Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
This July 9, we honor the more than 300 lawyers and human rights defenders who were unjustly detained, interrogated, and imprisoned by authorities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on July 9, 2015, in what is known as the “709 crackdown.” The government of China targeted these individuals in a campaign to intimidate and silence those who sought to work within the PRC’s legal system to help it live up to its human rights obligations and commitments and to effect positive change in their society.
Six years later, the government continues to hold many of those initially arrested, such as Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, in pre-trial detention. Chinese authorities disbarred, detained, and prosecuted others, including lawyers Li Yuhan and Yu Wensheng, when they came forward to represent these brave human rights defenders. We call on the PRC to release those who have been detained or imprisoned in connection with the 709 crackdown, to ensure their family members are free of harassment, and to reinstate the lawyers who were disbarred.
The PRC’s targeting of lawyers and activists who are simply trying to pursue legal redress for their fellow citizens undermines social stability and the rule of law. The United States will always support brave individuals who seek to build a more just, stable, and prosperous society.