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Activists criticize China over lawyer detentions

July 9, 2016

A German human rights representative has slammed China for detaining civil rights lawyers. The international concern over the arrests is growing as international lawyer groups also decried Beijing's rights crackdown.

Police officers take away a supporter of rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang near the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court during Pu's trial in Beijing, Monday, Dec. 14, 2015 (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Wong

A year after the Chinese government started arresting lawyers and civil servants, prominent rights activists have called on President Xi Jinping to release the detained lawyers.

Out of 300 civil rights lawyers who were held by the authorities, 23 remain in prison and are facing charges of subverting state power and instigating rebellion.

Bärbel Kofler, a German human rights activist, said Saturday in Berlin that Beijing should give "the accused a public and constitutional trial as soon as possible."

"Those affected campaigned within the framework of their profession as lawyers and on the foundation of the prevailing Chinese laws for more constitutional legality," Kofler said, adding that to this day "the arrested [people] have had no access to their lawyers."

On Friday, the German Embassy in China issued a statement on its website saying "the situation of the persons affected by the crackdown remains an issue of grave concern." The embassy reiterated the European Union's stance on the issue, which calls on the Chinese government to act with greater transparency.

Open letter

Coinciding with the first anniversary of the arrests, a letter signed by more than a dozen lawyer groups, including the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, the Amsterdam Bar Association, the Australian branch of the International Association of People's Lawyers and the International Commission of Jurists, also criticized China over its detention of lawyers and activists.

The open letter to Xi Jinping said the lawyers' groups sought to improve the situation for Chinese human rights defenders.

"It is in this light that we wish to remind you of your continuous pledges, Mr. President, to uphold the rule of law in China," the letter said.

Separately, the American Bar Association (ABA) named Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu recipient of a newly created "ABA International Human Rights Award" to honor "her dedication to human rights, justice and the rule of law in China."

shs/sms (dpa, AP)