WASHINGTON, July 13, 2018 — This week, the American Bar Association joins the world in marking the third anniversary of the “709 Crackdown” – the campaign to silence and control human rights lawyers and others in China who advocate for politically sensitive clients and causes. Launched July 9, 2015, the continuing crackdown has involved the harassment, surveillance, arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment, even torture, of over 300 Chinese lawyers and rights defenders and their families, friends, staff, and associates.
Subverting legal reform and development of an independent bar, the crackdown cannot be squared with President Xi Jinping’s professed commitment to the establishment of the rule of law. Chinese law guarantees its people certain fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression and association, and due process rights such as the right to a lawyer. Further, China’s “Lawyers Law” establishes that “a lawyer’s right of the person is inviolable” and that a lawyer is not legally liable for positions presented on a client’s behalf.
The crackdown also violates international standards. For example, Article 16 of the U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers directs that “[g]overnments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.” Similarly, Article 9.3(c) of the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights Defenders reflects individuals’ rights to provide “legal assistance or other relevant advice … in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms,” without government interference.
The ABA respectfully calls on Chinese authorities to release all lawyers and other human rights defenders in custody, including Wang Quanzhong and Jiang Tianyong, and to halt harassment and surveillance of lawyers and rights defenders and their families, friends, staff, and associates. We urge Chinese authorities to ensure that, while in custody, human rights lawyers and activists are allowed access to their families, lawyers, and medical care and that they are not subjected to torture or other abuse. We also urge the authorities to cease all sanctions on lawyers and other rights defenders, including revocation of their professional licenses.
As a member of the international community, China should take all necessary measures to safeguard those who work to protect human rights.
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