Chinese lawyers who take cases which are considered politically sensitive by the regime are subject to threats and actual physical assault, according to a report released Tuesday by US-based rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Lawyers who challenge official abuses in China systematically suffer retaliation," Sophie Richardson, HRW's Asia advocacy director.
According to HRW, a group of lawyers who had publicly offered to defend Tibetan protesters earlier this month were warned by the Chinese Ministry of Justice not to get involved or they would face disciplinary sanctions and jeopardize the renewal of their professional licences for the year, reported the dpa.
Ministry officials contacted individual lawyers and heads of law firms who had made the offer and warned them that the cases of Tibetan protesters were "sensitive cases," the organization said.
The Ministry of Justice has the power to suspend the lawyers' licences if they do not comply, and such threats are increasingly common for lawyers trying to take such "sensitive" cases, the organization said.
China has rejected the allegations contained in Tuesday's report as coming from a group that has always had "prejudices," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.
"Chinese lawyers are Chinese citizens. Chinese citizens benefit from all the laws and corresponding freedoms and rights," she said.