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Attorneys face legal action, violence and other forms of intimidation from the authorities amid crackdown on dissidents on the mainland, rights group says
Lawyers who defend human rights activists and dissidents targeted by China’s communist government increasingly face political prosecutions, violence and other means of suppression, according to a report released on Thursday. The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of groups working within and outside China, identified six occasions last year when lawyers were beaten by people they were pursuing legal action against, police officers or assailants probably hired by the authorities. In more than a dozen cases, the report found, detainees were pressured to fire their own lawyers and accept government-supplied attorneys. “The government is trying to give this impression that it’s abiding by the rule of law,” said Frances Eve, a researcher at the network. “In fact, it’s just legalising repressive measures.” Since President Xi Jinping took office China has widely suppressed independent organisations and dissenters, as well as lawyers defending people caught in the crackdown. The report says 22 people have been convicted since 2014 of subversion or other crimes against state security, including 16 last year alone. Dozens of lawyers have been questioned or detained in an ongoing campaign against dissident lawyers known as the 709 crackdown launched in July 2015. Wang Quanzhang, who defended members of the Falun Gong meditation sect banned by China, was charged with subversion of state power last year after previously being beaten and detained. His wife, Li Wenzu, said on Wednesday that Wang was now under indictment and held without access to family or lawyers.

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