China's human rights lawyers

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“I’ve made up my mind: the most they can do is jail me. But if I stay silent, I’ll regret it my whole life.” (Zhang Kai)


Over 280 lawyers and human rights activists, as well as those connected to them such as friends and family members, have been detained by the Chinese government since 10 July 2015. This is roughly half of all human rights defenders in China. To have the community targeted in such a systematic campaign is truly shocking. Many of these lawyers have been ‘disappeared’: meaning that they have vanished into China’s prison system. Others were released, but live with the threat of re-arrest at any time.


These men and women form an all too fragile barrier against the Chinese government’s attempts to shut down religious activities that aren’t approved by the state. They fight for Uyghur Muslims, for Falun Gong practitioners, for Christians who worship outside of the state-sanctioned Church – and for Christians in the officially recognised Church whose churches are facing harassment or closure. Many lawyers have given up potentially lucrative careers in commercial law to defend China’s religious minorities.

These are their stories.

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Zhang Kai

NOTABLE CASES: Defended Protestant Pastor Huang Yizi, who protested the demolition of crosses and churches in Zhejiang Province.  2009 investigation of unnatural death of Falun Gong practitioner Jiang Xiquing, which led to Zhang being detained by police and locked in a metal cage.

DETAINED: 25 August 2015

CHARGE: Gathering a crowd to disturb public order, stealing, spying, buying and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to entities outside of China

SENTENCE: Six months’ imprisonment



Li Heping

NOTABLE CASES: Routinely defends Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and other human rights defenders.

DETAINED: 10 July 2015

CHARGE: Unknown



[OC2] NOTES: Wife also detained, questioned for five hours after appealing for information on her husband’s whereabouts and posting relevant information online. 


Tang Jingling

NOTABLE CASES: 2005 defence of Taishi Village protestors, resulting in suspension of lawyer’s licence as he helped villagers attempting to replace their village leader, against the government’s wishes.  Unable to practise law, but consulted on several human rights cases. Detained in 2011 and subjected to ‘no-sleep’ torture (kept awake for ten consecutive days) for numerous civil disobedience campaigns aimed at encouraging democracy in China.

DETAINED: 21 June 2015

CHARGE: Inciting subversion of state power


CURRENT LOCATION: Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Centre[OC3] 


Wang Yu

NOTABLE CASES: 2008 complaint against extremely rough treatment by the National Railway Administration (as defendant) – this was the case that sparked her career in human rights. Yu lost the case, was jailed for two and a half years, and had her lawyer’s licence suspended until 2012.  April 2015 saw two notable cases: one case in which she and another lawyer were physically dragged out of court, and another when she was barred from entering the courtroom. The trial she was to attend proceeded without a lawyer.

DETAINED: 9 July 2015

CHARGE: Inciting subversion of state power.



NOTES: Her husband is also in custody and her 16-year-old son, Bao Mengmeng, has been repeatedly detained and threatened by police.





Information and pictures from

 [OC2]Info from“709-crackdown”-lawyers’-case-update


 [OC4] Info from“709-crackdown”-lawyers’-case-update

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