Chapter 18: ‘Disappearing’ China’s human rights lawyers
This chapter discusses the techniques used by the state to control Chinese human rights lawyers, in particular those working in criminal defence. It argues that in assessing criminal justice and other centrally important law reform projects designed to establish rule of law in China, we must pay adequate attention to what is happening outside the bureaucratic and institutional frameworks of such reform projects. It is very important to conduct empirical research that captures what the broader everyday system does; how, for instance, it is affected by new rules against coerced confessions. But we should also study the measures adopted by the police and other authorities against human rights lawyers. These lawyers’ main goals – albeit not necessarily their methods – are similar to the ones the officially endorsed reform measures purport to realize. Both officially endorsed reform projects and human rights lawyers appear committed to achieving better protection of the rights of the accused and other participants in the criminal process, reducing wrongful convictions, eradicating torture, and so on. As measures against human rights lawyers are taken by the very authorities in charge of the criminal justice system, these measures are part of the system under our observation.
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