BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police on Sunday stormed into a conference room outside Beijing where rights lawyers were meeting to discuss wrongful cases and broke up the gathering, one of the attorneys said, in the latest move by authorities to obstruct their work.
Rights lawyers have grown into a force in China and have earned a reputation for their grittiness in demanding that the letter of the law be strictly followed in the courts, which remain under the tight control of the ruling Communist Party.
But they also have seen their names smeared by the party-controlled media, who have said the lawyers are harboring political motivations and are more interested in self-promotion than in practicing law within China's legal framework.
Rights lawyer Sui Muqing said about 40 attorneys, relatives of victims of wrongful cases and other citizens were gathering in a hotel to discuss the cases when dozens of police officers from suburban Huairou district stormed into the conference room.
Sui said police claimed they were investigating reports of pyramid-scheme marketing at the hotel, checked everyone's identification cards, and boarded the group onto a bus bound for downtown Beijing. The meeting had been scheduled to end Monday.
Two officials who answered the phone at the Huairou police department said they were unaware of the matter.
In August, police in the southwestern city of Guiyang also followed and harassed dozens of rights lawyers trying to meet to discuss wrongful cases there. The lawyers later met by a lakeside, where they got beaten up and shoved into the water by thugs.