Chinese state mouthpiece the Global Times published an editorial on Monday criticising western countries’ response to its crackdown on lawyers by evoking the shootings in Dallas last week in which five police officers were killed during a protest rally.

“US police repeatedly kill black people in the streets, and black people killed five police officers in the Dallas protests, in addition to wounding several police officers – there are obviously problems with human rights and justice in the US. And the US still has the mood and energy to disrupt law and order in China – the west is so self-satisfied, it makes one marvel,” said the editorial.

“The Department of State remains deeply concerned about the continued detention in China of at least 23 defence lawyers and rights defenders and denial of access to independent legal counsel,” said the US Department of State in a press release on Saturday, the anniversary of the crackdown.

A republican representative on the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China in a press release last week said, “China’s government has taken extraordinary steps to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, a profession that has quickly become one of China’s most dangerous. I remain concerned that China is becoming a garrison state, with security forces empowered to lawlessly run roughshod over the rights of China’s citizens in the name of national security.”

The German embassy in China also issued a statement on the crackdown, saying “the situation of the persons affected by the crackdown remains an issue of grave concern.”

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Photo: CHRLCG.

Overseas governments, human rights organisations and lawyers’ groups have issued statements criticising China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists last year; 23 lawyers and activists have been officially arrested, and the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group estimates that over 300 were interrogated or detained since July 9, 2015. “The government has blocked lawyers and families from meeting with 18 of these 24 detainees, putting them at high risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” said NGO Human Rights Watch.

The Global Times editorial questions why western discourse is so concerned with the arrest of only 23 people out of the tens of thousands of lawyers in China and says the west is picking and choosing which cases to focus on based on its own political agenda. The Fengrui law firm, one of the focuses of the crackdown, falls within the circle of “democratic forces” supported by the west, it said.

“This kind of focus of attention and special media treatment is not normal. This is not equality before the law – it is creating a kind of social awareness and media pressure that says a certain group should have judicial immunity,” the article said.

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Photo: The China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group.

“Chinese people don’t want our society to fall into disorder – anyone undermining the existing law and order should be punished. This is China’s biggest trend of principle – no bigger power can reverse it.”

Legal groups across the world issued an open letter to President Xi Jinping on Saturday, calling for China to uphold its commitment to rule of law and release the lawyers and others who are unlawfully detained in the crackdown.

“We, the below signed, are concerned that the legal grounds for these practices are either absent, weak or arbitrary,” it said, referring to the violations of law in the handling of the cases. The letter was signed by lawyers’ groups, law academics, law students and legal practitioners including the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe, the International Commission of Jurists and the Progressive Lawyers Group in Hong Kong.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.