Submission to UN on Li Tie – August 13, 2012Comments Off on Submission to UN on Li Tie – August 13, 2012
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
on behalf of LI Tie, citizen of the People’s Republic of China
1. Family name: LI (李)
2. First name: Tie (铁)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): March 29, 1959
5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China
6. Identity document (if any): Unknown
7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): democracy activist, freelance writer
8. Address of usual residence: Unknown
1. Date of arrest: September 15, 2010
2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Wuhan City Public Security Bureau (“Wuhan PSB”), Wuhan City, Hubei Province
3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officers from the Wuhan PSB
4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? It is unclear whether the police presented Mr. Li with a warrant on September 15, 2010.
1. Date of detention: Mr. Li was initially taken into custody on September 15, 2010, and formally arrested on October 22, 2010.
2. Duration of detention: From September 15, 2010, through the present (i.e., his detention is ongoing). Li’s trial was held on April 18, 2011 in the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court, and on January 18, 2012 the court convicted Mr. Li of “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. His prison term should end on or around September 14, 2020.
3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: The Wuhan PSB detained Mr. Li on September 15, 2010. Mr. Li is currently imprisoned in Huangzhou Prison.
4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Mr. Li was initially detained at the Wuhan City No. 2 Detention Center, and then transferred at some point before February 2012 to Huangzhou Prison in Tuanfeng County, Huanggang City, Hubei Province. He is currently incarcerated in Huangzhou Prison.
5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court
6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: subversion of state power
7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Mr. Li’s 10-year prison sentence for “subversion of state power” was ordered pursuant to Article 105 (1) of the PRC Criminal Law, which stipulates fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment to those who organize, plot or carry out the scheme of subverting the state power or overthrowing the socialist system, and to ringleaders and others who commit major crimes.
IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest and/or the detention and indicate precise reasons why you consider the arrest or detention to be arbitrary:
On September 15, 2010, officers from the Wuhan PSB criminally detained Mr. Li, who subsequently was held incommunicado for more than two months. His arrest on suspicion of “subversion of state power” was approved by the Wuhan City People’s Procuratorate on October 22, 2010.
Authorities in Wuhan repeatedly interfered with Mr. Li’s lawyer, the Beijing-based Jin Guanghong (金光鸿), whom the family had retained to represent Li. Mr. Jin tried on multiple occasions to meet with his client, but was prevented from doing so by Wuhan police who invoked “state secrets” as the grounds for prohibiting the lawyer’s visits. The police also claimed that Mr. Li had asked them to provide him with an attorney. National security officers in Wuhan contacted Li’s family and pressured them to end their engagement of Mr. Jin, and local justice bureau authorities appointed two lawyers from the government-run Wuhan Legal Aid Center to represent Mr. Li at trial. As the trial date approached, Jin Guanghong disappeared, and did not reemerge until the day after Li’s trial, on April 19, 2011. Although unable to remember the details of what happened to him during his 10-day disappearance, Mr. Jin recalled that he was held in a psychiatric hospital for some period of time, where he was tied to a bed, beaten by unidentified individuals, forcibly injected with unknown substances, and forced to ingest unidentified medicine.
On April 18, 2011, Mr. Li was tried for “subversion” in the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court. The two-hour trial ended without a verdict, which was not announced until many months later, on January 18, 2012. During the trial, prosecutors recommended a 10-year sentence for Li and argued that evidence of his “crime” of “subversion” included: writing articles criticizing the government, in particular his online article titled “Human Beings’ Heaven Is Human Dignity”; his membership in the China Social Democracy Party; his participation in discussions hosted on “reactionary” websites; and his “reactionary” comments made at gatherings with friends. During the trial, the prosecutors argued that Li’s articles and speech demonstrated his “anti-government thoughts,” and because he had such thoughts, it should be presumed that he would engage in anti-government actions, and thus he should be found guilty of “subversion” (Criminal Law art. 105 (1)). In an interview given after the trial, Mr. Li’s daughter stated that in addition to Li’s writings, prosecutors also argued that Li’s purported association with several “illegal” organizations was further evidence of “subversion.” In Li’s statement to the court, he said that he was innocent because his words and deeds were in accordance with China’s Constitution, which guarantees Chinese citizens’ right to freedom of expression.
Only Li’s mother and his daughter were permitted to attend the trial on Li’s behalf; Li’s other supporters were barred from the courtroom. Mr. Li’s de facto closed trial contravenes article 152 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that first-instance trials “shall be heard in public.” The court sentenced Mr. Li on January 18, 2012; the eight-month delay between the trial and verdict was a violation of article 168 of the CPL which provides that a court has at most two-and-a-half months to issue a verdict after it accepts a case. Only Mr. Li’s mother and daughter were permitted to attend the January 18 verdict announcement hearing, a violation of the requirement set forth in article 163 of the CPL that “[i]n all cases, judgments shall be pronounced publicly.” After the verdict was announced, Mr. Li stated in court that he wanted to appeal. Neither he nor his family were given a copy of the judgment, however—a clear violation of article 163 of the CPL which stipulates that for cases in which the judgment is delivered on a date after the trial “a written form of the judgment shall be delivered immediately after the pronouncement to the parties….” Li’s government-appointed lawyers received a copy of the judgment, but refused to share it with the family. (See Section V for more information on the denial of Mr. Li’s right to appeal.)
After the verdict was announced, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the “harsh sentencing” of Li Tie and urged the Chinese authorities “to stop penalising human rights defenders for peacefully exercising their fundamental human right to the freedom of expression.”
Pursuant to the Working Group’s criteria for determining when a deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, the circumstances of Mr. Li’s detention satisfy both Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)) and Category III (i.e., when the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, spelled out in the UDHR 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).
As the Working Group’s jurisprudence reflects, the crimes of “subversion of state power” and “inciting subversion” (articles 105(1) and 105(2) of the PRC Criminal Law, respectively) are often used by the Chinese government to prosecute activists and dissidents for peaceful expression in violation of international human rights law. (See, e.g., Opinion No. 7/2012 (Chen Wei), Opinion No. 23/2011 (Liu Xianbin), Opinion No. 15/2011 (Liu Xiaobo), Opinion No. 32/2007 (Jin Haike and Zhang Honghai).) In its recent decision finding the detention of Mr. Chen Wei arbitrary, the Working Group observed:
[He] was arrested and convicted for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression through the publication of articles and reports critical of the authorities. The fact that these peaceful expressions of opinion are criminalized under domestic law as the “incited subversion of State power and overthrow of the socialist system” does not deprive him of his right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this regard, the Working Group recalls that in another Opinion concerning the People’s Republic of China it emphasized that, although national laws might punish such conduct, it is, however, protected by the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and association in international law. (¶ 21, citing Opinion No. 32/2007.)
Mr. Li—like Mr. Chen and others before him—has been convicted of a crime and given a harsh sentence solely on the basis of the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the UDHR. Accordingly, his detention is arbitrary under Category II.
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.
After the court announced Li’s verdict on January 18, 2012, Li stated in court that he wanted to appeal the judgment; however, authorities prevented him from filing within the 10-day time limit. Officers at the Wuhan City No. 2 Detention Center, where Li was being held, refused to allow Li’s lawyer and another attorney to meet with Li to discuss and authorize the appeal. In addition, Wuhan police did not permit Li Tie’s younger brother to leave his home, likely in an effort to prevent him from trying to submit an appeal on his brother’s behalf. Lastly, the timing of the court’s decision narrowed the window available to appeal; Li’s lawyer and family actually had only three days to initiate an appeal, since the verdict was announced right before the Chinese New Year and government offices were closed for seven days during the appeal period. The announcement of the verdict before a major national holiday not only limited the time to file an appeal but may also have been an effort to minimize attention to Li’s fate.
In light of the denial of Mr. Li’s right to appeal and the numerous other violations of Mr. Li’s fair trial rights under the UDHR discussed above, his detention also satisfies Category III.
Background and additional information:
Prior to the detention that is the subject of this submission, Mr. Li Tie had faced various forms of retaliation for his democracy rights activism. For example, Li served a 15-day administrative detention in January 2009 in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, after returning from Shanghai, where he and others had organized a public opinion poll on government reform and distributed copies of a book entitled Suggestions for National Reform. In November 2009, Internet censors blocked Li’s blog and also deleted posts on discussion forums in which Li advocated for domestic reforms.
CHRD recently learned the following about Mr. Li’s current situation: Mr. Li has developed high blood pressure in prison and is also suffering from ringworm and dermatosis. Li has been waiting for five months for ointment he requested to treat his skin condition. Correspondence that Li sent to his family has not been received, and prison officials confiscated books on government and constitutionalism his family sent to him. Police have also tried to prevent his family members, particularly his brother, from giving interviews to foreign media.