A group of Taiwanese lawyers formed a group called “Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network” on Wednesday — International Human Rights Day — and yesterday called on lawyers and the public to back Chinese lawyers who have been persecuted by the Chinese government for carrying out their duties and protecting the rights of Chinese.
The network has been established, the founding members of the group said, to support Chinese lawyers who once had bright futures, but chose instead to fight against the authorities for basic human rights such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religious practice and environmental protection. Many Chinese lawyers have had their licenses revoked, or undergone persecution and arrest.
“What these lawyers called for are civil rights protected by China’s own laws, but the lawyers are seen as ‘dangerous factors’ and a threat to the Chinese political system,” the network said. “Taiwan, as China’s neighbor, feels Beijing’s pressure every day and a nation such as ours that sees human rights as fundamental to its founding spirit should offer a helping hand based on our respect for social justice and human dignity.”
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
One of the founders of the network, Kuo Chi-jen (郭吉仁), said that the bravery of Chinese human rights layers should be respected, since “they are the high-achievers of the [Chinese] system,” but are striving to counter existing practice and pushing for change “from the rule of man to the rule of law.”
The risks activist lawyers face in China are considered extremely high. John Wei, another lawyer who participated in the establishment of the network, said that he was once asked by young Chinese lawyers to describe the situation in Taiwan as the nation was also once a one-party authoritarian regime.
“However, after a thorough check of the facts, I have come to realize that there were no lawyers arrested just for fighting for basic rights during that period. Activist lawyers were indicted for getting involved in [narrowly-defined] political movements,” Wei said. “Taiwan’s lawyers can voice protest and become lawmakers or even the president now... Our concern for human rights should not stop at our border.”
Cheung Yiu-leung (張耀良), the vice president of Hong Kong’s China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group and one of the guests at the press conference, said a Chinese activist lawyer told him that when he was “invited to have a cup of tea” with an official at the Chinese justice bureau, he told the official that if someday the official got arrested for whatever reason, it would be the activist lawyers who would try to protect his basic human rights.
“Just as in the case of former domestic security czar Zhou Yongkang (周永康), who was actually the founding father of China’s special agent system that involves police and domestic security forces, courts, prosecutors and prisons, but now the only group of people who can offer him protection are lawyers who adhere to the law,” Cheung said.
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