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Statement for “The Day of Endangered Lawyers” dedicated to the lawyers in China in 2017

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group welcomes “The Day of Endangered Lawyers” dedicated to the lawyers in China in 2017

(24th January 2017, Hong Kong) The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (Concern Group) issues a statement today to respond to the 2017 Day of Endangered Lawyers jointly launched by legal professionals from around the world and to call for concerns for the human rights lawyers and legal activists in China.

24 January as the Day of the Endangered Lawyers, was initiated by Dutch lawyer Han Gaasbeeka in 2010 to commemorate the perils of lawyers during the Spanish fascists in Madrid in 1977. Over the past years, it has become an occasion for the legal professionals to express their solidarity to their counterparts at risk in different countries.

“The Day of Endangered Lawyers” has been dedicated to the lawyers in Honduras, Philippines and Turkey. For 2017, it is dedicated to the lawyers in China. Apart from the professional organizations, many bar associations also joined this year.

Concern Group welcomes the public supports from legal professionals in Europe and America for their Chinese fellows at risk, concerns about the injustice existing in the Chinese judicial system, and demands for judicial reform in China. Concern Group holds that it would play a positive role in promoting judicial reform in China.

Concern Group also points out that, although Chinese authority has been advancing its judicial reform these years and the legal system has become more and more mature, it still resists to accept the core value of judicial independence. As a result, judicial power becomes a tool of political oppression and reprisals, which is worrying.

In the current situation where the balance between enforcement power and judicial power is lost, lawyers face huge difficulties in carrying out their duties. Problems include direct intervention of cases handling by bureau of justice, violence inside and outside of court, prevention from carrying out their duties, the existence of annual inspection system, and unfair trials etc.

The ‘709 crackdown’ in 2015, in which many lawyers and legal activists were detained, arrested and influenced, revealed serious violation of laws and procedural justice. This includes not informing detainees’ family within statutory time, torture and inhumane treatment during detention, denial of the identity of defense counsels, failing to provide case materials, media confession and harassment on detainees’ family, etc. Most of the problems are caused by power abuses of legal enforcement agencies.

However, the core factor leading to all these problems is the defects of laws which encourages the abuse of power by authorities. The ‘Criminal Procedure Law’ has a vague definition of national security related crimes and it becomes a tool of accusation against activists. It also allows authorities to impose ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ on suspects, which in fact equivalent to secret detention and deprives their rights to meet their lawyers.

The Concern Group hereby raise concerns towards the detained lawyers and activists, which include lawyer Li Heping and lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who have already been detained for over 560 days and are pending for trial and prosecution respectively. They are not allowed to meet their lawyers since their detention.

Observing the fact that lawyer Li Chunfu, younger brother of lawyer Li Heping, appears to face serious physical and mental problem and detained lawyer Xie Yang complains about being tortured, we strongly demand the authorities to arrange the two detainees meeting their lawyers to ensure their safety and mental health. The authorities should also provide medical supports to lawyer Li Chunfu and lawyer Xie Yang as well as carrying out independent investigation on the cases.

The Concern Group holds that the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Zhang Dejiang, Minister of Justice Wu Aiying, Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun, President of the Supreme People’s Court Zhou Qiang, Chief Procurator of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate Cao Jianming and President of All China Lawyers Association Wang Junfeng all have the responsibility to respond to the questions and demands collectively raised by legal professional groups on the Day of the Endangered Lawyer today.

General Enquiries: Albert Ho (+852 2522 7721), Kit Chan (+852 9735 1611)

Enquiries about Day of the Endangered Lawyer: Hans Gaasbeek (+31 23-531 8657), Stuart Russel (+33 6131 14726)