Nearly Two-Dozen Activists, Lawyers Still Held By Chinese Authorities

Communist Party continues campaign to crush civil society

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping / AP


Chinese authorities are still holding 22 human rights lawyers and activists after a widespread crackdown last month, including several in unknown locations.

More than 300 individuals were targeted in the government campaign that began in mid-July. While most have been released by security officials, almost two dozen are still in detention.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), which has been tracking the individual cases, reports:

Police still hold in custody 22 lawyers and activists; of these, 15 are under criminal detention or "residential surveillance at a fixed location" in Beijing, Tianjin, Guangxi, Guangdong, Henan, or Hunan, but police have not notified families of their exact locations. Seven others have disappeared into police custody, with all but one of them detained in secret for more than a month. Only one individual was released after 37 days of criminal detention, and no individual seized in the crackdown is known to have been formally arrested. Police can hold individuals in residential surveillance for up to six months.

Among the seven "disappeared" lawyers is Li Heping, a prominent rights advocate and former counsel for Chen Guangcheng. Chen, one of the founders of the rights lawyer movement in China who now resides in the United States, has been critical of the Obama administration’s response to the Communist Party’s crackdown.

Authorities have also punished the families of the detained lawyers and denied them legal counsel, according to CHRD:

Family members of detained lawyers have also been targeted, in particular the wife and brother of Li Heping and Wang Yu’s teenage son, who have been detained or put under house arrest, interrogated, and threatened against speaking publically on their cases. […]

Authorities have flouted many legal provisions outright, or used legal loopholes related to national security to deny due process rights. As most individuals have not been able to receive a visit from their lawyer, it is unknown if they have been tortured or mistreated in detention, which is likely due to China’s systemic problem with torture.

Human rights groups say Chinese President Xi Jinping has approved the most repressive measures against dissidents since Mao Zedong, the Communist Party founder. A new draft law that would regulate non-government organizations (NGOs), including ones that receive U.S. support, could deliver a severe blow to all forms of civil society in the country, critics say.

Daniel Wiser   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Daniel Wiser is an assistant editor of National Affairs. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May 2013, where he studied Journalism and Political Science and was the State & National Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. He hails from Waxhaw, N.C., and currently lives in Washington, D.C. His Twitter handle is @TheWiserChoice.

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