- Title: Activists say two years on, China crackdown has failed to break rights community
- Date: 8th July 2017
- Summary: HONG KONG, CHINA (JULY 7, 2017) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL SPOKESMAN, WILLIAM NEE, LOOKING AT COMPUTER
- Embargoed: 22nd July 2017 08:14
- Location: BEIJING / HONGKONG / UNKNOWN LOCATION, CHINA
- Reuters ID: LVA0026OZUPMT
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: China's two year government clampdown on rights lawyers has pushed activism outside China's legal system but has not silenced it, instead reinvigorating the group and spurring them to turn outside China for support, activists and diplomats say.
On July 9th 2015, the authorities launched what rights groups say was a coordinated attempt to quash China's rights movement, rounding up hundreds of rights lawyers and activists, in what is known as the "709" crackdown.
The core members of the movement were described by the official paper of ruling Communist Party the People's Daily as "a major criminal gang that has seriously damaged social order."
Two years on, most of the detained have been sentenced or released under house arrest; many made public confessions and were sentenced in what their families say were either secret or scripted trials, defended by government appointed lawyers.
But instead of ending China's rights movement, the government's actions have created a group that is confident, coordinated and willing to challenge Beijing on rights abuses. A loose coalition has formed around the family members of 709 detainees, spearheaded by the wives of detained lawyers, who campaign for their loved ones and also for other dissidents in China.
They regularly make trips to a court in Beijing to deliver complaints about the treatment of their relatives, and to demand information about those still detained. One of the lawyers, Wang Quanzhang has not been heard from since his detention in August 2015, family members say they don't even know whether he is alive or dead.
While China has tried both domestically and abroad to promote the idea that it is a country ruled by law, many campaigners and diplomats worry that China's campaign has pushed activism further outside the system, limiting avenues of redress within China's courts. As a result the role of international pressure as a main line of defence for rights activists has expanded.
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