More Campaigns on Human Rights Lawyers in China

Human Rights Lawyers in China

United Nation's International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances


The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances (hereinafter “the Day”), on August 30 of each year, was set up by the UN General Assembly by its resolution 65/209. This Day is to express concerns about the enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world.


According to the website of the UN, an enforced disappearance occurs when: “persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials … followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.” It also mentions that enforced disappearance is a more severe human rights violation, as it has been used as a strategy to spread terror and politically suppress.


Disappearances of Chinese Lawyers

In recent years, some Chinese human rights lawyers were reported disappeared after representing sensitive cases or posting sensitive speeches. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng and Lawyer Chen Qiushi are one of them.

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng was a prominent human rights lawyer. He was recognized by China’s Ministry of Justice as “one of the country’s 10 best lawyers”. Unfortunately, Gao was disbarred in 2006 and over the years he had been persecuted, kidnapped, and sentenced to prison. Reported by BBC in 2014, Gao was frequently tortured during his detention and it constituted tremendously abhorrent physical and mental harm. After Gao’s release in 2014, he was put under house arrest and was subsequently disappeared in August 2017, with his whereabouts still unknown today.


Lawyer Chen Qiushi

Chen Qiushi, a legal practitioner in China, had previously reported on what he saw regarding Hong Kong Protests during his short stay in Hong Kong in August 2019, in which he spoke on stage in a Victoria Park Gathering to encourage protestors to provide more explanation (about reasons of protests) to people in the Mainland to resolve conflicts. In January 2020, he arrived Wuhan right before the implementation of the entry restriction to report the outbreak of the pandemic. He was suddenly disappeared in February this year, with his whereabouts still unknown today. 


Relevant Laws

Laws from various sources of power denote that China should eradicate enforced disappearances. 


Domestic Law

According to Article 37 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, “no citizen may be arrested except with the approval or by decision of a people’s procuratorate or by decision of a people’s court, and arrests must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful detention or deprivation or restriction of citizens freedom of the person by other means is prohibited, and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited.”


Furthermore, Article 37 Section 1 of the “Laws on Lawyers” promulgated by the NPCSC enunciates clearly that lawyers’ rights should not be violated in the courses of legal practice. 


International law

From the perspective of international law, as a member of the UN, China should strive to maintain the principles specified in the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”, especially the standard in Article 23, which stipulates that “(lawyers) shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights…”


Moreover, China is one of the few countries in the world which has hitherto not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ICCPR aims at protecting a person’s civil and political rights, and Article 9 Section 1 therein which states that “everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention” is of particular importance. Throughout the years, a wide variety of entities have demanded China to ratify the ICCPR to foster the progress of constructing a mechanism to safeguard human rights, to enhance the protection of human rights, and to eradicate the aforementioned abysmal conditions that human rights lawyers in China face. China should provide an open, and a safe and fair practicing environment for Chinese lawyers. 


Way Forward

Amid economic development, China is also obliged to improve its protection of human rights, including preventing lawyers from experiencing enforced disappearances. As such, with great memory of China human rights lawyers who are currently disappeared on this Day, it is hoped that China would improve its protection on human rights lawyers in the future. 



  1. (United Nation’s International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances) 
  2. (BBC Interview with Mr. Gao Zhisheng on 14 August 2014)
  3. (i-Cable News Interview with Chen Qiushi on 20 August 2019)
  4. (Chen Qiushi’s YouTube Video on Outbreak of Pandemic in Wuhan)
  5. (The Constitution of The People’s Republic of China)
  6. (Laws on Lawyers of The People’s Republic of China)
  7. (United Nation’s Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers)
  8. (The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)