In a crackdown commencing in mid-July last year, the Chinese government arrested hundreds of lawyers, law firm staff and family members suspected of “political subversion”.
According to a petition published in The Guardian today, at least 12 lawyers and legal assistants remain in detention. They include civil rights lawyers Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng and Wang Quanzhang, who have been charged with “subversion of state power”, a charge that could attract a life sentence.
The petition has attracted 20 signatories from jurisdictions around the world, including two Australians – Elizabeth Evatt, commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists and former president of the Australian Law Reform Commission, and Gill Boehringer, former dean of the Macquarie University Law School, Australia.
In the petition, jurists and lawyers call for Chinese president Xi Jinping to release lawyers held without legal basis, ensure access to counsel and other rights to all detainees, and to confirm the whereabouts of people suspected of being “forcibly disappeared”.
Other notable signatories include Robert Badinter, former French minister of justice; Michel Benichou, president of the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe; Patrick Henry, president of the Bar Association of Belgium; Andrea Mascherin, president of the Italian National Bar Council; Ulrich Schellenberg, President of the German Bar Association; and Jean-Jacques Uettwiller, President of the International Union of Lawyers.