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9 Jul 2017

Nectar Gan, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)

China: Two years after "709 crackdown" on rights lawyers, many are still in jail, detained or under strict surveillance

"In 2015, China crushed rights lawyers but activists are still organizing", 9 Jul 2017

…July 9, 2015 marked the start of a national roundup – later to become known as the“709 crackdown” – of about 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants and activists from across China. Most were interrogated and released, but about 40 were taken into custody.

…Two years on, the majority of the cases have been closed. Two people remain in prison – rights lawyer Zhou Shifeng is serving seven years and activist Hu Shigen seven-and-a-half years for subverting state power – while others were given suspended sentences. Three more lawyers – Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Wu Gan – and possibly others are in custody after being formally arrested, but not sentenced, while about a dozen, including Wang Yu, have been released on bail though remain under strict surveillance…

Several others who were detained during the crackdown have told friends and family how they were tortured while in custody. Some said they were beaten, shackled and given electric shocks, while others said they were deprived of sleep, forced to take medication, and held in painful stress positions…

The 709 crackdown came as Beijing was pushing for legal reforms to improve its “rule of law”…Critics, however, have said that the government’s treatment of the rights lawyers shows the country is heading in the opposite direction. “Jailing the very people who fight for the rule of law undermines progress towards the stable society the Communist Party claims to want,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch….