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Supreme People’s Court Boasts about Arrest of Lawyer

During the ‘Two Sessions’, Zhou Qiang—the President of the Supreme People’s Court— presented his annual report about developments in the work of the courts over the past year and plans for the year to come. In the very first section of the speech—entitled ‘ensuring state security, punishing crime, and protecting human rights’—Zhou Qiang singled out the sentencing, ‘according to the law’, of weiquan lawyer Zhou Shifeng to seven years in jail as one of the key achievements in the protection of state security in 2016. This happened in concurrence with media reports about the issue of torture in relation to Chinese lawyers caught up in the ‘709 incident’—the crackdown against the ‘rights protection’ (weiquan) community that took place in July 2015. In January, the legal team of human rights lawyer Xie Yang, who was detained in Hongjiang, Hunan, on 11 July 2015, released the transcript of a conversation they had with their client to protest the decision of the authorities not to release him. In it, Xie described the details of the physical and mental abuse he had been subjected to while in detention. The transcript resonated with other similar incidents, particularly human rights lawyer Li Chunfu, who emerged from nearly seventeen months in police custody on 21 January in a shattered state, suffering from violent bouts of paranoia and with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. In an unprecedented move, on 1 March, China’s official media responded to Xie’s allegations, claiming that his torture was a story fabricated in order to attract international attention. State media accused disbarred lawyer Jiang Tianyong—himself detained since November 2016—of making up ‘fake news’, and featured interviews with him admitting to fabricating Xie’s claims of torture. Chinese media reported that an ‘independent’ investigation by the authorities found that Xie had not been tortured. EN

(Sources: South China Morning Post; The New York Times; Global Times; Minnan Network; The Independent; Guanchazhe; Xinhua)

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