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China Claims It Has Always Encouraged And Supported Lawyers

November 13, 2015

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, November 17 and 18, in Geneva, the UN Committee Against Torture will review China on its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), which it ratified in 1988.

This review is taking place in a year of massive crackdowns on rights lawyers and activists—considered by most to be the worst since 1989—which has affected more than 300 individuals thus far. Of the 28 still detained, 25 are being held incommunicado, many since early July. Only two have been allowed to meet with lawyers. (All figures are from the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.)

In this chilling climate, it is startling to see China’s recent claims regarding its respect and support for the country’s lawyers, and its denial of the deprivation of detainees’ rights and the practice of torture.

China made these claims in its responses, dated October, to a host of issues raised by the Committee earlier this year in advance of the review.

We urge the international community to monitor this critical timely review, which is scheduled to be webcast live (check HRIC homepage for session times and link to the webcast).

Below are examples of what China said (full text, excerpts):

On “holders of different political views”

“Reports” that some so-called “holders of different political views” have been forbidden from having contact with the outside world and detained for periods exceeding three months and have been “tortured” are untrue.

On lawyers

Chinese lawyers are an important force in implementing the basic strategy of ruling the country by law and in the construction of a rule-of-law state. The Chinese government has always attached great importance to this role of lawyers, continuously strengthening and improving the system for lawyers.

China has always encouraged and supported lawyers in performing their duties . . . and engaging in professional practice in accordance with law, and does not permit what is called “retaliation” against lawyers who are engaged in normal professional practice.

On detention and detainees’ rights

China has not found any problems of relevant departments depriving detainees of their right to timely and adequate medical treatment as a form of retaliation.

Chinese citizens will not be detained because they disagree with official policies, and related accusations are untrue.

On arbitrary detention and torture

[S]o-called “arbitrary arrest and detention of relevant persons,” “opening fire indiscriminately resulting in death,” “excessive use of force in the course of suppressing marches and demonstrations,” “relevant detainees being subjected to torture,” and other remarks are distortions of the facts.

The lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens are safeguarded by law. Government acts of intimidation and reprisals against citizens do not exist in China.

On Gao Zhisheng

Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) was released in August 2014 after serving his full prison term . . . . All judicial organs, including public security organs, ensure the aforementioned person['s] right to medical treatment in accordance with the law and guarantee that their health condition is not unlawfully harmed.

On Gao Zhisheng, the rights lawyer who was kept in solitary confinement for all three years of his imprisonment (2011-2014) and who had suffered many episodes of torture since 2007, we know that a few days ago, the authorities did not even allow him, now supposedly a free man, to travel from his hometown in Shaanxi Province to Xi’an for treatment of his remaining teeth (many had fallen out due to torture and malnutrition when he was in custody).

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