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Police Response to Attack on Chinese Attorneys Criticized

FILE- A Chinese national flag flaps in the wind outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

A group of Chinese lawyers has accused police in Hunan province of failing to aid four defense attorneys who were accosted outside a courthouse.

The attack took place Monday when a group started punching and kicking four lawyers outside a court in the city of Hengyang. In pictures placed on the China-based microblogging service Weibo, the injuries sustained by the lawyers appear to be minor.

The lawyers are representing suspected local gangsters, and the attackers are thought to be family members of organized crime victims.

Liu Jinbin, one of the attacked lawyers, told VOA's Mandarin service he was surprised at the time of the attack to see only a few police outside the courthouse, which normally has a large police presence. He added that the court guards, or bailiffs, offered only symbolic assistance.

"After I shouted for help, several officers came slowly to offer help," Liu said. "However, when lawyer Wang Fu was still being beaten by some people, I didn't see any of them offer [help]. I think [the police officers] did not effectively perform their duties."

Wang and Liu told VOA that police failed to show up before the attack ended, even though they called for help nearly 20 minutes before.

The court has posted a statement on its official Weibo account defending the actions of the court guards. The statement said that after the aggressive attack took place, “bailiffs and some [staff] immediately stopped and protected the defendant lawyers." The court added that police were contacted immediately and that an investigation was underway.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.