More than 100 human rights lawyers and activists have been detained or questioned by Chinese police and denounced in state media as a “criminal gang” in recent days, raising fears of an unprecedented crackdown by the Chinese authorities.
According to human rights groups, a total of 106 lawyers, other staff at legal firms and human rights activists have been detained or questioned and at least three law firms have been searched. Six lawyers from the law firm Fengrui, which has handled a number of high-profile human rights cases, have been detained. Another 17 lawyers and rights activists are missing.
The detentions came as a high-profile Tibetan monk serving a 20-year sentence died in prison and as China was urged to end its two-tier passport system, which restricts freedom of movement for religious and ethnic minorities.
The crackdown began on 9 July when Wang Yu, a Fengrui lawyer, disappeared in the early morning after sending friends a text message saying that the internet connection and electricity had been cut off at her home and that people were trying to break in. Wang’s clients include practitioners of the religious group Falun Gong, which is banned in China.