Submission to UN on Reprisals Against HRDs – March 6, 2012

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To:       Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, Reprisals Unit

             Ms. Margaret Sekkaya, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders

Date:   March 6, 2012

For the sixth consecutive year, Chinese officials have threatened, harassed, and physically prevented Chinese human rights defenders from attending an annual training program in Geneva on UN human rights mechanisms organized by the Geneva-based International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).  In light of security concerns, only one of those affected in connection with the most recent training program in November 2011 has been willing to disclose his name. In all the cases below, the human rights defenders were invited by ISHR to travel to Geneva to participate in a training program on UN human rights mechanisms.

I.    Harassment and Deprivation of Right to Travel Prior to the November 2011 training program

  • On November 5, 2011, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Li Renbing (李仁兵) was stopped at the Beijing International Airport as he was going through immigration control to board the plane en route to Geneva. The border control officers took him into an office at the airport and said that his departure from China might “endanger state security,” and citing the PRC Law on the Management of Citizens’ Exit and Entry, Chapter 2, Paragraph 8, prohibited him from leaving China.  Mr. Li asked the officers to produce a legal explanation in writing, but they refused to do so.  Consequently, Mr. Li was prevented from attending the 2011 training program on UN human rights mechanisms.
  • Ms. S, an activist from Heilongjiang Province residing in Beijing, was stopped at passport control at the Beijing International Airport on November 5, 2011. Uniformed border control police took her passport and boarding pass and brought her to a room.  As she waited, the police phoned unidentified “leaders” at “higher levels.”  They then told Ms. S, “You are not allowed to travel outside the country.” When she pressed them for a reason, the officers did not give her one and told that “only you know best the reason why.” Authorities refused to produce written documentation that they had stopped her from traveling abroad.
  • Before their planned departure for Geneva, at least five lawyers from Beijing were “talked to” by the local bureau of justice and/or the directors of their law firms and warned “not to go to Geneva.” One of them abandoned his plan to go to the training. At least two others were expressly told that they could not go, and one was told to promise “not to criticize the government, not to talk to media, and not to participate in public political events” while abroad. Those who decided to attempt to leave the country were surprised that police at border control did not stop them from boarding their flights.
  • Two lawyers from Guangdong Province were repeatedly called by their law firm directors and/or bureau of justice officials and warned not to go to the training program. One of the lawyers was threatened with the possible revocation of his lawyers’ license. National security police visited the director of one law firm at least 10 times, pressuring him to warn the lawyer not to go to Geneva.
  • A lawyer from Shandong Province was also warned not to go to Geneva. He was repeatedly called by officials from the local bureau of justice even after he had abandoned his plan to attend the training program.
  • Two activists, one from Sichuan Province and one from Henan Province, were repeatedly contacted by the local domestic security police and warned not to go to Geneva. They were threatened with “serious consequences” for them and their families. They decided to withdraw from the program just a few days before their departure date.

II.    Upon Returning to China after the 2011 Training Program

  • One lawyer from Shenzhen in Guangdong Province was questioned by officials from the local bureau of justice upon his return to China. Public security officers were also present during the questioning.
  • A lawyer from Guangzhou was asked by the local bureau of justice to submit a written report of his activities while he was in Geneva. He complied and also provided them with several OHCHR publications.
  • When a lawyer from Beijing went to the local bureau of justice to obtain permission to transfer to another law firm, he was told that he must first report on his activities in Geneva before he would be granted permission to transfer firms.
  • An NGO activist was interrogated by local domestic security police after he returned to China; they asked him who organized the training and what went on during the course.
  • During the training program, officials from the Beijing Bureau of Justice repeatedly called the director of the law firm that employs one of the lawyers who managed to get to Geneva. The officials demanded to know the whereabouts of this lawyer. Since returning to Beijing, however, this lawyer has not been summoned by authorities.

The cases noted above from 2011 are the latest in a continuing pattern of harassment by Chinese authorities to arbitrarily and unlawfully restrict the freedom of movement of Chinese human rights defenders and prevent them from taking part in a training program designed to facilitate their access to the UN human rights bodies and improve their ability to defend human rights. CHRD has previously reported on the following cases of Chinese human rights defenders who were prevented from attending the same training program on UN human rights mechanisms in Geneva in previous years.

III. Cases from Previous Years


  • Yu Fangqiang (于方强), a lawyer from Beijing and director of the Beijing office of Yirenping, an NGO that focuses on health rights and combating discrimination against people with disabilities, was stopped at the crossing from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, where he was to board the flight to Geneva. Upon seeing the entry visa for Switzerland in Yu’s passport, border police took him aside and told him that they had received orders from the national security police that he was not allowed to go to Geneva because he would “endanger national security” if he went.
  • Fang Caofang (方曹芳), an Anhui-based activist, was stopped by border police, who cited an order from the national security police saying that she would “endanger national security” if she left the country.  Police also stated that she was under investigation for involvement in a debt dispute, which, according to Ms. Fang, was a complete fabrication. Border police refused to produce any written document to back up their allegations.
  • Duan Hengxian (a.k.a. Duan Qixian 段启宪), an activist from Guangxi Province , was stopped by the border police at immigration control in the Beijing International Airport. The police told him that he was under investigation for a crime (which was news to Duan), and that he would “endanger national security” if he was allowed to leave the country. Duan demanded a written order, but police refused to provide any written documentation.
  • Wang Jinglong (王京龙), a Beijing-based advocate for religious freedom, was stopped at the Beijing International Airport by border police, who cited orders from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) to bar Wang from leaving the country. Police told Wang that he would “endanger national security” if allowed to go abroad.  Wang asked for a written order, but the border police refused, telling Wang that if he wanted to sue them for breaking the law, he should sue the Beijing PSB.
  • Several other activists, including Guangzhou-based Xiao Yong (肖勇), were detained by local police and forced to return to the locales where they were officially registered to live. They were then put under police surveillance toprevent them from traveling to Geneva.  An HIV/AIDS activist abandoned his plan to attend the training program a few days before his departure after police in Beijing warned him of “serious consequences” if he went to Geneva.


  • Chen Wei (陈卫), a democracy activist from Sichuan Province sentenced in December 2011 to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power,” was prevented from leaving China in September 2009 to attend the training program in Geneva.  On September 7 of that year, officials in the National Security Unit of the Suining City Public Security Bureau (PSB) received a memo from their superiors at the Sichuan Provincial PSB asking them to investigate Mr. Chen’s plans to travel to Geneva.  The Suining Municipal National Security officers then “invited” Chen to “have tea” and interrogated him for three consecutive days, from September 8th to the 10th, during which they demanded details of his plan and the training. The officers began by advising Chen not to leave the country, but eventually revealed that his personal information had already been transmitted to border patrol officials in charge of entry and exit procedures, and that he would be unable to leave the country at any border crossing or board any international flight departing from China. The National Security officers did not provide any explanation for the restrictions on Chen’s freedom of movement except to say that Chen’s departure from China might compromise security during the run-up to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 2009.
  • Xie Qiang (谢强), an activist and internet writer from Loudi City, Hunan Province, was seized at his temporary residence in Beijing by a group of ten police officers on September 11, 2009, the night before he was due to depart for Geneva. At 11 pm that evening, the officers forced Mr. Xie into a police vehicle and drove him to the Beijing Liaison Office of the Hunan Provincial Government, where he was held overnight. The next day, Xie was forced onto a bus headed for Hunan, accompanied by Loudi police officers. Upon returning home, he was placed under residential surveillance by local police.  Mr. Xie was interrogated at length once he returned to Loudi and was told that officials knew of his plans to travel to Switzerland.
  • In 2009, Wang Keqin (王克勤), a renowned investigative journalist and scholar living and working in Beijing, was pressured to abandon his plan to apply for a visa to go to Geneva by officials at his newspaper, the China Economic Times, who cited the “busy schedule” at work when they refused to give Mr. Wang  permission to leave for two weeks.


  • In September 2008, Wen Kejian (温克坚) and Zan Aizong (昝爱宗), both Hangzhou-based internet writers and human rights defenders, were barred from attending the   training in Geneva.  Zan was prevented from leaving China by the border police at Shanghai Pudong Airport, while Wen was stopped at the Shenzhen border as he tried to cross into Hong Kong en route to Geneva. The police did not provide any written or verbal explanation for why they blocked their exit from China.
  • In 2007, democracy activist and democracy activist Yao Lifa(姚立法) and human rights/AIDS activists Hu Jia (胡佳)and Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕) were barred from attending the training.  Mr. Hu was detained by police a couple of days before departure while his wife, Ms. Zeng, was stopped by officials at the Beijing airport who prevented her from leaving the country and confiscated her passport.
  • In June 2006, rural rights activist and farmers’ representative Liu Zhengyou (刘正有), of Zigong City, Shandong Province, was stopped by police at the Beijing airport and prevented from boarding his flight to Geneva to attend the training program. He was forcibly returned to Sichuan on the grounds that he was under criminal investigation for his role in leading a protest by Shandong villagers who had lost their land and/or homes to developers without being properly compensated.  Human rights defender and law lecturer Teng Biao (滕彪) abandoned his plan to participate in the training program after being warned not to go to Geneva by his university, the China University of Political Science and Law, which acted at the behest of the national security police.

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