07/15/2009, 00.00
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China: three lawyers arrested for defending the rights of Falun Gong members

CHRD denounces "a progressive deterioration of the situation" for lawyers who fight for human rights in China”. One of the three arrested had already been sentenced in 2005 to one year of re-education through forced labour for the same reason.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Chrd) - The Chinese authorities have arrested three lawyers in north-eastern China. The root cause for the arrests, their commitment to the defence of followers of Falun Gong, a movement outlawed by Beijing. The group for the Protection of Human Rights Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) revealed the news today; they are Ruping Liu, Wang and Wang Ping Yonghang.

The arrests occurred between July 2 and 8. Renee Xia, director of international CHRD, has expressed "concern" and stressed that "these actions could signal a gradual deterioration of the situation, for lawyers who fight for human rights in China."

The arrest of Liu Ruping dates to July 2 last. He had been working in Jinan, a town in the province of Shandong and already in 2005 was sentenced to one year's imprisonment in the laogai, camps for re-education through forced labour, for his commitment to helping Falun Gong followers. The man was seized near his home by public security officers, who also ransacked his apartment. It is likely that he is being held in a prison in the city, specialized in the detention of pro-Falun Gong members and activists.

On 4 July 20 plainclothes security officers (NSU) and a group of policemen from the city of Dalian, Liaoning Province, raided the house of Wang Yonghang. Without a search warrant, the ransacked his house and beat his wife and 80 year old mother. Wang and his wife were brought to prison. The woman was released the next day, the man is still being held in prison in Dalian, but there has been no official confirmation.

The third arrest dates back to July 8. Wang Ping, a lawyer from Pingdu in Shandong province, was kidnapped by local police agents. Currently no one knows the reasons behind the arrest, but it appears likely that the motives are bound to his defence of the rights of believers of Falun Gong.

Confirming the climate of intimidation in China, in recent days the government "warned" lawyers not to take up the defence of human rights activists and demonstrators, referring in particular to the demonstrators of Urumqi. Recently, many lawyers involved in cases of political significance have been arrested, beaten and the Beijing authorities have threatened their removal from the professional role, controlled by the Communist Party of China. These include lawyers who are defending Tibetans, the followers of Falun Gong, Sichuan earthquake victims and parents of babies who died in the melamine to milk scandal.
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