Five years of ‘709’: the systematic repression against lawyers in China

Xu Yan, the wife of lawyer Yu Wensheng, arrested on January 19, 2018 and sentenced last June to four and a half years in prison during an interview with the Efe Agency on Thursday. EFE / Javier Triana

Beijing, Jul 9 (EFE) .- Arbitrary detentions, torture under arrest and intimidation are the norm of the Chinese security forces against lawyers defending human rights cases, victims of the ‘709’ raid (known for having produced the ninth day of the seventh month), of which five years have passed today.
On July 9, 2015, at least 321 lawyers, law firm personnel, activists and family members were arrested, according to figures from an organization that defends this group based in Hong Kong, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisals derived from the recently approved law. security for the semi-autonomous city.
The first of those arrested on July 9 was Wang Yu, a combative lawyer who had defended persecuted Christians, dissidents, or members of Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in China since 1999.
“In China we have a saying: kill the chicken to scare the monkeys,” says Efe Wang, who believes that her prominence in the guild made her the bird of proverb.
During the 13 months that she was deprived of liberty, physical and psychological torture followed, threats to her family.
“Before 709, there was hope, although China was not a society governed according to the law. But after 709 we are going backwards,” he laments.
Practices applied since then, such as arbitrary detention, “have become a model of operation,” says Wang. “Normally, the police need a process to arrest people, but now they are not providing documents or being carried out. legal proceedings. Directly, they make you disappear. It has happened to many of us. “
Since his release in August 2016, Wang Yu not only lives under surveillance and harassment, but has also been able to witness the deterioration of the legal framework in which the lawyers operate.
Between 2007 and 2018, Beijing has amended the Law on Lawyers, the Administrative Measures for the Exercise of Law by Lawyers and the Administrative Measures for Law Firms.
A clear example of the limitation of the independence of lawyers is found in Article 3 of the latter.
In its original wording (2008) it read: “A firm must exercise according to the law, intensify its internal management and supervision over the practice of lawyers and assume the corresponding legal responsibilities. No organization or individual should illegally interfere with the practice of or alter the legitimate rights and interests of any law firm. “
However, after its last modification, in 2018, the first paragraph reads as follows: “The law firms must adhere to (Chinese President) Xi Jinping’s guide to thinking about socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era, defending and strengthening the general leadership of the Party (Chinese Communist, CCP), firmly maintain the authority and centralized leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and support China. “
This type of modification, denounced by several NGOs, constitutes a violation of the Basic Principles of the Work of Lawyers or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other international texts signed by China.
But despite this obvious legal decline, Wang Yu, while struggling to continue practicing, can count on it. Not so his profession partner Yu Wensheng.
Xu Yan, Yu Wensheng’s wife, has learned to measure the evolution of her husband’s case depending on the intensity of the surveillance to which the police subject her.
Yu Wensheng was taken away by officers when he was accompanying his son to school on January 19, 2018. Xu has not seen him again, except for a five-minute video call made three months after that.
“I saw him as very thin and scruffy,” Xu tells Efe in a Beijing café. After that, silence. Secrecy with Yu’s case has been at its highest even by Chinese standards.
On May 9, 2019, for example, Xu noticed that there was more police presence than usual. He confirmed his suspicions throughout the day: “Someone who did not identify himself knocked on my door and told me that the process had begun.”
Yu’s sentence was communicated by phone to his wife on June 17, after a secret trial in which the lawyer chosen by her could not defend him and that he is sentenced to 22 more months in prison.
Now serene but obviously in need of help, Xu asks for support from the international community: a Human Rights award for her husband would give visibility to the case, would put pressure on the government, she says.
Or at least press the Chinese authorities to put Yu in jail in Beijing, where he resides, because they have already warned him that they plan to take him away, making visits more difficult and further undermining his already resentful finances.
Yu Wensheng – who asked to modify the Constitution and filed a complaint against the Government of Beijing about the contamination in the city – was not a direct victim of the fateful July 9, 2015 or the following days, but he was indirectly, as he defended companions who fell then, such as Wang Quanzhang.
Wang Quanzhang returned to his home in Beijing on April 27. Thus ended the almost five years he spent apart from his family since his arrest on July 10, 2015.
At that time, six different places of detention, a trial for “incitement to subversion against state power” (recurring against Chinese activists and dissidents), a sentence of four and a half years in prison and a period of confinement of which he prefers not to. talk in case of trouble.
Like his companions Wang Yu and Yu Wensheng, Wang Quanzhang claims that he scrupulously abided by Chinese law.
Now, he has announced that he has brought his sentence, his treatment in seclusion and his process before the Chinese courts, which – he insists – violate the laws of the People’s Republic.
However, the future is uncertain, since they have withdrawn their license to practice, a common trick of the authorities to hinder the work of this group.
Meanwhile, the family tells Efe that since Wang’s return home, the security forces have only bothered them on a couple of occasions.
Worse luck ran lawyer Jiang Tianyong.
Jiang Tianyong was released from prison on February 28, 2019 after two and a half years locked up, but is still not free.
First, the Chinese security forces took him to a foreign and isolated place, but he went on a hunger strike and his protest was effective: he was transferred to his parents’ house in the central-eastern province of Henan.
There he remains under constant surveillance. The police control the entrances to the house or follow you down the street every time you walk your dog. It has no freedom of movement.
Deprived of political rights – and therefore of a passport – until the end of 2020, he cannot visit his wife or daughter, who reside in the United States and whom he has not seen since 2013.
He is also not allowed to visit his trusted doctor, or any of his choice, despite suffering various problems as a result of the torture he was subjected to during his detention.
Shortly after his release from prison, Jiang summed up to Efe the panorama of these lawyers: “Since 2013 (the year of Xi Jinping’s rise to power), the situation has worsened. Before, we sometimes disappeared and were beaten. But they did not imprison us. ”
Javier Triana