Four Chinese lawyers have hit out at recent violent attacks on them during court appearances to defend clients, amid an ever-worsening environment for the country's embattled legal profession.
Guangxi-based lawyer Wu Liangshu and fellow attorneys Li Jing, Zhao Hexu and Dong Qianyong accused "courts throughout the country" of continuing to violate the personal rights of lawyers going about their jobs, including violent assaults by court security staff.
Around 1,000 lawyers signed a statement last June condemning an attack on Wu, who says he was assaulted by police officers at a district court in Nanning after he refused to hand over his cell phone for inspection.
Wu told RFA that the response to his complaints about the assault has been "laughable."
"It's laughable, the way they have dealt with this," he said. "I filed criminal charges with the state prosecution service, and they, the [ruling Chinese Communist Party] political and legal affairs committee and the court dragged it out for five months before finally deciding they wouldn't pursue charges [against the police officers]."
Three more violent attacks, on Hebei-based Li, Shandong-based Zhao and Beijing-based Dong, have occurred since then, the four lawyers said in a statement posted on the Weiquanwang rights website.
Li was detained in an illegal "black jail" for several hours after refusing to undergo a strip-search on Aug. 5 after she arrived to defend a case in Hebei's Cangzhou city, the statement said.
"We are all members of the same legal profession, and we have all been subjected to violent attacks from court authorities in the course of carrying out our duties," she told RFA in a recent interview.
"I filed complaints with the [ruling Chinese Communist Party's] Commission for Discipline Inspection, the prosecutor's office, the Intermediate People's Court and other agencies," Li said. "Not one of them has responded."
"What sort of judicial or law enforcement agency can't even protect the rights of the lawyers working within the system?"
Guard slapped lawyer in face
Meanwhile, Zhao was thrown out of a court in Shandong's Qingdao city on Aug. 17 and subjected to two hours' illegal detention, and Dong was slapped twice in the face by a court security guard in Hebei's Handan city after protesting at not being allowed in to defend his client at trial, it said.
"Following these incidents, the injured lawyers complained to the prosecutor's office, the courts, lawyers' associations and discipline inspection and other agencies, but their complaints were ignored and not dealt with according to due process," the four lawyers said.
"Their complaints were dealt with in a perfunctory manner, delayed, or met with blatant lies," they wrote.
They called for a full investigation into the attacks, as well as the training of court staff to act within the law.
Professional lawyers' associations were also to blame, the four lawyers said. "They blindly maintain stability, suppress the legitimate demands of lawyers, collude with the crimes committed by public security agencies, and coerce lawyers into giving up their rights."
Since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, his administration has launched a nationwide crackdown on nongovernmental groups, activists, and rights lawyers, detaining more than 300 people nationwide and sentencing lawyers and other campaigners to jail on "subversion" charges.
Draconian new laws have targeted rights activists, liberal scholars and social media, while Xi has warned that the Communist Party's official line must be paramount.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.