Over the past few days Chinese authorities have expanded a crackdown on human rights groups resulting in the detainment or questioning of more than 50 lawyers and activists, according to rights groups inside the country.
Citing the familiar excuses of ‘national security’ and ‘stability,’ Chinese president Xi Jinping’s administration continued to tighten government control over virtually every aspect of civil society, a campaign it has waged since taking office in 2012.
These draconian policies, designed to solidify the ruling elite’s grip on the country’s vast resources has resulted in dozens of detainments of Chinese dissents, Tibetans and Uighur minorities.
Human rights group Amnesty International said at least 52 lawyers and activists from Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai had been detained or questioned since Friday.
Prominent human rights lawyer Wang Yu and several associates at the Fengrui Law Firm were detained in the repressive crackdown. Fengrui has represented high-profile Uighur dissidents and Zhang Miao, an employee at German newspaper Die Zeit who was detained for over six months recently.
The detentions and questionings are the culmination of a months-long state media campaign to discredit human rights activists who are accused of “undermining national stability” by using social media platforms.
The Communist Party national newspaper The People’s Daily said on Saturday that the government had found Fengrui to be a “major criminal organization” that served as a coordinating “platform” for activists and dissidents.
The paper confirmed the Fengrui employees are being held under “criminal detention.”
Other prominent lawyers abducted by shadowy state police in recent days include Sui Muqing, a notable lawyer in the southern city of Guangzhou and Li Heping, who represented blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.
Over 100 Chinese lawyers released a joint statement on Friday in protest of Wang’s arrest, resulting in many of them being detained according to rights groups.
A U.S. State Department report on human rights released last month found that repression and coercion inside China were the norm and specifically targeted ethnic minorities, activists and law firms that offered legal assistance to such groups.
The Ministry of Public Security refused to comment on the latest string of arrests.