The conviction this week of Zhai Yanmin, Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng and Gou Hongguo, detained since mid-2015 as part of a wave of detentions of more than 300 lawyers and human rights defenders, runs contrary to China’s stated commitment to strengthening the rule of law.
The Chinese authorities should abide by China’s international obligations, including respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They should respect the rights of all citizens, as recognised by the Chinese Constitution, and release all those detained for seeking to protect these rights.
The lack of adherence in the trials to China’s own Criminal Procedure Law, the many infringements of the defendants’ rights to a proper defence, including the lack of access to lawyers of their own choice, as well as preventing detainees’ family members from attending the trials, are contrary to Chinese and international law.
The EU calls for the immediate release of those who have just been sentenced and the reinstatement of their right to practise their profession. All charges still pending against the other lawyers and human rights defenders detained since July 2015 should be dropped. China should allow trial observation by foreign diplomats.