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China: Human Rights Lawyers in Jail: Why Didn’t Bachelet Visit Them?

Hundreds of attorneys are in jail just for defending human rights cases. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights was asked to visit at least three of them. She didn’t.

By Qin Ning


From left to right, detained lawyers Li Yuhan, Xie Yang and Zhou Shifeng. From Weibo.

As the visit of the United Nations Hight Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, was heading to its conclusion, human rights activists in China criticized her for another missed opportunity. As far as it is known, she did not investigate the consequences of the 709 case, the July 8, 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers. More than two hundred of them ended up in jail.

Surely, jailing and terrorizing lawyers whose sole crime was defending the human rights of their clients looks like the typical violation a United Nations Human Rights chief should care about. But does she?

On May 25, the China Human Rights Layers Group sent a letter to Ms. Bachelet. Bitter Winter publishes an English translation of the text. As far as we know, there has been no answer—and certainly no visit of the three prominent jailed lawyers mentioned in the letter.

“Dear Ms. Michelle Bachelet:

We are a group of human rights lawyers from China, and we are glad to hear that you are visiting China. First of all, we would like to welcome you! As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, you have been very concerned about human rights in China for many years, which is also the purpose of your visit to China, and we are deeply grateful!

We are one of the most knowledgeable groups about the human rights situation in China, and we would like to implore you to take some time out of your busy schedule to visit these three 709 lawyers who are still in detention.

1. Li Yuhan, a Chinese human rights lawyer. She has represented many human rights cases and is one of the defense lawyers in the 709 case.

On October 9, 2017, Li Yuhan was arrested by Shenyang Public Security in retaliation. She is still detained in Shenyang Heping District Detention Center. The trial was held behind closed doors until October 20, 2021, more than four years later, and a number of lawyers and citizens were restricted from attending the trial. It has been more than seven months since the trial began, but no verdict has been handed down, and such prolonged detention is unprecedented in China!

Ms. Li is over 70 years old and suffers from coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, unstable angina, hyperthyroidism, lumbar spine slippage, herniated disc, gastritis, gastric ulcer, meniscus damage and other diseases. However, fundamental medical treatment cannot be obtained in the detention center. Her health has been deteriorating due to her detention and poor environment for nearly five years, and her stomach, heart, liver, and kidney functions are severely damaged.

Lawyers and family members have repeatedly applied to the court for bail pending trial, but the court refused to grant it and continues its vendetta.

2. Xie Yang, a Chinese human rights lawyer, is one of the 709 lawyers. In January 2022, he was arrested again for inciting subversion of state power and has not been allowed to meet with his lawyers.

3. Zhou Shifeng, one of the 709 lawyers, was sentenced to 7 years in prison in 2016 and was detained in Tianjin prison afterwards. He has been out of contact for nearly six years.

The three of them are representative of Chinese human rights lawyers who are still detained, especially Li Yuhan, one of the few female human rights lawyers. If such illegal overtime detention continues, and Li’s condition becomes more serious, the consequences will be unthinkable! We are afraid that the tragedy of Cao Shunli [a female human rights lawyer who died in jail in 2014 due to mistreatment and lack of proper medical care] will repeat itself again!

We would like to appeal once again to you personally and the UN to pay further attention to these three lawyers and to take this opportunity to visit them!

Thank you again!

China Human Rights Lawyers Group.”


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