Submission to UN on Chen Guangcheng – September 20, 2006

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Update Communique to UN Special Procedures on the case of Chen Guangcheng

 

To: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

 

Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights Defenders

 

Special Rapporteur on Torture

 

September 20, 2006

 

We take the liberty to submit this update to our June 2006 communiqué on Chen Guangcheng of China. The earlier communiqué raised concerns about the arbitrary detention of Mr. Chen Guangcheng, as punishment for his work as a human rights defender, and the harassment by local officials of Mr. Chen’s lawyers and his family members.

 

Below is an up-to-date report on this case.

 

In our last update (June 27, 2006), we reported that “On June 27, lawyers Li Jinsong and Li Subin went back to Linyi, trying to meet with Mr. Chen’s wife in order to obtain a copy of the arrest warrant, convey to her Mr. Chen’s condition at the Detention Center, and also get her signature in order to process legal papers to apply for medical parole for Mr. Chen. Again, they were harassed by thugs in the village while police refused to intervene. More than twenty men turned over their car and smashed their cameras. Mr. Li Jinsong was then taken to the police station for questioning.”

 

On the same day, June 27, four activists including Beijing-based AIDS activist Hu Jia also arrived at Linyi. As they entered Chen’s village, their car was flipped over by unidentified men. The men also snatched Li Jinsong’s camera in front of four policemen, who turned a blind eye to the violent incident.

 

On June 29, a forum in Beijing entitled “A panel discussion concerning the rule of law in China and the development of a healthy atmosphere” was closed down by authorities.

 

On July 7, lawyer Li Jinsong received official notification from Yinan County Court that the trial of Chen Guangcheng would be held on July 17, but the date was later changed to July 20 after some negotiation.

 

On July 9, Li Jinsong, Li Subin, Teng Biao and Zhang Lihui decided to travel from Beijing to Linyi to conduct an investigation and collect evidence. Just before they left, Teng Biao was dissuaded from taking part by the authorities and his employer, the China University of Political Science and Law, where he holds a teaching post.

 

On July 10, three lawyers plus three activists went to Linyi to help collect evidence. One of them, Hu Jia, met Yuan Weijing, Mr. Chen’s wife, on the street, but they were attacked by 30 people led by village committee members. Yuan Weijing was seized by police and taken away in a police car. She was not released until 8 hours later. Police justified their operation by accusing Yuan Weijing of “intentional damage of property” and “organizing a crowd to disrupt traffic.”

 

On the morning of July 11, Li Jinsong met again with Chen Guangcheng in the Yinan County Detention Center for an hour. Chen reported that since September 2005, he had been unlawfully mistreated or verbally abused by local officials, whom he was able to identify by name. He said that prior to April 2, 2006, he had been illegally detained at the Yinan Victoria Resort. Then between April 2 and June 11, when he was officially subjected to criminal detention and transferred to the Yinan County Detention Center, Chen had been illegally held at the Police Training Centre. From March 12 to 14, Yinan County Police officers had subjected Chen to ill-treatment by depriving him of sleep for three days, and in protest he went on hunger strike and refused water.

 

Around July 17, 2006, Chen Guangcheng’s original court date, several dozen activists and supporters, including a group of local people with disabilities, arrived at Linyi, in an effort to attend the trial. Police questioned them, turned some of them back, and eventually put several of them, including the AIDS activist Hu Jia, under house arrest when they returned to Beijing. The court eventually postponed the trial to July 20. On July 19, one of Chen Guangcheng’s lawyers was notified by telephone that Chen’s case required “further investigation” and the trial would be further postponed, while Chen Guangcheng remained in detention without trial.

 

On August 15, the Yinan County People’s Court in Shandong Province told lawyers that the trial was rescheduled for August 18. Mr. Chen’s lawyers Li Jinsong, Zhang Lihui, Xu Zhiyong (a non-lawyer, but acting as citizen representative), and Teng Biao, as well as another lawyer Li Fangping, went to Linyi. Mr. Li and Mr. Zhang prepared a no-guilt defense in court. The lawyers came under a great deal of pressure from authorities, directly or indirectly, to drop this case.

 

On August 17, the eve of the rescheduled trial, the lawyers, Zhang Lihui, Li Fangping, and the legal scholar Xu Zhiyong, were detained by Yinan police after unidentified men apprehended them, accusing them of “picking pockets” in the streets of Yinan County around 7pm. Mr. Zhang and Mr. Li were released around 10pm, but Mr. Xu remained in detention until the trial was over the next day. Lawyer Li Jinsong had left them at about 6pm and was on his way back to Beijing. He then decided to stay in case the three were not released.

 

Meanwhile, activists in Shandong and Beijing were called on the phone or visited by state security, who warned them of severe consequences if they tried to go to Linyi. A number of them were put under house arrest or surveillance. On August 15, the Beijing lawyer Gao Zhisheng was arrested in Shandong where he was visiting his sister. All contact with Mr. Gao and his family members was cut off. Mr. Gao went to Linyi in late July to show support for Mr. Chen. The AIDS activist Hu Jia, a supporter of Mr. Chen, has been under house arrest since August 17.

 

The August 18 trial at the Yinan People’s Court ended after two hours and Mr. Chen’s lawyers were barred from attending. The court refused to accept the lawyers’ plea that the proceedings leading up to the trial had been tainted with accusations of illegality – violation of defendant’s rights to freedom from arbitrary detention and torture, right to legal council, and the independence of lawyers doing their job, and hence must be postponed. The trial went ahead with officially-appointed lawyers, whom Mr. Chen told the court he refused to accept. The officially-appointed lawyers never met with Mr. Chen nor examined the court files before the trial. During the trial, they merely repeated the prosecutors’ lines. The court did not look into accusations of arbitrary detention and procedural irregularities. The trial was closed to the public, even to Mr. Chen’s wife and mother. Only his three brothers were allowed to attend. Authorities managed to keep most activists and supporters at home, in violation of their freedom of movement. The trial of Mr. Chen on suspicion of “destroying property” and “obstructing traffic” involves no “state secret,” a reason frequently cited by Chinese courts conducting closed-door trials in high-profile cases. In this case, the court erected procedural obstacles to keep the courtroom shut to media and the public. In many instances, the court failed to respect the principle of fair trial and basic human rights.

 

On August 18, the three detained farmers, Chen Guangdong, Chen Guanghe, and Chen Gengjiang, from Chen Guangcheng’s village, who faced the same charges as Chen, were also tried behind closed doors and sentenced to seven months in jail, with a postponement of one year. They were then released with an postponement of serving their 7-month sentences in one year. According to one family member, they were tortured until they were forced to confess that they were “incited by Chen Guangcheng and his wife” to smash police cars.

 

On August 24, the Yinan County People’s Court announced its verdict: Chen Guangcheng was found guilty as charged and was sentenced to four years and three months in jail.

 

On September 3, lawyers, with Chen Guangcheng’s authorization, filed for appeal. On September 11, the lawyers received a notification from the Linyi Municipal People’s Intermediate Court that they must provide evidence to the court before September 14. The lawyers responded with a list of the evidence and a list of 137 witnesses, whom they requested the court to allow to testify in the appeal trial.

 

On September 8, one witness, Chen Guangyu, who was detained on March 11, 2006, tried and sentenced, and is now released on bail, with a postponed seven-month imprisonment pending, talked on the phone to Chen Guangcheng’s lawyers. He said he was tortured during detention to force him to confess guilt and to testify against Chen Guangcheng. “After I was detained on March 11, I was tied to a chair for five days and subjected to round-the-clock interrogation. I only said a few sentences, but they put down long paragraphs twisting my words. I was too tired to read what they wrote down when they made me sign the interrogation records.”

 

On September 10, another witness, Chen Guangjun, who was also detained on March 11, 2006, and also sentenced to a postponed seven-month imprisonment, sent a fax to Chen Guangcheng’s lawyers. In the fax he wrote that after he was detained on March 11, he was chained to a chair and interrogated for five days. During the five days, police interrogators didn’t let him sleep. They took two-person shifts. For five days, they deprived him of food and water and they did not allow him to use the toilet, until he was forced to say that Chen Guangcheng took the lead to call for villagers to block traffic on March 11. Chen Guangjun also said that he knew Chen Guangcheng was innocent. He said, many villagers know this, but no one dares to testify.

 

We thereby request your offices to look into these allegations of (1) arbitrary detention, (2) torture, (3) interference with lawyers’ independence, and (4) persecution of human rights defenders, by seeking an account from the government of its handling of the case of Mr. Chen Guangcheng.

 

Background

 

Chen Guangcheng, 35, one of Time Magazine’s «100 most influential people » for 2005, Asian Weekly’s 2005 « person of the year», is a blind, self-taught legal advisor to people with disabilities and an outspoken critic of forced abortion and sterilization in Shandong’s zealous family planning campaigns.

 

Chen Guangcheng, who is legally blind, has been working on disability rights issues for many years. In the spring of 2005 he exposed the issue of violence in the implementation of family planning policies in Linyi, Shandong Province. His efforts were met with fear and resentment from the local government. In order to conceal the truth and to avoid legal consequences, since August 2005, the authorities have tried to undermine and intimidate Chen Guangcheng, his family and other villagers who support Chen’s work, through illegal means such as close surveillance, threats, house arrest and secret detention. On March 11, 2006, using the pretext that they had blocked traffic, local police arrested and questioned Chen Guangcheng and three villagers, and Chen was held in custody beyond the maximum detention period without any regard for proper criminal procedure. As of June 10, he had been unlawfully detained for 89 days. Since his arrest, the police never notified his family of the reason for his detention, nor told them where he was held or his condition in custody. During Chen’s detention, the police repeatedly summoned and detained many local rights activists and supporters for questioning; three villagers. Chen Gengguang, Chen Guangdong and Chen Guanghe, remain in custody. On May 8, 2006, when Chen’s lawyer requested to meet him, the police even denied that they were holding Chen Guangcheng in detention, and other lawyers were prevented from meeting the three detained villagers mentioned above.

 

See more UN work on case of Chen Guangcheng:

Updated information on Chen Guangcheng, March 17, 2006
Communication Alleging Arbitrary Arrest and Detention of Chen Guangcheng, a human rights defender and citizen of the People’s Republic of China, June 21, 2006

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