[CHRB] Beijing Police Detain Outspoken Intellectuals, Close 2 Independent Groups (11/21-12/4, 2014)

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[CHRB] Beijing Police Detain Outspoken Intellectuals, Close 2 Independent Groups (11/21-12/4, 2014)

China Human Rights Briefing

November 21-December 4, 2014


Arbitrary Detention

  • Beijing Police Detain Several Outspoken Intellectuals, Shutter 2 Independent Groups
  • Delayed Trials & Rushed Sentences During Thanksgiving Holiday

Ethnic Minority Rights

  • Recent Sentences for 5 Tibetans Range From 2 to 12 Years

Arbitrary Detention

Beijing Police Detain Several Outspoken Intellectuals, Shutter 2 Independent Groups

In strident moves meant to further silence government critics, Beijing authorities have shuttered the Transition Institute (传之行), an independent research group, and also the Liren Group (立人) that runs a private school and independent libraries, while detaining several individuals affiliated with these groups as well as other independent writers.

He Zhengjun (何正军) of the Transition Institute and well-known writer Xu Xiao (徐晓) were both detained on November 26, a sign of growing suppression against government critics. (Images: Transition Institute, VOA)

He Zhengjun (何正军) of the Transition Institute and well-known writer Xu Xiao (徐晓) were both detained on November 26, a sign of growing suppression against government critics. (Images: Transition Institute, VOA)

Police searched the home of Transition Institute’s administrative director, He Zhengjun (何正军), and took him into custody on November 26. That same day, police also seized a former Transition employee, Liu Jianshu (柳建树), who returned from studying at Harvard and Oxford in 2011, and who has been managing the Liren libraries, and also Xue Ye (薜野), a board director of the libraries and former executive director of the environmental NGO Friends of Nature. He Zhengjun and Liu Jianshu have been detained at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center on charges of “illegal business activity. The charges against Xue Ye and his whereabouts are currently unknown. Also on November 26, police from the Beijing Public Security Bureau seized well-known writer Xu Xiao (徐晓), the chief cultural editor of the publication New Century, without providing an arrest warrant to her family. She was put under criminal detention on suspicion of “endangering state security,” but her location of detention is unknown. Ms. Xu, who went to prison for “counterrevolutionary” crimes during the Cultural Revolution, has recently been involved in Liren University’s activities.

These detentions followed the detentions of Guo Yushan (郭玉闪), the Transition Institute’s founder and former director, on October 9, and Huang Kaiping (黄凯平), its current director, on October 10. Guo and Huang were both criminally detained on a charge of “creating a disturbance” and Guo is being held at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center, while Huang’s location is currently unknown. Founded in 2007, the Transition Institute has conducted research and advocacy on tax reform, local election, business regulation, legal reform, citizen participation, and equal rights to education.[1] Mr. Guo and other staff played a key role in Chen Guangcheng’s rescue operation in April 2012.

On October 9, police also detained the Beijing-based writer Kou Yanding (寇延丁), 49, and put her under criminal detention on a charge of “creating a disturbance” at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center. The charge is likely related to her expression of support of pro-democracy freedoms in Hong Kong.[2] Those familiar with the case also believe that her detention is tied to her affiliation with the Transition Institute and her role in Chen Guangcheng’s rescue. Ms. Kou is known for her books on peaceful democratic transition and civil society activism.

Authorities have closed down Liren University, a private school in Beijing run by the Liren Group, and its many branch libraries in Chinese villages. On October 1, police detained Chen Kun (), 27, the school’s executive director since 2013. He is being held on suspicion of “creating a disturbance” at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center.

Following the arrests of the 81-year-old writer Tie Liu (铁流) in September and the veteran dissident journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) in May, the more recent detentions have raised grave concerns that President Xi Jinping may be waging a crackdown on dissent aimed at independent groups and outspoken intellectuals.

Delayed Trials & Rushed Sentences During Thanksgiving Holiday

Court proceedings for four activists initially detained in the summer of 2013 were held on November 28, the day after Thanksgiving, a major holiday in the United States. In Guangzhou, a flawed hearing on the cases of Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) and Sun Desheng (孙德胜) stretched into the early morning of the next day but ended without a verdict. Meanwhile, a court in Jiangsu Province sentenced to prison activists Ding Hongfen (丁红芬) and Shen Aibin (沈爱斌), punishing them for disclosing a black jail and rescuing detainees in Wuxi City in June 2013.

The trial of Mr. Guo and Mr. Sun at the Tianhe District People’s Court went on for 18 hours without a break, and authorities denied the defendants food. In court, judges ignored allegations that police subjected the activists to torture and other inhumane treatment during their detention, and repeatedly interrupted the activists and lawyers from speaking. Only a few individuals were allowed to observe the proceedings, while police kept many supporters from going near the courthouse and took several away. Both Guo and Sun have been detained since August 2013 on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.” They are among dozens, including 15 who have been sentenced to prison so far, who were targeted in the crackdown on peaceful assembly, association, and expression that began in early 2013.[3]

In Jiangsu, the Binhu District People’s Court in Wuxi sentenced Ding Hongfen and Shen Aibin to 21 and 18 months, respectively, on charges of “intentional damage of property.” Three other activists tried in the same case in late October were not given prison terms. Authorities seized all five after the activists conducted a daring rescue of petitioners who were being held inside a guesthouse in Wuxi (see video). Due to a lack of evidence, police released them on “bail pending further investigation” in March 2014.  In late May, police arrested Ding and Shen after they reported to authorities that one of the security guards at the local procuratorate was the same guard at the black jail that they had uncovered a year before. Taking into account time already served in detention, Shen’s sentence is scheduled to end in March 2015, and Ding is set for release next June.[4]

Ethnic Minority Rights

Recent Sentences for 5 Tibetans Range From 2 to 12 Years

Over the past two months, Chinese authorities have sentenced to prison five Tibetans, including both monks and musicians, as reported by the Tibetan Centre for Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). The punishments, with the longest being 12 years, were issued in apparent retaliation against the men for exercising their freedom of religion and expression.

A court in Sog (Ch: Suo) County in Nagchu (Ch: Naqu) Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region handed down a 12-year sentence on October 1 to Tsangyang Gyatso (仓央嘉措), a senior Tibetan monk, on a charge of “inciting separatism” for allegedly “contacting outsiders” and “inciting other monks to protest against the Chinese government.” Tsangyang Gyatso, who was once the chief chant master/presiding priest at Drilda Monastery, was detained in March 2014 along with three other monks whose whereabouts remain unknown. Both the senior monk’s family and the monastery only received official notification of the verdict 15 days after he was sentenced. Tsangyang Gyatso is being held at Qushui Prison on the outskirts of Lhasa.[5]

The Barkham (Ma’erkang) County Intermediate People’s Court in the Ngaba (Ch: Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province sentenced two other Tibetan monks to prison for allegedly “protesting the Chinese nation,” punishments for their solo demonstrations at which they shouted slogans calling for Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet. Lobsang Tenpa (洛桑登巴), 19, received two years on November 7, while Lobsang Gyatso (洛桑嘉措), 20, received three years on an unknown date. On different days in April 2014, they each reportedly rallied alone in the main public street in Ngaba County, and police detained them soon afterward. Both monks have reportedly been tortured in detention. Lobsang Gyatso and Lobsang Tenpa had been classmates at Kirti Monastery, where Chinese officials have enforced a patriotic re-education campaign that began in 2012.[6]

In addition, the Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court in Sichuan sentenced two prominent Tibetan musicians to prison on November 27 for their involvement in making Tibetan folk music with alleged political overtones. Singer Kelsang Yarphel (格桑亚培), 39, received four years, while folk singer and music producer Pema Rigzin (白玛仁增), 44, received two-and-a-half-years. The exact criminal charges against them are unknown. Authorities in Lhasa seized Kelsang Yarphel in July 2013, accusing him of performing a song with political connotations at a concert there. Rigzin reportedly had been pressured by authorities for years to shut down a recording studio he ran that produced Tibetan music. He was detained in Chengdu in May 2013 and held incommunicado until the recent trial and sentencing.[7]


Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 240 374 8937, reneexia@chrdnet.com, Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator (English), +1 209 643 0539, victorclemens@chrdnet.com

Wendy Lin, Hong Kong Coordinator (Mandarin, Cantonese, English), +852 6932 1274, wendylin@chrdnet.com

Follow CHRD on Twitter: @CHRDnet


[1] “Transition Institute Administrative Director He Zhengjun Has Home Searched, NGO Completely Shut Down” (传知行行政主管何正军遭抄家带走 NGO传知行遭全面封杀), Rights Defense Network (RDN), November 27, 2014.

[2] “Commentary on Rights Defense: Authorities Use ‘Steel Cage’ Means to Strengthen Repression of ‘Liberal Intellectual Groups” (维权评论:当局以“铁笼子”手段强化对“自由知识分子群体”的镇压), December 2, 2014, RDN.

[3] “Netizens Across Country Visit Tianhe Detention Center in Guangzhou, Hoping to See Tortured

Guo Feixiong & Sun Desheng” (全国各地网友到广州天河看守所看望遭受虐待酷刑的郭飞雄、孙德胜), November 29, 2014, RDN; “Alert: Many Supporters Seized at Guo Feixiong Trial” (快讯:郭飞雄案庭审现场 多位声援公民被抓走), November 28, 2014, Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (CRLW).

[4] “Ding Hongfen, Shen Aibin, Others Uncover Black Jail: Case Profile” (“丁红芬、沈爱斌等冲击无锡黑监狱案”全案始末), November 28, 2014, RDN.

[5] “Tibetan monk sentenced to 12 years for ‘inciting separatism,’” October 29, 2014, Tibetan Centre for Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

[6] “Two young monks sentenced to prison for staging peaceful protests in Tibet,” November 12, 2014, TCHRD.

[7] “Two Tibetan artists receive harsh sentences, severe fines for creation of Tibetan music,” December 2, 2014, TCHRD.

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