Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), a committee of Canadian lawyers advocating on behalf of lawyers and other human rights defenders whose rights, safety or independence are threatened as a result of their human rights work, wrote yesterday to President Xi Jinping and other senior members of the government of the People’s Republic of China to condemn China’s recent crackdown on lawyers and other human rights defenders.

The “co-ordinated campaign of harassment” began on 10 July 2015 and has now swept up over 190 lawyers or staff, many without charges. While many were soon released, at least nine lawyers and two activists have been ‘disappeared’ – taken by security forces without charge and held incommunicado in places unknown.

While official statements say the arrests were for “illegally organizing paid protests, hyping public sentiment and fabricating rumors on the Internet to sway court decisions”, in fact all of those arrested are human rights defenders and many were signatories to a recent petition against an official campaign to defame the prominent Beijing human rights lawyer Ms. Wang Yu, who was reportedly accused by China’s State media of “blabbering about the rule of law and human rights.”

This conduct is contrary to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, which states that human rights will be protected. The conduct is particularly troubling as China currently sits on the Human Rights Council, the members of which commit to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

Arbitrary arrest, detention, and enforced disappearance of human rights defenders breaches China’s obligation under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

Gavin Magrath is a Director of Lawyers Right’s Watch (Legal Research), LRWC’s charitable arm, and assisted in the preparation of the letter.

For the full text and .pdf version, visit LRWC’s website.