Submission to UN on Behalf of Three Lawyers – June 11, 2015Comments Off on Submission to UN on Behalf of Three Lawyers – June 11, 2015
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Communiqué on Behalf of Three Lawyers of the People’s Republic of China,
Alleging Violations Against the Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary and the Independence of the Legal Profession
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) respectfully submits this communication on behalf of three Chinese human rights lawyers—Cui Hui, Li Yuhan, and Xie Yang—who have encountered gross violations against the independence of their legal profession and their physical security. Acts allegedly committed against them by Chinese government authorities, including violent assaults by judges and police officers, have been aimed to prevent the lawyers from fully and independently carrying out their legal work, and undermine the principles of rule of law.
As the below and other cases illustrate, human rights lawyers in China in recent years have been increasingly targeted with violent assaults ordered or conducted by authorities. An often-unidentifiable mix of police officers, other government personnel, and hired thugs have committed the abuses while enjoying criminal impunity. For more information about this pattern of retaliatory abuse, please see CHRD’s two most recent annual reports on the situations of human rights defenders:
Cui Hui (崔慧), female, 51, Beijing Municipality
On April 2, 2015, judges Yang Yu (杨宇) and Lai Xiulin (赖秀林), both male, and bailiffs assaulted Cui Hui at the Tongzhou District People’s Court in Beijing after she requested a long-overdue court order on a contract dispute case (based on a verdict issued more than two years prior). A month before the attack, Ms. Cui informed other judges and the discipline supervision office of that court about the violation of legal proceedings committed by Yang and Lai. A lawyer with the Hengqing Law Firm in Beijing, Cui told the judges that she would file a complaint with the procuratorate about the court’s dereliction, and Judges Yang and Lai in turn threatened her. On April 2, when Cui went to Judge Lai’s office to demand the past verdict be carried out, he pushed her out and punched her in the face. On her way out of the building, she encountered Judge Yang, who refused to help her and instead told two court bailiffs to beat her. Cui decided to seek out the head of the court and file a complaint, but Yang and bailiffs prevented her by holding her down on the floor. The assault only ended when a female judge in the courthouse assisted Cui and promised to alert the head of the court.
Ms. Cui was treated at Beijing Tongren Hospital after the incident. Doctors found injuries to her scalp and eye sockets, and that she had suffered soft tissue damage over 40 percent of her body, including on her face, back, neck, and limbs. She subsequently filed a report with the Liyuan Police Station as well as a complaint with the Tongzhou District People’s Procuratorate, the Tongzhou and the Beijing Lawyers Associations, and the discipline supervision office of the Tongzhou District People’s Court.
According to lawyers familiar with the case, under Chinese law, the Tongzhou District Public Security Bureau should have put the two judges who assaulted Cui under administrative detention. The lawyers said that the two should be detained while waiting for an evaluation by judicial authorities of medical reports on injuries that Cui sustained, before authorities decide whether to put them under criminal detention. As of this communication, however, Tongzhou police have taken no action against Judges Yang and Lai, and police have not considered Cui’s request for an evaluation of the medical report.
The Tongzhou District People’s Court did not respond to Cui’s case until April 13, 2015, when the court issued a brief statement—after Cui went public with the incident—saying it would conduct an investigation. On April 30, at a press conference held by the Beijing Municipality High People’s Court, the investigative group claimed no beating had taken place, and offered an edited version of video footage as proof. The investigative process has not been disclosed to the public, and suspicions about the veracity of the edited footage have gone unanswered. No alleged perpetrator in the beating has been reprimanded. Cui Hui has indicated that she previously filed a complaint at the procuratorate against Judges Yang and Lai for dereliction over a matter related to another case. She believes the recent incident of violence against her is a deliberate act of retaliation by the judges, since the procuratorate agreed with her prior allegations.
Li Yuhan (李昱函), female, 58, Beijing Municipality
On May 9, 2015, Li Yuhan was kidnapped by several police officers in Beijing who were under the orders of Shenyang City’s Heping District Public Security Bureau (PSB) to forcibly return her to Liaoning Province. She was then taken to Liyuan Guesthouse in Beijing and forcibly held in Room 1202. Ms. Li, who has heart disease, suffered episodes of irregular heartbeat during the abduction, but officers denied her repeated requests to be sent to the hospital for treatment. To cut off Li’s contact with the outside world, the officers confiscated Li’s cell phones and bag when she was in the bathroom, where officer Li Zhenghai (李正海) reportedly grabbed her head and shoved it against the toilet. Li lost consciousness for a long period, and after she woke up, Li called for help but to no avail. The officers returned one of her phones, after they had apparently used her Wechat (a popular chat application) account and posted, “I am fine, and very safe.” Li was not able to use her phone as she was under constant surveillance. Li’s request for treatment was again denied after the deputy head of a unit at Heping District PSB (surnamed Shi, 施) arrived to transfer her to Liaoning Province. After a phone call to the Beijing police, Li Yuhan was freed when police arrived and determined that those holding her did not have legal documentation authorizing restriction of her movement.
After being let go, Li Yuhan went to a hospital immediately for a medical evaluation, which found that had suffered injuries to her back, head, limbs, and abdomen. After the incident, Ms. Li also suffered from unremitting headaches, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, and irregular heart beats. A doctor warned Li that she is at high risk of cerebral hemorrhage and stroke. Li went back to the hospital two days after her release, and she was diagnosed with a concussion, which had caused the headaches and nausea. Currently, Li Yuhan still requires medical treatment, and has been unable to practice law since the recent abduction and abuse.
Now a lawyer with the Beijing Dunxin Law Firm, Li Yuhan began practicing law in Liaoning in 1991, but she was forced to move to Beijing in 2009 after repeated harassment and arbitrary detention by local authorities and gang members. In late 2005, Ms. Li filed a complaint with the Provincial Department of Justice about her client being threatened, harassed, and mistreated by Zhou Changjiang (周长江), the head of a gang who has been convicted of illegal possession of firearms and tax evasion. Zhou refused to provide court-ordered monetary compensation to Ms. Li’s client, and later retaliated against Li for filing a complaint; Li was abducted and beaten by three strangers, whom she later discovered attacked her on orders from Zhou. A journalist was able to videotape the incident, and police apprehended two of the perpetrators, Jiang Min (姜敏) and Wu Xiufang (吴秀芳). However, despite ample evidence, including eyewitness accounts and medical examination records, the police did not file charges and instead told Li to file a lawsuit.
Two years later, in 2008, after attempting to recover the video footage, Ms. Li faced threats and beatings not only from Zhou Changjiang, but also physical assaults by Zhang Jiafeng (张家丰), a captain at the Heping District Public Security Bureau. Li, with help from the Liaoning Lawyers’ Association, submitted her case to the procuratorate and both the Heping District and Shenyang City PSBs, requesting they hold the perpetrators accountable, but she did not receive a response. After Li moved to Beijing, local authorities continued to harass her, and they repeatedly attempted to detain her in black jails, and beat and threatened Li to silence her.
Xie Yang (谢阳), male, 43, Nanning City, Guangxi Province
On May 17, 2015, more than 20 unidentified individuals armed with batons and knives attacked Xie Yang, a lawyer with the Hunan Gangwei Law Firm based in Hunan Province, while he was providing legal service to his clients in Nanning City, Guangxi Province. Mr. Xie, along with lawyers Tan Yongpei (覃永沛) and Wu Liangshu (吴良述), were in the process of investigation and consultation with his clients—employees at a company that is in a financial dispute with another business. When Xie showed his lawyer’s license to the group of armed men, they started beating him, and his right leg was fractured and he sustained many bruises as a result. Xie believes this was an act of intimidation and retaliation against him taking on the case. According to Xie’s clients, the unidentified perpetrators are associated with a local gang and had been harassing the employees for several days.
Local authorities appeared to sanction the violence against Xie and his clients. Police did not respond to lawyer Tan’s repeated emergency calls for help when Xie was attacked, and officers did not respond when Xie’s clients contacted them for assistance. Moreover, Xie and some of his clients have been criminally investigated for “gathering crowd to engage in a brawl,” but none of the alleged attackers are believed to be under investigation.
Xie Yang has represented many politically sensitive cases. Most recently, he assisted in the defense of a petitioner who was fatally shot by a police officer who has not been reprimanded. Mr. Xie has also represented many activists: Xue Mingkai (薛明凯), arrested in 2011 as part of the crackdown after online calls went out in China for citizens to take “Jasmine strolls,” as inspired by the political and social unrest occurring at that time in North Africa and the Middle East; Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), detained in 2013 during the crackdown on the “New Citizens’ Movement,” a loose network of activists who have peacefully promoted social justice and political and legal reforms; and Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), seized during the crackdown in 2014 on mainland supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests. In addition, Xie Yang has openly and often spoken out against acts of human rights violations. In early 2014, Xie criticized the violent assaults against four human rights lawyers in retaliation for defending their clients; perhaps to avoid official rebuke, his law firm issued a statement at the time denying that Xie was employed there.
Date: June 11, 2015