Chinese Police Must End Enforced Disappearances of Human Rights Activists

Comments Off on Chinese Police Must End Enforced Disappearances of Human Rights Activists

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders- February 18, 2011) More than two days after police officers forced open the door to his Beijing home and dragged him away, human rights lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田) remains missing. Though officials have stated he is in police custody, they have failed to produce any legal documentation notifying his family of his whereabouts. Believed to be related to his attendance at a meeting of lawyers in Beijing to discuss the case of Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), Tang’s disappearance is the latest in a growing list of abuses related to Chen’s case.

“We are alarmed at the Chinese government’s increasing use of extralegal measures, such as enforced or involuntary disappearances, against activists,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “Tang Jitian’s disappearance brings to mind other individuals who are currently missing, and raises concerns over the growing power of the police.”

Others among the more than one dozen lawyers and activists who gathered in Beijing on February 16 were also targeted by the authorities. Fellow lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was roughed up and interrogated by police, and legal scholar Teng Biao (滕彪) was placed under “soft detention” at his home. However, just as the location where Tang Jitian is being held remains unknown, so too is it unclear why officials decided to single him out for harsher punishment. His disappearance comes as international attention has focused on the plight of Chen Guangcheng and his family in recent days, following the release of a video testimony recorded by the family and numerous well-documented confrontations between foreign journalists and hired thugs guarding Chen’s village.

Enforced disappearances remain a very real threat to Chinese human rights defenders. The best-known case in recent years is that of Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), a prominent human rights lawyer who remains missing to this day despite an intense international and domestic outcry. The whereabouts of Liu Xia (刘霞), the wife of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), remain unconfirmed. However, it is not only high-profile individuals who are threatened by this practice: grassroots human rights activist Yao Lifa (姚立法) returned home on February 18 after he was held for six days in an unknown location. This was the fifth time in less than a year that Yao was forcibly seized and disappeared. In 2010, CHRD documented the cases of 36 individuals subjected to enforced disappearance for defending their own or others’ rights. Far from being a comprehensive total, these reports just hint at the scope of the problem.

CHRD demands the immediate release of Tang Jitian. We call upon the Chinese government to hold legally accountable any individuals responsible for Tang’s enforced disappearance.

Furthermore, we urge the Chinese government to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and oversee its effective implementation to ensure that all citizens are protected against enforced disappearance.

Finally, we urge U.S. government, E.U. officials, and the U.N. Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance to continue to press the Chinese government on the cases of Gao Zhisheng and Liu Xia, and to raise the cases of Tang Jitian, Yao Lifa, and any other individuals subjected to enforced disappearances at the hands of police.


Tang Jitian is no stranger to persecution for his work. A longtime human rights lawyer, Tang and his colleague Liu Wei (刘巍) had their licenses to practice law revoked in May 2010 by the Beijing Bureau of Justice. Though the pair were alleged to have “disrupted court order and interfered with the normal conduct of litigation activities,” the decision was widely believed to be in retaliation for their handling of “sensitive” cases, including defending human rights defenders, political activists and Falun Gong practitioners. This past December, Tang was forced to leave Beijing by police ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony. In June 2009, Tang was illegally detained for three days at two different locations in Beijing to prevent him from speaking out during the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Massacre.

Media Contacts

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 240 374 8937

David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285

For more information

“Chinese Government Must End Persecution of Family Members of Activists,” February 2, 2011,

“Hubei Activist Yao Lifa Seized at His Home, Whereabouts Unknown,” in China Human Rights Briefing Weekly, February 9-14, 2011,

“Hearing on Revocation of Lawyers’ Licenses Ends without Decision, Lawyers Condemn Baseless Punishment,” April 22, 2010,

“Report on Several Issues Raised by the Chinese Government’s Response to the UN Committee Against Torture’s Recommendations for Follow-Up in 2009,” August 5, 2010,

Disbarment (吊照门), a film about the revocation of Tang Jitian and Liu Wei’s licenses (Chinese with English subtitles),

  • Back to Top