Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (09.07.):
Today marks the second anniversary of a serious blow to human rights and the rule of law in China during an incident commonly referred to as the 709 crackdown. A number of those who were arrested at the time are still awaiting their trials and their release under conditions that contravene all principles of the rule of law.
I am particularly concerned about the fate of human rights lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Jiang Tianyong, as well as human rights activist Wu Gan. There are credible reports of torture and numerous other violations of even the most basic rule-of-law standards.
I call on the Chinese Government to release all those detained during the wave of arrests against human rights lawyers and activists in 2015 and 2016 and to restore their full personal freedom without delay. I also ask the Chinese Government to investigate reports published on torture in prisons in a transparent way.
From around 9 July 2015, more than 300 lawyers and other human rights activists were temporarily arrested and interrogated throughout China in what became known as the 709 crackdown. Over 30 of them were first taken to unknown locations for six months and the majority then transferred to prison in January 2016. They were denied contact with their lawyers and families, many were ostensibly forced to make confessions on television, the start of their trials has been delayed for months, and the members of their families have been put under pressure.
Through their work, those arrested sought to defend their clients’ rights and to uphold the rule of law. According to our understanding of the law, there is no evidence of anti-government activities arising from this.
There has been no sign of human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang since his detention in July 2015. No defence counsel or family members have been allowed contact with him. Reports claiming that he has been tortured have emerged from the prison via an indirect route.
Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was, until the end of May, under “house arrest at a specified location” – essentially a secret prison. It was only then that he was officially arrested on suspicion of subversion. According to reports, he is believed to have sustained lasting injuries to his foot after being tortured.
Human rights activist Wu Gan has also been detained on suspicion of subversion since May 2015. His case is considered to be a direct precursor to the 709 crackdown. His lawyer was granted access to him for the first time at the end of 2016. At their meetings, Wu Gan reported that he had been severely tortured.