The law firm of a leading Chinese human rights lawyer has been searched by police as part of an inspection ahead of a key ruling Chinese Communist Party conference next month, sources said.
The search on the office of Mo Shaoping, a prominent Beijing lawyer known for defending sensitive human rights cases, was conducted by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice, a source with knowledge of the case told RFA's Mandarin Service.
"The searching personnel were led by about 10 Beijing local district judicial office managers,” the source said. “The purpose of the search was to begin what will probably be a 10-day ‘Special Inspection’ before the 19th Party Congress," RFA's source said.
Chinese authorities have stepped up a crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the politically sensitive Communist party congress in Beijing on Oct. 18 when President Xi Jinping is expected to be appointed to a second five-year term by about 2,300 delegates, including senior officials.
The search of the office of Mo, a lawyer of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo who died of liver cancer in July, was aimed at "examining if all government rules and regulations are followed in the management and operation of the law firm,” the source said.
However, Beijing-based right lawyer Li Jinglin told RFA on Monday that “the so-called ‘Special Inspection’ is of course not targeting all law firms in Beijing. Mo Shaoping's office always represents sensitive cases and clients, so he was singled out.”
It was not immediately clear whether the officials took away any documents or questioned Mo, who has been defending dissidents since 1995.
In July 2015, Chinese police began rounding up and interrogating about 300 rights lawyers, legal assistants, and activists across the country in what has been called the “709” crackdown.
While most of those detained have been freed, at least three are still being held while pending trial and another two are serving prison sentences, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a recent report.
“The Chinese government’s claims of respecting human rights become ever more absurd each day it holds these lawyers and activists in custody,” said Sophie Richardson, HRW's China director.
“Jailing the very people who fight for the rule of law undermines progress toward the stable society the Communist Party claims to want,” she said.
Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.