The Detention of Human Rights Lawyers in China

On August 1, 2016, a prominent human rights lawyer in China was released almost a year after being formally arrested by Chinese officials and subsequently imprisoned. As a proponent of the growing human rights movement in China, Wang Yu has represented advocates for China's Uyghur ethnic minority and feminist groups. In January of this year, Wang was accused of "subverting state power", with her husband also accused of similar charges. Her release came after a televised video, where Wang confesses to her crimes against the Chinese government and expresses remorse for taking on such extreme cases. 

In her confession, Wang also refuses to accept the American Bar Association's International Human Rights Award, which aims to award an individual who has "sustained, exceptional, and direct representation of or advocacy for persons outside of the United States whose human rights have been violated". 

The detention of Wang Yu was part of a state-wide crackdown on human rights advocates and lawyers. In the eyes of the Chinese government, these human rights lawyers are perpetrators of dissent and contribute to political criticism. Last year, more than 200 lawyers were detained on the basis that they assisted unsatisfied citizens an outlet to voice their dissatisfaction.

This crackdown on human rights lawyers hints at the larger issue of freedom of speech in China. While state-wide media and Internet censorship has been present for decades, the recent crackdown on legal cases is perhaps the newest control implemented by the government to control opinions on social issues. Without human rights lawyers, the social issues of minority groups, such as women, LGBTQ groups, and ethnic minorities, are often ignored.


Date Published: 

Monday, August 1, 2016