The death of a Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, in a Chinese prison has been used as an excuse by the government to crackdown on dissidents.
Specifically, the Chinese crackdown in Tibet targets lawyers who have a history of defending civil-rights cases.
“We’ve seen cases where public opinion seems to have been mobilised and I think they are worried because they don’t want to lose their grip on public opinion,” William Nee of Amnesty International said of the government crackdown.
“It is something they have never put up with but especially as it looks like social protests are on the rise, strikes are on the rise, there is the potential for economic uncertainty. I think all these factors have together in the government’s mind made them want to crack down on human rights lawyers,” Nee continued.
The U.S. State Department condemned the crackdown, calling on China to “respect the rights of all its citizens and to release all those who have recently been detained for seeking to protect the rights of Chinese citizens.”
Beijing, for its part, has painted the detained lawyers as threats to the social stability of the country.
China’s state news agency, Xinhua has been pushing the state message that lawyers and journalists are dangerous to the “rule of law”.
“Lawyers, surely, should take the lead in obeying the law,” said Xinhua in an article. “Lawyers should safeguard justice in the courtroom with the application of their knowledge, morality and skill, not undermine the law by rabble-rousing in the streets.”
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, the Tibetan monk who died in prison was 13 years into a life-sentence, he was 65.