Press Releases

Eighth Anniversary of the Chinese Government’s “709 Crackdown” on Lawyers and Human Rights Advocates

The New York City Bar Association marks the eighth anniversary of the “709 Crackdown.” The 709 Crackdown refers to the ongoing assaults by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on lawyers deemed to be a threat to the government. “709” refers to July 9, 2015, the date on which the PRC government initiated a dramatic attack on human rights activists, criminal defense attorneys, and other attorney and non-attorney advocates representing clients and causes unpopular with the government.[1] Throughout the month of July 2015, the PRC arrested, detained, held incommunicado, disappeared and/or tortured over 300 individuals who subsequently either waited to be charged with vague violations such as “stirring up troubles,”[2] or were detained but then not charged at all.

In 2023, the PRC renewed its assault on lawyers in what can be seen as the “709 Crackdown 2.0”. In April of 2023, lawyers Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong were sentenced to 12 and 14 years in prison respectively after a secret, closed door trial that concluded in 2022.[3]

That same month, lawyer Yu Wensheng, who was initially arrested in April 2018 and sentenced to four years in prison after a secret trial,[4] was detained with his wife Xu Yan while en route to meet with a delegation from the European Union—which included the German foreign minister—in Beijing.[5] Yu and his wife were subsequently charged with “picking quarrels and creating trouble. Yu Wensheng and Xu Yan’s 18-year-old son has been placed under close supervision and has been isolated from friends and family.

The PRC government placed other known human rights lawyers such as Wang Yu and Zhou Zifeng under house arrest during the German foreign minister’s visit.[6]

The PRC government has also sought to prevent lawyers and their families from maintaining stable, basic housing. Lawyers Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, and their families, have faced forcible eviction from rented apartments numerous times over the last year.[7]

These assaults have since spread to lawyers in Hong Kong in the wake of the 2020 National Security Law.[8] In 2021, Lawyers Ren Quanniu and Lu Siwei faced significant hurdles in being granted access to clients, including 12 democracy activists from Hong Kong who were detained by the PRC coastguard as they attempted to flee Taiwan.[9] Both lawyers were disbarred under a pretense by the PRC.[10]

Also in 2021, Hong Kong Lawyer Chow Hang-Tun was arrested and charged with offenses under the national security law for her role in organizing a vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.[11] Although her initial conviction and 15-month sentence were overturned on appeal, Chow Hang-Tun remains imprisoned to this day on other charges relating to her pro-democracy legal activities.[12]

On July 3, 2023, the Hong Kong Government issued a bounty for eight Chinese individuals based overseas, including: Ted Hui, Kevin Yam and Dennis Kwok—a partner at a New York City-based law firm—for, among other things, advocating in foreign courts and legislatures for the issuance of legal sanctions against the PRC for these continuing abuses.[13] The Hong Kong Government&resquo;s self-justification of such extraterritorial reach has a chilling effect on foreign lawyers and human rights activists working abroad in their home states.

The PRC government’s continuing repression and persecution of lawyers directly violates the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Article 16 of the Basic Principles declares, “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.”[14] The PRC government’s campaign further violates the guarantees of a fair trial in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the PRC has signed.

As a signatory state, the PRC must “refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty.”[15] The brutal treatment and harsh conditions to which many lawyers have been subject also violate the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment, which the PRC government has ratified.[16]

The New York City Bar Association, again[17], calls upon the PRC government to respect lawyers and other human rights advocates’ basic human rights and to facilitate lawyers’ work in undertaking the lawful representation of their clients without interference, consistent with international standards.















[15]Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, Art. 18,