Submission to UN on Zhou Decai – April 8, 2013

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment


Allegation Letter

on behalf of Zhou Decai, citizen of the People’s Republic of China

Alleging Torture & Arbitrary Detention & Reprisal Against a Human Rights Defender


1. Family name: ZHOU (周)

2. First name: Decai (德才)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): March 21, 1965

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

6. Identity document (if any): ID Card, No. 413026196503213033

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): Rights defender focusing on land and labor rights, and independent candidate in a local People’s Congress election

8. Address of usual residence: Guangming Road, Chengguan Town, Gushi County, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: February 28, 2012

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Home (see above)

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: National security officers from the Gushi County Public Security Bureau (“Gushi PSB”)

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

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: February 28, 2012

2. Duration of detention: From February 28, 2012 through the present (i.e., his detention is ongoing). According to the court’s decision, his 5-year sentence expires on February 27, 2017.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: The Luoshan PSB held Mr. Zhou from the date of his initial detention (February 28, 2012) until his transfer to the Guxian County Detention Center (March 30, 2012), which is run by the Guxian PSB. Then, the Guxian PSB held Zhou until November 20, when he was transferred to Kaifeng Prison, which is run by the Kaifeng Prison Management Bureau. Zhou was transferred again, to Henan Provincial No. 1 Prison, which is run by the Henan Prison Management Bureau.

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Mr. Zhou was initially detained at the Luoshan County Detention Center in Henan Province, and then transferred to the Guxian County Detention Center on March 30, 2012. He was transferred to Kaifeng Prison following the announcement of the second-instance trial on November 20, 2012, and then secretly transferred in January 2013 to Henan Provincial No. 1 Prison in Kaifeng, where he is currently incarcerated.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Gushi County People’s Court (Henan Province)

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order” (through allegedly planning a clash between farmers and police over a government land seizure)

7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Mr. Zhou’s 5-year prison sentence for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order” was ordered pursuant to Article 290 (1) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, which stipulates fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than seven years to the ringleaders who gather people to disturb public order to such a serious extent that work in general, production, business operation, teaching or scientific research cannot go on and heavy losses are caused.

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

On February 28, 2012, Zhou Decai was criminally detained by police in Henan Province on suspicion of “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order,” just as he was preparing to attend a labor rights defense seminar in Beijing focusing on tobacco industry workers who had been bought out by their companies. When Zhou was seized, nearly 20 public security officers came to his home, and some conducted a search and confiscated a number of items. About 10 officers came back later that night and searched the home again. At that time, police warned Zhou’s wife Liu Baoqin (刘保琴) not to contact his friends, refused to indicate where they had taken her husband, and failed to produce documents authorizing the searches and detention. Liu received a detention notice only the next day.

Mr. Zhou’s case was tried by the Gushi County People’s Court on June 13, 2012, when citizens who wished to attend the trial were assaulted and barred from attending, in violation of Chinese law. Prior to the hearing, Zhou’s wife Liu Baoqin was physically assaulted by over 20 unidentified men in front of the court. The hearing was underway when Zhou’s defense lawyers Wang Quanzhang (王全章) and Li Zhiyong (李志勇) took Liu to the local procuratorate to report this assault. After they returned to the court, both Liu and a person who wanted to testify to Zhou’s innocence were barred from entering the courtroom. After negotiation with court officials, one of Zhou’s relatives was finally allowed to attend the hearing. This is a clear violation of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that first-instance trials shall be heard in public (Articles 11 and 152 of the 1996 CPL; Article 183 of the 2013 CPL).

On September 2, 2012, the court issued its verdict, sentencing Mr. Zhou to five years in prison for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order,” with a large number of police surrounding the courthouse. Liu Baoqin, who officers blocked from the sentencing hearing, has said that the judge, in a supposed basis for the verdict, cited a clash between farmers and police that Zhou had allegedly planned over a government land seizure. However, countering this claim, an individual familiar with the case has said that the local government had orchestrated the aggression, and that Zhou himself had been beaten and injured in the melee.

Instead, it is believed that the sentence to Mr. Zhou was handed down in direct retaliation for his longtime rights advocacy work. Zhou Decai has been a rights defender since the late 1980s, focusing on land and labor rights. Zhou has successfully halted land grabs from real estate developers and local authorities, and formed a labor union for tobacco workers who were laid off without receiving reasonable compensation. In recent years, Zhou has become even more open about his discontent with authorities, posting videos of officials engaged in illegal activities and giving interviews in which he criticizes the Chinese Communist Party.

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

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.

Mr. Zhou appealed the ruling after the Gushi County People’s Court announced his sentence on September 3, 2012. His lawyer, Ma Gangquan (马纲权),was able to defend Zhou’s innocence in the second-instance trial, which was held by the Xinyang City Intermediate Court. The court announced its verdict on November 20, 2012, and upheld the ruling handed down at the first-instance trial.

In protesting his detention, which he regarded as illegal, Mr. Zhou conducted a days-long hunger strike in the Gushi County Detention Center in May 2012. He also wrote down his circumstances and appealed for justice when he was detained, and his writings were posted on some websites.

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

Arbitrary Detention/Harassment

In 2011, supporters of Zhou nominated him to run as an independent candidate for the local People’s Congress, but he was taken into custody just prior to the election period. In addition, Mr. Zhou was detained several months in the past in retaliation for trying to decrease farmers’ tax burdens.

Local authorities have kept up pressure on Zhou’s wife. When a recent report about Zhou appeared online, local government officials asked Zhou’s wife several times about it, suspecting that she was the author. They also intended to have her cooperate in an investigation over the article’s author.


According to Zhou’s wife, who visited him in prison in February 2013, Zhou was very weak and appeared emaciated and considerably aged due to difficult conditions while incarcerated, but he was still being forced to work. Zhou intended to tell his wife the situation of being harassed in prison but was prevented by prison police. More recently, Zhou reportedly has not been overtly harassed, but there is ongoing concern that he is vulnerable to abuse.


Date Submitted: April 8, 2013

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