China has conducted another round up of human rights lawyers, including Wang Yu, the country’s most prominent woman human rights lawyer. Adding an Orwellian element to this latest outrage was China’s state media which accused Wang last year of “blabbering about the rule of law and human rights.” Wang and her colleagues have long been symbols of courage in the face of authoritarian rule, including prior detentions designed to scare them into silence.
Wang may have triggered this response by simply defending an online free-speech advocate and a member of the so-called “feminist five” who was planning a protest against sexual harassment.
The five or more lawyers arrested will face subversion charges could bring a sentence of life in prison.
These lawyers should be inspirations to every bar member in every country around the world. They personify what is the best of us and our profession. They are willing to give up their lives to fight for rights that we take for granted. Too many lawyers treat our profession like a meal ticket. There are lawyers who fight for the most basic elements of the rule of law. Five of them are sitting in a Chinese jail today.
The government appears to still be applying Mao’s principle that “To read too many books is harmful.”