IAPL: China: 9th Anniversary of 709 Crackdown on Rights Lawyers and Defenders: 10 Notable Events Over Past Year

This year, 2024, marks the 9th anniversary of the “709” crackdown on China’s human rights lawyers and rights activists that began in the summer of 2015. Since then, the Chinese authorities’ repression of these lawyers has continued nonstop, with harassment and restrictions extending to their relatives, including young children. At the same time, supporters in China and abroad have persisted in recognizing and calling attention to the challenges that the country’s human rights lawyers face — as well as the weight of their mission: to uphold the rule of law under one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

The following are ten major events concerning human rights lawyers and the rule of law in China that have taken place over the past year.

1. Lu Siwei’s forcible repatriation to China

Lawyer Lu Siwei (???), who had his law license revoked for participating in the defense of the Hong Kong 12 (arrested for their 2020 attempt to flee to Taiwan by sea and tried in mainland China), has been indefinitely barred by the Chinese authorities from leaving the country under the pretext of “potential endangerment of national security.” In May 2021, Lu was obstructed at Shanghai Pudong Airport when he attempted to travel to the United States to participate in the U.S. State Department’s Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program. Determined to escape the prolonged surveillance and persecution, and to reunite with his family in the U.S., Lu made another attempt to flee China. In July 2023, he crossed the southern Chinese border into Laos, and was arrested by local police on July 28.

Despite an urgent joint statement issued by 85 human rights organizations worldwide urging Laos not to deport Lu, the Laotian government repatriated him at the behest of the Chinese government. On October 11, U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller issued a statement: “The United States condemns the forced repatriation of People’s Republic of China (PRC) national and human rights lawyer Lu Siwei to the PRC from Laos, at the request of PRC authorities.”

The statement continued, “We call on the PRC to confirm Lu’s current location; allow for external verification by independent observers of Lu’s well-being, including access for doctors to treat Lu’s chronic health condition; and enable his access to a lawyer of his choosing.”

China: 9th Anniversary of 709 Crackdown on Rights Lawyers and Defenders: 10 Notable Events Over Past Year