Submission to UN on Pu Zhiqiang – July 29, 2015

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on the right to health


Communiqué on Behalf of Pu Zhiqiang, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China, Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Violation of Rights to Heath, Freedom of Expression, Association, and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender


1. Family name: Pu (浦)

2. First name: Zhiqiang (志强)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): January 17, 1965

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

6. Identity document (if any): ID Card

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Pu Zhiqiang is a prominent human rights lawyer and partner at the Huayi Law Firm in Beijing.

While a law student at China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, he took part in the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations, including in the hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. After earning his masters in law in 1991, Pu was blocked from employment because of his activism and refusal to write a statement of repentance. He was only able to take the bar exam and receive his license in 1995, and he began working as a lawyer in 1997.

Pu Zhiqiang has attracted the ire of authorities by taking on sensitive and prominent human rights cases and for making provocative public comments about the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. He has defended a number of human rights defenders, activists, victims of Re-education through Labor (RTL), Tibetans, and other high-profile cases related to free expression. Pu represented environmental activist Tan Zuoren (谭作人) in 2009, the artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) in 2011, and petitioner Tang Hui (唐慧) in 2013 (Tang had been sent to RTL after seeking justice for her daughter, who was raped at the age of 11). In 2012, he embarked on a series of RTL cases in Chongqing that helped raise public awareness of the administrative detention system, and contributed to a wider debate about RTL in both foreign and domestic media. After the abolishment of RTL in 2013, he turned to taking on cases related to shuanggui, an extralegal disciplinary process for Chinese Communist Party officials. Pu Zhiqiang has been actively involved in promoting rule of law, and he was one of the first signatories of Charter 08, a manifesto for political and legal reforms to advance democracy and human rights in China. Pu’s call for an investigation into former national security head Zhou Yongkang (周永康) in February 2013 was widely disseminated and discussed on Chinese social media before being deleted by government censors.


II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: May 4, 2014

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Mr. Pu’s residence.

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Beijing City Fengtai District National Security Officers

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No notice is known to have been issued.

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: No warrant is known to have been issued.

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: No reason given at the time.

7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known):


III. Detention

1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on May 6, 2014, then officially arrested on June 13, 2014.

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Pu has been in detention since May 4, 2014.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB).

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Mr. Pu has been detained at Beijing No. 1 Detention Center.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Beijing PSB.

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities:

Pu Zhiqiang was criminally detained on suspicion of “creating a disturbance.” His official arrest was charged with an additional crime, “illegally obtaining personal information.” In November 2014, when Beijing police sent his case to a procuratorate for indictment, two new crimes were added: “inciting splittism” and “inciting ethnic hatred.” When Pu was indicted, two of the charges were dropped (“illegally obtaining personal information” and “inciting splittism”).

7. Legal basis for the detention including relevant legislation applied (if known):

According to Pu Zhiqiang’s indictment, dated May 15, 2015, he is charged with “inciting ethnic hatred” and “creating a disturbance.” According to article 294 of China’s Criminal Law, if convicted of “inciting ethnic hatred” and the case is found to be “serious,” an individual is subject to a fixed term of up to three years in prison, put under criminal detention or surveillance, or deprived of their political rights. If the case is “especially serious,” the suspect will be sentenced between 3 to 10 years in prison.

Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law, if convicted of “creating a disturbance,” a fixed-term imprisonment of up to 5 years will be sentenced to those who (1) willfully attacking another person and the circumstances are serious; (2) chasing, intercepting, or cursing another person, and the circumstances are serious; (3) forcibly taking away, demanding, or willfully damaging or seizing public or private property; and the circumstances are serious; or (4) creating a disturbance in a public place, causing serious disorder.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

At around 11 p.m. on May 4, 2014, national security officers from Fengtai District in Beijing summoned Pu Zhiqiang for questioning, a day after he had attended a private event commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Officers brought him to his home at 4 a.m. the next morning (for a change of clothes) and at that time confirmed to his family that he had been summoned. At around 4 p.m. on May 5, Beijing police raided his home and took away his computer, cellphone, books, and other personal belongings. Pu was officially arrested on June 13, 2014, just as the legal limit for holding him under criminal detention was set to expire.

V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary.

Pu Zhiqiang was among a dozen intellectuals and family members of Tiananmen Massacre victims who Beijing police summoned for questioning after they attended an event memorializing the massacre in May 2014. Pu’s detention was part of wide police operations in the spring and summer of 2014 that targeted Chinese dissidents, human rights lawyers and activists, journalists, and other members of China’s civil society. Many of the affected individuals, including Pu, took part in the pro-democracy movement in 1989. In the run-up to the extremely sensitive quarter-century anniversary of the suppression of that movement, the crackdown in 2014 was meant to preemptively silence any public expression and quell any appeals for justice regarding the massacre. (CHRD has confirmed cases of 152 individuals who were affected during the 2014 crackdown, with almost all subjected to some form of restricted movement, from “soft detention” at home to formal arrest.)

Mr. Pu’s detention is a blatant violation of his rights to freedom of expression and opinion, and a pretext for the government to retaliate against his mocking of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders and critiques of oppressive tactics used by the Chinese government. In the indictment against him, “evidence” of Pu’s “criminal activities” includes more than 20 online posts on Weibo (a popular Chinese micro-blog site), allegedly written by Pu from 2011 to 2014, that are presented as proof of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “creating a disturbance.” Some commentaries, which Pu confirmed to be his, condemned the government’s hardline policies in Xinjiang. For example, concerning a deadly knife attack at a railway station in March 2014, allegedly committed by ethnic Uyghurs from Xinjiang, Pu wrote, “This is the outcome, not the cause” (of policies affecting Uyghurs). In other posts, Pu remarked that several senior CCP leaders ascended to their status due to their “bloodlines” and by “pretending to be fools and being actual fools.”

Pu’s case is emblematic of the crackdown on online speech under Chinese President Xi Jinping. A 2013 Supreme People’s Court and Supreme People’s Procuratorate interpretation defined the Internet as a “public space.” This has allowed authorities to apply the crime “creating a disturbance” (Criminal Law Article 293(4)) to such speech, which will likely be used as legal justification to prosecute Pu. The indictment against him described the “public” as the approximately two hundred thousand followers combined from several of Pu’s social media accounts. (The increased use of the charge is seen in 71 cases CHRD documented of individuals held on suspicion of “creating a disturbance” in late 2014 for posting online messages of support for the protests in Hong Kong.)

Lawyer Pu has experienced deprivation of effective medical care since initially being taken into custody. He suffers from medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and prostatitis (an infection of the prostate that, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body, including the kidneys, and possibly lead to organ failure). Officials confiscated his medication when he arrived at the detention facility in Beijing, and he was later offered pills that he did not recognize. One of Pu’s lawyers, Zhang Sizhi (张思之), visited his client in June 2014, when Pu said his legs are swollen, a typical sign that a diabetic patient is not being properly treated (Pu has since indicated that he is getting more treatment for his diabetes). In the early months of his detention, Pu was also subjected to extensive and frequent interrogations, which likely only worsened his health. One of Pu’s lawyers noted at a detention center visit in June 2015 that his client’s illnesses seemed to be better managed, although he was still not receiving effective treatment for prostatitis. His lawyers have repeatedly applied for release on medical bail, but authorities have rejected all these applications, in one instance stating that Pu would “pose a danger to society” if released.

The deprivation of medical care is in clear violation of Chinese law. Regulations on Administrative Detention Facilities, went into effect on April 1, 2012, stipulates prompt medical care for ill detainees. The law also allows correspondence with the outside world during periods of detention, which includes barring of inspection or confiscation of correspondence. However, letters sent by Pu’s wife have never reached his hands.

At the time of this communication, Pu Zhiqiang has been held in pre-trial detention for nearly 15 months without being brought before a judge. Violations regarding his access to and interaction with his lawyers have occurred throughout the prolonged pre-trial detention. Lawyers Mo Shaoping (莫少平) and Shang Baojun (尚宝军) sent a letter in June 2015 to the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center, in which they complained about restrictions that hampered their efforts to meet with their client. On June 2, the lawyers requested to visit Pu, but were not granted permission to meet him until June 23. This three-week deprivation of counsel visitation violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which states a defendant should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request (Article 37). Lawyers Mo and Shang also complained about restrictions imposed during meetings with Pu; they have been forced to meet in a room where they were separated by glass from Pu, and only for a maximum of 40 minutes, restrictions that the lawyers assert have no legal basis. Moreover, their meetings with Pu have been recorded and videotaped, according to the lawyers, which are clear violations of China’s Lawyers Law (Article 33).

As other examples of authorities’ harassing Pu’s lawyers and violating his right to counsel, police also detained two members of his defense team in 2014: his niece, Qu Zhenhong (屈振红), and Xia Lin (夏霖). Qu was seized shortly after Pu Zhiqiang, criminally detained for a year without trial, and released on bail pending investigation in May 2015. Mr. Xia was detained in November 2014 after requesting to meet with another client in a sensitive case, and he remains in custody.

In retaliation for his expression of views and criticism of the government, Mr. Pu has been detained solely on the basis of the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The circumstances of his 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 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).


VI. 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.

After Pu Zhiqiang’s detention was confirmed, his family and supporters protested online and in public demonstrations against the apparent reprisals by the Chinese government for Pu’s legal defense work and expression of dissent. Activists, lawyers, scholars, and students inside China, as well as organizations and governments around the world, issued statements and petitions calling for his unconditional release. Supporters, especially those who benefited from his legal defense and efforts pushing for the abolishment of RTL, have published statements and stories of how the lawyer fearlessly stood up to express views that others were afraid to voice.

Authorities have rejected requests by Pu’s lawyers to grant him bail on medical grounds.


Date submitted: July 29, 2015

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