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Mass Crackdown on Chinese Lawyers and Defenders

Last updated: February 16, 2017


Jan 3

Wu Gan (aka Tufu) formally indicted for subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking troubles and will stand trial at Tianjin Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, according to an online statement made by his defense lawyer Ge Yongxi (葛永喜).

At the Tianjin’s No 2 Detention Center this afternoon, Ge Yongxi was told that he would not be allowed to meet with his client until his representation of Wu Gan was confirmed by the court. Source.

Jan 4

Lawyers Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) meet with their client, lawyer Xie Yang, who has been detained since July 2015 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.” Transcripts released from the lawyers’ interview with Xie Yang reveals the following: he remains in detention after refusing to plead guilty and frame fellow lawyers as conditions to his release on bail; he has suffered extensive torture while in detention. Source

Jan 5

Yuan Shanshan says that her husband, Xie Yanyi, has been released from detention but remains under surveillance in a hotel in Tianjin. Source.

RFA reports that Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian have been released from detention: Tang Zhishun has returned to his home in Beijing, but Xing Qingxian’s whereabouts remain unknown, according to his wife, He Juan. Source.

Jan 12

Lawyer Li Chunfu, brother of human right lawyer Li Heping, is released on “bail pending further investigation” and returned to his Beijing home in psychological distress. Wang Qiaoling, wife of Li Heping, reports that Li Chunfu was skin and bones, dazed, and in a state of extreme fear. In the days following his return he was anxious, aggressive, and violent towards his wife Bi Liping (毕丽萍). Source.

Jan 14

Li Chunfu is hospitalized and diagnosed with symptoms of schizophrenia after experiencing extreme torture while being under “residential surveillance in a designated place” for 500 days. Source

Jan 19

Xie Yanyi returns home after being detained since July 2015. He was first released on January 5 but held under surveillance in a hotel in Tianjin. Source

Jan 23

According to China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, while under “residential surveillance in a designated location” for six months, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, and other lawyers suffered extreme torture, including electric shock with voltage high enough to cause fainting. Source.

Wang Qiaoling, wife of 709 lawyer Li Heping, finds out after numerous inquiries that her husband is held at the Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center under a different name, Li Xiaocun. The detention center had previously denied that it was holding Li Heping. Source.

A group of senior judges, lawyers and jurists from countries around the world including Australia, France, Spain, U.S. and U.K. issue an open letter expressing continued concern over the treatment of lawyers and legal assistants, as well as their colleagues, supporters, and family members in China. Source.

Jan 28

The European External Action Service issues a statement calling for an investigation into the account of torture of Xie Yang, and allegations of torture of Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, and the release of the lawyers and human rights defenders that remain in detention. Source.

Feb 1

TIt is confirmed online that Xing Qingxian has been released on bail and has returned home to Chengdu, approximately one month after his actual release from detention. Source.

Feb 16

Wang Quanzhang formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power” according to his wife, Li Wenzu. Source.

See full chronology starting from June 2015 >

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

HRIC Urges Independent Observers at Upcoming Trials of Lawyers and Activists in China

August 5, 2016

This week, Chinese authorities put on trial and convicted one rights lawyer and three activists on charges of “subversion of state power”: Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), a law firm employee; Hu Shigen (胡石根), a democracy and religious freedom activist; Zhou Shifeng (周世鋒), a lawyer and law firm director; and Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), a rights activist. According to available official trial transcripts and media reports, all four defendants admitted guilt, expressed remorse, and accepted their trial verdicts. In addition, on August 1, Chinese authorities released a video of Wang Yu (王宇), another lawyer charged with “subversion” but recently released on bail, in which she referred to her former colleague Zhou Shifeng as not being a “qualified” lawyer,” and expressed remorse about her own “inappropriate” remarks and speaking with foreign media.

These five individuals are among the more than 300 lawyers and activists targeted in a nationwide crackdown that began in July 2015. To date, 18 others remain in police custody and have been formally arrested, five of whom are also facing “subversion” charges.

What do these events mean for Chinese civil society? How should the international community respond?

The targeting of those who are at the forefront of defending fundamental rights and promoting the growth of civil society underscores the true aim of the Communist Party of China’s policy of “ruling the country by law”—to maintain the supremacy of the CPC. Instead of safeguarding the people's rights, the current regime uses the legal system as a political instrument to undermine the very forces needed to sustain a rule of law: an independent judiciary, an independent bar, and a robust civil society. 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



"709 Crackdown”


Subversion of state power

  1. Li Heping (李和平)
  2. Liu Sixin (刘四新)
  3. Liu Yongping (刘永平)
  4. Wu Gan (吴淦) (aka Tufu屠夫) (indicted on “subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”)
  5. Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) (formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power”)

Inciting subversion of state power

  1. Bao Longjun (包龙军)
  2. Lin Bin (林斌) (aka Monk Wang Yun (望云和尚))
  3. Xie Yang (谢阳)

Gathering a crowd to disturb public order

  1. Liu Xing (刘星 ) (aka Laodao (老道))
  2. Li Yanjun (李燕军)
  3. Yao Jianqing (姚建清)

Picking quarrels and provoking trouble

  1. Wang Fang (王芳 )
  2. Zhang Weihong (张卫红 (aka Zhang Wanhe (张皖荷))



Subversion of State Power

  1. Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), a law firm employee
  2. Hu Shigen (胡石根), a democracy and religious freedom activist
  3. Zhou Shifeng (周世鋒), a lawyer and law firm director
  4. Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), a rights activist


  1. Wang Yu (王宇)
  2. Ren Quanniu (任全牛)
  3. Tang Zhishun (唐志顺)
  4. Xing Qingxian (幸清贤)
  5. Li Chunfu (李春富)
  6. Xie Yanyi (谢燕益)


“Picking quarrels and provoking troubles”

  1. Yin Xu’an (尹旭安)
One Year On: International Community Urges China to Uphold Rule of Law

See more: Crackdown on Chinese Lawyers

Professional Associations



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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