Submission to UN on Zhu Chengzhi – March 18, 2013

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Submission to:

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 situation of human rights defenders


Urgent Appeal on behalf of Zhu Chengzhi, citizen of the People’s Republic of China

by Chinese Human Rights Defenders



1. Family name: ZHU (朱)

2. First name: Chengzhi (承志)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): October 18, 1950

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. Identity document (if any): ID Card No. 430503195010180033

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): Human rightsactivist who has organized advocacy campaigns, and most recently was involved in the campaign to question the suspicious circumstances around the death in June 2012 of 1989 labor leader Li Wangyang (李旺阳)


8. Address of usual residence: Longcheng Residential Quarter, Funing County, Hunan Province

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: June 9, 2012 (prior to a 10-day administrative detention on a charge of “disrupting social order,” his arrest on July 25, 2012, on a charge of “inciting subversion of state power,” and a six-month period of “residential surveillance” (jianshi juzhu), which began on January 4, 2013)

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Mr. Zhu was taken from his home by police officers and held incommunicado. He was then criminally detained and held at the Shaoyang City Detention Center.

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officers fromthe Shaoyang City Public Security Bureau (“Shaoyang PSB”)

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? Yes


III. Detention

1. Date of detention: June 9, 2012

2. Duration of detention: From June 9, 2012, through the present (his detention is ongoing). Since January 4, 2013, Zhu has been serving a six-month punishment of “residential surveillance.”

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Police officers from the Shaoyang PSB

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): The Shaoyang PSB initially took Mr. Zhu into custody at the Daxiang District Police Station on June 9, 2012, and then transferred him to the Shaoyang City Detention Center on June 18, where he served a 10-day administrative detention on a charge of “disrupting social order” before being criminally detained on a charge of “inciting subversion.” On January 4, 2013, police placed Zhu under “residential surveillance” in an unknown location. On February 1, Zhu was allowed to go back home to serve out his six-month residential surveillance. However, Zhu has been out of contact since March 15, after being taken away by Shaoyang national security officers, who are again holding him under “residential surveillance” in an unknown location.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Shaoyang PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: inciting subversion of state power (through investigating the cause of death of Li Wangyang)


7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Mr. Zhu’s “residential surveillance” was ordered pursuant to Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) of the People’s Republic of China, which allows for use of this measure “for up to six months in cases involving crimes of endangering state security, terrorist activity, or especially serious bribery, if carrying out [residential surveillance] in the residence [of the criminal suspect or defendant] has the potential to interfere with the investigation.”


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

Since June 2012, Zhu Chengzhi has been subjected to myriad and constant deprivations of his rights to freedom of expression and movement in retaliation for questioning the death of 1989 labor activist Li Wangyang, which raised suspicions of foul play by the Shaoyang PSB after police declared it a suicide. Most recently, Shaoyang national security officers seized Mr. Zhu while he was serving a six-month “residential surveillance” punishment on a charge of “inciting subversion,” and he has been out of contact since March 15, 2013. Shaoyang national security officers are holding Zhu under “residential surveillance” but in an undisclosed location.


Zhu has been under “residential surveillance” since January 4, 2013, as ordered by the Shaoyang PSB. At first, Zhu was held in an undisclosed location, with police merely notifying Mr. Zhu’s family of the punishment on the charge of “inciting subversion.” Zhu’s punishment was widely believed to be the first use of Article 73 of the revised CPL (which took effect on January 1, 2013), which permits subjecting an individual to “enforced disappearance” through authorizing police to “designate a place for residential surveillance” for up to six months for certain criminal suspects, such as those charged with “endangering state security” crimes, such as “inciting subversion,” but to not inform the family if doing so could “interfere with the investigation.”


On February 1, 2013, Zhu was allowed to go home to serve his residential surveillance, but remained under restrictions imposed by the Shaoyang PSB. These restrictions, as stipulated by China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), included needing police approval to leave Shaoyang City or meet with anyone. The Shaoyang PSB has blocked Beijing-based human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), Mr. Zhu’s legal representative, from visiting him, a clear violation of Article 33 of the Lawyer’s Law. While Article 37 of the CPL gives lawyers the right to meet with clients who are under residential surveillance, the provision also gives police discretion to deny lawyers’ requests when the client’s alleged offense falls under the category of “endangering state security,” which includes the charge of inciting subversion.


According to lawyer Liu, the Shaoyang City People’s Procuratorate on March 15—the same day that Mr. Zhu was recently seized—sent Zhu’s case back to the Shaoyang PSB for further investigation, the second time the case has been returned to police. According to Chinese law, the charges against Zhu must be dropped if the case is not prosecuted following this second period of further investigation. (On December 25, 2012, the Shaoyang PSB first transferred Zhu’s case to the procuratorate for review, but the procuratorate sent the case back to police for more investigation on January 4, 2013.)


After initially being seized in June 2012, Mr. Zhu was issued a 10-day administrative detention for “disturbing public order” by Daxiang District police, allegedly for refusing to guarantee that he would stop investigating the cause of death of Li Wangyang, who died under suspicious circumstances in early June 2012. Zhu was then criminally detained for “inciting subversion” and formally arrested on July 25, 2012, on the same charge.


Under the Working Group’s criteria for determining when a deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, the circumstances of Mr. Zhu’s detention satisfy 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)).


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. Zhu—like Mr. Chen and others before him—has been accused of a crime solely on the basis of the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the UDHR. Accordingly, his detention in the form of residential surveillance 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.


Ever since Zhu Chengzhi’s freedom was initially restricted, there have been several campaigns in China among human rights activists, petitioners, and ordinary citizens appealing for his freedom. A number of rights activists and citizens have gone to Shaoyang City to try to visit Zhu and his wife. Rights activists and human rights lawyers have made banners with slogans calling for Zhu’s release, and posted images of the slogans online to draw attention to his detention. Zhu’s legal representative, Liu Xiaoyuan, has also called for more public attention to Zhu’s situation. In addition, there has been an online signature campaign calling for Zhu’s freedom, with participants from a broad spectrum of Chinese society, including scholars, human rights lawyers, and activists.


Background and additional information relating to previous arbitrary detentions as well as violation of the rights to freedom of opinion and expression:


Due to Mr. Zhu’s advance age and poor health, there is concern about his physical condition as he has faced lengthy and ongoing restrictions on his freedom.


During a period in 2012 when Mr. Zhu was held under illegal detention, Shaoyang security officers threatened his wife. They told her to sever all connections with lawyers and activists who have tried to help with her husband’s case.

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