China - May 2011

The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concerns about the harassment, arrests and disappearances of human rights lawyers in China

The Law Society of Upper Canada continues to condemn the persecution, harassment, arrests, detentions, disappearances and escalating human rights violations against lawyers in China through letters of intervention to Chinese authorities and the release of public statements. Most recently, the Law Society denounces the revocation of the practice licenses of lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Wei and the disappearance of Gao Zhisheng.

According to reports, on 16 February, 2011, Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, Teng Biao and several other lawyers and human rights activists from Beijing had met in a restaurant to discuss the case of Mr. Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese lawyer and defender of reproductive rights currently under house arrest since his release from custody in September 2010.

The information received indicated that the restaurant was surrounded by police officers from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau at around 12:15 pm. The police remained until the end of the meeting and arrested Mr. Jiang Tianyong. He was brought to the police station, where he was interrogated. During his detention, Mr. Jiang Tianyong was allegedly ill-treated and pushed against a wall, where he banged his head. He was released five hours later.

On February 19, 2011, men identified to Mr. Jiang Tianyong’s family as Beijing police officers took Mr. Jiang Tianyong from his brother’s home, where he was temporarily staying. In the evening, the Beijing police returned to Mr. Jiang Tianyong brother's house and confiscated a computer. It has been reported that he remained in detention until he was released on April 21, 2011.

Reports also indicate that after the meeting at the restaurant, two police officers entered Mr. Tang Jitian’s home forcing the doors and dragging him away. At present, Mr. Tang Jitian’s whereabouts are unknown. In addition, Mr. Teng Biao has also been missing since February, although he is believed to be in custody.

The disappearances of leading human rights lawyers in China further represents efforts to restrict and weaken the independence of the legal profession and undermines China’s commitment to the rule of law. In the past, the Law Society of Upper Canada has repeatedly condemned the persecution and ill-treatment of lawyers in China, including the treatment of Human Rights lawyers Gao Zhisheng, Zheng Enchong, Chen Guangcheng, Li Jianqiang, Teng Baio and Li Heping, by raising its concerns with the Chinese authorities about the ongoing human rights violations against lawyers.

International human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary state that judicial independence and human rights are necessary to advancing the rule of law. Moreover, lawyers and judges must be able to fulfill their professional obligations without fear for their security in order to advance the rule of law.

The Law Society urges on the Chinese authorities to,

a. immediately and unconditionally release and guarantee in all circumstances the physical, psychological and professional integrity of human rights lawyers;
b. ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, torture or ill treatment or other human rights violations;
c. put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation against human rights lawyers in China;
d. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by China;
e. uphold the rule of law as defined by public international law; and
f. take immediate steps to promote the independence of the legal profession.

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 42,000 lawyers and 3,000 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in China in their effort to maintain the independence of the legal profession, to advance the respect for human rights and to promote the rule of law.