ALN has released the below statement on four cases which exemplify the dire situation of Rights Lawyers in China, Cambodia, and Myanmar. A version of the statement is also available here in pdf format. 

Update on the Dire Situation of Rights Lawyers in
China, Cambodia, and Myanmar in Four Cases

14 December 2023      

In 2023, three countries have stood out in the Asia region for their harassment and arbitrary detention of lawyers and other human rights defenders, China, Cambodia, and Myanmar. The four relatively recent cases listed below emphasize the dire situation of lawyers attempting to work in these countries.

1.      Li Yuhan (China)

On 25 October 2023, the rights lawyer Li Yuhan finally received a six and a half year sentence verdict for charges of fraud and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” after having been detained for six years without a verdict. Following her trial, there were long and continued delays over a year before she received a verdict. It was reported from one knowledgeable source that the likely reason for the delays was for the authorities to extract a confession from Li.[1] Li is in her 70s and has difficulty walking and failing health.

Li Yuhan had a legal career defending sensitive cases, particularly those involving freedom of religion and belief, such as Falun Gong members and Christian house churches. She also defended fellow human rights lawyer Wang Yu during the 709 Crackdown on lawyers.

2.      Lu Siwei (China)

The Chinese human rights lawyer Lu Siwei was detained by Laos authorities on 28 July 2023 while attempting to exist China and travel to the United States through Thailand to reunite with his family. Following the arrest, there was a large outcry among the international community, including a statement from 85 civil society organizations including CHRD, ISHR, and the 29 Principles as well as seven United Nations mandate holders, among many others, calling on Laos to release him.[2] Of particular concern was indication that China may be pressuring other countries to detain Chinese dissidents for their activities extraterritorially, and there was a concern that if Lu Siwei were returned to China he would likely be subject to torture, violating Laos’s duty of non-refoulement.

On 15 September 2023, it was reported that Lu had in fact been deported to China.[3] On 28 October 2023, it was further reported by Lu Siwei’s wife, Zhang Chunxiao, that police had released Lu Siwei on guarantee pending investigation in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.[4]

Lu Siwei was well-known for defending other persecuted human rights lawyers, including Yu Wensheng, Chen Jiahong, Qin Yongpei, and Wang Quanzhang, as well as 12 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who were captured attempting to flee Taiwan in August 2020, which led him to lose his law license in 2021.  

3.      Theary Seng (Cambodia)

In June 2022, the American-Cambodian activist and lawyer Theary Seng was convicted to a six year sentence for treason in a mass trial along with 60 other supporters of the opposition CNRP party, which the supreme court under control of Hun Sen at the time dissolved in November 2017 in advance of competition national elections that Hun Sen was in line to lose to the party.

Cambodia’s courts have been ranked 141 out of 142 countries by the World Justice Project in its rule of law index, indicating the significant non-independence and corruption of the court system.[5] Hun Sen, as an authoritarian Prime Minister from 1985 to 2023, oversaw a campaign of suppression of all opposition, with prosecutions as one tool, which is son, Hun Manet, has effectively continued after becoming the new Prime Minister last August.

Shortly after Theary Seng’s imprisonment in Phnom Penh, she was transferred to a remote prison in Preah Vihear that had much worse conditions, including sharing a 16-by-16 cell with 19 other women. In her time in the prison, Theary Seng went on a 10-day hunger strike after the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention labeled her detention “arbitrary, politically motivated, and in violation of international law.”

On 23 September 2023, the Ministry of Interior transferred her to Prey Sar II Prison near the capital Phnom Penh after Theary Seng’s lawyer requested the transfer because her appeal case is being tried in the capital.[6]

Theary Seng is the found of the Cambodian Center for Justice and Reconciliation and the founding director of CIVICUS, Center for Cambodian Civic Education. She also worked for a Cambodian human rights NGO, Center for Social Development from 2006 to 2009. Her arbitrary detention characterizes the suppression of all opposition voices by the government, including activist lawyers.

4.      Tin Win Aung (Myanmar)

Since the coup in Myanmar, the junta has taken measures to crackdown on lawyers and impede their work, subjecting them to intimidation, surveillance, mistreatment, and torture, as well as regularly targeting lawyers for arrest for sedition, incitement, or terrorism.[7]  The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has documented at least 32 lawyers arbitrarily arrested and placed in pretrial detention since the coup.

One characteristic case is the high court lawyer Tin Win Aung, who was arrested on 29 June 2022 along with two other lawyers in Mandalay. It was also reported that Aung had earlier been arrested on April 27 and charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law after representing clients in politically sensitive cases, along with other lawyers who were also involved in the cases.[8] Another lawyer familiar with Tin Win Aung’s cae later reported that he had been subjected to ill treatment of torture, including a broken arm and leg, and that he had to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach following beatings from police during pretrial detention.[9]

The lawyer stated that

His legs were stretched and cuffed in a wooden shackle. Then they would roll a heavy stick across his tibia, then they stand on his legs, so his tibia bones were fractured. They kicked his chest and back. There were also injuries like being cut with knives. His leg bones were mostly fractured. From the impact of kicks into his chest and back, his lungs were damaged too.[10]

These four cases indicate the dangerous situation that lawyers continue to face working on politically sensitive cases or expressing political opinions in China, Cambodia, and Myanmar. ALN calls on each respective countries to free all arbitrarily detained lawyers and end their prosecution and harassment.


[1] Gao Feng, "Ailing rights lawyer Li Yuhan jailed for 6 ½ years" RFA, 26 Oct. 2023,

[2] ISHR, “Lu Siwei nominated for human rights prize, risks ill treatment after forced repatriation to China”, 12 Oct. 2023,

[3]  Dake Kang, "Laos deports human rights lawyer who was fleeing state pressure back to China", AP, 15 Sept. 2023,

[4] Front Line Defenders, "Lu Siwei released on guarantee pending investigation",

[5] Lay Sopheavotey, Meng Seavmey, "Cambodia Ranked Second-to-Last for Rule Of Law", Cambodianess, 26 Oct. 2023,

[6] RFA Khmer, "Cambodian-American lawyer transferred to prison in capital", 29 Sept. 2023,

[7] HRW, " 'Our Numbers Are Dwindling': Myanmar’s Post-Coup Crackdown on Lawyers", 8 June 2023,

[8] RFA Burmese, "Three lawyers assisting political cases arrested in Mandalay", 1 July 2022,

[9] HRW, supra, note 8. Grant Peck, "Rights group says Myanmar’s military rulers have cracked down on lawyers, abused legal system", AP, 8 June 2023,

[10] HRW, id.