In what seems to be an all-out political witch-hunt against human right lawyers by the Chinese government, 2 human right lawyers, Lu Siwei and Ren Quanniu, were stripped off their licence to practice law through letters received by the government on January 4, 2021.
Admittedly these 2 lawyers were involved in defending the cases against the 12 Hong Kong activists and a citizen journalist Zhang Zhan who were reportedly caught fleeing.
This is in continuance with the many arrests and the complete crackdown with impunity by the Xi Jinping government against human right firms and lawyers operating within China seeking to project the multifarious human right violations taking place against journalists, dissidents, minorities.
The crackdown on lawyers can be traced from 2015 when in July, more than 57 rights lawyers and activists were detained and questioned across China which has since triggered a series of arrests in what looks like a planned attempt to silence those who dare defend violation of civil liberties in the country.
It should not come as a surprise that under the watching of paramount leader Xi Jinping, China has sought to maim and silence lawyers who have been actively defending journalists and activists speaking up against several incidents of the breach of rule of law.
The 2 lawyers who have been arrested were working on sensitive cases such as that of one Mr. Lu, another human rights lawyer who in 2019 openly chastised the Chinese leadership, more specifically the centralization of power by Xi Jinping along with the case of Zhang Zhan a journalist who had reported on the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Wuhan.The UN has gone on to describe this as a “five-year assault” on lawyers who stand up for human rights.
There seems to be no light to the end of the tunnel for human right practitioners as digital totalitarianism has swamped China. China seeks to cut down on free expression by deploying their most effective weapons, big data and the internet to censor, block, delete content, suspend online accounts, issue police summons and frame such lawyers.
In 2020 the judicial authorities actively arrested lawyers for questioning, imprisonment and torture: for instanceAttorney Yu Wenshengwas sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, Qin Yongpei, another lawyer was stripped of the right to file suit, and both Ding Jiaxiand Chang Weiping were subjected to inhuman torture.
The Chinese government has utilized the pandemic induced situation to great benefit to deprive accused persons of the right to be defended, and to forcibly assign government-designated lawyers to such defendants by first hunting down the human right lawyers who seek to defend such accused persons and later revoking their licenses.
What is even more concerning in these arrests are the inspection of houses of the lawyers and questioning about the parents/children of the lawyers. This not only directly poses a threat to the lawyer, but also acts as a warning signal that the government will not hesitate to act a step further.
In any country that seeks to maintain the rule of law, lawyers are often touted as the last line of defence. What was seen of the censorship and historical revisionism in Mao’s China during 1984,parts of it now are making a comeback in Xi Jinping’s Chinatoo.
The excesses of power that subvert the rule of law does not bode well for Xi in subsiding the angst of citizens who are not only reeling under the combined blows of a pandemic and an economic slowdown, but also fearing speaking against it as the law itself acts as a bully in a totalitarian state.