Lawyer’s Detention Shakes China’s Rights Movement
The New York Times looks at the impact of Xu Zhiyong’s arrest for the rights movement in China, especially as it comes on the heels of a broader crackdown on lawyers who defend civil rights and NGOs:
Although rights lawyers and grass-roots social organizations have always been tightly controlled here, the pressure has intensified in recent weeks. More than 20 lawyers known for taking on politically tinged cases were effectively disbarred, and the police raided a group that works to ease discrimination against people with Hepatitis B.
Last week, China’s justice minister gave a speech saying that lawyers should above all obey the Communist Party and help foster a harmonious society. To improve discipline, the minister said, all law firms in the country would be sent party liaisons to “guide their work.”
But given Mr. Xu’s international stature and reputation for working within the law, legal scholars both in China and abroad say his prosecution suggests a new level of repression.
[...] After 30 years of reform, China’s legal system is at a critical juncture. Law schools continue to pump out thousands of graduates each year, and the courts, even if imperfect, have increasingly become a forum for resolving disputes. Late last month the Supreme People’s Court announced reforms intended to markedly reduce executions.
But as lawyers here discover, there are limits to China’s embrace of judicial reform.