According to human rights organizations and Chinese activists, in recent weeks, Chinese authorities have systematically detained, arrested, subjected to forced disappearance, held incommunicado, or questioned and released 169 lawyers, legal staff, and activists involved in peacefully challenging official policies in China.
Chinese authorities detained lawyers from several law firms, including six from the Beijing Fengrui law firm. The Fengrui law firm handled a number of high-profile human rights cases including the case of jailed Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti.
The crackdown began on July 9 when Fengrui lawyer Wang Yu, disappeared after alerting friends via a text message that her internet connection and electricity had been cut off, and that people were trying to break into her home. Wang had represented several clients involved in human rights activism or religious freedom issues, including practitioners of Falun Gong, a religious group banned in China. The firm's director Zhou Shifeng was also detained. He had represented Zhang Miao, a Chinese journalist who had reported on the Hong Kong democracy protests.
Among those who have not been heard from since being detained is well-known lawyer Li Heping. He represented fellow lawyer and blind activist Chen Guangcheng and helped victims of forced evictions.
The United States is deeply concerned that the broad scope of China's new National Security Law is being used as a legal façade to commit human rights abuses. The U.S. strongly urges China to respect the rights of all its citizens and to release all those who have recently been detained for seeking to protect the rights of Chinese citizens.