The Chinese authorities must end their assault on human rights lawyers, Amnesty International said on Saturday, after more than 50 lawyers and activists were targeted by police in a nationwide crackdown.
Prominent human rights lawyers Li Heping and Sui Muqing are among at least 20 people feared detained. All the individuals missing since the crackdown began on Thursday, July 9 are well-known for their work on human rights cases.
The authorities have targeted lawyers across the country including in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. With new reports emerging, it is difficult to determine who has been detained by the authorities, or taken in for questioning and who may have simply gone into hiding to avoid possible detention.
“The authorities must end this assault against human rights lawyers. Such an unprecedented nationwide crackdown can only have been sanctioned from within the central government,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.
“This coordinated attack on lawyers makes a mockery of President Xi Jinping’s claims to promote the rule of law. The authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for their work defending human rights.”
On Friday night, police officers visited the home of lawyer Sui Muqing in Guangdong province, southern China, according to his wife. Police then detained Sui Muqing on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” although they did not provide details on a specific incident or evidence.
Another lawyer in Beijing, Zhang Kai, sent a text message early on July 11 saying: "Police have come," and he has not been heard from since.
The alarm was first raised on Thursday, when Wang Yu, a lawyer in Beijing, disappeared in the early hours, after sending friends a text message that her internet connection and power at her home had been cut off. She then sent a text saying that people were trying to break into her home.
Amnesty International calls on the authorities to disclose the whereabouts and legal status of all those detained and guarantee unrestricted access to their families and lawyers, as well as ensure those detained are not at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.