Recalling their joint statement of 29 January, the European Union and its Member States are glad to learn that lawyer Zhang Kai and legal assistant Gao Yue have been released from criminal detention. However, a large number of human rights lawyers and defenders connected to the 9 July 2015 crackdown are still held in custody or kept incommunicado. Accusations of ‘subversion of state power’ or incitement to subversion deny the nature of the work of these human rights defenders, which involves advocating the promotion and protection of rights guaranteed under the Chinese Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We call for full transparency and the respect for due process in these cases, which should lead to the release of the individuals concerned. Those detained still have not been allowed access to lawyers of their own choosing or visits from their relatives. Legal deadlines for judicial decisions in these cases have been repeatedly deferred, thus prolonging the current state of uncertainty.
We also note with concern that lawyers seeking to defend these individuals have reportedly been threatened with the cancellation of their licenses to practise law. We are also aware of numerous instances where family members of these individuals have been prevented from travelling abroad, while others have been intimidated and told to stop publicly advocating on behalf of their detained relatives.
We urge China to live up to its international human rights obligations, not least respect for the right to freedom of expression, and its stated commitment to build the rule of law.