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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, March 7, 2008) – Teng Biao (滕彪), an outspoken Beijing-based human rights lawyer, was abducted in the evening of March 6. He has not been seen since.
Li Heping (李和平), another Beijing-based human rights lawyer, was rear-ended by a police car following his while he was driving his son to school on the morning of March 7.
“While China has made gestures of cooperation in putting an end to the Darfur Genocide, fearing celebrities’ calls to boycott the Games would catch on, it has been getting away with brutality towards its own citizens,” said a Chinese activist affiliated with CHRD. “Officials have rejected foreign enquiries about detained or imprisoned human rights activists as ‘interference in domestic legal processes’. But is there anything legal about abducting and forcibly disappearing a law-abiding citizen, or intentionally causing a car accident for the purpose of intimidation? The government is challenging the international community’s rhetoric that human rights are universal.”
Teng Biao’s abduction
At about 8:15 p.m. on March 6, Teng called his wife, telling her that he was driving home and would be there in 20 minutes. At about 8:30 p.m., Mrs. Teng heard commotion outside their apartment building and then heard Teng’s voice protesting “You cannot do this to me!” When she rushed downstairs, she saw Teng’s car parked in the usual spot, but Teng had disappeared. Two residents told Mrs. Teng that they had seen Teng getting out of his car and then being bundled away by a number of people in a black car without a license plate. The security guard at their residential compound confirmed that a black car had rushed past the entrance at around that time.
Since then, Teng has not been seen and cannot be contacted on his cell phone. Between 9 and 10 p.m., Teng sent a SMS message to his wife, which said that he was “talking about things [and] will be home soon.” It cannot be confirmed that he sent the message himself.
Today, March 7, Mrs. Teng reported the abduction and disappearance of her husband to the local Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the Security Department of the Chinese University of Politics and Law, where Teng is a lecturer. The National Security Unit (guo bao) of the local PSB later paid a visit to Mrs. Teng and denied any involvement in Teng’s abduction and disappearance. Chinese law allows a 24-hour period for police questioning with legal authorization, but there is no evidence of any legal authorization. Also, it has been more than 24 hours since his disappearance.
Evidence does suggest that the National Security Unit of the Beijing PSB is the main suspect in carrying out the abduction. Only security police drive cars (always black) without license plates in Beijing.
Since the detention of Hu Jia (胡佳), the Beijing activist, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” on December 27, 2007, Teng has been closely watched by security police. He has also been warned not to get involved in defending Hu and not to accept media interviews or write articles about Hu’s detention or other sensitive topics such as the Olympics. Prior to Hu’s detention, Hu and Teng wrote and publicized an article entitled, “The Real China before the Olympics.” In February, Hu’s family was told by the police that the article was one of the pieces of evidence used to justify his arrest. Earlier in January, Teng was also stopped at Beijing airport and prevented from leaving for an international conference. At the time, his passport was confiscated by police.
Li Heping’s “accident”
Within 12 hours of Teng’s abduction, at 7:20 a.m. on March 7, human rights lawyer, Li Heping (李和平), was rear-ended by a police car following his. Li was driving his son to school on the east side of the 4th Ring Road, surrounding Beijing, when the police car, which had been following him since he left home, suddenly sped up, crashed into the back of his car and stopped. Li and his son suffered shock, and the rear end of the car was smashed. Li went to speak with the police in the car, whom he recognized as policemen who had been monitoring him recently, but they ignored him. Li reported the “accident” to the traffic police. The traffic police came but refused to document the case. Later in the morning, Li started to feel back pain.
Li has been followed by police, allegedly from the National Security Unit of the Beijing PSB, since before September 29, 2007,when he was abducted and beaten. The round-the-clock surveillance has become more aggressive since Hu’s detention. Like Teng, Li has also been warned against defending Hu.
CHRD is deeply concerned about the personal safety of Teng and Li, who have faced intimidation, including threats to their safety, and persistent harassment by China’s National Security police for their peaceful activities in defense of human rights.
CHRD calls on the Chinese government, which ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988, to ensure that Teng is not subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Past experience indicates that activists abducted and disappeared are at high risk of being tortured.
CHRD calls on the Chinese government to promptly investigate the abduction and forced disappearance of Teng and end the illegal monitoring and harassment of Li Heping. Officials suspected of ordering or carrying out these abuses must be held criminally accountable according to Chinese law and the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
CHRD urges the government to protect human rights defenders, as China promised to do when it endorsed the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders at the UN General Assembly in 1999.
Teng Biao practices law at Beijing Huayi Law Firm and is a lecturer at the Law School of China University of Political Science and Law. In 2003, together with Dr. Zhiyong Xu and Dr. Jiang Yu, Teng filed a petition to the national legislature challenging the Custody and Repatriation System (for controlling population movement). The Chinese government eventually abolished the system. Teng was one of the “Top Ten Figures in the Rule of Law” in 2003 according to the Ministry of Justice and Chinese Central Television and one of Asia Newsweek’s “Persons of the Year” in 2005. In December 2007, with two other Chinese lawyers, he received the French Presidential Award for Human Rights.
Li Heping practices law at the Gaobo Longhua Law Firm in Beijing. He was the defense lawyer of Yang Zili, a university student jailed for posting dissident articles online; of Tan Kai, an imprisoned environmentalist; and of one of the leaders of the “San Ban Pu Ren” (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 religious activities outside of the official state churches, as well as members of Falun Gong, victims of forced evictions, and independent writers. Li is also an advisor to a number of United Nations programs in China.