Submission to UN on Li Shuangde – July 5, 2011

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Communiqué on behalf of Li Shuangde, citizen of People’s Republic of China, Alleging Arbitrary Arrest or Detention and Persecution of Human Rights Defenders


1. Family name: LI (李)
2. First name: Shuangde (双德)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): November 29, 1963
5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China (Han)
6. Identity document (if any): ID
7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): Li is an activist and legal aid worker based in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. He operates a legal aid center and provides assistance to citizens who cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: March 22, 2011
2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): unknown (believed to be Li’s home) in Chengdu City
3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Jinjiang District Branch of the Chengdu City Public Security Bureau
4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? unknown

III. Detention
1. Date of detention: March 24, 2011
2. Duration of detention: From March 24, 2011 through the present. (Li is due to be released on July 22, 2011.)
3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Chengdu City Public Security Bureau
4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Chengdu City Detention Center
5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Chengdu City Public Security Bureau, Jinjiang District Court
6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “credit card fraud”
7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Article 196 of the Criminal Law of the PRC:
Whoever commits fraud by means of a credit card in any of the following ways shall, if the amount involved is relatively large, be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years or criminal detention and shall also be fined not less than 20,000 yuan but not more than 200,000 yuan; if the amount involved is huge, or if there are other serious circumstances, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years and shall also be fined not less than 50,000 yuan but not more than 500,000 yuan; if the amount involved is especially huge, or if there are other especially serious circumstances, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment and shall also be fined not less than 50,000 yuan but not more than 500,000 yuan or be sentenced to confiscation of property:
(1) using a forged credit card;
(2) using an invalidated credit card;
(3) illegally using another’s credit card; or
(4) overdrawing with ill intentions.
Overdrawing with ill intentions as mentioned in the preceding paragraph means that a credit card holder who, for the purpose of illegal possession, overdraws beyond the norm set or beyond the time limit and refuses to repay the overdrawn amount after the bank that issues the card urges him to do so.

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:

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).

Li was taken away by police in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province on March 22 and criminally detained on suspicion of “credit card fraud” on March 24. He was formally arrested on the same charge on April 2. His arrest was predicated on the fact that he owed his bank 20,000 RMB; his family was able to raise the necessary funds and repay the bank between the time that Li was detained and April 2. The fact that the government chose to go ahead with the prosecution, and ultimately sentence Li to further time in detention, suggests that his detention is punishment for his activism, rather than for any financial misdeeds.

His trial was scheduled for May 31, but when Li’s supporters and relatives arrived at the courthouse, they were told that the trial had been “canceled” and that Li had pleaded guilty. Li’s lawyer Ran Tong argued that he was unaware of the guilty plea, and asked the court to produce his client to verify the claim, but the court refused his request. Ran was also informed by officials that he had been dismissed by Li’s family, and that another lawyer had been hired in his place. It is believed that the authorities pressured Li’s family to fire Ran in favor of a “government-approved” lawyer. On June 1, after a 20-minute hearing, Li was found guilty and sentenced to a further four months’ detention along with a fine of 20,000 RMB (despite the fact that his family repaid the full sum of 20,000 RMB at some point before April 2).

We believe that Li’s detention is arbitrary based on the stipulations of Categories (II) and (III) (set forth in paragraphs B and C above). Li’s arrest and detention have come in retaliation for his work as a legal advisor and human rights activist, activities which have resulted in years of harassment by local officials. Li’s arrest took place during the crackdown on civil society launched by the Chinese government following the “Arab Spring” and anonymous online calls for “Jasmine Revolution” protests in China earlier this year, which was used by officials as a pretext to target many longtime activists and dissidents, even if they had no personal connection to the calls for protests. Furthermore, the pressure on Li’s family to dismiss his lawyer and hire another “government-approved” lawyer right before his trial, which was postponed and hastily rescheduled at the last minute, demonstrates that he was denied his right to access to counsel of his own choosing. The fact that his trial lasted only 20 minutes also suggests that a conviction was a foregone conclusion and that he did not have an opportunity to present a full and adequate defense.

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.

As Li’s lawyer was dismissed and replaced by a lawyer selected by the government just before Li’s trial, it is not known whether Li’s new lawyer has assisted Li in filing an appeal or an application for an administrative reconsideration.

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