[CHRB] Closed-Door Trial of Guangzhou Activists & Hunger Strike in Henan Detention Center (6/16-19/2015)Comments Off on [CHRB] Closed-Door Trial of Guangzhou Activists & Hunger Strike in Henan Detention Center (6/16-19/2015)
China Human Rights Briefing
June 16-19, 2015
- Trial of Three Activists in Guangzhou Despite UN Experts’ Call for Release
- Detained Activist Jia Lingmin on Hunger Strike to Protest Abuses, Concerns over Her Health Grow
- Police Recommend Charging Human Rights Lawyer Xia Lin with “Fraud”
Trial of Three Activists in Guangzhou Despite UN Experts’ Call for Release
The trial of disbarred lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and activists Yuan Chaoyang (袁朝阳 aka Yuan Xinting 袁新亭) and Wang Qingying (王清营) began behind closed doors at the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court on June 19. The three are charged with “inciting subversion of state power.” No member of the public was allowed to attend the trial. Police also tried to block family members from attending, but eventually let a few in after their lawyers protested. The trial lasted only two hours before the court suspended the hearing when the three defendants dismissed their lawyers, in order to protest against a number of procedural violations. Outside the courthouse, and in the days leading up to the trial, several dozens of activists in Guangzhou and other provinces had been placed under house arrest or detained in “black jails” by police in concerted efforts to block them from trying to attend the trial, including the wife of Tang Jingling.
Since their initial detention in May 2014, law enforcement and judicial authorities have violated numerous due process rights of Tang, Yuan, and Wang, following a pattern of abuses in criminal cases against human rights defenders, which CHRD documented in the 2014 Annual Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in China.
- Criminal detention used as a means to silence peaceful expression: Guangzhou police initially took the three into custody more than one year ago on charges of “creating a disturbance” (under Article 293(4) of China’s Criminal Law) during the crackdown to silence public efforts to remember victims of the Tiananmen massacre around its 25th anniversary.
- Application of “inciting subversion” crime against human rights defenders: The three activists were subsequently arrested on the more serious charge of “inciting subversion of state power” (under Article 105(2)) of the Criminal Law).
- Unreasonably prolonged pretrial detention: The procuratorate sent the case back to police twice for further investigation before eventually indicting the three activists in May 2015. The three spent over one year in pretrial detention before a judge heard the case.
- Torture in detention and no investigation after complaints: Both Wang Qingying and Tang Jingling told their lawyers that they had been tortured in detention, but authorities never addressed the allegations. After the torture was revealed, Tang’s visits by his lawyers were blocked for a period of time in retaliation.
- Denied right to public hearing: According to Wang’s lawyer, Sui Muqing (隋牧青), judicial authorities told the lawyers two weeks before the trial that the case touched on “national security” issues, and thus would not be open to the public or family members. Though a few family members were allowed into the courtroom, guards did not admit any other members of the public to observe the trial.
The charges of “inciting subversion” against the three relate to their spearheading the “Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Movement,” which advocates for non-cooperation with government policies that are non-democratic, in violation of human rights, or the law. They engaged in advocacy campaigns, calling for abolishing the household registration system, and pushing for free and fair local elections, which the indictment cited as “evidence” of the crime of “inciting subversion.” The indictment against them cited confiscated books and leaflets on non-violent political transitions as evidence of “crime” and referred to them as illegal publications.
International bodies have criticised China’s “subversion” laws as being likely to be misused to punish the exercise of internationally-protected rights. Following a 1997 visit to China by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the independent experts stated that China’s laws related to “subversion” and “inciting subversion” contained a “broad and imprecise definition liable to be both misapplied and misused” and that, under such a definition, “even communication of thoughts and ideas or, for that matter, opinions, without intent to commit any violent or criminal act, may be regarded as subversion.”
The three activists have remained in detention seven months after the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) adopted an opinion in November 2014 demanding the immediate release of Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting, and Wang Qingying and the provision of state compensation to them for the arbitrary deprivation of their liberty. WGAD ruled that the detentions of Tang, Yuan and Wang were the result of their legitimate exercise of the rights to free expression, association, and assembly. As a member of the Human Rights Council (HRC), China has generally ignored such calls by the HRC’s Special Procedures, leaving a clear track record of failures to honor China’s own “voluntary pledges” to the HRC to “promote and protect human rights.”
Detained Activist Jia Lingmin on Hunger Strike to Protest Abuses, Concerns over Her Health Grow
The health of detained activist Jia Lingmin (贾灵敏) has rapidly deteriorated following a month-long hunger strike to protest abuses of her legal rights. Jia began her second hunger strike in mid-May, after trial proceedings at Gongyi City People’s Court in Zhengzhou were suspended for a second time. When she appeared at her trial that resumed on June 2, Jia reportedly looked very weak and gaunt. She told her lawyer that a doctor at the detention center tried to force-feed her with fluids by injection.
Detained in May 2014 and charged with “creating a disturbance,” Jia was held in pre-trial detention for almost a year before her trial first opened in late April. Courts suspended that trial and the rescheduled hearing in mid-May when Jia dismissed her lawyers in protest over violations of her legal rights by the court and presiding judges. The abuses include, among others, the admittance of illegal evidence, lack of acknowledgement of her choice of legal counsel, denial of lawyer visits, insufficient court notification of defense witnesses about when they can testify, and barring supporters from hearings while instead reserving courtroom seats to government personnel (in effect holding a closed trial). During the resumed hearing on June 2, police prevented a large number of Jia’s supporters from entering the courtroom and took several of them into police custody. Jia’s detention stems from her staunch advocacy on behalf of victims of forced home demolitions. She is being held at Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center.
Police Recommend Charging Human Rights Lawyer Xia Lin with “Fraud”
Beijing police have recommended defense lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖) be indicted on charges of “fraud.” Xia, the former defense lawyer of the co-founder of the independent think tank Transition Institute, Guo Yushan (郭玉闪), has been in detention since November 8. On May 18, police asked the Beijing Municipality No. 2 People’s Procuratorate to place the charge. Lawyer Xia accepted the family’s authorization to represent Guo Yushan following Guo’s detention in October 2014, but Xia was repeatedly blocked from visiting his client before being taken into police custody himself. It is believed that his detention was directly tied to undertaking legal representation in a “politically sensitive” case like that of Guo’s. It remains unclear what evidence authorities have used to bolster their trumped-up “fraud” charge. He is being held at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center.
Communication from the Chinese government to UN human rights experts claimed that Xia has been detained for “fraud.” It noted that his arrest was approved on January 3, 2015, 56 days after his detention. This is in clear violation of Article 89 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which states stated that the procuratorate must issue an approval of an arrest warrant at the latest 37 days after the individual is placed under criminal detention, or they must be immediately released.
The criminal persecution of Xia, a colleague of prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) at Huayi Law Firm in Beijing and a former member of Pu’s legal defense team, is believed to be retaliation for his work. Xia has taken on many politically-sensitive cases pro-bono, including several death penalty cases and the case of imprisoned environmental activist Tan Zuoren (谭作人) following the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. The criminal prosecution of lawyer Xia is a particularly egregious example of the increasingly hazardous working environment for Chinese human rights lawyers under President Xi Jinping.
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 “Guangzhou 3 Gentleman Trial Opens, Police Behave as Faced by Enemy and Numbers Human Rights Defenders Seized in Front of Courthouse” (广州三君子案开庭警方如临大敌 大批人权捍卫者法院前遭扣押), June 19, 2015, Rights Defense Network; “Tang Jingling Inciting Subversion Trial, Netizen Friends Across the Country Come to Observe, Many Guangdong Residents Put Under Control ” (唐荆陵煽颠案庭审 全国网友赶赴围观 广东多人被控制), June 19, 2015, RDN; “Tang Jingling, Yuan Xinting, Wang Qingying Inciting Subversion of State Power Trial Will Not be Open, Family Refused Permission to Attend” (唐荆陵、袁新亭、王清营煽动颠覆国家政权罪即将不公开开庭审理，并变相拒绝家属旁听), June 10, 2015, RDN; “Guangdong Province, Guangzhou People’s Procuratorate Indictment of Tang Jingling, Yuan Chaoyang, Wang Qingying” (唐荆陵、袁朝阳、王清营起诉书), May 15, 2015, RDN.
 “Six-Month Record by Jia Lingmin’s Defense Team: Front Row to Grief & Emotion” (贾灵敏律师团半年记：悲愤与感动中前行), June 15, 2015, RDN; “Lawyer Zhu Xiaoding: Urgent Statement on Jia Lingmin’s Life-threatening Condition, Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center Should Immediately and Urgently Arrange for Lawyer Visit” (朱孝顶律师：关于贾灵敏生命垂危 郑州市第三看守所应当立即紧急安排律师会见的紧急声明), June 10，2015，RDN；“Lawyer Zhu Xiaoding: Why Has Jia Lingmin Been on a Hunger Strike for 17 Days?” (朱孝顶律师：贾灵敏为什么会绝食抗议十七天？), June 3, 2015, RDN; “Urgent Attention: Jia Lingmin Trial Opens, Many People Taken Into Custody for Wearing Printed T-shirts to Support Her” (紧急关注：贾灵敏案开庭，多人因发文化衫被抓捕), June 2, 2015, RDN.