Update to UN on case of Guo Feixiong – July 14, 2015Comments Off on Update to UN on case of Guo Feixiong – July 14, 2015
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
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 torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) hereby respectfully submits updated information on the arbitrary detention of Mr. Yang Maodong (杨茂东, also known as Guo Feixiong, 郭飞雄). This update follows the communiqué on behalf of Mr. Yang that we submitted on February 5, 2014, to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Special Rapporteurs on rights to Freedom of Assembly, Association, and Expression, and Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Situation of Human Rights Defenders. At this time, CHRD is submitting further information since Yang’s case has been fraught with legal and procedural violations, and he has allegedly been subjected to torture and other mistreatment.
Prominent Guangzhou activist Yang Maodong has been detained since August 2013, when authorities accused him of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.” The criminal charge stems from allegations that he organized demonstrations in front of the Southern Weekly headquarters in January 2013, headed a campaign calling on the Chinese government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and led an anti-corruption drive. Formally arrested in September 2013, his detention occurred during President Xi Jinping’s first nationwide crackdown on civil society. Alleging that Mr. Yang’s case involves “state security,” police at Tianhe District Detention Center in Guangzhou prevented lawyers to meet with Yang for months after he was taken into custody. Yang was not allowed access to a lawyer until mid-November 2013, when his lawyers reported that Yang had staged a hunger strike for over 20 days to protest the criminal charge against him and his detention. On December 18, 2013, Mr. Yang was reportedly indicted, though authorities did not directly notify his lawyers of this development. In addition, authorities have denied repeated requests from his lawyers and family for his release on medical grounds, claiming that Yang is a “danger to society” if released.
Legal and procedural violations
Yang Maodong was held in prolonged pre-trial detention for 15 months, and finally tried on November 28, 2014. (Trial proceedings, initially set for September 12, were suspended when Yang’s lawyers demanded a just and open trial after numerous procedural violations, including their not being informed of the date of the trial at least three days in advance, as required by Chinese law.) The hearing in November was still marred by legal and procedural violations, including authorities’ barring supporters from attending, and denying Yang’s right to make a defense statement in court. In addition, the court still has not announced a verdict more than seven months after the trial, a violation of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (Article 202), which stipulates that a court must issue a verdict no later than three months after accepting a case from a procuratorate. The Tianhe District People’s Court accepted Yang’s case in June 2014.
During the pre-trial period, Yang’s lawyers also had difficulties in accessing case materials, including evidence presented by the prosecutor, and this issue only worsened after the trial. The lawyers attempted—in January, March, and April 2015—to follow up on Yang’s case at the Tianhe District People’s Court, but were repeatedly denied the right to access case files and court documents. Mr. Yang’s attorneys have filed complaints against the court over these obstructions.
Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
In June 2015, Yang filed two litigation requests with the assistance of one of his lawyers, Zhang Lei (张磊). One request for litigation was filed against Tianhe District Detention Center, where Yang has been held, and alleges degrading treatment of him and other detainees. The other seeks national compensation from the Tianhe District People’s Court for alleged torture committed by court officers (litigation details are below). (It is important to note that Guo was severely tortured while imprisoned from 2006-2011, and thus had been previously targeted for ill treatment by authorities. During that time, he was beaten, put on a tiger bench—a torture device where one is locked in a seated position for an extended period—and was hanged from a ceiling by his arms with his legs bent back while being hit with an electric prod on the face, arms, and genitals.)
According to the litigation request filed against Tianhe District Detention Center, he and other detainees have been subjected to unlawful and degrading treatment. Yang alleges that routine security checks have been humiliating, as prison guards have ordered detainees to strip off all their clothes. Such mistreatment was stopped for a period after Yang filed a complaint and spoke extensively with center authorities, but several guards resumed the practice (specifically, on March 25 and April 28, 2015). Yang vehemently protested these searches and was removed from the cell, but his fellow inmates in cell number C110 were still forced to take off their clothes and also faced other abuse; Yang heard one inmate screaming after he refused to comply, and later learned the guards had sexually abused him and another detainee. This litigation request also asks the court to retrieve video footage from the two aforementioned dates, since, according to Chinese law, detention centers should be equipped with surveillance cameras in order to prevent and also record acts of mistreatment. The mistreatment violates China’s Detention Center Regulations (2011), which stipulates that detainees are not to be humiliated, subjected to corporal punishment, or abused by prison guards.
The second filed litigation case alleges mistreatment in the form of physical abuse committed by court officers, or bailiffs (the district court has not yet accepted the case). Yang detailed three occasions in 2014 when court officers mistreated him while transferring him to and from the Tianhe District People’s Court. The mistreatment allegedly occurred on the days of a pretrial meeting, the initial trial, and the resumed first-instance trial, on August 1, September 12, and November 28, respectively. In all three instances, officers covered Yang’s head with a black hood, cuffed his hands, and shackled his feet. According to Yang, the handcuffs and shackles were so tight that they cut into his flesh and caused swollenness. He also felt numbness around his hands and feet, which affected his ability to control his hands and feet for an extended period even after the devices were removed. To this day, Yang’s wrists and ankles still retain deep marks from this mistreatment, and he has numbness in his left ankle. Feeling both extreme humiliation and ongoing physical effects from the mistreatment, Yang requested an apology from the eight officers who perpetrated the behavior. He further asked the court to retrieve photos of his injuries, which he requested to be taken and stored at the detention center.
As illustrated above, mistreatment in detention has contributed to the deteriorating physical condition of Yang, who was relatively healthy before he was detained in 2013, according to his wife, Zhang Qing (张青). Besides the aforementioned injuries, Yang’s lower legs are now extremely weak, according to his lawyers. His sister and doctor believe this condition could be a result of the hunger strike he went on shortly after he was initially detained, but may have also been caused or exacerbated by the physical mistreatment that Yang has suffered. In view of Yang’s worsening health, his lawyers have applied twice for release on medical bail, the first time in 2013 and again in June 2014, but authorities refused to grant him bail.
Individuals involved in torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
1) At Tianhe District Detention Center:
Prison guard surnamed Zhen (甄), ID #043610 and two guards from Cell B section.
2) ID numbers of court officers who transferred Yang Maodong to and from the Tianhe District People’s Court:
August 1, 2014: XY00692, FJ441151, FJ441152
September 12, 2014: 44110231, 44113491
November 28, 2014: XY11225, 44110231, 44111267, and 44113493
Date Submitted: July 14, 2015