HLS Hosts Panel on Human Rights
When it comes to human rights lawyers in China, the Chinese legal system does not hesitate to mark many as enemies, said Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident and president of Initiatives for China.
At the Harvard Human Rights Journal’s 10th Annual Symposium titled “China: The Rights of Lawyers” yesterday afternoon, Jianli condemned China’s persecution of human rights lawyers.
The conference was in response to the past three months of intensified abductions and forced disappearances of rights lawyers, said second year law student Ryan J. Mitchell, who co-chaired the symposium.
“The purpose of the conference is two-fold: to shed light onto an issue that is underrepresented as well as facilitate discussion in a context where people feel free to engage [in the conversation],” Mitchell said.
The event included two panels. The first panel discussed the role of human rights lawyers in the Chinese legal system, and the second panel offered recommendations to the international community on how to alleviate the situation.
Law School Professor William P. Alford gave the opening remarks at the first panel, where he expressed the importance of echoing the narrative of human rights lawyers who are being persecuted.
The subsequent panel featured Jianli and Association for Asian Research Director Erping Zhang, who discussed ways that NGOs, the United States government, and civil society can all support individuals being targeted by the Chinese government, including members of the spiritual group Falun Gong.
“Spiritual practices—whether Western or Chinese—do not conform to the atheist views of communism, thereby clash with the Chinese Communist Party,” Zhang said.
The symposium concluded with the testimony from targeted human rights lawyers, which were read aloud. Mitchell, Human Rights Journal Editor Daniel B. Saver, and Ella Chou, a member of Harvard’s Regional Studies-East Asia program, read statements recalling interactions with police and poor treatment in prison.
“We believe in a rule of democracy, fairness, and social justice,” Chou read from the statement of Xu Zhiyong, the co-founder of the Open Constitution Initiative.
Raquel M. Acosta, a first-year law student who lived in Taiwan for four years, said she appreciated the discussions, particularly those on “the concrete matters that can be done about it [the issue].”
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Law & International Development Society, Harvard Advocates for Human Rights, Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, and Harvard Asia Law Society.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.
CORRECTION: APRIL 17, 2011
The April 15 article "HLS Hosts Panel on Human Rights" misquoted symposium organizer Ryan J. Mitchell. The conference was organized to shed light on persecution of lawyers, not to shed light on the Falun Gong movement.