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Mass Crackdown on Chinese Lawyers and Defenders

Last updated: June 10, 2016

Courageous Voices

Throughout the mass crackdown of lawyers and defenders, Chinese authorities have abused legal process and viciously attacked individuals and professional organizations. Yet, courageous individuals are still speaking out and countering the onslaught of official propaganda. (All text translated by Human Rights in China.) 

HRIC Statement

Mass Suppression of Lawyers Reveals True Nature of Xi’s “Rule by Law”

July 14, 2015

In less than a week, from July 9 to date, Chinese authorities have disappeared, detained, or questioned at least 159 lawyers and activists throughout China. The lawyers, including Wang Yu (王宇), Zhou Shifeng (周世鋒), Li Heping (李和平), and Sui Muqing (隋牧青), are known for their rights defense work, such as representing clients facing persecution for their religious beliefs, forced evictions, and rights defense activities. (See China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group’s website for an updated list.)

The current nationwide police action against lawyers is unprecedented in scale, far surpassing a similar crackdown following the Jasmine Revolution in 2011, when 24 lawyers were disappeared and 52 more were criminally detained.

“The massive rounding up of frontline legal advocates whose roles are to protect rights exposes the government’s ‘rule-by-law’ policy for what it is: a weapon for repression,” says Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China. “It also seriously undermines China’s international credibility and domestic legitimacy.”. . . See More

Domestic Actions
UN & Governments

United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “UN Human Rights Chief deeply concerned by China clampdown on lawyers and activists,” February 16, 2016

Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Recent human rights developments in China,” July 17, 2015.

Government of Canada, “Canada Gravely Concerned by Detention and Disappearance of Lawyers and Activists in China,” July 16, 2015

United Nations Human Rights, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “'Lawyers need to be protected not harassed’ – UN experts urge China to halt detentions,” July 16, 2015

European Union External Action, “Statement by the Spokesperson on recent developments in the human rights situation in China,” July 15, 2015

Congressional-Executive Commission on China “'Increasingly Bold Disregard for Basic Human Rights,” July 14, 2015.

Federal Foreign Office of Germany, “Human Rights Commissioner Strässer condemns the arrest of scores of lawyers in China,” July 14, 2015.

U.S. Department of State, “U.S. Condemns Detention of Human Rights Defenders in China,” July 12, 2015.

Professional Associations
Civil Society



One Year On: International Community Urges China to Uphold Rule of Law

See more: Crackdown on Chinese Lawyers

Professional Associations

UN & Governments


Lawyers & Activists Charged

Update Sites


Analysis and Commentary


Relevant Legal Resources:
  • UN Committee Against Torture, “List of issues in relation to the fifth periodic report of China,” 2015: EN
  • UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):  EN, CH
  • Draft Criminal Law Amendment (9) (2015): CH, EN
  • Criminal Procedure Law: CH

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