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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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China’s Little-Noticed ‘New Police Law’ Gives Vastly Expanded Legal Powers to Public Security Apparatus

China Change, September 6, 2018

 

 

Police law

A recent video clip showing police officers inspecting cell phones of subway passengers in an unidentified Chinese city. https://twitter.com/Sarah_chinaBJ/status/1026301663085117441

On August 17, 2018 at about 3:30 p.m., He Guangwei (何光伟) strode out of the A Exit at the Zhujiang Xincheng subway stop in Guangzhou, carrying a bag of drumstick leaves, a rare vegetable, on his way to meet a friend. In the years prior, when he worked as a journalist at the prominent newspaper Southern Weekend (《南方周末》), he got on and off everyday at the very same stop. A short walk from the subway, a member of China’s auxiliary police (that is, a non-official police officer) intercepted him and demanded in a voluble tone that he produce his identification card for inspection. He glanced around and noticed that not far off another police officer was rebuking a young man for not having his ID with him. He Guangwei had worked in Guangzhou for eight years and had never once been stopped on the street and subjected to an ID inspection. He asked the officer why — “Are you enforcing the law?” The officer said he was. He then enquired as to which law was being enforced. The officer couldn’t answer, but simply stared at him and roared: “Are you going to produce your ID? Are you going to cooperate or not?!” He was then taken to the local police station where he was informed that, according to Article 15 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards (《中华人民共和国居民身份证法》) he was being submitted to an ID inspection. It just so happened that He was quite familiar with Article 15 of the ID Law. He Guangwei knew that he was neither a criminal suspect, nor at a controlled site, nor suspected of involvement in any incidents seriously harming social order, nor present at any of the designated locations during large-scale public activities during which ID inspections may be freely conducted by police. He was merely a pedestrian walking on the street, no different to any other person on any other day walking on any other road. And so he began to argue. The officers grabbed him and shoved him into an interrogation room, pushed him up against the wall, and patted him down. They checked his phone and notebook, and rifled through the bag of vegetables. To conclude the ordeal the officers demanded that he write a self-criticism and dictated its content: “Having been educated by the People’s Police, I have come to recognize my error. I promise that in future when police ask for my identification, I will produce it for inspection.” He Guangwei later wrote about the encounter on his WeChat account, titling it “A Trip Through the Xian Village Police Station” (《过冼村派出所》); the post appears to have attracted over one million readers.

He Weiguang, reporter

He Guangwei, left, interviewing a villager (unclear which year).

In the essay, he wrote: “If the enforcers of the law actually followed the law, would anyone dare to violate the law while enforcing it? If there is something a citizen doesn’t know and the police give you the answers, who would reject an ID inspection?”

He’s mistaken. The Ministry of Public Security on December 1, 2016 published the Draft Amendment  of People’s Police Law of the People’s Republic of China  (《中华人民共和国人民警察法》修订草案稿, referred to throughout as the ‘New Police Law’), which significantly increases police powers. The amendments have essentially written China’s police a blank check allowing them to inspect any IDs they wish, to collect personal information, and intrude on citizens’ privacy at will.

Affirming Police Loyalty to the Communist Party

Article 5 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police must be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, loyal to the country, loyal to the people, and loyal to the constitution and the law.”

The first version of the Police Law came out in February 1995, with the full title the People’s Police Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国警察法》) (it was revised in October 2012). Neither the original or the 2012 revision mentioned the CCP (which does not mean that the police don’t belong to the Party), and nor were the constitution and the law placed at the bottom of the hierarchy of allegiance.

In late March of this year, Xi Jinping held the first meeting of the Party Central Committee for the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform (中央全面深化改革委员会), which oversaw the passage of several new police documents — including “the Pilot Plans for Reforming the Rank of Law Enforcement Officers at Public Security Organs” (《公安机关执法勤务警员职务序列改革方案(试行)》) and “the Pilot Plans for Reforming the Rank of Police Technicians” (《公安机关警务技术职务序列改革方案(试行)》) — among others. According to follow-up reports in the official and semi-official media, China may in the future establish two police corps, in the form of a Public Security Administration (公安行政部门) and a Police Corps (警察总署). The responsibilities of the former would be focused on the administration and management of the household registration and entry-exit system and other administrative affairs; the latter would be the coercive power of the state apparatus, organized as a semi-militarized force that must maintain absolute loyalty to the Communist Party. It’s possible that the items about “loyalty” in the New Police Law were in order to pave the way for the Police Corps — but whatever the case, these articles without any doubt reflect the increasing weight being given to police powers in the current stability maintenance regime.

Summaries of the salient items in these two public security reform documents are available online, though the original posts have been purged from WeChat and iFeng.

Special Clause for ‘Social Entities Participating in Public Security’

Article 6 of the New Police Law introduces “the principle of integrating police forces with the masses.” The precise language says:

“Public security organs must persist in linking their specialized work with the Mass Line; [they must] improve the mechanism for mobilizing social entities to take part in public security; [they must have a public security system in which] public security is maintained by the masses guarding against and handling problems; [they must] promote the socialized management of public security.”

Just what is “the socialized management of public security”? According to an exposition on “the comprehensive management mechanism for public security” in the Party journal Qiushi (《求是》) three years ago, socialized management of public security refers to “relying on grassroots organizations, cultivating a wide network of informants, and working hard to extend the antannae of public security work into every corner [of society].” Currently, the public security and police departments already make widespread use of mass organizations, such as neighborhood committees, property management companies, neighborhood security guards and private security companies, to engage in surveillance, reporting, and assistance for their work. This has become the norm in China. The New Police Law would codify all these activities, giving them a basis in the law itself, and allow the police to legally and effortlessly demand and obtain the cooperation of more social entities.

Authorizing the Police to Inspect IDs on Demand

Article 16 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police may, in the performance of their duties, lawfully inspect the identification cards or other forms of proof of identification of residents.”

Shi Ping (施平), a former journalist and currently a lawyer (who goes by the moniker Shi Yu [石玉] online), points out: “If this draft law is passed, one can imagine a circumstance like this in the future: Few police officers citizens encounter in public space are not there ‘in the performance of their duties’; they are at least ‘in the performance of the duty’ to prevent illegal activity. Thus, a police officer will, without any other requirement or restriction, be empowered to inspect the identification of any citizen on demand.”

In comparison to the stipulations about the inspection of identification in Article 15 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards (《中华人民共和国身份证法》) , the New Police Law without any doubt expands to an arbitrary degree the power of police to inspect ID cards. Even when conducting their duties now — as seen in the He Guangwei incident and countless others — it is a common occurrence for police to arbitrarily demand to see citizens’ IDs. What the New Police Law does is codify this practice in legislation.

Summons on Demand

The current Police Law makes no mention of the power of summons (传唤), and the word does not appear anywhere in the text.

The New Police Law however adds the following clauses about summons powers:

“The People’s Police, where they need to summon and investigate individuals who have violated public security administrative management laws or regulations, shall use a summons authorized by a responsible officer in the public security department handling [such] cases. In cases where violations of public security administrative management laws or regulations are taking place on site, police may show their ID and deliver the summons verbally, but this should be noted in the interrogation transcript. When a summons is delivered, the reason, basis, and location of the summons should be told to the individual being summoned. Coercive measures may be taken to enforce appearance at a summons for individuals who, without legitimate reason, refuse to accept or attempt to escape a summons.”

What does “violating public security administrative management laws or regulations” refer to? On December 27, 2010, the Ministry of Public Security formulated and published “Notice Regarding the Promulgation of ‘Opinion on the Reference Terms and Applicability of Illegal Behaviors in Violation of Public Security Administrative Management Regulations’” (关于印发《违反公安行政管理违法行为的名称及其适用意见》的通知》), which comes up with 682 violative behaviors described and regulated in 67 different pieces of legislation, administrative statutes, or regulations that would be considered violations of public security administrative management laws and regulations. They then break down the offenses into the following areas: public security  (1-401), exit-entry and border defense (402-508), fire control management (509-554), computer and internet security (555-613), traffic management (614-662), and drug prohibition (663-682).

These 682 offenses are so encompassing that, in other words, there will always be a reason to summon you.

 

Not long ago a short piece of footage went viral online showing six police officers forcing their way into the home of a young woman late at night, saying they were “summoning” her, because she had written “something” online. She demanded that the police produce a warrant or formal reason for the summons. This form of arbitrary summons is common in China today — though a vivid recording of it is extremely rare to see. China Change made English-language subtitles for the video in order to give readers a better understanding of the deep terror and menace that Chinese police instill in ordinary citizens. Part of the exchange includes the following, for instance:

[Woman] Why are you coming to my home this late? What’s going on?
[Police] You come with us and we’ll discuss it.
[Woman] Why should I?
[Police] Because we’re the police.
[Woman] So just like that you can take people away for no reason?
[Police] Yeah — so what?

When the New Police Law is passed, it will be completely legal for six police officers to summon a young woman from her home in the middle of the night to the police station where she has to give an account of her social media posts. She’ll have no grounds to ask ‘Why?’ and will simply have to obey.

Expanding the Scope of Police Power to Conduct Searches

Article 22 of the New Police Law, on inspections and searches, says the following:

“In performance of their duties, the People’s Police, having produced identification and a search warrant, may conduct an inspection and search of individuals — including their residences, personal effects, and persons — suspected of violations of the law; in cases where there is a genuine need for immediate inspection and search, police may, after producing their identification, carry out the inspection and search on site forthwith; if the individual subject to search and inspection refuses to cooperate, they may be forcibly inspected and searched.”

The New Police Law expands the power of police to search and inspect with reference to the vague phrases “in performance of their duties,” and “in cases where there is a genuine need for immediate inspection and search.” This effectively means that whenever any individual police officer personally decides that it’s necessary, he may simply engage in the inspection and search of any citizen right then and there. This gives far greater scope to police powers than Article 12 of the current Police Law, which says: “In order to investigate criminal activities, the People’s Police of the public security organs may, according to the law, detain, search, arrest or employ other compulsory measures.”

Article 37 of the Constitution stipulates: “The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable,” and “Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited.” Article 39 of the Constitution says: “The home of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. Unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a citizen’s home is prohibited.”

And yet the amendments in the New Police Law will empower any police officer to invade at will the personal residence of any citizen, and the action need not require any evidence or due process.

Does the new clause about ‘searches’ include the extraction and inspection of data on the cell phones of Chinese citizens? Though the language is not clear on this point, the current practice shows that the answer is almost certainly ‘yes.’

Authorizing Police to Physically Inspect Citizens and Collect Biometrics

Article 24 of the New Police Law says:

“The People’s Police may search the persons of criminal suspects, obtain a mugshot, fingerprints, voice signature, an image of the iris and other individually identifying information, including blood, saliva, urine, hair or other biological samples. If criminal suspects refuse to be searched or have these items collected, the search and collection can be undertaken by force.”

This is new, and the current Police Law contains no article of this type. Nevertheless, for a very long time now police around China have already begun collecting mugshots, fingerprints, DNA samples and more from Chinese citizens of all sorts — not only criminal suspects, but non-suspects too, including activists, human rights defenders, dissidents, and others. Moreover, these individuals report having their biometrics collected by multiple police departments in different jurisdictions.

Some have feared that such biometrics could be used to plant evidence and frame people up, while others have worried about yet other motives.

Article 38 of the Constitution says: “The personal dignity of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. Insult, libel, false charge or frame-up directed against citizens by any means is prohibited.” Yet the criteria for judgment as to who is a “criminal suspect” and who is a citizen suspected of no crime but still targeted for “mugshots, fingerprints, voice signature, an image of the iris and other individually identifying information, including blood, saliva, urine, hair or other biological samples” contains a great deal of flexibility for the authorities. The process of collecting biometrics of citizens not only limits the personal freedom of the individual, but is an infringement on basic human dignity.

On March 3, 2018, during the ‘Two Meetings’ in Beijing, the Beijing resident Li Wei (李蔚), responding to the demands of Beijing public security forces, left the capital and went to “travel” in Hangzhou. That evening Li was accosted by police at his hotel and his ID demanded for inspection. In the process of Li requesting a summons to verify that he indeed had to produce his ID, five or six individuals broke into his room and beat him, causing injuries. After he produced his ID, the police told him to go to the police station so that his fingerprints, DNA, and cell phone data could all be collected. The police told him explicitly that he had not been suspected of any crime, but that his ID was being checked and his biometrics collected merely because he had a “prior record” (Li Wei was imprisoned during the Chinese government’s crackdown on the New Citizens’ Movement, and has since been designated as a ‘key person’ in the eyes of the guobao, or political police). Li lodged a series of complaints against the Hangzhou police for illegally restricting his personal freedom as well as a variety of other rights violations, including the police failure to provide written acknowledgement of the complaints as required by law. His case has gone nowhere as the courts and the police departments refuse to file the case for him.

Police Can Search People or Organizations at Will and Surveil Public Spaces

Article 25 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police, as required to perform their duties and in accordance with relevant national regulations, may look up and extract relevant information about citizens, legal persons, and other organizations, and they may collect information from public spaces, roads, and cyberspace using surveillance technologies. The information so obtained shall be stored and used prudently, and may not be used for matters unrelated to the fulfillment of official duties.”

This article, again, is not in the current Police Law. One recent phenomenon is the appearance on social media of short videos showing police at subway stations in urban areas inspecting the phones of commuters. A twitter user recently described what he personally witnessed, and noted that he was extremely scared and didn’t dare to take photos of the incident. He wrote:

Date and time: August 23, 2018, 3:55 p.m.;
Location: Safety check at the entrance of the No. 1 Line subway at the Fengqi Road station, Hangzhou (杭州地铁1号线凤起路站); [the police were] checking the phone of every passenger waiting in line to enter the station;
Apparatus: They were using handheld scanning equipment;
The number of police: 6 to 7.

Despite the fact that the current Police Law does not in fact authorize the police to do this, evidently the regime has commanded that they do so anyway. Just as with the other changes, the New Police Law simply codifies in a statute what has already become practice. As for the surveillance of public places roads, and cyberspace, one can already see cameras every 50 meters on the streets of Beijing for a taste of what that feels like. So much has already been reported about the shocking extent of China’s surveillance state.

Severing the Internet When Called for

The New Police Law bestows expanded powers of internet management on the public security organs. Article 29 says:

“Public security organs of the People’s Governments at the county-level and above may, when encountering natural disasters, accidents, public health incidents, or social safety incidents, or if there is the urgent danger of any such disaster, catastrophe, or incident taking place, set up roadblocks and delimit controlled zones over a certain area and time period in order to limit or prohibit personnel and vehicular travel, lingering, or entry and exit, among other traffic management or site management measures. When necessary they may, with the consent of public security organs of the People’s Governments of the provincial-level and above, implement controls over the internet.

“On the occasion of large-scale public events, mass activities, or when providing security for state-designated individuals or targets, [authorities] may adopt the above mentioned measures, and may at the same time institute safety inspections, personnel inspections, electronic jamming, and other measures.”

Though it’s not yet a common occurrence for the authorities to sever internet access, there are already many precedents. On July 5, 2009, following ethnic conflicts in Urumqi, the Xinjiang authorities cut off the internet for one month. On the scene of mass incidents and protests, people often report being unable to access the internet or operate other electronic equipment. In April 2014, tens of thousands of residents of Maoming, Guangdong Province, marched in protest of a paraxylene plant set to be built there. The authorities blockaded the city and cut off the internet, thus suppressing the news. In April 2017, after the suspicious death (said to be due to falling from a building) of a 14-year-old middle school student in Luzhou, Sichuan, the police engaged in a coverup of the case, triggering protests from over 1,000 residents and leading to clashes. For the next 12 days, electricity and internet services were cut off in much of the city. In the recent protests by parents in Leiyang, Hunan, over the authorities assigning students in public schools to privately-operated schools with high tuitions, no news has been heard for the last few days, leading many to suspect that Leiyang has also had its internet cut off.

At first blush, according to the language in the New Police Law, it may appear that the circumstances under which the internet can be cut off, as well as the threshold required to get approval for such an action, are set very high. But judging by the actual cases over the last few years, the requirements for severing internet access appear to be quite small, and the decisions seem to be mostly triggered by mass protests.

———-

Some predict that the New Police Law will be granted passage and become law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress during the ‘Two Meetings’ in Beijing in March 2019, after  a package of public security/police institutional reform measures are approved.

It’s been 20 months since the Ministry of Public Security put the draft of the New Police Law out for public comment, but the document has attracted little public notice, except for a handful of lawyers and interested citizens who have expressed concern about some of its clauses. This sort of indifference is not in the least surprising: In China, the question of which laws are decided, who decides on them, and how they decide them, is all based simply on the Party’s will. Citizens do not have the right to elect their own representatives, the media are owned and run by the Party-state, and the people simply have no say in the affairs of state. The so-called “solicitation of opinion” is merely about the authorities going through the motions. Everyone understands that the National People’s Congress is the Party’s rubber stamp; the police forces are the Party’s ‘knife handle’; legislation and law enforcement are merely tools for the Party to maintain its rule. It is increasingly dangerous for citizens to express their dissent. Police would arrive at their door in no time, just as they did that night to the young woman in Shenzhen for her social media posts.

 

 

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A Call for a UN Investigation, and US Sanctions, on the Human Rights Disaster Unfolding in Xinjiang

August 10, 2018

 

Uighur, FLG, praying

Thousands of Uighurs praying in Kashgar, July 2014. Source: farwestchina.com

 

It is now clear, from numerous reliable sources, that shocking human rights atrocities are being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR).

The Communist Party authorities have established a large number of political re-education centers in Xinjiang, detaining people without any judicial process, stripping them of their personal liberty, imprisoning them, and detaining them for indeterminate ‘sentences.’ Estimates of the numbers detained range from hundreds of thousands to over a million, primarily targeting Uighurs, but also Kazakhs, Hui people, and other minorities who follow Islam. Among those detainees are peasants, workers, university, college, high-school and middle-school students, teachers, poets, writers, artists, scholars, the head of a provincial department, bureau chiefs, village chiefs, and even Uighur police officers. Uighurs overseas, as well as their family members and Uighur students who return to China after studying abroad — and even Uighurs who have simply visited abroad for tourism — have been particular targets of attack.

Those locked up in detention centers have been forced to sing Red Songs, learn Mandarin Chinese, and study Xi Jinping Thought. Many have been forced to eat pork, drink alcohol, and been force-fed unidentified drugs. Abuse and torture is common in re-education centers, and reports of deaths in custody due to torture have become common. The well-known deaths confirmed to date include Muhammad Salih Hajim (穆罕穆德.萨利阿吉), the renowned Uighur scholar of Islam known for translating the Quran with official approval; Halmurat Ghopur (哈木拉提·吾甫尔), a leading food safety administrator and Communist Party official in Xinjiang; and Ayhan Memet, mother of Dolkun Isa (多里坤·艾沙), the chairman of the World Uyghur Congress. Many children, because their parents were disappeared, have been crammed into orphanages and are now suffering terrible conditions.

According to official Chinese statistics, over 227,000 Uighurs in Xinjiang were criminally arrested in 2017, 8 times the 27,000 recorded in 2016. In 2017, the number of people detained on criminal charges in Xinjiang was 21% of the total in all of China, while Xinjiang’s population is only 1.5% of the country’s.

Further, Communist Party authorities have set up a comprehensive electronic surveillance system trained on the daily lives of Uighurs in Xinjiang. They’ve deployed cameras with facial recognition capabilities, cell phone scanners, a DNA collection system, and a ubiquitous police presence, turning the entire Xinjiang region into the world’s most high-tech Police Garrison. All of the Party’s efforts are directed toward the cultural destruction of the Uighur people, who now face a crisis of survival.

In light of this grave human rights catastrophe, all who value human rights and universal values cannot be silent. We hereby state the following:

  1. We strenuously protest the CCP’s unilateral barbaric violence, and we demand that the authorities immediately cease the political persecution of Uighurs and other minority peoples, shut down the political re-education camps, and release all prisoners of conscience including Ilham Tohti  (伊力哈木.土赫提) and Gheyret Niyaz (海莱特尼亚孜);
  2. We support the righteous struggle by Uighurs and other minority peoples in XUAR aimed at securing their basic human rights;
  3. We call upon the U.S. government to continue speaking out about the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and to put more effective pressure on Party authorities;
  4. We call upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into what is taking place in XUAR and to publicly censure the CCP’s despicable acts.

 

Signatories:

Hu Ping (胡平), honorary chief editor of Beijing Spring, New York.

Wang Dan (王丹), founder and director of China Dialogue, Washington, DC.

Teng Biao (滕彪), human rights lawyer, visiting scholar at New York University, Princeton.

Xia Yeliang (夏业良), independent scholar, Washington, DC.

Mo Li (茉莉), teacher, Sweden.

Fu Zhengming (傅正明), scholar, Sweden.

Cai Chu (蔡楚), editor of minzhuzhongguo.org and canyu.org, Mobile, Alabama.

Zhang Yu (张裕), coordinator of the Committee on Imprisoned Writers, Independent Chinese PEN Center. Stockholm, Sweden.

Lü Jinghua (吕京花), deputy chair of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, New York.

Liao Tianqi (廖天琪), president of Independent Chinese PEN Center, Köln, Germany.

 

Zhang Qing (张菁), chairwoman of Women’s Rights in China, New York.

Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), writer in exile, Berlin, Germany.

Yaxue Cao (曹雅学), editor of chinachange.org, Washington, DC.

Sulaiman Gu (古懿), student, Georgia, USA.

Wang Juntao (王军涛), chairman of the National Committee of China Democracy Party, New Jersey.

Qi Jiazhen (齐家贞), independent writer, Melbourne, Australia.

Chen Weijian (陈维健), chief editor of Beijing Spring, Auckland, New Zealand.

Xia Ming (夏明), professor of political science, CUNY, New York.

Sheng Xue (盛雪), writer, journalist, Toronto, Canada.

Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁), president of Humanitarian China, New Jersey.

 

Zhong Jinjiang (钟锦江), chairman of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, Sydney, Australia.

Guo Dongcheng (郭冬成), worker, Sweden.

Cai Yongmei (蔡咏梅), writer, Hong Kong.

Chen Chuangchuang (陈闯创), member of China Democracy Party, New York.

Yang Jianli (杨建利), founder of Initiative for China, Washington, DC.

Pan Yongzhong (潘永忠), secretary general of Federation for a democratic China, Germany.

Chen Pokong (陈破空), political commentator, New York.

Li Weidong (李伟东), director of China Strategic Analysis quarterly, USA.

Zhang Lin (张林), internet writer, New York.

Wang Ce (王策), chairman of Chinese Republican Party, Madrid, Spain.

 

Li Ruijuan (李瑞娟), journalist and editor, Taipei, Taiwan.

Wuerkaixi (吾尔开希), initiator of Friends of Liu Xiaobo, Taiwan.

Zhao Xin (赵昕), civil rights defender, Bay Area, California.

Su Xiaokang (苏晓康), writer, Washington, DC.

Guo Chen (郭琛), businessman, former chief supervisor of the Association of Taiwanese in Europe, Germany.

Bob Fu (傅希秋), founder and president of ChinaAid, Texas.

Fei Liangyong (费良勇), engineer, member of Federation for a democratic China, Nuremberg, Germany.

Wang Jinzhong (王进忠), deputy chair of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, Tokyo, Japan.

Chen Liqun (陈立群), deputy chair of the National Committee of China Democracy Party, New York.

Ma Yuzhong (马育忠), editor, Xi’an, China.

 

Fu Sheng (付升), scientist, Xi’an, China.

Cai Shufang (蔡淑芳), Friends of Conscience, Hong Kong.

Ren Wanding (任畹町), founder of Human Rights Defenders, France.

Chen Hanzhong (陳漢中), board director of China Spring Research Foundation, chief supervisor of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, California.

Zhang Jie (张杰), Boxun News journalist, USA.

Hong Zhesheng (洪哲胜), chief editor of Democracy Forum, New York.

Xue Wei (薛伟), manager of Beijing Spring, New York.

 

 

 

 

German Student at Tsinghua University Expelled for Research on 709 Lawyers

China Change, August 8, 2018

 

IMG_3260

On April 5, 2018, Missal walked with Li Wenzu on their walk to Tianjing.

 

Until recently, David Missal (@DavidJRMissal) was a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, on a two-year DAAD scholarship (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; or German Academic Exchange Service). Two months ago, Missal told RFA, he applied to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau for the renewal of his student visa. Under normal circumstances, it takes about 10 days to complete the process. But last Friday, the bureau notified him that his renewal was denied, and he was ordered to leave China within 10 days. The reason they gave is that Missal has engaged in activities not in accordance with his student visa.

Missal believes that the denial of visa and expulsion has to do with the topic he chose to work on for his journalism study: the study of human rights lawyers, in particular those targeted from July 9, 2015, onwards. (This is despite his advisor approving the research.)

In April, when 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu and a group of activists started a walking trip to Tianjin to highlight the predicament of Wang Quanzhang, who had been disappeared for over 1,000 days, Missal accompanied them as part of his field work.

On May 2, Missal accompanied lawyer Lin Qilei to Wuhan on the latter’s trip to visit his client, veteran dissident Qin Yongmin. Missal was taken away by police for several hours for questioning. In a video he shot with his cell phone, police can be seen repeatedly stopping him from filming.

 

 

On July 10, the same day that Liu Xiaobo’s widow, Liu Xia, was allowed to leave China for Germany following intense international pressure, Qin Yongmin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion – the most severe sentence for a dissident in over a decade.

Missal has spent time with a number of human rights lawyers for his study, according to Lin Qilai, a rights lawyer. But everywhere they went, domestic security police would intervene and stop him. Retaliating against a foreign student and sever his academic career for studying human rights, Lin argues, doesn’t help China’s international image.

Missal asked the Chinese police which of his activities violated the rules for foreign student visas, and the police responded, “You know yourself!”

Tsinghua University’s international student center declined to comment on the event. The Beijing PSB’s Exit and Entry Administration failed to answer RFA’s calls.

Missal started his two-year program last September; he is now contemplating completing his studies in Taiwan.

 

This report is based on a RFA report and other sources. Visit Missal’s blog at davidmissal.de

 

 

 

Guangdong Activist Xu Lin Tried on Charges of ‘Stirring Up Trouble’ For Writing Songs

China Change, July 27, 2018

 

Xu Lin

Xu Lin (徐琳), who described himself as “a dissident, poet, singer-songwriter and senior construction engineer in mainland China,” was put on trial in the Nansha District Court in Guangzhou on July 27, where he faced charges of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’ (寻衅滋事) for a series of songs about sensitive political topics that he composed, sung, and posted online.

Xu pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court did not deliver a sentence at the end of the trial.

Xu Lin was arrested and criminally detained in September 2017 while visiting his sick father in Hunan. Among the list of his supposed crimes were the songs he composed supporting human rights lawyers targeted in the July 9, 2015 crackdown, as well as articles he wrote.

The authorities initially said they would reserve two seats in the court for Xu’s family members to witness the trial, but this was denied on the actual day, according to a Ms. Wang, Xu Lin’s wife, who was interviewed by RFA immediately after the trial.

“The trial has just finished, and there were definitely major issues with it. It was completely unfair to Xu Lin. Right now, whatever they say goes. You can’t say anything. And even if you do, they won’t listen,” she said in the interview. Ms. Wang was in the end able to observe the proceedings through a closed video feed in the court house.

Two defense lawyers, Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) and Liu Hao (刘浩), pointed out the procedural irregularities of the case, and stated that citizens had the right to express themselves, to criticize the government, and to produce creative work that commentates on current affairs. The lawyers argued that Mr. Xu’s case is a case of persecution.

Mr. Xu himself was anything but repentant. He said in his court statement that he was merely exercising his constitutional rights. “If I am found guilty, shame on you, not me.”  

 

 

Public security authorities had made extensive preparations for Xu’s trial, staging paramilitary and uniformed police in the streets within a two or three kilometer radius of the court, according to Xu Kun (徐昆), an activist who managed to get into the court house. He was quickly apprehended by seven or eight officers and dropped off at the train station, he said in an interview with RFA.

“The police seemed to know that people would be coming [to watch the trial].”

Liu Sifang (劉四仿), another activist composer who worked with Xu and was also arrested late last year, says that Xu may have been able to avoid prosecution if he expressed his penitence, declared guilt, asked for the favor of the authorities, and promised not to re-offend. It’s a course of action Xu declined to embark upon.

Xu’s commitment to his ideas are clear from his blog posts and lyrics.

On April 9, 2016 — his 52nd birthday — Xu reflected on the meaning of his activism and the significance of imprisonment, and even death, in the service of his commitments. He wrote:

“What can I do outside of jail? I don’t organize, and even less join violent movements. I also don’t have the ability to call everyone to rise up and oppose the authorities at key moments. The greatest skill I have is song composition. Though many people rate my songs very highly, if they’re not heard by 10 million people, then no matter how many I write, it won’t have much of an impact. If my imprisonment leads to my songs being spread much more widely, and wakes up more people, who rise up and resist, well then I’m ready to go to jail. I’m even content to die.”

 

 

Xu also wrote in 2016, “Popular songs are one of the most powerful weapons for mobilizing people… everyone’s brave resistance to this dictatorship is an endless fountain of inspiration for my works.”

Xu’s songs include “The Secretly Detained Human Rights Lawyers,” with the lyrics: “Mother, father, forgive your son’s filial failure. I couldn’t be with in your older years, because my comrades have disappeared for two years.”

Trained as a construction engineer, where he worked as a senior manager, Xu has pursued his activism through writing and song for nearly two decades. He has composed works about the June 4 massacre, the political persecution of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, the plight of petitioners in China, and other topics. He was part of the 2013 Southern Street Movement in Guangdong, and has composed poems about the persecution of dissidents since 2010.

His August 2015 energetic, rock-tinged composition “Song of the Righteous Lawyers,” appeared to infuriate the authorities, leading to a month-long detention.

“We are brave rights defense lawyers. We bear the mission of safeguarding fairness and justice,” the chorus says.

 

 

Xu Lin had previously been threatened by Guangdong authorities, in a particular thug-like manner as he recounts in a December 2015 video on YouTube. “One of the police officers said that the station was really sick of me, and that someone in the public security division threatened to find someone to break my legs. Every time I made a post, they’d come and get me, until I was dead. They said the same thing to my wife.”

If the goal of the intimidation was to stop Xu Lin from posting his songs and poems online, it didn’t work. “They don’t frighten me,” he said in the same video. “This simply demonstrates all the more that this evil system has to be abolished.”

 

 

 

 

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).