CECC Chairs Alarmed by China’s Continued Assault Against Human Rights Lawyers

Crackdown On Human Rights Lawyers 'Inconsistent' With China's Desire To Be Viewed As A Responsible Global Stakeholder Say Chairs

May 11, 2017

(Washington, DC)—Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) chair, Senator Marco Rubio, and cochair, Representative Chris Smith today expressed alarm about the Chinese government’s continued assault against human rights lawyers. The Chairs stressed that China’s treatment of its own citizens, including forced disappearances, torture in custody, denial of legal representation, and a myriad other human rights abuses violate international norms and are inconsistent with China’s desire to be viewed as a responsible global stakeholder.

“In recent days, the Chinese government has shamelessly continued its assault on the heroic individuals at the vanguard of China’s legal community, including Xie Yang, who confessed to ‘inciting subversion of state power’ after reportedly being tortured,” said Senator Rubio. “Xie’s former lawyer Chen Jian’gang, who helped expose his client’s mistreatment in police custody, was briefly held last week. On Tuesday, prominent rights attorney Li Heping was finally released from detention following his conviction on charges of ‘subversion of state power,’ though he is hardly a free man. News reports today noted the dramatic change in his physical appearance, which underscores the hardship and abuse he suffered at the hands of his oppressors. As we approach the two-year anniversary of the ‘709 crackdown’ on human rights lawyers, the fate of several of these brave advocates—in particular Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, and Jiang Tianyongremains uncertain, and the harassment and intimidation of their families continues unabated. If China persists in viewing its own citizens with suspicion and hostility and if it continues to ruthlessly disregard their most basic rights, it will never be viewed as a responsible global stakeholder.”

“Xie Yang and Li Heping were denied fair trials, access to a lawyer of their own choice, and both were reportedly brutally tortured—all in violation of China’s Criminal Procedure Law and China’s international obligations. These are political prosecutions that bear no resemblance to fair or transparent justice. The two-year effort to eviscerate China’s network of human rights lawyers and rights advocates immeasurably damages the Chinese government’s global standing and obliterates any remaining confidence in President Xi’s willingness to foster the rule of law in China,” said Representative Smith. “In a just world, Li Heping, Xie Yang, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, Tang Jingling and so many others would be celebrated and consulted, not disappeared and tortured—they all should be immediately exonerated and be allowed to practice law again. The international community needs to acknowledge that Xi Jinping’s increasingly severe suppression of internationally-recognized civil and political right has real implications for regional stability and bilateral cooperation. A clear message must be sent, both publicly and privately, connecting the advance of liberty and the rule of law to China’s interest in its future prosperity and global influence.” 

The CECC chairs have on several occasions highlighted these individual cases and pressed for their immediate release including on the one-year anniversary of the crackdown on rights lawyers, in a statement prior to the 2016 G-20 Summit held in China, and in the “Free China’s Heroes” social media campaign launched in advance of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s April 2017 visit to the U.S.