Beijing Police Suspected of Abduction and Torture of Human Rights Lawyer Li Heping

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Beijing Police Suspected of Abduction and Torture of Human Rights Lawyer Li Heping
Chinese government must investigate accusations, honoring its obligation to Torture Convention

(Beijing, October 1, 2007) – On September 29, Beijing-based human rights lawyer, Li Heping (李和平), was assaulted by unidentified men, believed to be police from the National Security Protection Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau (北京国保).

Li Heping

When reached by phone in the hospital, Li told his friends, “They clearly acted without any restraint. They tried to intimidate me into leaving Beijing. But I refused. I have not violated any laws. I will continue doing what I have been doing.”

Several days before the attack, police from the Beijing PSB’s National Security Protection Unit had verbally ordered Li and his family to leave Beijing. Mr. Li refused. The police had since then followed and watched him ostentatiously.

Beijing police have been trying to keep out or force out of the city those they consider “trouble makers” before the 17th CCP National Congress starts here next week.

In a personal statement released on September 30, Li described the abduction and assault. At around 5:30pm on September 29, Li was abducted in the parking lot of the office building which houses his law firm, after he briefly spoke to the policemen who were following him. A dozen plainclothes men put a hood on his head, dragged him into a car with no license plate, drove for about an hour to an unknown location, and took him to a basement. There, the men took off his hood and tore off his clothes (except his underwear). They beat him for hours with electric rods, which are commonly used by the police. They took turns grabbing his hair, throwing him around, verbally abusing him, laughing, as he twisted on the floor in pain. While torturing him, the men shouted, “Will you leave Beijing?” “Get out of Beijing! Otherwise, we’ll beat you whenever we see you.” They told Li that he was a criminal, but refused to say which law he had violated. Li tried to reason with them calmly. Having failed to extract any promise from Li to leave Beijing, the men warned him to practice law “within permissible bounds” and never tell anyone about his beating.

Around midnight, they put the hood back on Li’s head, drove him away and dumped him in the woods on Xiao Tang mountain, far in Beijing’s suburbs. Li eventually made his way to a highway and got a taxi home. Li sustained injuries all over his body. He had a headache and his face was swollen. He was in a Beijing hospital yesterday with friends.

It is unclear whether or not Li will be able to practice law again. When he returned home, he discovered that his lawyer’s identification card and other personal belongings were missing. All the files on his laptop computer were erased and the computer reprogrammed and thus unusable.

These details point to the National Protection Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau as the main suspect for carrying out the assault. For example, security police were able to drive cars without license plates in Beijing’s streets. The unidentified men abducted Li while police assigned to monitor him looked on. The attackers made the same demands of Li as those made by police from the National Security Protection unit.

Li practices law at the Gaobo Longhua Law Firm in Beijing. He was the defense lawyer of Yang Zili (杨子立), a university student jailed for posting articles online; Tan Kai (谭凯), an imprisoned environmentalist; and one of the leaders of the “San Ban Pu Ren” (三班仆人, a Christian sect) who was sentenced to death and executed in December 2006. In 2005, Li appealed to the Beijing Bureau of Judicial Affairs on behalf of the lawyer, Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), after Gao’s license was suspended by the Bureau. Li has defended people persecuted for Christian family church activities, members of the Falun Gong, victims of forced eviction, and independent writers. Li is also an advisor to a number of United Nations programs in China.

CHRD believes that Li Heping is threatened and retaliated against for his peaceful activities in defense of the legal, constitutional, and human rights of fellow citizens. Instead of protecting the safety and the rights of Beijing residents, the Beijing National Security Protection police is complicit in abducting and torturing Mr. Li, a law-abiding citizen and dedicated human rights lawyer.

CHRD calls on the Chinese government, which ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988, to hold accountable those officials responsible for assaulting Li. CHRD also calls on the government to protect human rights defenders as China promised to do so when it endorsed the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders at the UN General Assembly in 1999.

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Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) is a non-political, non-government network of grassroots and international activists promoting human rights protection and empowering grassroots activism in China. CHRD’s objective is to build NGO capacities, monitor rights development, and assist victims of abuse. CHRD advocates non-violent and rule of law approaches. CHRD conducts investigation and research, provides information, organizes training, supports a program of small grants, and offers legal assistance.

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