In response to the harsh sentencing of a respected lawyer on what many claim are trumped-up charges, the Law Society of Upper Canada, in a public statement released this week, urged the People’s Republic of China to comply with its obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
As we all know now, Xia Lin, a 46-year-old lawyer whose clients have included dissident artist Ai Weiwei and free speech champion Pu Zhiqiang, was sentenced to jail for 12 years — a verdict meant as both payback and warning to China’s human rights lawyers. Legal activist and scholar, Guo Yushan, penned this essay in the lead up to Xia’s sentencing reflecting on the price paid by Xia and his colleagues for work that has been described elsewhere as “all that is hopeful and optimistic about China”.
China considers new law aimed at crackdown on foreign NGO operations and funding of activities feared threatening to Communist rule. Probe International, named as one of several international foundations in a recent criminal investigation, told the New York Times: “From our perspective in Canada, it is perplexing that such activities [researching and writing articles and reports, and giving university lectures] would be considered illegal.”