Demanding the immediate release of Xu Zhiyong - calling a halt to the recent crackdown on legal professionals, lawyers and human rights advocates in China

Xu Zhiyong, a renowned legal scholar and rights activist has been detained for ‘assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place’ on 16th July after being put under three months of extralegal house arrest. Xu has been detained for more than 13 days, during which he was deprived the right to meet with his defense lawyer. China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the Independent Chinese PEN Center and the New School for Democracy held a press conference on 29th July to express grave concerns over the recent crackdown on fiscal transparency movement and the new citizens movement. Dr. Teng Biao, famous human rights lawyer in China and visiting scholar at Centre for Rights and Justice of Chinese University of Hong Kong, was invited to speak at the press conference about the plight faced by human rights lawyers and human rights defenders in Mainland China.

Xu Zhiyong has been an active rights advocate for more than a decade. He has advocated for the abolition of Custody and Repatriation System in China and was one of the founders of Open Constitution Initiative, an NGO actively involved in different rights movements in China, including the new citizens movement, a movement that raises rights awareness, and the fiscal transparency movement.

Liu Weiguo, a Shandong lawyer, made several attempts to visit Xu Zhiyong at Beijing No.3 detention center, and was subsequently detained for a few hours for ‘gathering a crowd to disrupt public order’. More than ten citizens who protested outside the facility were also detained. According to Article 37 of the Criminal Procedure Law, “When a defense lawyer files a request for a meeting with a criminal suspect or defendant in custody on the basis of the lawyer’s practicing license, a certificate issued by the law firm, and a power of attorney or an official legal aid document, a jail shall arrange a meeting in a timely manner, no later than 48 hours after the request is filed.” Lawyer Liu stated that lawyers have the right to meet their clients as soon as possible. The refusal of meeting clients by police is completely in violation of law.

The detention of Xu and the efforts from government authorities to obstruct his lawyer from meeting him were two significant incidents illustrating the increasing pressure exerted by the Chinese government on human rights lawyers, legal professionals, as well as human rights advocates.

In an open letter to All China Lawyers Association, The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Supreme People's Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security, a group of human rights lawyers based in Henan pointed out that there has been numerous incidents of violation of lawyers’ rights, which obstruct lawyers from carrying out their professional duties. Forms of violation include physical violence, extrajudicial detention, economic stringency, pressure on law firm and arbitrary administrative measures.

Since March 2013, more than 40 citizens were arrested for displaying banners and making speeches in public places. According to Article 35 of Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, citizens ‘enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration’. The unlawful arrests blatantly violates the Constitution and Article 19 and 20 of the International Bill of Human Rights.

The criminal detention of legal scholar Xu Zhirong not only ignites the anger of Chinese citizens, it also arouses the concern from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the international community. Since Xu’s detention on 16th July, the government of United States, Germany and various civil society organizations in Taiwan have called for the release of Xu and fiscal transparency movement advocates.

 

In light of the increasing violation of rights of human rights lawyers and rights advocates, China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, Hong Kong Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the Independent Chinese PEN Center and the New School for Democracy are going to launch a civil petition, calling on the Chinese government to:

 

1.       immediately release Xu Zhiyong and other advocates for the publicity of officials' property;

2.       guarantee the right to lawyer of all detained citizens and lawyers;

3.       fulfill, respect and protect citizens' right to freedom of speech and assembly in accordance with the Constitution;

4.       stop the persecution of human rights advocates;

5.       forbid any obstruction of lawyers to perform their duties by the authorities concerned.

 

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group

Hong Kong Catholic Justice and Peace Commission

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China

Independent Chinese PEN Center

New School for Democracy

29th July 2013

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