Submission to UN on Chen Yunfei – September 21, 2015

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

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

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

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


Communiqué on Behalf of Chen Yunfei, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender



1. Family name: Chen (陈)

2. First name: Yunfei (云飞)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): August 13, 1967

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

6. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): Chen Yunfei is a prominent human rights defender from Sichuan Province who participated in the 1989 pro-democracy movement as a student at China Agricultural University in Beijing. He has been involved in calls for the Chinese government to investigate the Tiananmen Massacre and provide compensation to victims. Chen has often used humor and “performance art” to promote human rights advocacy campaigns. He once evaded media censorship and published an advertisement to “salute the mothers of victims” of the 1989 suppression in a prominent state newspaper.

Mr. Chen’s advocacy efforts have made him a frequent target of harassment, violent assaults, and arbitrary detention from authorities. For example, in May 2013, he was followed and then attacked in the street by four unidentified men and hospitalized due to the injuries he suffered. Before the attack, Chen had sought help at a police station, but officers refused to intervene and told him to move out of the neighborhood. One of the attackers was reportedly the “head security chief” of a neighboring village.

7. Address of usual residence: Chengdu City, Sichuan Province, China

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: March 25, 2015

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Chen was arrested on his way back from visiting the graves in Xinjin County, Chengdu City, of two students who died during the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police from the Special Task Force in Chengdu

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

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

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: No notice is known to have been issued.

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

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on March 26, 2015, then officially arrested on April 30, 2015.

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Chen has been in detention since March 25, 2015.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Chengdu Xinjin County Public Security Bureau (PSB)

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Mr. Chen has been detained at Xinjin County Detention Center.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Xinjin County PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: According to the criminal detention notice dated April 3, 2015, Chen was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and “creating a disturbance.”

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

“Inciting subversion of state power” under Article 105 (2) of China’s Criminal Law stipulates a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights to those who incite others by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system.

Under Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law, if convicted of “creating a disturbance,” a fixed-term imprisonment of up to 5 years will be issued 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.

On March 25, 2015, armed officers from Special Task Force in Chengdu intercepted Chen Yunfei and about 20 other commemorators who had just visited the graves of two students who died during the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy movement. The officers confiscated vehicles, mobile phones, and other personal belongings. All the detainees were released that evening except for Chen.

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

Chen Yunfei’s detention is government reprisal against his memorializing victims of the Tiananmen Massacre, which Chen has done annually. His detention is thus a pretext to end his efforts to raise awareness about the events of June Fourth and hold the Chinese government accountable. Chen’s detention is part of a nationwide crackdown that occurs every year against Chinese citizens who seek to commemorate June Fourth.

Procedural violations have occurred throughout Chen’s detention, beginning from when Chen was first taken into custody. After Chen and other attendees of the memorial were seized on March 25, 2015, Chen’s family searched desperately for him for 10 days because they were not informed of his whereabouts. Though Chen was put under criminal detention on March 26, police did not provide Chen’s family an official detention notice until April 3, a gap in time that violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that a detainee’s family must be notified of a criminal detention within 24 hours (Article 83). When his family went to a local police station to file a missing person report in late March, officers refused to accept the request. During this period of Chen’s disappearance, Chen’s family and lawyer also went to Xinjin County Detention Center to inquire whether he was detained at that location, but authorities denied he was there. On March 30, 2015, Chen’s lawyer went to the Xinjin PSB and pressed for information, but officers claimed that they had not detained Chen.

The activist remains held incommunicado. Since he was first taken into custody, local authorities illegally barred Chen’s lawyers from visiting him on two occasions (April 7 and June 26, 2015), and at the time of this communication, Chen has been detained for nearly half a year without any access to his lawyer. This period of deprived access to legal counsel violates China’s CPL, which states a defendant should be able to visit with a lawyer within 48 hours of a request (Article 37). Authorities have cited “state security” concerns in denying Chen visits with his lawyer; this is a pretext commonly used in cases of detained human rights defenders in China, with police taking advantage of an overly broad and arbitrary CPL provision to hold a detainee in secret if a case is deemed to involve “endangering” the social or political order.

Chen Yunfei’s right to access legal counsel is further affected by the restricted movement of one of his lawyers, Sui Muqing (随牧青), who has represented many activists. Sui was seized from his home on July 10, less than two weeks after requesting to see Chen. Sui has since been put under residential surveillance in an unknown location on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” Sui’s detention is part of a wider crackdown on Chinese human rights lawyers, who are being persecuted in unprecedented numbers for taking on politically “sensitive” cases.

Considering the lengthy period of incommunicado detention and past police treatment of Chen Yunfei, his family, supporters, and defense counsel have feared that Chen is facing torture and other forms of mistreatment while in custody. Just four days before Chen was seized, his apartment was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. Chen called police to file a report, but when a man in a police uniform with ID #009390 arrived, the man said he did not have his police identification card. The officer then assaulted Chen along the way to Wuhou Branch Jitou police station. When they arrived, the officer ordered another policeman to confiscate all of Chen’s possessions and search him. Chen was beat again after the officer tore up and threw away Chen’s identification documents, including an entry visa to Hong Kong. Before Chen was released, the same officer forcibly injected an unknown liquid into the activist’s body.

In retaliation for his rights advocacy activities, Mr. Chen 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.

Before Chen’s family received a criminal detention notice, his family members, lawyer, and supporters had searched for him at police stations, detention centers, and a public security bureau, but all authorities denied they had detained him. Police also refused to allow them to file a missing person report. Eventually, friends and supporters started a “Searching for Noble Citizen Chen Yunfei” campaign online and in the streets of Chengdu. After Chen’s family was notified of his detention status and location, his lawyers pressed repeatedly to see him but were not successful, and one of his lawyers was detained less than two weeks after requesting to see Chen.

Date submitted: September 21, 2015

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