Chinese Lawyers “Disappear” After Seeking Justice
It's a chain of events that's becoming familiar: Chinese authorities are causing well-known lawyers to “disappear.”
Beijing attorney Xu Zhiyong was detained last month on alleged tax issues, and he hasn’t been seen since. He upset authorities by taking on cases involving civil rights violations and unfair imprisonment.
Xu had always fought for justice within the bounds of China’s legal system and constitution. But now he himself has been abducted and detained.
[Gao Wenqian, Senior Policy Advisor, Human Rights in China]:
“This judgment against Xu Zhiyong that the Chinese government is preparing is in fact not a judgment on Xu, but on the very nature of the Chinese legal system... The methods they are using against these civil rights groups really just display the cynicism with which they use these terms like 'rule of law.'”
But rule of law is precisely what Xu and many other lawyers are seeking. They’re involved in what's being called a “legal rights” movement. Some lawyers have been disbarred, some imprisoned.
Rights attorney Gao Zhisheng was arrested and tortured several times. He’s defended clients like Falun Gong practitioners and house Christians—two groups persecuted by the Chinese regime. He went missing again in February this year and his current whereabouts are unknown.
In 2006, legal rights activist Chen Guangcheng was sentenced to four years in prison. He had drawn attention to the plight of victims of China’s forced abortion program.
And in 2007, six lawyers from top Beijing law firms defended a Falun Gong practitioner—arguing that the Communist Party had violated her freedom of belief as guaranteed by the constitution. As a result, authorities intimidated them, and even abducted several of them, including prominent rights lawyer Teng Biao.
Clive Ansley works with Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, an organization that supports lawyers whose rights are threatened in their home countries.
[Clive Ansley, China Country Monitor, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada]:
"They see them [these lawyers] as a very real threat, and for very good reason, because these are people who genuinely believe in the rule of law. And the rule of law is just basically incompatible with political monopoly of power by a single party."
Just days ago, China’s justice minister announced that all lawyers should serve the Communist Party first, and that law firms would soon receive “Party liaisons.” Some see this as part of the Party’s attempt to control lawyers—and stifle dissent from within the legal profession.
Lawyer Clive Ansley says the Party feels it has no choice.
[Clive Ansley, China Country Monitor, Lawyers' Rights Watch]:
"The implementation of genuine rule of law, meaning that the law is the ultimate authority, would be the end of the Chinese Communist Party's monopoly of power."