China: Free the lawyers/释放律师


UN human rights experts and States are being urged to speak out against the repression, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of human rights lawyers and defenders in China when the UN Human Rights Council next meets in September. 


(Geneva) - As the ongoing fight against repression of human rights lawyers in China continues, the UN human rights mechanisms must demonstrate heightened concern and attention to potential cases of detention and disappearance, said ISHR today. According to a Chinese-language article, as of noon on 25 August 2015:

  • nine lawyers have been accused of 'harming national security'
  • seven of the nine are being held in conditions of ‘surveillance in a residential location’
  • the whereabouts of only two of the nine are known
  • the families of five of the nine have received official notice of the detention
  • none of the detained human rights defenders have been permitted to see a lawyer

The Chinese government has an obligation to ensure both that universal human rights are fully respected - including the prohibitions against enforced disappearance, incommunicado detention and arbitrary detention, together with the rights to access to legal counsel and a fair hearing - and that the actions of the public security apparatus comply with relevant domestic laws. When this is not the case, the State also has an obligation to fully and transparently investigate official abuses and to facilitate victims’ access to justice.

China has utterly failed to meet these obligations. ISHR urges the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to take note of these concerns in their dialogues with the Human Rights Council on at its 30th session in September. ISHR also urges States to intervene in these dialogues, together with the general debate on country situations of concern under Agenda Item 4, to call on China to immediately and unconditionally release human rights lawyers and defenders detained in connection with their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

The following article, translated by ISHR, highlights one particular, almost Kafka-esque case among those detained in the '7/10' crackdown.

Crackdown on Chinese Lawyers: 9 Accused of Harming National Security

The website Canyu reports that since the Chinese authorities began mass arrests of human rights lawyers on 10 July, nine individuals have been accused of harming national security, including Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, Liu Sixin, Sui Muqing, Xie Yang, Xie Yuandong, Zhao Wei, Gao Yue, and Bao Longjun. Of these, all but Wang Quanzhang and Liu Sixin are under ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ (地点监视居住); but there has been no notice to family members about the specific location.  At minimum, it is known that Liu Sixin and Zhao Wei are being held in the Tianjin Hexi district detention facility. As of August 20, an estimated 275 lawyers and human rights defenders have faced harassment. 

On August 24, the 44th day since Bao Longjun’s disappearance, legal representatives Huang Hanzhong and Chen Yongfu went to visit the Hexi district public security bureau (PSB) branch office and met with Officer Zhao Xu. They learned that because Bao Longjun was suspected of the crimes of inciting subversion and causing a disturbance, he had been remanded to ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’.

After the crackdown on human rights lawyers by the authorities, Xinhua already reported that public security bureaus from many provinces acted together, using coercive measures to detain lawyers associated with the Beijing Fengrui law firm and others, like Bao Longjun. However, Bao’s family have not received notice of his whereabouts from the PSB. Legal representatives requested in late July to see the written permission for surveillance from the Tianjin procuratorate and demanded that they open a case to investigate the illegal behavior of the PSB and the individual(s) responsible. However, 20 days later, they have not received a single response.

The afternoon of August 24, Huang and Chen were informed by the Procuratorate reception center that the procuratorate had transferred the request for surveillance to the Tianjin PSB on August 19. The inspector from the procuratorate then showed them a formal letter of reply. The lawyers argued that the request was in violation of the law, but the inspector – after showing it to his supervisor, further explained that matters related to legal surveillance do not fall under the jurisdiction of the city level procuratorate. The inspector recommended that the lawyers go to the district level procuratorate to request the application.

Following this conversation, the lawyers went to officers of the Hexi district sub-bureau of the PSB to request information on Bao’s whereabouts and demanded to see him. The same official, Zhao, received them out of uniform and explained that because Bao was suspected of the crimes of state subversion and causing disorder he had been put under ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’. The person in charge was not the same as the person responsible for the case, whose information he could not reveal. He also refused to explain to the lawyers any of the facts of the ‘crime’. While they were talking, the lawyers strongly emphasized that the authorities handling the case had, in over forty days, failed to send notice to Bao Longjun’s family, which is a serious violation of the law and regulations. Based on the response from other relevant bureaus, Zhao explained that Bao Xi had been sent notice. He refused to provide more details of the information in the notice.

Afterwards, the lawyers quickly went to visit Bao Longjun’s parents, who also live in Tianjin. They confirmed that they had not received any formal notice from the authorities.

See original Chinese here.

For further information, contact Sarah Brooks on


  • Asia
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • China