Liu Xiaobo

Rights lawyers targeted throughout week as police enforce clampdown

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 February, 2011, 12:00am


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Rights lawyers looked back on a bleak week, with many roughly handled in an effort to silence them - first in relation to blind activist rights defender Chen Guangcheng, and then the weekend's so-called Jasmine Revolution.

Rights lawyers have been increasingly targeted during clampdowns in recent years on sensitive dates and in relation to sensitive cases.

Chen (pictured) was sentenced to four years and three months in prison in 2006 for 'damaging property and organising a mob to disturb traffic' as he investigated forced-abortion cases in Shandong. He has been under house arrest since his release from prison last autumn.

He and his wife were beaten after he had someone sneak out a video revealing his plight on February 10. This week, news emerged that the pair were again beaten on Friday. According to the Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, his wife's eyes were so swollen from the second beating that she couldn't see, and she also sustained injuries to her head.

Last Wednesday, some supporters planned a lunch to discuss how they could help Chen, but the news leaked, and rights lawyers Li Fangping and three others were among those prevented from attending.

Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao made it to the meeting, but police took them away afterwards. In Tang's case, they broke into his home. Jiang sent text messages to Teng afterwards saying interrogators had grabbed him by the neck and smashed his head against a wall. Tang disappeared for six days, and his family were told only yesterday that he had been taken back to his home in Jilin province and was banned from outside contact.

At the weekend, dozens of rights activists were again subjected to tight surveillance, hours of restricted movement, and violence.

Guangzhou defence lawyer Liu Shihui was beaten by five unknown men on Sunday outside his home and suffered severe injuries, including two broken legs, according to various reports. He posted on Twitter earlier that day that he had intended to join the Jasmine Revolution at People's Park.

Another Guangzhou rights lawyer, Tang Jingling, was taken away by state security officers yesterday. His wife said he had packed a change of clothes before leaving with the officer, without saying where he was going or when he would be back. He had also been questioned on Sunday.

'He has been frequently invited to 'have tea' [a euphemism for official questioning],' Tang's wife said. 'However, it has become more frequent in recent years.'

Jiang and Teng were also taken from their homes on Saturday. Both are active posters on Twitter, but they have not posted anything on the site since then.

'The police should at least tell the lawyers' families where they were taken to, but they have provided no explanation or documents. This is a blatant breach of the law,' said Patrick Poon, executive secretary of the concern group.

'Lawyers are becoming a growing target for clampdowns due to their growing power in society. More and more citizens are turning to them when in need.'

When the announcement was made that Liu Xiaobo had won the Nobel Peace Prize, and on the day of the award ceremony itself, rights lawyers were put under close watch and subjected to restricted communication and movement.