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Statement by the China Human Rights Lawyers Group on the Fourth Anniversary of the ‘709 Incident’

The world was shocked by the mass detention of Chinese human right lawyers on July 9, 2015 –– in what became known as the “709 Incident.” Following the secret sentencing of “709” lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who was tried for the crime of “subversion of state power,” people thought that the “709 Incident,” at least for the time being, should have come to an end. But in fact, the opposite is true. The relevant authorities not only have not ended their persecution of human rights lawyers; on the contrary, they have intensified their efforts. After the roundup of human rights lawyers in the “709 Incident” in July 2015, four additional human rights lawyers, Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) Li Yuhan (李昱函), Yu Wensheng (余文生), and Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿) were detained, one after another, and even more human rights lawyers such as Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Tan Yongpei (覃永沛), Wen Donghai (文东海), Chen Keyun (陈科云) and Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) had their professional licenses to practice law revoked and canceled. Moreover, authorities throughout the country subjected human rights lawyers to innumerable administrative punishments and professional disciplinary actions, and filed court cases to investigate lawyers. Today, we once again commemorate the human rights disaster that took place in mainland China four years ago, and celebrate human rights lawyers who have made great sacrifices to defend freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

Four years ago, when the relevant authorities invoked “the law” to persecute and prosecute Chinese human rights lawyers, we human rights lawyers firmly believed that these unjust, illegal arrests and trials could not achieve a victory in the spheres of public opinion and morality. It was impossible to eliminate the ideals of the pursuit of freedom, dignity, and rule of law present in the hearts of the majority of the people. History is confirming our prediction with its most selfless attitude and standpoint. In the past four years, although the relevant authorities have exhausted all means to discredit human rights lawyers or force detained human rights lawyers to confess guilt, unexpectedly, those human rights lawyers are receiving more and more respect and attention from the people. The deeds of lawyers such as Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), Tang Jingling (唐荊陵), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Liu Wei (刘巍), and others are inspiring one group of human rights lawyers after the next to continue to bravely advance in pursuit of our ideals. Even though relevant authorities have expelled some human rights lawyers from the legal profession, more human rights lawyers are appearing everywhere; and although the judicial administration departments have forced many lawyers and law firms to demonstrate their acceptance of those rotten and insipid ideologies, in fact, more lawyers are recognizing that we are pursuing freedom, equity, and justice, and that these are our values.

Standing at the crossroads of history, we find that the foolish conduct that forces people to submit through oppression, power, and even violence not only fails to manifest the strength of those in power, but instead, amid the people’s resistance, magnifies their weakness and incompetence. As staunch defenders of universal values ​​such as freedom, democracy, order, and the rule of law, human rights lawyers will calmly face the suppression, persecution, detention and even prison sentences meted out by the authorities. We firmly believe that a just cause attracts much support, whereas an unjust cause finds little. Those dregs and remaining evildoers who wantonly trample on the rule of law and violate people’s human rights will eventually disappear from the stage of history.

As Chinese human rights lawyers, we are not only deeply troubled by the extreme deterioration of China’s human rights situation, but we are also worried about the totalitarian regime’s encroachment upon the world’s human rights cause. We abhor the autocratic regime’s violation of the core values that Hong Kong residents have held fast to, and we condemn the threats to the hard-won freedom and democracy achieved by the people of Taiwan. On the occasion of the “709 Incident”’s four-year anniversary, we strongly demand the immediate release of six lawyers, including Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan, Chen Jiahong and Gao Zhisheng, as well the release of many citizen rights defenders, including Qin Yongmin (秦永敏), Wu Gan (吴淦), Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Hu Shigen (胡石根), Lin Mingjie (林明洁), Chen Jianfang (陈建芳), Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) and Zhang Baocheng (张宝成). We further demand that Jiang Tianyong’s personal liberty be immediately restored, and that judicial authorities throughout the country immediately cease the suppression and persecution of human rights lawyers in their jurisdiction. At the same time, we are willing to work together with freedom-loving people all over the world to hold fast to the values ​​of democracy and the rule of law, and respect and defend human rights together. We are particularly willing to work together, hand in hand, with all Chinese people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and overseas who care about the progress of Chinese civilization in order to realize the great ideal in our hearts.

Lawyers of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group

July 9, 2019

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

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