A woman in Beijing is silhouetted against a newspaper as she reads a story about the detention of human rights lawyers. (Andy Wong / AP)

The families of 12 attorneys and activists who disappeared during a government crackdown on human rights advocates in July have demanded to know the condition and whereabouts of their loved ones.

“Words fail to express our anxiety and helplessness,” the families wrote in an open letter to Guo Shengkun, China’s minister of public security. “When a terrorist attack is perpetrated, a terrorist group will come out and claim responsibility for it. When the police system of the People’s Republic of China disappears its citizens, shouldn’t it make a statement and say something?”

Tom Phillips reports at The Guardian:

On 9 July Chinese security services launched what observers describe as an unprecedented offensive against the country’s outspoken “rights defence” movement, a network of lawyers known for taking on politically sensitive cases.

Scores of lawyers and their associates were detained or interrogated in what activists believe is a coordinated attempt to stamp out opposition to the Communist party.

Many were subsequently released after being warned not to speak out, but more than 20 activists, lawyers and legal staff remain in detention, with some being held in undisclosed locations.

Those whose whereabouts remain unknown include Wang Yu, a 44-year-old human rights lawyer who disappeared from her home in the early hours of 9 July, and Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, two Beijing-based attorneys who vanished the following day.

Maya Wang, the Hong Kong-based China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said that Chinese law grants police the authority to secretly hold a person for 37 days before formally arresting or releasing him or her. The ongoing detention of the lawyers and activists is unlawful under both international and Chinese law.

Readers inclined to conclude from this news that China is the international community’s pre-eminent trampler of human rights should consider the country’s imprisonment record in light of the United States’. The U.K.-based International Centre for Prison Studies reports that the number of people imprisoned in China is up to 165 per 100,000 people in the national population, while the U.S. imprisons 698 per 100,000.

The data do not support belief in America’s moral superiority.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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