Christoph Strässer, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement on 16 October:
Three months after the unprecedented wave of arrests of over 100 lawyers and law firm employees in China, we remain deeply concerned about their fate. Around 30 of them are still being held, with no access to legal counsel and no contact with their families. The public prosecution office has still not brought formal charges. This in no way fits with the Chinese Government’s claim to promote the rule of law. I therefore call on the Chinese leadership to release the lawyers who have been arrested and to refrain from any further action to restrict them in the exercise of the profession and the defence of their clients.
I am particularly concerned about the families of the arrested lawyers. Bao Zhuoxuan, the 16-year-old son of detained lawyer Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun, who was also arrested, was prevented from leaving the country last weekend. I roundly condemn this measure against Bao Zhuoxuan. In our view, it constitutes a blatant infringement of his freedom of movement, a human right to which we Germans, given our experience of division, attach high value. At the same time, the authorities’ actions reflect the increasing frequency of serious cases of political retribution against the families of dissidents. With no legal justification, innocent family members – including Liu Xia, wife of Nobel Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo – are placed under house arrest. We regard this serious development as a severe setback in China’s development towards being a rule of law state.
In a nationwide sweep in mid-July, numerous lawyers who had previously defended human rights activists in criminal cases were arrested across China. Nothing is yet known about the whereabouts of many of these lawyers; they have been refused all contact with their lawyers and families.
16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan, whose parents remain in detention, was prevented from leaving the country; the information available suggests he is under house arrest at his grandparents’ home. Bao and his father were prevented from leaving China before, back in June, with the result that he could not take up his place at university abroad as planned.