After Torture in Detention, Legal Activist Yuan Xianchen Goes on Trial

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After Torture in Detention, Legal Activist Yuan Xianchen Goes on Trial

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- January 14, 2009) – On January 12, Yuan Xianchen (袁显臣), a human rights activist and “legal worker” (falu gongzuozhe) based in Jixi City, Heilongjiang Province, was tried for “inciting subversion of state power” by Jixi City Intermediate People’s Court. Yuan also told his lawyers that he was beaten and coerced to confession.

According to Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (CRLW), Yuan’s lawyers, Li Fangping (李方平) and Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), attended the trial. Yuan’s wife and other family members and supporters were originally barred from attending the trial on the grounds that it involved “state secrets”. However, the lawyers were able to persuade court officials that the trial be held publicly.

According to the Jixi Procuratorate, Yuan “incited subversion of state power” because he distributed an article entitled “Save China, Implement Constitutional Democracy” to petitioners and representatives attending the National People’s Congress in Beijing in 2005; that he gave interviews to the Epoch Times and other foreign media; that he received funds from domestic and overseas human rights organizations; and that he drafted over twenty articles “attacking” socialism.

Furthermore, though it was not formally mentioned at the trial, it is believed that Yuan was also arrested in part for helping Yang Chunlin (杨春林), a Heilongjiang farmers’ representative, collect signatures endorsing an open letter entitled “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics”. Yang was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” on March 24, 2008.

Yuan pleaded not guilty. The court did not issue a verdict.

CHRD learned from Yuan’s lawyers that, between Yuan’s apprehension in Beijing on May 24, 2008, and his formal detention on May 29, he was repeatedly tortured to extract confession in Beijing Municipal State Security Bureau Detention Center. A guard hit Yuan’s head with handcuffs, which left more than ten bald spots and visible scars on his head. During those five days, Yuan was not informed of his suspected crime, the state organ holding him or the location of his detention. When Yuan was later transferred to the Jixi City Detention Center, the beatings continued but were less frequent.

CHRD calls for Yuan’s immediate and unconditional release.

CHRD demands the Chinese authorities to conduct an independent investigation into the alleged torture of Yuan and, if the allegation is confirmed, such “evidence” obtained through torture should not be admissible in court.

The torture suffered by Yuan violates his right to be protected against cruel and inhuman punishment as guaranteed by Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed but not yet ratified, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which China ratified in 1988. CHRD demands that those responsible for torture be punished to the full extent of the law.

Furthermore, CHRD believes that Yuan has been incarcerated solely for the peaceful activities of drafting articles and assisting miners to seek compensation legally. The Chinese government has violated Yuan’s rights to freedom of expression and association guaranteed in, respectively, Articles 19 and 22 of the ICCPR. The rights are also guaranteed in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.


Yuan, 44, is best known for his work as a legal advisor to workers at the Didao Mine in Jixi City. The miners have been seeking compensation from the local government and the mine management since the former state-owned business was re-structured and became a private enterprise.

Yuan was taken into police custody in Beijing on May 24, 2008. He was transferred to Jixi City Detention Center and formally detained on May 29. On June 30, Yuan was formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, a crime often used to prosecute free speech and restrict the human rights of Chinese citizens.

Yuan was previously detained for 37 days, in 2005, for investigating the death of a petitioner from Inner Mongolia who was killed by a train while fleeing pursuers outside the Beijing South Train Station.

For more information, please see:

Persistent Torture, Unaccountable Torturers: A Report on China’s Implementation of Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
November 5, 2008

“Olympics Prisoner” Yang Chunlin Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
March 24, 2008

Inciting Subversion of State Power”: A Legal Tool for Prosecuting Free Speech in China
January 8, 2008

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