China is denying that authorities are manipulating domestic laws to silence human rights lawyers. The denial follows a report from Amnesty International which claims the Chinese government has unleashed an uncompromising series of measures intended to rein in the legal profession and suppress lawyers pursuing human rights cases.
The report details how the Chinese government has manipulated state laws to intensify a crackdown on lawyers taking on human rights cases.
Amnesty says the silencing has been going on for the last two years but the repression has intensified in recent months because the Arab uprisings have unnerved Beijing officials. The crackdown has also targeted government critics, Internet political activists and others who speak out against one-party rule.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei rebuffed the claims and accused London-based Amnesty International of prejudice.
He said China is a country bound by the rule of law and Chinese lawyers work within these laws defined by China's constitution and laws. He denied that authorities carry out forcible abductions or detentions of human rights lawyers.
Hong refused to comment further because he said Amnesty has always been biased against China.
The report called “Against the Law: Crackdown on China’s Human Rights Lawyers Deepens” says scores of lawyers have been subjected to intimidation.
Evidence backs claim
Amnesty researchers who spent 18 months compiling evidence of the crackdown say officials have threatened lawyers with suspension or criminal charges. Researchers say if these intimidating tactics fail to silence the lawyers, they face detention or are disappeared.
Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director Catherine Baber said China's denials of legal abuses and oppression are false.
“Whilst the rhetoric about moving towards the rule of law in China is being repeated by Chinese officials, in reality, when lawyers attempt to use the legal system to protect the basic rights of ordinary citizens, they come across numerous obstacles and harassment and abuse,” she said.
Amnesty says each year, Chinese legal professionals must undergo an official assessment which many believe has no basis in Chinese law. Baber said lawyers who take up politically sensitive cases fail the assessment and lose their licenses.
“We have documented tactics used against lawyers who are brave enough to take these cases on, from suspension of their licenses to disbarring, and especially since February increase in detentions, disappearances and in some cases torture,” Baber stated.
The report highlights the plight of several human rights lawyers, including Gao Zhisheng, who has been missing for over a year.
But when asked about the whereabouts and well-being of Gao, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong refused to answer and repeated that China is a country governed by the rule of law.