China on Tuesday criticised the US government and human rights groups for supporting dozens of lawyers who have been detained in the past few days, calling them troublemakers who had broken the law and spread rumours against the government.
According to rights groups, more than 100 lawyers have been targeted, many of them detained in unknown locations.
“More than 100 Chinese human rights lawyers and activists have been targeted by police since July 9. At least 25 are feared still detained by police. Total number of lawyers and activists targeted: 101 and Total number of lawyers and activists still missing or in police custody: 25,” rights group Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement.
The government, however, dismissed the claims through the state media.
In one case, authorities defended a police officer shooting dead a lawyer, saying that the officer had acted within his rights.
It also slammed the US for commenting on the steps taken against the lawyers.
“China’s Ministry of Public Security suspect a group of using Beijing’s Fengrui Law Firm to disrupt public order, seek illegal profits, illegally hiring protesters and attempting to unfairly influence the courts. Since July 2012, the group has allegedly organized more than 40 such controversial incidents,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.
“The detentions are China’s internal affairs,” the Global Times newspaper said in an editorial, adding that the US state department’s “high-profile” intervention on the issue would have “no real effects except making Chinese people feel slightly comfortable”.
But rights group say the detention is part of a wider crackdown.
“The authorities must end this assault against human rights lawyers. Such an unprecedented nationwide crackdown can only have been sanctioned from within the central government,” said William Nee, China Researcher at AI.