Since July 9, China has engaged in a series of coordinated detentions and arrests that rights defenders inside and outside of China are describing as a serious deterioration in the country’s human rights environment.
To date, over 250 attorneys, activists, and their family members have been detained, interrogated, and in some cases charged with crimes, said Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski. Speaking at an August 13th press conference following the 19th U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue, Mr. Malinowski noted that while most of the human rights defenders have been released, many are still in custody; many reportedly have been denied access to defense counsel.
These human rights defenders have been described in China's state-run media as money-hungry swindlers who seek to cause trouble and undermine the government by organizing protests, starting petitions, intimidating judges, and enriching themselves through embezzlement.
Although police detention of human rights lawyers and activists is nothing new in China, the scale of the recent crackdown is alarming.
The United States calls on the Chinese government to immediately release all lawyers and other human rights defenders still being held, said Assistant Secretary Malinowski.
“The Chinese leadership’s recent fourth plenum emphasized ruling the country according to law, but it is hard to have rule of law when lawyers are arrested for defending their clients or when the government equates arguing a case in court with “creating a disturbance” or “picking a quarrel” – two of the vague offenses under which lawyers and others have been prosecuted.
“Rule of law means that when there is a conflict between the primacy of the law and the preferences of the state, the law take precedence. In China, the opposite appears increasingly to be the case.”