China: Global civil society calls for release of detained human rights lawyers


ISHR joins a range of civil society organisations in calling for the release of human rights lawyers and activists in China. China must do more to fulfill its international obligations related to the protection and promotion of human rights and those who defend them. 

Drawing by Badiucao

(Geneva) - Six months have passed since the so-called '709 crackdown', which has been recognised by experts as perhaps the most sustained, targeted crackdown against the rights defence movement in China in recent history. To mark this occastion, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) joins the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and  over 100 regional and international civil society organisations to call for international pressure on the Chinese government to secure the release of defenders arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared. 

According to China's own laws, pre-trial detentions on criminal charges can only last a maximum of 37 days; 'residential surveillance in a designated location' is an administrative measure that cannot exceed 6 months. This weekend, 9-10 January, that six month period will end for lawyer Wang Yu, her husband and activist Bao Longjun, and several of their colleagues who have been held by Chinese authorities since July. 

'Widespread concerns about the independence of lawyers and their ability to make critical contributions to the protection of human rights cannot be ignored,' says ISHR's Asia programme manager Sarah M. Brooks. 'Everyone from local actors in China to the experts on the UN Committee against Torture have pointed to the harassment of defenders as a major barrier to justice.'

Diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government, both bilaterally and multilaterally, is critical to ensuring that these calls for greater respect of human rights are heard, respected, and acted upon. 

Says Ms. Brooks, 'This is just one more move by Chinese authorities, among many others including the conviction and suspended sentence of Pu Zhiqiang last month, to weaken and discredit the rights defence movement in the country. The international community, including the UN, must ensure that these serious violations have serious consequences.'

The full text of the letter is copied below and additional background can be found on the Concern Group's website, at

Contact: Sarah M Brooks, ISHR Asia programme and advocacy manager, at


“China Must Respect Due Process and Uphold the Rule of Law: A call for the

Release of 36 Illegally Detained Human Rights Lawyers and Defenders”


A Joint Statement by

108 Worldwide Civil Society Organizations regarding the 709 Crackdown


(9th January 2016, Hong Kong) Exactly six months have passed since 9 July 2015 when the Chinese government started detaining human rights lawyers and defenders in large scale. To date, we take note that 14 lawyers and 22 human rights defenders have remained under various forms of confinement, with some in complete disappearance. In addition, another 33 of them are banned from travelling out of the country. 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (the Concern Group) and Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network, along with 106 worldwide civil society organizations, once again call on the international community to pay continued attention to all those who are still in detention arbitrarily, to their mental and physical wellbeing as well as to the safety of their families and associates.

We also wish to express our strong condemnation of the Chinese authorities’ transgression of the legal rights of the lawyers and human rights defenders.

Independent sources indicate that the persecution of lawyers, defenders, activists and their families and other activists by means of intimidation, close surveillance and custody has been continuously ongoing since last July. It has also come to our attention that despite the numerous attempts by the defence lawyers and families of the detained individuals to seek redress and remedies within the Chinese domestic legal framework, all efforts have proved futile and all legal avenues have been exhausted.

In view of the passage of the 37 days for criminal detention and approval of arrest, and the soon-to-expire 6-month period for residential surveillance as stipulated in the Criminal Procedure Law, we urge the international community to join us in calling on the Chinese Government to:

  1. Immediately disclose the whereabouts of the detained lawyers and rights defenders, and ensure that their psycho and physical wellbeing and safety are protected;
  2. End all illegal and arbitrary detention and free all of the 36 lawyers and human rights defenders given no charge has been levied against these individuals;
  3. Investigate all instances of malfeasance and abuse of powers by any law enforcement officer and bodies, and hold legally accountable those responsible;
  4. Respect due process and abide by its domestic law and by the international obligations it has as member of the United Nations and as state party to the many international human rights conventions that it has signed and ratified;
  5. In this regard, ensure respect for the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular that lawyers can perform their professional duties without any intimidation, harassment or unwarranted interference.


Six months on, the whereabouts of most of the lawyers and human rights defenders in detention since 9 July remain unknown to both their defence lawyers and their family members; basic due process rights, including the right to meet with a lawyer, are in this context a distant dream.

Compared to previous persecution, the 709 crackdown has been one of the most targeted maneuvers against lawyers and activists -- in terms of its scale, number of people implicated, duration and severity -- since rights lawyers first appeared in 2003. Within a period of six months, 317 lawyers, lawyers and law firm staff from across the nation were affected. Members of this group were, and continue to be, summoned, questioned, banned from travelling out of the country, put under house arrest or ‘residential surveillance at designated location,’ or criminally detained, and even disappeared.

Means of suppression have also become more diverse and comprehensive. Apart from manipulating the legally prescribed measure of “residential surveillance at designated locations” to effectively enable secret detention; the government has also conducted a smear campaign of “trial by mass media”. The scope of control and intimidation was extended by the use of “collective punishment on families and friends”, and an additional chilling effect was achieved by threats and extortion; it has been amplified by the move to stifle external support and by attacks on lawyers’ online communications.

The violations against those detained in the 709 crackdown are one of many examples of the deteriorating state of human rights and rule of law in China as well as the narrowing of civic space over the recent years. In 2015, civil society in China faced exceptional challenges, with NGOs forced to close down; repressive national security and counter-terrorism legislation adopted; and dissidents, internet leaders, and members of religious and socially disadvantaged groups seized and or detained in unprecedented scale.

The Chinese government has rendered meaningless the pledges of President Xi Jinping to uphold “rule according to law”.  Its actions amount to blatant disregard of international norms and principles, and overt infringement of its own domestic laws

We reiterate the importance of lawyers as an imperative and indispensable force in the promotion and protection of rule of law and human rights in any country. If lawyers have no human rights, there can be no room for rule of law.

Initiating Organizations發起團體 (2):

  1. China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group中國維權律師關注組
  2. Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network台灣聲援中國人權律師網絡


Cosignatories 連署團體 (106):

Hong Kong and Macau organizations香港和澳門團體 (35):

  1. 愛瞞日報 Macau Concealers (澳門)
  2. 民間人權陣線Civil Human Right Front(香港)
  3. 中國勞動透視Labour Action China
  4. 中國勞工通訊China Labour Bulletin
  5. 全球化監察  Global Monitor
  6. 公共專業聯盟 (香港)The Professional Commons (Hong Kong)
  7. 勞動力(香港) Worker Empowerment (Hong Kong)
  8. 勞工教育及服務網路(香港)Labour Education and Service Network (Hong Kong)
  9. 學民思潮(香港) Scholarism (Hong Kong)
  10. 嶺南大學學生會(香港) Lingnan University Students’Union (Hong Kong)
  11. 左翼21(香港) Left 21(Hong Kong)
  12. 放射良心(香港) Radiation Therapist and Radiographer Conscience (Hong Kong)
  13. 法政匯思(香港) Progressive Lawyers Group (Hong Kong)
  14. 社工復興運動(香港)Reclaiming Social Work Movement (Hong Kong)
  15. 精算思政(香港) Act Voice (Hong Kong)
  16. 良心理政(香港) HK Psychologist Concern
  17. 藝界起動(香港) Artists Action (Hong Kong)
  18. 街坊工友服務處 (香港) Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre (Hong Kong)
  19. 進步教師同盟(香港) Progressive Teachers' Alliance (Hong Kong)
  20. 陳文成博士紀念基金會 Dr. Chen Wen-chen Memorial Foundation
  21. 青年中國 China Reborn
  22. 青年重奪未來(香港) Age of Resistance (Hong Kong)
  23. 香港中文大學學生會 The Student Union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  24. 香港中文大學學生會法律學院院會 Undergraduate Law Society, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
  25. 香港大學學生會 Hong Kong University Students' Union
  26. 香港大學學生會法律學會Law Association, The University of Hong Kong
  27. 香港天主教正義和平委員會 Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese
  28. 香港婦女勞工協會Hong Kong Women Workers' Association
  29. 香港專上學生聯會Hong Kong Federation of Students
  30. 香港市民支援愛國民主運動聯合會Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China
  31. 香港教育專業人員協會Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
  32. 香港樹仁大學學生會The Student Union of Hong Kong Shue Yan University
  33. 香港理工大學學生會Hong Kong Polytechnic University Students' Union
  34. 香港科技大學學生會 The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Students' Union
  35. 香港職工會聯盟 Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions

Taiwan Organizations 台灣團體 (38):

  1. 人權公約施行監督聯盟 (台灣) Covenants Watch (Taiwan)
  2. 公共知識分子雜誌社 Public Intellectuals Magazine
  3. 公民攝影守護民主陣線 Shot For Democracy (Taiwan)
  4. 台北律師公會人權委員會Taipei Bar Association Human Rights Committee
  5. 台灣人權促進會Taiwan Association for Human Rights
  6. 台灣促進和平基金會 PeaceTime Foundation of Taiwan
  7. 台灣冤獄平反協會 Taiwan Association for Innocence
  8. 台灣出版自由陣線 Taiwan Press Freedom Front
  9. 台灣勞工陣線 Taiwan Labor Front
  10. 台灣和平草根聯盟 Taiwan Grassroots Alliance for Peace
  11. 台灣國際醫學聯盟 Taiwan International Medical Alliance
  12. 台灣圖博之友會 Taiwan Friends of Tibet
  13. 台灣廢除死刑推動聯盟 Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty
  14. 台灣永社 Taiwan Forever Association
  15. 台灣維吾爾之友會 Taiwan Friends of Uyghur
  16. 台灣蠻野心足生態協會 Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, Taiwan
  17. 台灣關懷中國人權聯盟 Taiwan Association for China Human Rights
  18. 台灣陪審團協會 Taiwan Jury Association
  19. 台灣青年反共救國團 Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps
  20. 在台藏人福利協會 Taiwan Tibetan Welfare Association
  21. 婦女新知基金會 Awakening Foundation
  22. 島國前進 Taiwan March
  23. 想想論壇 Thinking Taiwan
  24. 流水線上-血汗企業監督平台 Monitoring on Sweatshop Supply Chain
  25. 海龍王愛地球協會 Oceanus Honors Gaia (Taiwan)
  26. 環境法律人協會 Environmental Jurists Association
  27. 監所關注小組 Prison Watch (Taiwan)
  28. 臺灣健康人權行動協會 Taiwan Health Right Initiative
  29. 臺灣勞動與社會政策研究協會 Taiwan Labor and Social Policy Research Association
  30. 臺灣職業安全健康連線 Taiwan Occupational Safety and Health Link
  31. 臺灣自由圖博學會 Taiwan Students for a Free Tibet
  32. 華人民主文化協會 Taiwan Society for Democracy
  33. 華人民主書院 New School for Democracy
  34. 蘋果樹公社 The Appletree Commune (Taiwan)
  35. 要健康婆婆媽媽團 Health Ma Ma Group (Taiwan)
  36. 財團法人民間司法改革基金會(台灣) Judicial Reform Foundation (Taiwan)
  37. 黑眼睛文化 Dark Eyes Ltd. (Taiwan)
  38. 台灣守護民主平台 Taiwan Democracy Watch

Organizations from other countries and regions 其他國家和地區的團體 (33):

  1. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (France)
  2. Asian Human Rights Commission 亞洲人權委員會
  3. Canada-Hong Kong Link 港加聯
  4. Champs Libres 自由領域
  5. China aid 對華援助協會
  6. China Change (改變中國)
  7. Chinese Scholar Friendship Association 中華學人聯誼會
  8. Christian Soldarity Worldwide (CSW)
  9. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation 公民社會:世界公民參與聯盟
  10. Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers
  11. Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe
  12. Cross Cultural Foundation Thailand
  13. Fair Trial
  14. FIDH: Mouvement Mondial Des Droits Humans
  15. Foro Penal
  16. Foundation Day Of the Endangered Lawyer
  17. Front Line Defenders (Ireland) 前線衛士(愛爾蘭)
  18. Human Rights Briefing 文社人权教育中心
  19. Human Rights Watch 人權觀察
  20. Humanitarian China 人道中國
  21. Independent Chinese Pen 獨立中文筆會
  22. Initiatives for China (USA)公民力量
  23. International Association of Peoples' Lawyers (國際人民律師協會)
  24. International Service for Human Rights
  25. Lawyers for Lawyers (Netherlands)
  26. Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (加拿大律師權利觀察)
  27. Menschenrechte für China (Germany) 中國人權支持會(德國)
  28. Minbyun (South Korea) 民辯(南韓)
  29. Observatoire mondial IDHAE des violations des droits de la défense et des droits des avocats dans le monde
  30. The International Campaign for Tibet
  31. Union Internationale des Avocats (UIA – International Association of Lawyers
  32. Visual Artists Guild (USA) 視覺藝術家協會(美國)
  33. World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)