Submission to UN on Xing Qingxian & Tang Zhishun, April 7, 2016, CHRDComments Off on Submission to UN on Xing Qingxian & Tang Zhishun, April 7, 2016, CHRD
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) hereby respectfully submits updated information on the enforced disappearances of Mr. Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) and Tang Zhishun (唐志顺). This update follows the communiqué on behalf of Mr. Xing and Mr. Tang that we submitted on October 16, 2015, to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (see: https://www.nchrd.org/2015/11/submission-to-un-on-xing-qingxian-tang-zhishun-october-16-2015/). At this time, CHRD is submitting further information since both Xing and Tang have disappeared for 6 months while their families and lawyers have still not received any information pertaining their whereabouts, and as we would like to provide updates on legal violations and concerns over their safety.
Chinese authorities, in coordination with Burmese police officers, seized Chengdu-based activist Xing Qingxian and Beijing-based activist Tang Zhishun in Myanmar on October 6, 2015. Several days later, police raided the activists’ homes in China and confiscated belongings, but without providing search warrants, according to family members. In Xing’s case, cash was also taken from his home, but police did not disclose the seizure of any money in an official list of confiscated goods.
When seized in Burma, Xing and Tang were attempting to help 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩) escape from house arrest in China. Bao is the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and activist Bao Longjun (宝龙军), both of whom were arrested on January 8, 2016, after being initially seized in July 2015. On July 9, 2015, Chinese authorities had confiscated Bao Zhuo- xuan’s passport while abducting him and his father at Beijing Capital International Airport, from where the youth was to fly to Australia to study. The teenager was reportedly mistreated while in police custody, and he continues to be held under house arrest and tight police surveillance.
Legal Violations and Torture Concerns
Since being seized in October 2015, Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun have been held incommunicado, having been denied any contact with family members or access to legal counsel. Their lawyers and families still have not received basic and critical information about them, including their whereabouts, any criminal charges they are facing, what kind of coercive measures, if any, that have been used against them, and their health conditions. Both Xing (severe asthma and rhinitis) and Tang (hyperthyroidism) require daily medication to treat illnesses, and there is no way to verify if either man is receiving necessary medical treatment, due to their incommunicado detention. Considering the lengthy period of secret detention and health concerns, their families, supporters, and defense counsel fear that Xing and Tang are being ill-treated in custody. Denying access to legal counsel and refusing to provide any information to their families are gross violations of international human rights standards, including rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as Chinese law.
Lawyers have visited in October the Ulanhot County Public Security Bureau in Inner Mongolia—whose official stamp appeared on the list of confiscated goods—requesting to see their clients, but they were told Xing and Tang’s case had been transferred to police in Tianjin City, at the orders of the Ministry of Public Security. According to Xing’s wife, lawyers then made multiple unsuccessful attempts to see them—in October and November 2015, and in January and February 2016. Authorities from the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau denied the requests, stating that the cases are of “grave significance, hence a meeting is not allowed.” This period of deprived legal counsel violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that a lawyer should be able to visit with a client within 48 hours of a request (Article 37). Not providing information to their families about the detentions violates other Chinese laws, including Article 83 of the CPL, which stipulates that a detainee’s family must be notified of a detention within 24 hours.
It is illegal and inhumane to deny Xing and Tang access to lawyers, but such a restriction has become common in cases of detained human rights defenders in China. In particular, police often cite “national security” concerns to deny lawyer visits, taking advantage of an overly broad CPL provision in Article 37, which also stipulates during the investigation of cases of crimes that endanger national security, the investigating organ can permit or refuse a meeting. While it is not clear on what official “basis” police have denied Xing and Tang access to legal counsel, Chinese police in the past two years have increasingly referenced Article 374 of the amended Public Security Organ Procedures for Handling Criminal Cases (2012) to reject lawyer requests to meet with detained rights defenders. The article broadened the type of applicable offenses (beyond the crime category of Endangering National Security) to include virtually any crime so deemed by police, an extended interpretation of the Criminal Law that Chinese lawyers have argued is illegal because the Ministry of Public Security does not have the power to enact legislation. (The charge of “organizing persons to illegally cross the national border” falls under the category of Crimes of Obstructing the Administration of Public Order, Article 318 of China’s Criminal Law. According to Chinese law, a conviction for “organizing persons to illegally cross the national border” carries a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than two years but not more than seven years, and a fine.)
In addition, Chinese authorities have increasingly used state media to denounce individuals or groups that the state perceives as “political threats,” which is how the government apparently regards Xing and Tang. As an example, the only “information” revealed by authorities about the men’s case has appeared in articles published online in the Chinese state newspaper Global Times and by the state news agency Xinhua—9 and 10 days, respectively, after Xing and Tang’s initial disappearance. According to the reports, which were intended to vilify both activists, both men were detained on suspicion of “illegally crossing the national border.” Following the July 2015 crackdown on human rights lawyers, press reports published by Xinhua claimed that police had “broken up a criminal gang” and that those detained were “implicated in serious crimes.” The reports have had the effect of “guiding” public opinion of—and vilifying—the human rights lawyers and, by extension, their supporters, including Xing and Tang.