(社説)弁護士拘束 中国国民の権利損なう

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 19
EDITORIAL: 1.3 billion Chinese lose in Xi’s crackdown on human rights lawyers
(社説)弁護士拘束 中国国民の権利損なう

July 10 is now known as “Black Friday” by people concerned about human rights in China.

On that day, police detained human rights lawyers and activists in various parts of the nation in a large-scale concerted crackdown on people working for the cause.

Chinese authorities have continued the roundup in the ensuing days, interrogating more than 200 people so far. This is an outrageous act that cannot be overlooked.
The main target of the crackdown is Fengrui, a law firm in Beijing. People linked to Fengrui are still being held in custody.

Those who were rounded up in other parts of the nation, such as Hunan province, Shanghai and Henan province, are suspected to have links to Fengrui.

These civil-rights lawyers have been acting as defenders of the rights of ordinary people petitioning the authorities in various cases, including forced evictions from their homes.

The lawyers play an important role for improving the human rights situation in China, and such an attack on these lawyers and activists could cause serious damage to the rights of the entire Chinese public.

Beijing has used the state-controlled media to demonize the law firm as “a criminal organization that has disturbed social order.”

The accusation refers to Fengrui’s use of the Internet to draw public attention to cases of civil rights violations concerning disputes between police and local residents.

According to the government’s logic, all protests against the actions of authorities qualify as “anti-government” activities.

The latest move against civil-rights lawyers came just about two months after Pu Zhiqiang, a widely known human rights lawyer, was formally indicted in May.

Nearly 1,000 human rights activists were detained in China last year, according to some reports.

The administration of President Xi Jinping has been suppressing, with unprecedented harshness, people working for the protection of human rights in the country.

Since China started reforming its economy and opening its door to the outside world, two main forces have been fighting each other for dominance.

One is the newfound power of citizens supported by the rising standards of living and education. While they certainly have a conservative side, Chinese citizens have grown increasingly conscious of their life-related rights and have acquired the ability to take action.

Pitted against the power of citizens is the Communist Party’s political power to suppress dissenting voices in order to protect its one-party rule. This political power has been asserted aggressively by the Xi administration.

China’s 2004 constitutional amendments added a provision stipulating, “The state respects and preserves human rights.” The Constitution also guarantees freedom of speech, assembly and association.

But there is no system in place to ensure that these constitutional provisions are enforced. As a result, they are effectively dead provisions.

Meanwhile, a sweeping new national security law that came into force on July 1 could only reinforce the government’s inclination to restrict the rights of citizens under the pretext of national security. In early July, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein expressed concern about the human rights implications of the new security law.

In a key party conference held last autumn, the Xi administration pledged to promote wholeheartedly national governance based on law.

If what is happening in China is any indication, however, the law here actually means a stick to suppress citizens rather than a shield to protect them.

We are deeply concerned about the prospect that China’s 1.3 billion people will remain trapped in a miserable human rights situation that is far from the rule of law.

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