China frees one rights lawyer, another disappears: report

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[JURIST] China’s government released human rights lawyer Teng Biao Friday after more than 70 days of detention, but this was quickly followed by reports that fellow human rights lawyer Li Fangping disappeared later in the afternoon under suspicious circumstances. Teng’s release [CNN report] came after discussions between Chinese officials and US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner [official profile]. Just hours after Teng’s release, Li reportedly called his wife to say security agents were waiting for him [Guardian report] and he might be gone for some time. Human rights groups immediately called upon China to release Li [AFP report]. The group Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) [advocacy website] urged [press release] the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [official website] “to take urgent action on Li Fangping’s case, and to again convey its concern to the Chinese government about this escalating problem.”

The Chinese government has become increasingly concerned about internal dissent in recent months. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on [press release] the US, EU and other governments “to send clear messages [to China] that the arrests and disappearances of dozens of the country’s most prominent lawyers, human rights defenders, and internet activists over the past few weeks are unacceptable.” Also in March, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] urged the Chinese government [JURIST report] to release detained human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] who has been held, allegedly without being charged, since 2009. In 2009, Li challenged a law [JURIST report] requiring all new personal computers sold in China include filtering software blocking access to certain website. In 2008, Teng was detained for two days [JURIST report] months after he co-authored a letter asking the international community to investigate China’s human rights conditions although it is not clear that the events were related.

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