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China abandoning rule of law, human rights lawyers say

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Top human rights lawyers say Xi Jinping’s China is moving farther and farther away from the rule of law amid new claims about torture of Chinese attorneys.

Writing in the Guardian on Tuesday, a group of leading lawyers and judges from the US, Europe and Australia expressed “grave concern” over the detention and treatment of legal professionals.

The authors – which include former French justice minister Robert Badinter as well as British human rights lawyers Michael Mansfield QC and Clive Stafford Smith – called on China to release “the detained or arrested lawyers and others held with them”, describing their detention as “without legal basis”.

The letter – written to coincide with the Day of the Endangered Lawyer – comes after human rights lawyer Xie Yang detailed being tortured while in police custody. He was beaten, forced into stress positions, deprived food, drink and sleep, denied medical care and received death threats, with one inquisitor saying: “We’ll torture you to death just like an ant”.

Xie was one of nearly 250 lawyers, legal assistants and activists that were rounded up in a nationwide crackdown in July 2015. While most were released, about ten are still in custody or have been disappeared.

Two other lawyers targeted in that campaign, Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, were reportedly tortured with electroshocks until they fainted, drawing particular concern from the authors of the letter.

The signatories also detailed instances of detainees fed unnecessary medicine, and highlighted one case where the repercussions of torture do not end once released. Li Chunfu, a lawyer and brother of Li Heping, was released earlier this month but displayed signs of severe mental illness, with some describing him as a “broken man”.


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