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Chinese Government Arrests Dozens Of Lawyers In Unprecedented Sweep

The Chinese media has launched an all-out campaign, saying the lawyers sought to "create social chaos."

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The Chinese government has launched a mass crackdown on lawyers and activists, arresting around 100 people since July 9. At least 25 are still believed to be missing or in detention, according to Amnesty International.

Anthony Wallace / Getty Images

Hong Kong Democratic Party's Albert Ho releases himself from mock hand cuffs during a protest in Hong Kong this weekend about China's crackdown.

Many of the lawyers who were detained had called on the government to release a human rights lawyer named Wang Yu, who is believed to be in government custody since disappearing from her home last week, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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China's state media last month accused Wang of "blabbering about the rule of law and human rights." State media says those arrested since had sought "to win fame and profit and to create social chaos,” the New York Times reported.

China apprehends paid protest organizers, including lawyers, internet celebrities http://t.co/ovQvaiY7da

The government's mouthpiece, People's Daily, summed up the allegations against the lawyers in one sentence on Weibo. "Diehard lawyers like to post on Weibo. Look at their Weibo, you know what they've done. If you know law, it's easier to make judgement."

Via weibo.com

"Diehard lawyer" is a widely used nickname for the group of Chinese lawyers who dare to take on politically sensitive cases.

This graphic, by a local newspaper, detailed how the "Rights Defense Circle" was organized: "core organizer level," "planner level," "follower level" and "others." At the bottom right corner, the "fist" is crushing the "Rights Defense Circle."

Chinese newspaper sums up allegations against rights defense lawyers in a graphic. http://t.co/obGFmqLPFr

The link has since been taken down.

One user called the crackdown a "new Cultural Revolution," referring to the brutal campaign launched by Mao Zedong to "purge" what were considered anti-revolutionary elements from society.

Via weibo.com

The state-run Global Times also went after the lawyers: "The extremists among the diehard lawyers have huge problems in their minds. They don't agree with the fundamental political system of China."

Via weibo.com

"...and are proud of acting in opposition to the government. They seem to be more interested in politics than in law per se. Their judgements toward national and international trends, are wrong."

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But some Chinese commenters pushed back — and bemoaned the lack of democracy and rule of law in China.

Via weibo.com

"What does it mean by 'national and international trends?'" asked one user. "Isn't it supposed to be democracy and rule of law? Under the current environment where the judicial system isn't independent and complete, diehard lawyers are especially needed."

"Otherwise," he continued, "legal rights are difficult to get respect and protection. If lawyers are cowardly in front of the authorities, they then become defenders of the unfair system instead of the guardians of law."

One outlet — Caixin Media, a reputable outlet established by well-known Chinese journalist Hu Shuli — posted that three legal experts from top Chinese law schools, all aged over 85, spoke up to defend the lawyers.

"Even before the court's final judgement, the rights lawyers are already defined as a 'serious criminal gang stirring up trouble,'" one commenter said. "It doesn't comply with the spirit of the law, and the government shouldn't have such power."

But it's more than easy to find voices supporting the mainstream tone, too. On popular news portal NetEase, many top comments are like, "so here they are the evil backstage manipulators," or, "support Ministry of Public Security, crack them down."

Via comment.money.163.com

The Chinese internet is known for hosting the so-called "Fifty Cents Party," a group of internet commenters hired by the authorities to post comments praising public policies. The name exists because they are believed to be paid 50 cents RMB ($0.08), for each comment.

Discussion flourished on Weibo, but some services were shut down.

China blocks Telegram messenger, blamed for aiding human rights lawyers https://t.co/W7okQy4tQD @HongKongFP #电报

These are some of the lawyers who have been detained, including Wang Yu, Sui Muqinq, Liu Shihui, Liu Xiaoyuan, Wang Quanzhang, Zhou Shifeng, Li Heping, and Liu Sixin.

Badiucao (巴丢草): Black Friday Portraits http://t.co/yGNnFfATuY

Protests have sprung up around the world. Here protesters gather in front of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon, holding banners calling on President Barack Obama to cancel President Xi Jinping visit in September.

#全球在行动 #抗议匪共疯狂打压人权律师 洛杉矶中领馆前的抗议行动

This banned held by a protester in LA quoted Thomas Jefferson: "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty."

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Anup Kaphle is a deputy world editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London. His secure PGP fingerprint is AA69 A7F0 91A0 8CF9 F06A 8343 05EE 4615 8CD5 33D8.

Contact Anup Kaphle at anup.kaphle@buzzfeed.com.

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