More than two dozen activists rallied in Hong Kong on the eve of the international Human Rights Day calling for the release of Chinese human rights lawyers jailed in a nationwide crackdown earlier this year.

Protesters braved the rain to march from Western Police Station to the central government’s liaison office in Western District on Wednesday afternoon. They held up pictures of imprisoned lawyers and chanted slogans.

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Protesters march in Western District. Photo: CHRLCG.

The rally marked five months since the crackdown began on July 9 with the arrests of human rights lawyer Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun.

The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, one of the groups behind the march, has also organised families and defence counsels of the jailed lawyers to sign a joint appeal letter to Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping.

“It is the first time the families of the detained lawyers have come together to complain to authorities,” the NGO told HKFP.

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Lawmaker Albert Ho, Scholarism’s Oscar Lai Man-lok and Wilson Leung of the Progressive Lawyers Group were among the protesters. Photo: CHRLCG.

According to the joint appeal letter, orders for the crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists came down from the central government.

“The defence lawyers (of the detainees) were told by the local police in Tianjin, Changsha, Guangzhou, Guilin, Wenzhou and other places that they were under the instructions of the Ministry of Public Security, and that they were not the decision-makers,” the letter reads.

The letter also denounces illegal methods police and public security agents to round up the lawyers, as well as their associates and families.

Earlier media reports revealed that police cut off the power and internet in Wang’s home before forcefully taking her away in July. Wang’s teenage son was briefly detained and later put under house arrest. When he attempted to flee to the US through Thailand in October, he was deported back to China before his mother appeared on national TV denouncing the people who helped his escape attempt.

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Bao Zhuoxuan (left) and her mother Wang Yu (right). Photo: HKFP.

Protesters in Hong Kong demanded the Chinese government respect the rule of law. They called on the international community to continue paying attention to the treatments of detained lawyers in China and support their fight to carry out legal duties without harassment.

Other organisers of Wednesday’s rally include Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Chinese University of Hong Kong Student Union, and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.