Submission to UN on Yang Chunlin – March 30, 2008

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Questionnaire completed by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Yang Chunlin

To: The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

 

I. IDENTITY

1. Family name: Yang

2. First name: Chunlin

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): July 29, 1956

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. (a) Identity document (if any): Identification card
(b) Issued by: Jiamusi City Public Security Bureau, Xiang Yang Branch

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Yang is a laid-off worker from Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province. Yang had been assisting farmers in Fujin City, Heilongjiang Province to seek compensation for land appropriated by the local government. He was detained four times in 2006 for helping Fujin farmers and participating in a hunger strike called by the Beijing lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, to protest human rights violations.

Yang was put under criminal detention on July 7, 2007, and on August 13, 2007, formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” for collecting signatures to endorse the open letter, “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics”. The letter was reportedly signed by more than 10,000 people, mostly Heilongjiang farmers fighting forced eviction. They are sympathetic with other victims of land loss in cities where officials have used the Olympics as a pretext to grab land and housing without adequate compensation.

Yang was tried on February 19, 2008 and was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights for “inciting subversion of state power” on March 24. Yang was allegedly tortured at the detention center.

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: Yang was formally arrested on August 13, 2007

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): At his residence.

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: National Security Unit under Jiamusi Public Security Bureau, Heilongjiang Province

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: National Security Unit under Jiamusi Public Security Bureau, Heilongjiang Province. But it is believed that Yang’s arrest was ordered by higher authorities

6. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Yang was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, a crime stipulated in Article 105(2) of the Chinese Criminal Code

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: July 7, 2007

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): 280 days (as of April 10, 2008)

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody:

Jiamusi Municipal Public Security Bureau, Heilongjiang Province

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Heitong Detention Center, Heilongjiang Province

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: National Security Unit under Jiamusi Public Security Bureau, Heilongjiang Province and Jiamusi City Intermediate People’s Court, Heilongjiang Province

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: Because Yang is guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, a crime stipulated in Article 105(2) of the Chinese Criminal Code

7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): The authorities charge that Yang is guilty of “inciting subversion of state power”, a crime stipulated in Article 105(2) of the Chinese Criminal Code

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest and/or the detention and indicate precise reasons why you consider the arrest or detention to the arbitrary

According to the WGAD’s methods, deprivation of a person’s liberty is “arbitrary,” if the case falls into at least one or all of three categories (http://www.ohchr.org/english/issues/detention/complaint):

A) When it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the deprivation of liberty (as when a person is kept in detention after the completion of his sentence or despite an amnesty law applicable to him) (Category I);

B) When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 10 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, insofar as States parties are concerned, by articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Category II); (i.e., rights to free opinion, speech, expression, press, assembly, association, and demonstration, etc.)

C) When the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character (Category III).
The detention of Yang is arbitrary because it violates categories B and C, and possibly A.

B) Yang has been incarcerated as a result of exercising his right to freedom of expression and association.

Yang was punished for collecting signatures to endorse an open letter entitled, “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics.” The letter was reportedly signed by more than 10,000 people, mostly Heilongjiang farmers who have been fighting forced eviction and are sympathetic with other victims of land loss in cities where officials have used the Olympics as a pretext to grab land and housing without adequate compensation.

Much of Yang’s trial focused on the title of the petition. Yang’s lawyers demanded the prosecutors to provide evidence linking the title to the crime “inciting subversion of state power”. The prosecutors failed to present any concrete evidence, only stressing that the slogan has drawn the attention of international media and left a very negative international impact.

In other words, there is no evidence to suggest that Yang’s expression or association had any potential or real subversive effect. Yang is punished for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and association.

C) Authorities have severely restricted Yang’s right to legal counsel throughout the course of his incarceration. For four months between July 6 (when Yang was taken into custody) and October 25, police denied Yang’s lawyers’ requests to meet him because his case involves “state secrets.”

On October 25, Yang was allowed to meet his defense lawyers for the first time since his detention. However, during the meeting, Yang and his lawyers’ conversation was rudely interrupted many times by the policeman present, especially when the lawyers asked Yang about torture and mistreatment suffered while in detention. When the lawyers protested such interference, the policeman terminated their meeting.

On February 18, the day before his trial, Yang was allowed to meet with his lawyers. After the trial, on March 28, Yang was also allowed to meet with his lawyers again.

A) Yang’s detention possibly violates Category A. Yang is incarcerated for “inciting subversion of state power,” a crime frequently evoked to punish free expression (see CHRD report, Inciting Subversion of State Power”:A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China, https://www.nchrd.org/Article/Class9/Class11/200801/20080108225721_7032.html). The legal provisions in the PRC Criminal Procedural Law (Article 61) and PRC Criminal Law (Article 105) justifying this pattern of persecution of speech violate Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression.

V. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken

Two rescue remedies have been taken: public appeal and legal action.

Public appeal: Yang’s family, especially his sister Yang Chunping, has been proactive in reaching out for help, provided abundant details about Yang’s case and accepted interviews by foreign journalists about the case. Following Yang’s sentence, Yang’s son released a public letter on March 26 condemning the court police for beating his father at the end of the trial on March 24. Yang’s family has persisted in drawing attention to Yang’s situation despite being repeatedly warned by police against communicating with the outside world about Yang’s situation.

Legal action: Yang has decided to appeal in a meeting with his lawyers on March 28. It is believed that Yang will submit his appeal soon.

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