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Chinese lawyers 'confess'

July 19, 2015

Chinese state media report numerous lawyers arrested during a recent crackdown on legal activists have pled guilty to a range of offences. Hong Kong barristers have launched a global petition against the arrests.

China Fengrui law firm in Peking
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/M. Schiefelbein

China's People's Daily newspaper said "many" members of Fengrui, a law firm that took on sensitive cases, had "admitted to hyping up and politicizing ordinary legal cases in order to attract international attention."

Fourteen people are in detention and six remain missing Sunday from a group of around 233 rights lawyers and activists caught in the sweep since June 9, said the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group based in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, a group of prominent Hong Kong barristers launched a signature campaign expressing "deep concern" over the arrests in mainland China.

'Confession' published

China's official news agency Xinhua on Sunday published the alleged confession of a leading Fengrui lawyer, Zhou Shifeng, apparently made while he was in police custody.

Xinhua quoted Zhou as saying: "I plead guilty," adding that he had also said "the firm had breached the law," pleading for a "second chance" and had taken responsibility for "damaging social stability."

State broadcaster China Central Television had previously aired confessions from another lawyer and firm employees. No video footage has been made public of this latest confession.

Another Hong Kong-based group, Rights Defense Network, said a family-appointed defense lawyer had apparently been unable to meet with Zhou.

The director of Fengrui (premises shown above) had acted as counsel for families of children fed toxic milk powder, an elderly writer detained for criticizing the ruling Communist Party, and Zhang Miao, an employee of the German weekly Die Zeit.

'Giving intervews' punisable?

Xinhua accused the detained members of the legal firm of giving "interviews to foreign media, spreading opinions attacking the party and the government, slandering the legal system and other such negative views."

Those detained include female lawyer Wang Yu, who is known for defending poverty-stricken victims of forced demolitions, sexual assault and illegal detentions.

The AFP news agency reported that her 16-year-old son had been questioned several times over the past week by police in the city of Tianjin. Police were stationed outside Wang's parent's apartment in the city.

Wang previously defended Li Tingting, a prominent rights activist, as well as Cao Shunli, an activist who died in detention after being denied medical treatment.

China's courts have a near-100 percent conviction rate.

In a commentary on Saturday, Xinhua said China "must lock up lawyers who break their vows."

ipj/jlw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)