Update on 709 Crackdown Against Rights Lawyers

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Submission to:

High Commissioner for Human Rights

Chair-Rapporteur of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Chair-Rapporteur of Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

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

CHRD wishes to update UN mandate-holders, embassies in China, and bar associations around the world  on recent developments of the crackdown targeting Chinese human rights lawyers that began in July 2015. Over 300 lawyers and other human rights defenders were summoned for questioning, and 30 individuals were confirmed to be criminally detained. Since January 2016, CHRD has documented both ongoing and new violations of rights in these cases. To date, 22 individuals are still being held: 19 of those have been formally arrested—including 16 in January—and 3 under enforced disappearance . Of those criminally detained, 11 have been released, most on “bail pending further investigation,” after lengthy periods in custody ranging from over one month to nine months.

The crackdown against human rights lawyers and activists is a blatant affront to the rule of law and a politicized attack on oft-persecuted members of China’s civil society. Lawyers and activists have been subjected to gross violations of legal rights that should be protected by Chinese law as well as rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including being held under ongoing incommunicado detention. Chinese authorities have systematically denied lawyers’ and families’ requests to see the detainees during their entire period of deprived freedom.

Further/Ongoing Rights Violations

  • Suspicion of “political” crimes & increased severity of charges: Sixteen of the 22 currently detained individuals face “political” charges under the category of “endangering state security.” In addition, many were first detained on less serious charges but then formally arrested on charges with potentially greater length of criminal punishment. For instance, 10 of the arrested lawyers and activists have been charged with “subversion of state power,” which carries a sentence of 10 years to life in prison in the most serious cases (Article 105 (1) of China’s Criminal Law), whereas most of them had been initially charged with less severe crimes, specifically “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and, in some cases, “inciting subversion.” Six others have been charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” another state security crime. In part, levying charges for crimes of “endangering state security” demonstrates systematic and politicized criminalization of civil society figures since the enactment of China’s National Security Law in July 2015. The law’s definition of “national security” is overly broad and gives law-enforcement bodies sweeping powers. The expanded police power can be observed in the crackdown against lawyers, as authorities repeatedly cite “national security” concerns to deny lawyer visits.
  • Prolonged pre-trial detention: None of the detainees from the crackdown have been brought before a judge since being taken into custody. Authorities have held these rights defenders beyond legally permitted periods of time, with the procuratorate extending investigation periods without providing any explanation. Furthermore, even after the individuals were formally arrested (most in early January 2016), no family members or lawyers have been notified of their case status. In effect, their incommunicado detentions have been extended indefinitely, and without any legal justification.
  • State media used to vilify defenders: Two of the 11 individuals released have had their “confessions” of wrongdoing broadcasted on China’s state television. Such cruel, inhumane, and unlawful treatment is just one way that authorities have used the media to denounce individuals or groups within civil society and control public narratives about government-perceived “political threats.” For example, following the initial days of the crackdown on human rights lawyers, the state news agency Xinhua claimed that police had “broken up a criminal gang” and that those detained were “implicated in serious crimes.” In these cases, the use of state media has “guided” public opinion of—and vilified—human rights lawyers, and had the effect of “trying” the detainees and publicly depriving them of the presumption of innocence.
  • Concerns of torture & other forms of inhumane treatment: Due to continuing incommunicado detention, concerns have deepened over the physical and psychological well-being of the detained lawyers and activists. CHRD has long documented cases of detainees held incommunicado who have been tortured, including by being beaten, denied adequate medical treatment, or forced to do hard labor. The apparent “forced firing” of appointed lawyers (above) had led to concerns that detainees have been intimidated, and possibly tortured, while in police custody.
  • Government retaliation against family members: Family members face insurmountable challenges when attempting to get more information or visit their loved ones, and frequently are subjected to harassment and retaliation from authorities. Many family members of detainees have faced “collective punishment,” such as being held under house arrest, warned by authorities not to speak to the media, and barred from traveling abroad.

To voice support for Chinese human rights lawyers and activists who remain in incommunicado detention, please join in on the following actions:

1) Bring these cases to the attention of the Chinese government as an urgent matter and call for the protection of the right to legal counsel;

2) Contact or visit detention centers to ask for details about the mental and physical integrity of lawyers and activists detained there, in particular:

Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center (022)27535320 and No. 2 Detention Center (022)27535323, where Officer Li Bin (李斌) has been in charge of receiving and denying visitation requests;

3) Issue a press statement or take other actions with colleagues to condemn ongoing and new rights violations.

The 22 individuals still being held incommunicado from the crackdown, listed according to criminal charges:

“Subversion of state power”

1. Lawyer Wang Yu (王宇), female, held at Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

2. Lawyer Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), male, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

3. Lawyer Li Heping (李和平), male, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

4. Legal assistant Zhao Wei (赵威), female, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

5. Activist Hu Shigen (胡石根), male, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

6. Activist Liu Yongping (刘永平), male, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center;

7. Lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富), male, brother of Li Heping, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

8. Lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

9. Legal assistant Liu Sixin (刘四新), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

10. Activist Gou Hongguo (沟洪国), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

“Inciting subversion of state power”

11. Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), male, Changsha Public Security No. 2 Detention Center;

12. Lawyer Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

13. Activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

14. Activist Wu Gan (吴淦), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center (also charged with “libel” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”);

15. Buddhist monk and activist Lin Bin (林斌), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center;

16. Activist Xu Zhihan (徐知汉), male, under residential surveillance in secret location;

Other crimes

17. Legal assistant Gao Yue (高月), female, Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center (charged with “helping to destroy evidence”);

18. Activist Wang Fang (王芳), female, Wuhan No. 1 Detention Center (“picking quarrels and provoking troubles”);

19. Activist Yin Xu’an (尹旭安), male, Daye City Detention Center in Hubei (“picking quarrels and provoking troubles”);

20. Activist Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), male, Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center (charge unclear).

Unconfirmed charges

21. Xing Qingxian (幸清贤), male, under enforced disappearance.

22. Tang Zhishun (唐志顺), male, under enforced disappearance.

For more details on individuals affected by the crackdown on rights lawyers, see https://www.nchrd.org/2015/07/individuals-affected-by-july-10-crackdown-on-rights-lawyers/.)

Submission date: April 19, 2016

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