[CHRB] “Inciting Subversion” Cases Move Forward; Pu Zhiqiang Still in Legal Limbo (4/23-5/7/15)

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[CHRB] “Inciting Subversion” Cases Move Forward; Pu Zhiqiang Still in Legal Limbo (4/23-5/7/15)

China Human Rights Briefing

April 23–May 7, 2015

Arbitrary Detention

Authorities Move Forward With “Inciting Subversion” Cases; Pu Zhiqiang Still in Legal Limbo

Six human rights defenders—five activists and a lawyer—facing charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and other “political” offenses have seen developments in their cases this week. As partly seen in these cases, authorities since late 2014 have returned to using more explicitly political charges, like those involving “subversion” and “state secrets,” to persecute human rights defenders. This is a notable departure from 2012 through most of 2014, when authorities largely used “public order” crimes to punish rights defenders likely to try to disguise the political nature of charges and deflect international criticism (see CHRD’s 2014 Annual Report).

  • The cases below of four activists detained for “inciting subversion” during the crackdown on supporters of the Hong Kong democracy protests­ are moving through the criminal justice system.
Authorities are moving to prosecute individuals for exercising rights to free expression and assembly. Clockwise from top left: Sun Feng (孙峰), Su Changlan (苏昌兰), Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), Chen Yunfei (陈云飞), and Chen Qitang (陈启棠).

Authorities are moving to prosecute individuals for exercising rights to free expression and assembly. Clockwise from top left: Sun Feng (孙峰), Su Changlan (苏昌兰), Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), Chen Yunfei (陈云飞), and Chen Qitang (陈启棠).

Sun Feng (): A pre-trial meeting was held to discuss Sun’s case on May 5 at the Zibo City People’s Court in Shandong Province. Sun, a political activist and online commentator, was first criminally detained on January 10, 2014 on “inciting subversion” charges for a public demonstration. Zibo police later released him on “bail pending further investigation,” but he was criminally detained again on November 17 for breaking the terms of his bail after he tried to deliver a proposal to authorities in Beijing about the Hong Kong protests. On January 26, police transferred his case to the Zibo City People’s Procuratorate. He is being held at Zibo City Detention Center.

Su Changlan (苏昌兰): Police in Guangdong have recommended indictment against Su and only allowed Su to meet her lawyer for the first time on May 6, after 193 days in detention. Su, a housing rights activist was detained on October 27, 2014 and then put under formal arrest on December 3. She is being held at Nanhai District Detention Center in Foshan City. Police put her husband and brother under criminal detention for one month in February after they demanded her release.

Xie Wenfei (文飞): Police in Guangzhou have recommended indictment against Xie. During a visit with his lawyer in April, Xie Wenfei alleged that police have shackled him for long periods of time. He was criminally detained on October 3, 2014 on suspicion of “creating a disturbance” for a holding a demonstration in support of the Hong Kong protests, but arrested the following month on an “inciting subversion” charge. He is being held at Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center.

Chen Qitang (启棠 aka Tian Li 天理): The case against Chen, another Foshan activist, has been sent back to police for further investigation for the second time. Originally detained on October 25 and released after a 10-day administrative detention, Chen was criminally detained on November 25 and arrested on December 31 due to his ties with activist Su Changlan (see above). He is being held at Nanhai District Detention Center. He has not been allowed any visits from his lawyer.

  • In one case, the pre-trial detention of the detainee has been further extended. On May 5, a Beijing procuratorate again extended (by 15 more days) the period of investigation in the case of human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强). Pu has been held in police custody for one year, since May 4, 2014, without being brought before a judge and has at times been denied medical treatment. Pu was initially detained on suspicion of “creating a disturbance” and “illegally obtaining personal information.” However, police in November recommended that he be indicted on the additional charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “inciting separatism,” citing comments Pu made on weibo about government policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Pu’s lawyer has confirmed that this is the last action that authorities are permitted to do in order to prolong his detention, according to Chinese law. “He can either be sent to trial or freed” on May 20, the lawyer said.
  • In addition, Sichuan police formally arrested activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and “creating a disturbance” on April 30. His arrest stems from a memorial on March 25 that he organized for victims of June Fourth. The event was intentionally planned shortly before Qingming Festival, when Chinese traditionally venerate ancestors and tend to graves of the deceased. Chen is a veteran rights activist who used humor and “performance art” to raise public awareness and advance advocacy campaigns. Chen once evaded media censorship and published an advertisement to “salute mothers of victims” of the 1989 suppression of pro-democracy protesters in a prominent state newspaper in Chengdu. He has since been repeatedly detained, subjected to police violence, and harassed. Chen is being held at Xinjin County Detention Center.

“Inciting subversion” (Article 105(2) of China’s Criminal Law) carries a maximum five-year prison term, but the sentence can be increased if the individual is considered a “ringleader” or is found to have committed “major crimes.” Several prominent activists or dissident intellectuals who were convicted of this crime in 2010-2012, including Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌), Chen Wei (陈卫), and Chen Xi (陈西), are serving between nine and 11 years in prison. Those held on suspicion of political crimes are routinely denied access to their lawyers or requests for release on bail, as authorities cite concerns over “stability” and “state secrets.” [1]


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, Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens

Frances Eve, Researcher (English), +852 6695 4083, franceseve@chrdnet.com, Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD 

Follow CHRD on Twitter: @CHRDnet

[1] “One-Year Anniversary of Pu Zhiqiang’s Detention, Case Again Extended to Investigate for Indictment by 15 days” (浦志强入狱一周年 案件被再延长审查起诉期限15 天), May 4, 2015, Rights Defense Network (RDN); “Alert: Authorities Arrest Mr. Chen Yunfei Arrested on Two Criminal Charges of “Inciting Subversion of State Power” and “Creating a Disturbance” (快讯:陈云飞先生被已当局以“煽动颠覆罪”、“寻衅滋事罪”两罪名执行逮捕), May 4, 2015, RDN; “Already Exceeded 4 Months Since Chen Qitang (Tian Li) Arrested in Inciting Subversion Case, Lawyer Not Permitted to Visit and Not Allowed Bail” (陈启棠(天理)煽颠案被捕已逾四月 律师不允会见 也不准取保), May 3, 2015, RDN; “Second Extended Investigation Period Ends in Activist Su Changlan ‘Inciting Subversion’ Case, Police Already Sent Case to Foshan People’s Procuratorate Recommending Indictment” (维权人士苏昌兰“煽颠案” 二次延长侦查羁押期限到期,已移送佛山市检察院审查起诉), May 3, 2015, RDN; “Activist Chen Yunfei Criminal Detention For ‘Inciting Subversion’ Exceeds 37 Days, Family and Lawyers Haven’t Received Arrest Notice, Nor Has He Been Released ” (维权人士陈云飞“煽颠”刑拘满37天,家属律师均未收到逮捕通知也未见放人), May 2, 2015, RDN; “Xie Wenfei Finally Mets Lawyer, Case Already Transferred to Procuratorate for Indictment” (谢文飞今终得见律师 案件已在检察院审查起诉), April 15, 2015, RDN; “Shandong Democracy Activist Sun Feng ‘Inciting Subversion’ Case to Be Tried Soon” (山东民主人士孙峰“煽颠案”即将开庭), April 3, 2015, RDN.

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