxu (戊戌), is slipping into history. Over the past 120 years, Wuxu has always been an eventful year. In 1898, four years after China had lost the First Sino-Japanese War, the Hundred Days’ Reform failed, and six of its chief advocates, among them Tan Sitong (谭嗣同), paid the price in blood at their public beheading. In 1958, another year of Wuxu, the Great Leap Forward and the people’s communes was to bring on the world’s greatest famine that would result in tens of millions of deaths. 

Indeed, China in the year 2018 bears little resemblance to the China of 1958 and 1898. Four decades of economic reform have seen China’s GDP rise to second place among the world’s nations. At the same time, there are many deeper issues and structural challenges to face. The Sino-U.S. trade war, coming as an onslaught from without, represents the conflict of universal values in China’s troubled integration with international society. Internally, China has been plagued by serious and chronic social ills — forced demolition, widespread petitioning, “stability maintenance,” wrongful charges, and judicial corruption — at the heart of which lie the inescapable questions concerning rule of law, constitutional government, freedom, and democracy.

Though the circumstances differ, the three years of Wuxu in the last 120 years share one common trait: societal change. And the underlying change is one of transition, from the closed society and “rule by man” (人治, as opposed to rule of law) to an open society, governed by law, that respects the rights of its citizens.

The process of taming power with rights is a long and painful one. Indeed, China has yet to complete its “great shift unseen over the past 3,000 years” (三千年来未有之大变局) described by the late-Qing minister Li Hongzhang (李鸿章) in his desperate attempts to right the ship of state.

2018 saw the outbreak of the Changsheng vaccine scandal, which once again tested the deteriorating moral of Chinese society. We loathe unscrupulous corporations that sacrifice everything for profit, even at the cost of endangering public safety; we abhor even more the authorities, who take taxpayers’ money but fail to perform their duties. The vaccine scandal is the latest of many chilling reminders that we are still far, far away from efficient and uncorrupt administration; and that a comprehensive market economy governed by law has continued to elude us.

This year, we have witnessed a number of laws drafted or amended, including the Constitution, Supervision Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Police Law, Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs, Regulation on Religious Affairs, and the like. Put together, they evidence an alarming trend: the government continues to expand its power and suppressing individual rights. 

This year, human rights lawyers have suffered another wave of crackdown following the 709 mass arrests of 2015. This time, the crackdown has been more deceptive and underhanded, making use of administrative channels to restrain practitioners of law. Lawyers saw their licenses suspended or revoked. Some were forced to temporarily discontinue their legal practices, submit to investigation, experienced troubles in their annual administrative inspections, or met with interference from the judicial and administrative authorities that prevented their re-employment by other law firms.

From the brazen arrest of lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) earlier in the year, to the court hearing at year’s end that saw the revocation of Liu Zhengqing’s practicing license, 2018 has seen a long list of human rights lawyers being disbarred or soon to be disbarred, or otherwise suspended, including Yu Wensheng , Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Wen Donghai (文东海), Ma Lianshun (马连顺), Qin Yongpei (覃永沛), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Chen Keyun (陈科云), Li Heping (李和平), Wang Yu (王宇), Zhang Kai (张凯), Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), Zhou Lixin (周立新), Cheng Hai (程海), Hu Linzheng (胡林政), Zeng Wu (曾武), Chang Weiping (常玮平), He Wei (何伟), Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿), Li Jinxing (李金星), Yu Pinjian (玉品健), Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), and more. 

In 2018, we have seen increases in willful use of police summons and arbitrary disappearances.

Dong Yaoqiong (董瑶琼), a woman from Hunan, disappeared without a trace and later ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Another three young women — Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), a master’s graduate at Zhongshan University who participated in the Jasic labor rights protest; Yue Xin (岳昕), a graduating senior at the Peking University who also voiced her support for Jasic workers, and Yang Shuhan (杨舒涵), a current student at the Renmin University — have been either disappeared or silenced. These young women have stood out with their kindheartedness, determination, independence and courage.

The “re-education centers” in Xinjiang have attracted international condemnation. Without any doubt, these mass violations of personal freedom fly in the face of the human rights guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. They must be ended.

We have observed more and more incidents of police checking identification or phones at will, or engaging in other so called “law enforcement” activities that are in fact gross violations of human rights. We have also seen police carry out illegal acts, such as breaking into residents’ homes for inspection, summoning individuals on an arbitrary basis, or violently dispersing migrant workers. These acts have left us feeling fearful and apprehensive.

Renowned dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) was given yet another severe sentence, and Ms. Xu Qin (徐秦) was unlawfully detained for months. We have also seen a deluge of farcical trials in the cities of Suzhou and Fuzhou against citizens who sought to defend their rights, and reprisals or abuse against civil rights activists who refused to plead guilty, such as Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Wu Qihe (吴其和), and Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志).

Following the terror of 709 crackdown, Mr. Xu Lin (徐琳) in Guangzhou wrote songs to rally morale and has been imprisoned since; Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Zhen Jianghua (甄江华), and Sun Lin (孙林) were punished for citizen journalism. We saw how the 85-year-old mother of another citizen journalist Huang Qi (黄琦) desperately sought support far and near after her son was framed and charged with “provoking quarrels,” and how Zhang Pancheng (张盼成), a security guard at Peking University who came from a humble family, began to speak of an awareness of rights that few students seem to care about or dare to voice.  

We have borne witness to the abhorrent behavior of a policeman surnamed Chen working at the Hualin Police Station in Guangzhou, who stripped the clothes off female lawyer Sun Shihua (孙世华) under the pretext of “law enforcement.” We have seen the incident treated with the cover-ups typical of bureaucracies such as the procuratorate, supervision commission, disciplinary inspection, judicial administration, and lawyers’ association, as well as the arrogance of the Liwan police, who instead of going after the culprit, issued administrative penalties to Sun Shihua the victim. We feel pain and helplessness at her plight, yet deep in our hearts is the firm belief that Chen and the officials shielding him will eventually have their shameful acts recorded in the annals of China’s legal history.

At year’s end, WeChat accounts were deleted en masse, Twitter users were forced to delete their feeds and accounts, and freedom of speech in general is coming under more vicious attacks in China. Religious freedom has also suffered, as most recently evidenced by the sudden arrests of Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chengdu, Sichuan, among many other incidents.  

The day after Christmas, Tianjin No.2 Intermediate People’s Court held a closed trial of lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) citing state secrets, eschewing all pretenses of law. This forms a sharp contrast to the creative protest of the 709 wives—Li Wenzu (李文足), Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), and Xu Yan (许艳). Their slogan “We can be hairless, but you can’t be lawless” will become a legal maxim for the ages. [发, hair, has a similar sound to 法, law]

2018, this year of Wuxu, was a year filled with extreme challenges.

What’s to be done? Shall we cower the corner and find solace in temporary efforts, or shall we confront the reality and pursue the rule of law regardless how the storm of tyranny rages? We are faulted and accused at every turn, thwarted before even taking a single step. Yet as pioneers of our time, we must march on, making the best of the situation. Like the sun and moon moving on their celestial courses, like rivers flowing to the ocean, we stand firm in our conviction that constitutional government, democracy and human rights will become reality in the face of adversity. The ideal of rule of law is our motivation and what keeps us from despair.

Because of our ideals, human rights lawyers didn’t shy away from pressure and continued to defend Qin Yongmin,Tashi Wangchuk (扎西文色), Huang Qi, Jin Zhehong (金哲宏) and other cases deemed politically sensitive. For us human rights lawyers, there are only legal cases, and there are no such thing as “sensitive cases.”

In 2019, four years after the 709 crackdown, we will welcome the release from prison of two human rights lawyers, Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇).

In 2019, we hope to see the freedom of another four human rights lawyers: Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan (李昱函), and Chen Wuquan (陈武权). Whether in terms of Chinese law or international conventions, there’s no legal ground for the accusations they face.

We hope that the laws on the books can be followed, and not manipulated by those in power. 

We hope that no more human rights lawyers find their practicing licenses revoked for any excuse.

We hope to put an end to the arbitrary summons, detentions, forcible disappearances, and other gangster tactics employed by the authorities. We hope that police can exercise self-control and refrain from acting on their whims. We request that police officer Chen at Hualin Police Station turn himself in, that the Guangzhou police remove him from his post, and that he face a penalty appropriate to his misdeed.

Going into 2019, we look forward to the vindication of moe, and hopefully all wrongful charges. We hope that an effective mechanism can be established to eliminate and correct unjust rulings. We hope that “picking quarrels” and “extorting government” will no longer be used as grounds for prosecuting petitioners and human rights activists. These charges are absurd, unreasonable, and an assault on the rule of law. While these actions of the authorities may have some immediate suppressive effect, in the long run it will serve only to intensify conflicts between the government and the governed. The consequences will be disastrous. 

The life mission of any lawyers is to uphold justice in their cases. We as human rights lawyers will continue to practice, representing all kinds of clients, including those deemed politically sensitive. We will use our work to promote the causes of constitutional government and rule of law. We face many storms ahead and the path is fraught with peril and uncertainty. Yet we forge on, duty-bound to the mission of justice. There is no going back! Our determination in the face of impossible odds will drive us forward, persevere through the storm for the sake of a better China. This is the choice we made, our predestination and mission. 

Hello, 2019!

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group

December 31, 2018


The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Contacts:

Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266

Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598

Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755

Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584

Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911

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Make Sacrifices to Illuminate the Future: Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

September 13, 2018

 

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On September 13, 2013, lawyers Wang Cheng (王成), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) announced the establishment of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团). All three had been disbarred by the Chinese authorities because of their commitment to defending the rights of the Chinese people. In just one year, more than 300 Chinese lawyers joined the Group. Many seasons later, the Human Rights Lawyers Group now marks the fifth anniversary of its founding. On this otherwise ordinary day, we will take inventory of what we have done over the last five years, reiterate the basic principles of the group, and plan our steps for the future.

In the past five years, we have gone through hardships and sadness; we have seen our hopes dashed. We struggle to improve the human rights situation in our country, only to see it worsen progressively.

In the past five years, Chinese human rights lawyers have been demonized by the authorities and smeared by people who harbor ulterior motives. Our members have endured persecution of a severity seldom seen, stunning the international community.

In the past five years, many Chinese human rights lawyers have been imprisoned or disappeared. Since the “709” crackdown of July 2015 that shocked people in China and abroad, human rights lawyers have sustained heavy blows to the point of near destruction.

But even in the face of these cruel realities, members of the Human Rights Lawyers Group have continued their fruitful work. They issued joint statements to express their solidarity and expose human rights violations. It is an endeavor fraught with hardship that is difficult to imagine. They defended political dissidents until they themselves were labeled as dissidents; they defended people of faith until they themselves became the target of the authorities’ “stability maintenance;” they defended the petitioners and the victims of forced demolition, until the day they were disbarred by the judicial establishment under orders from the Party. They defended the ethnic minorities until the day they themselves were denounced as traitors; they defended the workers until they themselves were deprived of their right to practice. Their sacrifices are too numerous to list.

We cannot help but ask why the human rights lawyers, passionate for justice, should be targeted for political persecution. Why do the judicial authorities restrict human rights lawyers from working on their cases? Why does the judiciary use sly tricks to revoke or suspend their right to practice?

The answer is simple: it is because human rights lawyers pursue justice, and their persecutors represent darkness and evil.

Today, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Human Rights Lawyers Group, we reaffirm our mission to advance human rights in China. We shall continue to uphold the values we cherish through the practice of law.

We yearn for freedom, but we know the importance of order; we pursue justice, but we do not subscribe to self-righteousness; we emphasize basic human rights, but we will honor the principle of gradual progress through proper procedures; as human rights lawyers, we insist on the right of independent judgment, but respect the different perspectives and views held by others.

Once again, we announce to the world that we are not this country’s enemy. We are a group of true patriots. We know that we must transcend class, nationality, and faith in order to work for the dignity and basic human rights of all Chinese. Regardless of how others perceive and label us and attempt to discredit our work, we will stand by our principles as we strive to improve human rights in China.

At the same time, we look forward to healthy cooperation and dialogue with the authorities to find a feasible path to furthering and improving human rights. We want everyone to know that human rights lawyers regaining their own rights is a victory for everyone, regardless of occupation, social status, economic background, or ethnicity.

We are aware that the effort of human rights lawyers alone cannot change the human rights situation in this country. We are ready to work with all people and groups that pursue freedom, justice, and the rule of law, and to take a stand for the beautiful goals to which we all aspire.

In the next five years, we must first and foremost fight for the freedom of every citizen to be free from fear. We demand the repeal of the provision in the Supervision Act that affords law enforcement officials the power of wanton detention, as well as the provisions in the Criminal Procedure Law that allow for secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated place.”

We vow to fight for victims who have been forcefully disappeared and tortured by the authorities, and we will not tolerate the illegal detention and disappearance, in the name of the state, of anyone living on this land, be they officials or ordinary citizens. Everyone has basic rights, including the right to litigation.

We will advocate to establish open records of human rights violations committed by public officials. This lists will record the deeds of all, from leaders at the highest levels down to infractions committed by local level of guobao, or political security police. If they do not rein themselves in, they will one day stand trial to face justice in court.

We will offer strong and unconditional support for citizens’ freedom of speech. We will never tolerate the administrative detention or legal punishment of a citizen simply for criticizing the government or the party. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of all other freedoms. If no one dares speak out against abuse, all of society will taste the bitter consequences.

We love blue skies and green hills, and we will not turn a blind eye to the environmental pollution or tainted food and drugs. We will urge governments at all levels to take effective measures to reduce pollution, improve the environment, and enforce regulations over the food and drug industry so that everyone can have safe food, medicine, air, and water. We want to tell citizens who have suffered persecution for their efforts to improve the environment or expose the safety hazards posed by tainted food and medicine: you have our full support.

We are extremely concerned about the friction between police and civilians. We call on law enforcement throughout the country to act in strict accordance with the law, to explain the law in good faith, exercise restraint, respect and protect human rights, and not act as accomplices to brutal “stability maintenance.”

It’s been more than three years since the 709 crackdown, we exhort the authorities to carefully review their attitude and policy towards human rights lawyers, and to treat properly these conscientious and responsible professionals. We ask the authorities to immediately release Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Yu Wensheng (余文生), Li Yuhan (李昱函), and other lawyers. It is important for everyone to enjoy a more civilized society that upholds reason and the rule of law.

Five years have gone by in a flash, but it’s been five years with historic import. We the human rights lawyers are ordinary human beings, but we are not cowards. If for the sake of China’s human rights we must lose our licenses or even our freedom, then we are willing to make these sacrifices for our country and our people.

Only through sacrifice can we forge ahead to the future! That’s our solemn proclamation on the 5th anniversary of China Human Rights Lawyers Group. Thank you all!

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group

September 13, 2018

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Contacts:

Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266
Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598
Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755
Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584
Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911

 


牺牲自我,点亮未来  — 人权律师团成立五周年献辞

 

2013年9月13日,王成、唐吉田、江天勇三位被吊销执业证书的律师基于对中国人权事业的美好愿景,发起成立中国人权律师团,公告之日,应者云集,短短一年,有三百多名中国执业律师声明加入人权律师团。春去秋来,人权律师团已不知不觉地迎来了自己的五周年纪念日,在这个普通的日子里,我们认为,对过去五年的历程做个总结,阐明人权律师团的基本态度,规划人权律师团未来的工作方向显得尤为必要。

我们必须承认,过去的五年,是困难的五年,是悲伤的五年,也是看不到希望的五年,我们试图改善这个国家的人权状况,却发现人权状况越来越糟糕。

过去的五年,中国人权律师被当局妖魔化,被别有用心之人污蔑,其遭受的打压和迫害全世界罕见,国际社会亦对此目瞪口呆。

过去的五年,多名中国人权律师被判刑,被吊证,被失踪,尤其是在2015年7月发生了震惊中外的“709”大抓捕之后,人权律师被冲击得七零八落,几乎遭遇了灭顶之灾。

但即使面对这些残酷的现实危险,人权律师团律师在过去五年依然开展了卓有成效的工作。人权律师通过发起联署声明、签名声援等方式,介入人权事件,探寻事实真相,从而揭露罪恶,保护人权,其过程之艰辛,绝非常人可以想象!他们为政治异议人士辩护,直到自己被贴上异议分子的标签;他们为信仰群体辩护,直到自己成为当局维稳的对象;他们为访民和被拆迁者辩护,直到有一天自己也变成司法的弃儿;他们为少数民族的良心人士辩护,直到有一天被冠上叛国者的帽子;他们为劳工群体辩护,直到自己被剥夺工作的权利。凡此种种,举不胜举!

面对打压和迫害,我们不禁要问,为什么一腔热血的人权律师会成为整肃的对象?为什么司法当局在个案中要排除人权律师介入?为什么司法部门要使用鬼蜮伎俩吊销或者注销人权律师的执业证?答案其实非常简单,因为人权律师追求光明和正义,而迫害者代表着黑暗和邪恶。

今天,值此人权律师团成立五周年之际,我们再次重申,我们将继续推进中国人权事业的发展,我们将毫不动摇地致力于改善中国的人权状况,我们将在世俗的法律和道德的天空中寻找价值的平衡。

我们向往自由,但我们知道秩序的重要性;我们追求正义,但不会以正义者自居;我们强调人的基本权利,但我们将遵循循序渐进的原则;我们坚持自己作为人权律师的独立判断,但尊重其他人的不同观点。

我们再次光明正大地向世人宣布,我们不是这个国家的敌人,我们是一群真正的爱国者,我们说服自己超越阶层、民族和信仰,为所有中国人的尊严和基本人权而努力。不管别人如何定位人权律师,如何抹黑人权律师,我们将坚持自己的原则,那就是为改善中国的人权状况而努力拼搏。

与此同时,我们期待与官方的健康力量互动对话,共济时艰,相向而行,一起找到改善中国人权状况的可行之道。大家应该明白,不管你的职业、社会地位、财产状况和种族性别如何,人权律师争取到的每一项权利都为你所有。

我们深知,仅凭人权律师的微薄之力无法改变这个国家的人权状况,我们愿意与所有追求自由、公义、法治的民众和群体一道,为共同向往的美好目标而奋斗。

在未来的五年里,我们首先要争取的是每个公民免于恐惧的自由,我们强烈要求废除《监察法》中对公职人员采取留置措施的条款以及《刑事诉讼法》中对公民采取指定监视居住措施的条款。我们发誓将向强迫失踪和酷刑开战,我们绝不容忍以国家的名义对生活在这片土地上的任何人进行非法拘禁和强迫失踪,不管这个人是官员还是平民,他们享有最起码的诉讼权利和基本人权。

我们将推动建立公职人员侵犯人权的负面清单,这些清单将记录上至高级官员,下至普通“国保”侵犯人权的恶劣事件,如果他们不悬崖勒马,继续怙恶不悛的话,那么终究有一天,正义的法庭将对他们进行彻底地审判。

我们将毫无保留地为公民的言论自由提供强有力的保护和支持,我们绝不允许一个公民仅仅因为批评政府或者政党就受到行政拘留甚至刑事处罚。众所周知,言论自由是一切自由权利的基石,如果整个社会万马齐喑,那么我们将很快品尝到它結出的恶果。

我们渴望蓝天白云、青山绿水,我们对国家的环境污染和食品药品安全问题不会熟视无睹,我们将敦促各级政府切实采取措施消除污染,改善环境质量,加强食品药品督查和监管力度,为每个民众提供最安全的食品、药品、空气和饮水。我们要告诉那些为了改善环境质量或者揭露食品药品安全问题而遭受迫害的公民们,人权律师是你们的坚强后盾。

我们呼吁全国各地的警察当局严格依法办事,善意解释法律,约束警权,尊重和保障人权,切勿成为暴力维稳的帮凶,我们对当下的警民对立情绪感到极大的担忧。

在“709”大抓捕过去三年多之际,我们呼吁当局能认真检讨对人权律师的态度和政策,善待这群有良知和担当的专业人士并立即释放唐荆陵、江天勇、王全璋、余文生、李昱函等律师,我们需要一个更加文明的社会,我们需要一个理性和法治的社会,而这样的社会对每一个人来讲都显得尤为重要。

短短五年,如白驹过隙,但它记录的历史却犹如镌刻在青铜器上的铭文,传之后世。人权律师均是血肉之躯,但也绝非贪生怕死之辈,如果说中国的人权进步需要牺牲掉人权律师的执业证甚至自由作为代价的话,那么我们愿意将自己的一切奉献给这片滚烫的热土。

牺牲自我,点亮未来!这就是中国人权律师团在成立五周年之际带给全世界的庄重宣言!谢谢大家。

 

中国人权律师团律师
2018年9月13日

 

中国人权律师团是一个开放性的律师协作平台。中国人权律师团成立以来,通过发起联合声明,介入人权案件或事件等方式为保障人权、推进法治进行了诸多努力。认同人权理念,愿意维护公民基本权利的中国律师均可通过人权律师团任一成员声明加入。

联系人:

何伟, 18523069266
蔺其磊, 13366227598
施平, 15515694755
王清鹏, +1 (425)7329584
谢阳, 18673190911

 


Related – Analyses and Reports

709 Crackdown Three Years on: The Many Methods by Which the Chinese Communist Party Cracks Down on Human Rights Lawyers, Lü Shijie, July 4, 2018

War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018

Communist Party’s Suppression of Lawyers Is a Preemptive Attack Against an Imaginary Threat, Liu Shuqing, May 16, 2018

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu, July 23, 2015.

14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, August 19, 2015.

 


Related – Personal Accounts

The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.

A Record of 709, Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017.

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, January 19, 2017.

 


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‘Riding on a Dream, We Push Forward’: A Statement on the Fourth Anniversary of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, September 13, 2017

 

CHRLG_以梦为马

 

Today, September 13, 2017, marks the fourth anniversary of the founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group.

Even though it is the obligation of government to respect and safeguard human rights based on international treaties and the Constitution, it is also the natural and professional duty of lawyers. Four years ago today, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded to provide an open platform for professional cooperation.

Over the past four years, we have set foot across the country and worked tirelessly against constant obstacles to protect freedom of expression, freedom of belief and other basic civil and political rights. Among us, some have lost their freedom and even their lives.

Since the 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers in 2015, the authorities have among other things unscrupulously employed TV confessions and imposed officially-designated defense lawyers against the wishes of family members. We embraced those who had come back after unspeakable ordeals, and we remain deeply worried about lawyer Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, lawyer Jiang Tianyong, and Li Yanjun, who are still in custody.

We pay close attention to judicial reforms, but the gratuitous use of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location has led to countless cases of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, during which horrific torture and other forms of inhumane treatment have occurred. The reality is that Chinese law does not apply to certain enforcers, and the so-called judicial reforms are little more than a joke.

We are concerned with the promulgation of various laws. Over the past two years China has passed or amended the Cybersecurity Law, Anti-terrorism Law, National Security Law, National Intelligence Law, the Management of Foreign NGO Law, Charity Law, Regulations on Religious Affairs, and other laws and regulations. These laws are brutal and coarse in terms of their legislative purpose, procedure, and techniques; they do nothing more than provide legal cover for the ugly policies of the day. In implementing them, law enforcement authorities trample over human rights at will in the name of “anti-terrorism” and “public security,” and the tendency to do this is now spreading.

We are concerned that lawyers retain the right to do their jobs. This right is being undermined by government agencies in charge of the judiciary, who are manipulating lawyer associations — which by definition should be independent, professional organizations — to retaliate against and remove human rights lawyers at the forefront of defending human rights.

In today’s China, human rights lawyers are esteemed by many but also scrutinized by some, and it requires courage and a sense of responsibility for us to persevere. We might be limited in our strength, but we must do what we can to stop this long-suffering country from sliding ever deeper and further into a dictatorial and totalitarian quagmire.

The fall brings cold air and perilous waves. We hope that, as lawyers who take defending human rights as a personal duty, we have answered the call of our time; we hope that the country will prosper and the people will enjoy peace and happiness. Moreover, we hope that the flowers of human rights will flourish across China.

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group

September 13, 2017

 

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Jitian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651

 

Translated from Chinese by China Change.

 

 

 

 

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group: Statement Upon the 2nd Anniversary of the 709 Incident

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 9, 2017

 

In the early hours of the morning on July 9, 2015, the Beijing-based lawyer Wang Yu and her husband and son, Bao Longjun (包龙军) and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), were suddenly illegally arrested by the police. Before long, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Xie Yang (谢阳), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Li Chunfu (李春富), Xie Yuandong (谢远东), Liu Sixin (刘四新), Gao Yue (高月), Zhao Wei (赵威), Li Shuyun (李姝云) and dozens of other lawyers and their assistants were also arrested. At around the same time, Wu Gan (吴淦 known online as “The Butcher”), an activist who was in Nanchang protesting the Jiangxi High Court’s refusal to allow a lawyer to examine the case files surrounding the “Leping Wrongful Imprisonment” case, was arrested, along with Li Yanjun (李燕军), Liu Xing (刘星), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Wang Su’e (王素娥), and others, a total of 17 citizen activists in Weifang, Shandong Province. This was a prelude to the mass arrests of the July 9 sweep. Later, there were also the arrests, one after another, of Hu Shigen (胡石根), Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Wang Fang (王芳), Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) and other rights defenders. After July 9, over 360 lawyers and citizens around the country were summoned and subjected to coercive, high-pressure interrogations. The family members of lawyers and rights activists were also implicated and subjected to constant threats and intimidation. About 40 lawyers were prevented from leaving China.

This campaign of mass arrests of lawyers began on July 9, 2015, and so is known as the “709 Incident.” After it began, those detained have for the most part been disappeared — held in secret detention (officially known as “residential surveillance at a designated place”). In January 2016, when the term of “residential surveillance at a designated place” expired, the majority of the lawyers were then formally arrested on the criminal charge of subverting, or inciting subversion of, state power. The authorities attempted to forcibly sever the legal contracts between those arrested and their own lawyers and then, entirely exceeding any legitimate power they held, assigned lawyers they controlled to the cases. In early August 2016, the Tianjin Second Intermediate Court began rapidly prosecuting and pronouncing pro forma sentences against Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Gou Hongguo, and Zhai Yanmin on charges of “subversion of state power.” The four were given prison sentences of between three and seven years. In November 2016 lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who had been working indefatigably to try to rescue the 709 detainees, was himself put under secret detention in the Changsha 1st Detention Center.

Separately, beginning in September 2016, but particularly from February to May 2017, mass arrests of citizens in Shenzhen began. Those targeted included Gu Yimin (顾义民), Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Lu Guoying (陆国英), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang Jun (王军), Ding Yan (丁岩), Ma Zhiquan (马志权), Li Nanhai (李南海) and others. Their arrests was said to have been connected with their advocacy on behalf of 709 victims — a continuation and escalation of the campaign.

In January 2017, lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) was released on probation. The long-term torture and abuse he was subjected to in custody, however, left him mentally broken. Only through the care, company, and guidance of his family did he gradually begin returning to health. Xie Yang’s lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), after visiting him in custody, published the inside details of the extreme torture that Xie Yang was subjected to. In April 2017, Li Heping (李和平) was given a suspended sentence for “subversion of state power”; when he returned home, his face was thin and pallid. He explained that he had suffered systematic, long-term psychological and physical torture in custody. The Chinese phrase “nine deaths and still alive” (九死一生) would describe it. In May 2017, Xie Yang was released on probation. When in the detention center, Wu Gan wrote a letter of complaint against the authorities, describing the torture he was put through. Nothing at all has been heard from Wang Quanzhang since his arrest two years ago; the lawyers hired by his family have yet to see him, and no one knows whether he’s even dead or alive.

In the post 709 Crackdown period, some people believe that the community of human rights lawyers had been dealt with a destructive blow. Some have been delighted at that prospect, some withdrew, and others have changed course. The 709 incident itself, however, has become the occasion for a number of human rights lawyers to shine through. Those who stuck through when besieged with crisis and danger on all sides are benchmarks for legal professionals in China — they’re the group who most care, most pursue, and are most willing to exert themselves for freedom, democracy, rule of law, fairness, and justice in China.

The 709 incident has also revealed a number of legal scholars and professionals, both embedded in the state system and outside it, who wear the garb of “men of the law” but who in fact trample the rule of law, helping to suppress democracy activists, and who hamper China’s democratization. Doing so, they’ve now become obstacles, trying to block up the wheels of history’s progress. Among them are some “experts,” “professors,” and “scholars” who, in their ivory tower, act like kept propagandists for those in power, defending the Party’s anti-democratic, anti-liberty, and anti-rule of law behavior. They sell out their consciences for money; they’ve abandoned the basic ethics of human beings, and they’re simply washing up after the evildoers. There are also a group of official lawyers who work at the command of the security apparatus. They too cloak themselves as “men of the law,” but the role they play is that of the stability maintenance agent, defending those trampling on the rule of law. History will testify the truth about them, and their names will put to shame in the course of China’s democratization.

History will also remember another group of people from the 709 incident: the family members of 709 victims. Especially the wives of Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang, Xie Yanyi, Gou Hongguo, Zhai Yanmin and others. Their images of carrying bright red buckets with names of their husbands  impressed all of us. The work of these wives on behalf of their husbands persisted throughout the 709 crackdown.

The 709 incident was a premeditated, large-scale, coordinated attack by the authorities on the human rights defense movement, the most severe over the last several years. The daily withering of civil society in China under such repression is a fact — but as long as there are abuses of human rights, human rights lawyers will not be absent. We believe that those who’ve been through the 709 test won’t give up on defending human rights. Instead, they will more tenaciously, wisely, and fearlessly assume the mission that the era demands of them.

The 709 incident shows that when the ignorant and powerful come to confront human rights defenders, they act without mercy or feeling or any restraint. The forced confessions they extract simply reflect their apprehension and guilty conscience in the face of the law, and in the face of a citizenry that is waking up every day. They desperately need human rights lawyers to acknowledge allegiance and openly confess guilt so they can then use that to further repress the rest of the citizenry.

The international community, lawyers, the family members of victims, citizens, and people of conscience throughout society, have always been supporters of 709 victims. Those ensnared by the 709 crackdown have borne witness to the false promise of the rule of law in China with their suffering. The awakening of citizen consciousness and the development of civil society are inevitable parts of the road to a modern democratic civilization; lawyers are a crucial force on this path toward the rule of law. They should not become the targets of attack, elimination, and persecution.

The human rights lawyers who have been arrested are not the troublemakers in Chinese society, but instead the people who seek out solutions. They assume it upon themselves, and they summon up their own courage, to put the questions that plague Chinese society on the table and hope for a lawful path to their resolution. History makes clear that liberty, democracy, and the rule of law don’t fall from the sky; those in power won’t limit it of their own accord, nor will they proactively let go of their own vested interests. Using the law to resist, to strive for freedom, promote democracy, and realize the rule of law is an effective path. In this process, the sacrifices and exertions of the resistors are worth it.

Upon the second anniversary of the 709 incident, we thank the attention of everyone on the 709 incident, and we thank everyone who has worked to free the persecuted. We won’t be discouraged; we’ll continue striving to defend human rights. We hope that everyone continues to pay attention to the cases of Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, and Wu Gan, among others. We also express our concern over the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Constitutional democracy has not yet been realized, and citizens must continue to strive. Before the arrival of dawn, there will be harsher suppression and worse persecution, but they will not stop the sun from rising, and the light of constitutional democracy will radiate everywhere in China and heal this wounded land.

 

July 9, 2017

 
————————————-

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Ji Tian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651

 

 

 

Approaching the ‘International Day in Support of Victims of Torture,’ a Request to OHCHR and IBA to Address the Torture of Chinese Human Rights Lawyers in the 709 Crackdown

China Human Rights Lawyers Group, June 23, 2017

 

This year, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is partnering with the International Bar Association (IBA) to mark the annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture” on June 26. Through storytelling, social media campaigns, and a panel discussion, they hope to advance their “shared ambition for the absolute prohibition of torture.” This year and the year before, we have begun to learn, with horror, about the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers during the 709 Crackdown. Below is a letter from the China Human Rights Lawyers Group addressed and delivered to OHCHR and IBA. — The Editors

 

To the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Bar Association:

In the early morning of July 9, 2015, Chinese police began a campaign of mass arrests, interrogations, and warnings against human rights lawyers and rights defenders. Dozens of rights lawyers and other activists were detained; hundreds of lawyers, scholars, and citizens were called in for “chats” and warnings by the police; dozens of lawyers and citizens were prevented from leaving the country.

Whether they were charged with the crime of “subversion of state power,” “inciting subversion of state power,” or the more pedestrian “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” all were subjected to the coercive criminal penal measure known as “residential surveillance at a designated place,” based on the claim that they were a threat to national security.

Residential surveillance at a designated place is a compulsory criminal procedure that was specified, codified, and integrated into China’s “Criminal Procedure Law,” modified in 2012 and implemented in 2013. In the implementation of this procedure, Chinese police have been abusing the relevant clauses, using it to put subjects under completely secret control, torturing them, and acting without accountability and restraint.

The torture that 709 lawyers have been subjected to during residential surveillance at a designated place has been made clear in the transcripts of interviews of lawyer Xie Yang provided by his defense counsel Chen Jiangang. One can also listen to the accounts by Li Heping’s family and friends who visited him after he was given a suspended sentence. One can infer it from the psychological breakdown suffered by Li’s brother, Li Chunfu, after he was released on probation. One can observe it from the articles published by lawyer Li Shuyun and legal assistant Zhao Wei. One can can get a sense of it from the few choice descriptive phrases used by lawyer Xie Yanyi after he was released on probation.

Wang Quanzhang, another lawyer arrested in the 709 Crackdown, has been in detention for nearly two years now, and not a single piece of news has emerged about his condition. Even whether he’s dead or alive is unclear — and those who care for him are extremely concerned that he has been put through, or is now being put through, extreme torture. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who worked hard to try to gain the release of his colleagues and rights defenders detained in the 709 arrests, has been denied access to legal representation for over seven months now. Reports that he is being tortured emerge periodically. In late May 2017 a statement bearing Jiang’s signature stated that Jiang had dismissed his defense counsel, causing grave concern that Jiang had been, and was now being, subjected to torture.

Chinese police have never actually established that these human rights lawyers and rights defenders are guilty of any crime whatsoever. The authorities have force-fed them medication, tortured them physically, devastated them psychologically, and gone after their loved ones, solely for the purpose of breaking their will, making them confess guilt on national television, accepting the judgement against them, and thus completely driving them away from the rights defense field in China.

The human rights lawyers and rights defense activists targeted in the 709 Crackdown should be protected by all the safeguards afforded by the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The plight of rights defenders in China, in particular human rights lawyers, has become more and more grim in recent years. With a series of new laws being rolled out — including the State Security Law, the Foreign NGO Law, the Charity Law, the Criminal Law Amendment (No. 9), and the Anti-Espionage Law — they have been completely hemmed in and trapped. Now, they could lose their freedom at a moment’s notice, be spirited away to a secret detention facility, and put through brutal torture.

No individual, nor any country in the world, is an island unto itself. Concern for others is the same as concern for oneself. Protection of human rights, opposition to torture, and concern for victims of torture, should be extended across ethnic and racial boundaries. These were precisely the founding principles behind the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture.

As Chinese human rights lawyers, we respectfully request that you convey concern for the Chinese human rights defenders who have not yet been detained and tortured; that you monitor and speak out about China’s violations of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture; and that you follow the news of regular violations of human rights in China, and help the human rights lawyers and other rights defenders who have been put in danger.

                  

China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团)

June 23, 2017

Contact persons:

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338

Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964

Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639

Tang Jitian (唐吉田) 13161302848

Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651

 

 

Attached: A brief introduction to the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was established on September 13, 2013 as an open platform for lawyers to connect and work together. Since its founding, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group has used joint public statements, involvement in specific human rights cases, and a range of other means to protect human rights and promote the rule of law. Chinese lawyers who support the ideals of human rights and are willing to safeguard the basic rights of Chinese citizens can join the group through an existing member by making a statement affirming these commitments. Promoting the rule of law and safeguarding human rights are the tireless pursuit of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group. We look forward to working together with you.

 

 


Related:

Letter to World Leaders by ‘709’ Family Members Includes Emerging Details of Horrific Torture, March 1, 2017

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (4) – Admit Guilt, and Keep Your Mouth Shut, January 22, 2017

 

 

 

The Day Will Break at the End of the Night

— New Year Greetings from the 300-member Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group

 

By Wu Yuren @wuyuren

By Wu Yuren @wuyuren

 

Times goes on, but the laws of nature are the same. As the first rays of the morning sun will surely burst through the darkness, we cast our gaze, brimming with hope, upon a new year. The China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团) hereby imparts to everyone our most sincere New Year’s greetings!

2015 was a year replete with manmade disasters: A capsized boat on the Yangtze River, the Tianjin explosion, and the Shenzhen landslide one after another. And in each case the truth of what happened was concealed by the miasma of official power, forming a deep and dark human rights black hole.

2015 was also a year when Chinese citizens continued the fight for human rights: they gathered in Qing’an, in Heilongjiang, to protest the gunning down of a petitioner; the spirited defense of workers’ rights in Guangdong goes without saying; and across China, citizens took to the streets on protest marches against polluting industries setting up shop in their neighborhoods. All of this is testimony to a citizenry which is awakening to its own rights consciousness with each passing day and which is becoming more determined to resist the unchecked expansion of government power.

2015 was also a year of hysteria for the Party’s stability maintenance apparatus: Beginning in July, using so-called “residential surveillance at a designated place,” human rights lawyers were forcibly disappeared in the name of “suspicion of endangering state security” and have been completely deprived of their legal rights. They were smeared on national television by so-called journalists with CCTV who effectively declared them guilty before a trial had even begun. Dozens of human rights lawyers and defenders around China were arrested, and over 300 were threatened or summoned for a “chat” with state security officers. The “July 9th Arrests” of rights lawyers in China came on with unchecked force and viciousness. The whereabouts of China Human Rights Lawyer Group members Li Heping, Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yanyi, Sui Muqing, Xie Yang, Li Chunfu, and Liu Sixin are to this day still unknown. This is an insult to any idea of “rule of law,” and a violent attack on social progress.

2015 was the most difficult year for human rights lawyers: friends around us were jailed, and a sense of dread and foreboding became ubiquitous as the authorities’ suppression became more and more suffocating by the day. But opportunity always comes in the shadow of adversity: human rights lawyers stood mighty and unmoved in the face of the violent suppression, and still bravely stood on the front lines of rights defense, fighting for rule of law.

As human rights lawyers, we believe that every person is born equal, and each enjoys the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness without fear. These rights are also enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international legal documents. For Chinese citizens born to this land, who hold deep affection for it, and who are no longer accustomed to being intimidated and subjugated, we cannot do nothing when we see human rights recklessly trampled upon.

We do not have the freedom of living without fear, but we struggle against our fears, and move forward despite of it: We will continue to voice support for those human rights lawyers and defenders who have been disappeared or charged for no more than the exercise of their rights as citizens; we will defend those whose economic, social, or cultural rights have been infringed upon; and we will stand up for the equal rights of every person. All this is also defending ourselves, defending members of our profession, defending our family, defending our country and people, defending human rights, defending justice, and defending the future of the nation!

As human rights lawyers, we could never be satisfied to cooly look upon the changes in the world with the disposition of a sage—or spread cheap sympathy, sobbing with a posture of kindness. We are idealists who advocate and promote the value of human rights. We are legal activists who defend the rights of the people. We must stand up and tell the many-headed hydra whose power seems inescapable that human rights are universal values, they’re applicable to every human society, and as history marches forward, time is on our side!

Indeed, time is on our side. The Chinese people, who established the first republic in Asia 100 years ago, cannot remain forever outside the grand historical current of democracy and rule of law, cannot pretend that they’re content with their lot as they listen to the commands of a select few who prefer to “feel the stones in the river” rather than cross the bridge. [1]

Nearly 30 years ago Taiwan, a people of a common origin to us, cast off martial law and established a constitutional democracy. In January 2016 they will hold their sixth democratic election for the leadership of the state. Surveying the world, we see the waves of democracy crashing against the levees of dictatorship. China has no reason to stand outside this. Technological progress is levelling out the differences in mankind that result from nationhood, race, gender, language, geography, and historically conditioned human rights. To realize the beauty of having our human rights protected, all of us need to hold our hands firmly together and persevere. We firmly believe that, urged along by wisdom and resolution, history will continue its surge forward.

On the eve of great change, we will not be onlookers.   

We will not be onlookers, because we are defenders of human rights and the law, and possess an unyielding conviction that the rule of law will ultimately triumph over dictatorship. We will not be onlookers, because we believe that the rights of the people in this long-suffering land need urgent defense, and their value deserves urgent advocacy. Having experienced fear, we know the preciousness of the freedom of its absence—and only by overcoming fear is it possible to transcend it and to elevate ourselves.

The smog is thick and the night dark, but the sun will shine as the time comes. Let us greet the beautiful moment of daybreak with smiles; let us embrace those of our compatriots who have recovered their freedom after suffering so much as we pursue a new future.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Group

January 1, 2016

 

[1] This is an inverted reference to Deng Xiaoping’s dictum that China would “cross the river by feeling the stones” (摸着石头过河) during the post-Mao era.

 

Appendix 1:  The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group – A Brief Introduction

The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group was establishment on September 13, 2013 and it is an open platform for coordination between lawyers. Since its inception, the group has organized joint petitions, aided lawyers in joining rights cases or incidents, and made a variety of similar efforts to protect human rights and promote the development of the rule of law in China. Any Chinese lawyer who share the same human rights principles and are willing to defend citizens’ basic rights are welcome to join the group.

Contact persons (in the order of Pinyin):

Chang Boyang 常伯阳 18837183338

Liu Shihui 刘士辉 18516638964

Lin Qilei 蔺其磊 18639228639

Tang Jitian 唐吉田 13161302848

Yu Wensheng 余文生 13910033651

 

Appendix 2: The 300 members of the Group

(to be found in the Chinese original)
———–

Related:

14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, August 19, 2015.

 

中文原文《夜尽天明终有时─中国人权律师团律师2016年新年献辞》, translated by China Change.