[CHRB] Activists Detained or Facing Trial for Exercising Free Expression (6/22-30, 2016)Comments Off on [CHRB] Activists Detained or Facing Trial for Exercising Free Expression (6/22-30, 2016)
China Human Rights Briefing
June 22-30, 2016
Arbitrary Detention & Freedom of Expression, Assembly
Citizen Journalists Criminally Detained for Sharing Data on Public Protests
Chinese authorities are holding two citizen journalists incommunicado and criminally detained them on June 16 in apparent reprisal for chronicling public protests in China and posting the information online. Police criminally detained Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇) and his girlfriend, Li Tingyu (李婷玉), on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” in Dali, Yunnan Province, one day after the two disappeared. The couple’s families only learned of their detention status over a week later, and lawyers have been blocked from meeting with them. Their whereabouts are unknown after they were reportedly taken away from Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture Detention Center on June 26. The case may be part of a police response to protests in Wukan Village in Guangdong, where local residents have rallied over land disputes and the detention of a local party leader. Villagers in Wukan held much-publicized protests in late 2011, also decrying land deals and government corruption.
Lu Yuyu founded the website “Non News” (非新闻, fei xinwen) several years ago to document labor protests in particular, gathering information from online sources and then posting it on his site and social media platforms. Chinese censors have often deleted the data, which the government considers “sensitive,” especially as the manufacturing sector has been hit hard during the country’s economic slowdown. Lu and Li have also maintained a blog for posting information on mass incidents taking place across China. In 2015, the couple reportedly collected data on nearly 30,000 demonstrations related to land grabs, labor strikes, and environmental protests.
Lu Yuyu, a native of Guizhou Province who was once a migrant worker, has been administratively detained in the past for demonstrating in public, including for calling on officials to disclose their financial assets. Li Tingyu was questioned several times by national security officers as a university student after posting online comments critical of the government. She eventually dropped out of Zhongshan University after being pressured by school officials and her family. On numerous occasions, authorities have threatened Lu and Li for their online activities, even forcing them to move residences.
4 Detained Rights Defenders Tried in Cases of Deprived Expression Rights
In rapid succession, Chinese authorities have put three human rights defenders on trial in the past two weeks, and another is set to face trial on June 30 (see case details below). In the cases heard recently, courts did not announce verdicts at the close of proceedings. Delays in knowing case outcomes appear to be increasingly common for prosecuted activists in China, who are left languishing in detention centers. As a noteworthy example, Guangdong activist Su Changlan (苏昌兰), put on trial for “inciting subversion of state power” on April 21, is still awaiting a verdict more than two months later. In fact, her lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), recently said that judicial authorities are applying to the Supreme People’s Court to push back the announcement of its decision. If approved, it would be the second such extension the court would have received.
Young Activist Huang Wenxun Stands Trial in Hubei After Over 3 Years in Detention
Hubei activist Huang Wenxun (黄文勋) was put on trial on June 24 after he had been detained for over three years without seeing a judge. Huang, 26, was tried for “inciting subversion against state power” by the Xianning City Intermediate People’s Court, which did not issue a verdict at the close of proceedings. There was a high level of police presence to intimidate supporters who gathered outside the courthouse. Authorities reportedly warned activists to stay away, and several people were briefly taken into custody. At the hearing itself, the judge repeatedly cut off lawyers Luo Lizhi (罗立志) and Tang Tianhao (唐天昊) as they tried to present their defense argument or question the prosecution’s “evidence.”
Huang Wenxun’s case epitomizes the increasing use of unreasonably prolonged pre-trial detention, which violates China’s own laws and international norms. The UN Committee against Torture expressed concerns about this practice in its 2015 review of China’s treaty obligations. The case against Huang is connected to his participation in rallies for press freedoms outside the headquarters of the Southern Weekly in Guangzhou in January 2013. He was detained that May while on a “human rights advocacy tour,” which he had initiated to encourage citizen activism and spread democratic ideas and rule of law. Huang was initially held on suspicion of “unlawful assembly,” a less serious offense than “inciting subversion,” for which a conviction on minor offenses carries a maximum of five years, while more serious offenses are punishable for up to 15 years. Huang was reportedly tortured with electric shocks while at Jiayu County Detention Center in 2013 and was later transferred to Chibi City Detention Center, where he remains incarcerated.
Rights Lawyer Xia Lin Tried in Closed Court, No Verdict Announced
The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court staged a show trial of human rights lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖) on a “fraud” charge in reportedly closed proceedings on June 17. The court did not announce a verdict at the end of the hearing. If convicted, Xia could face as long as 10 years in prison. Lawyer Xia, 45, was taken into custody in November 2014, and authorities denied Xia’s access to a lawyer for about 10 months into his detention. It is believed Xia’s detention is reprisal for representing “politically sensitive” cases, and particularly that of activist Guo Yushan (郭玉闪), who was seized during the suppression of supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and then released in January 2015. Xia Lin is a former colleague—and defense lawyer—of prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) at Huayi Law Firm in Beijing. Xia had worked with Pu on several landmark cases involving writers charged with “defamation,” detainees in Re-education through Labor camps, and a vendor facing the death penalty.
Jiangsu Court Puts Grassroots Activist Shan Lihua on Trial
The Gangzha District People’s Court in Jiangsu resumed its trial of grassroots activist Shan Lihua (单利华) for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” in retaliation for her rights advocacy. After suspending the trial in early June, when Shan collapsed in court from untreated asthma, the court heard the case again on June 28, when police barred supporters from observing the hearing. Shan, 46, made a passionate plea for justice in court, and lawyer Chang Boyang defended her innocence. Shan has petitioned over the forced demolition of her home and helped other demolition victims defend their rights. In addition, she has taken to cyberspace to expose official corruption and joined other activists in fighting for the rights of women and children. Criminally detained on November 21, 2015, Shan Lihua is being held at Nantong City Detention Center.
Veteran Activist Chen Yunfei, June 4th Student Participant, to Face Trial in Sichuan
Prominent Sichuan activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) is to face trial on June 30, in another case of persecution of a participant in the 1989 democracy movement. Chen, 48, has steadfastly called for justice for June 4th victims and remained a critic of the government’s rights violations. He is known for his use of humor and satire, often through street performances, as a means of expressing dissent. The Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu is set to try Chen for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” which carries a punishment of up to five years. Armed police initially took him and about 20 others into custody on March 25, 2015, after the group had visited the graves of two student protesters killed in Chengdu during the 1989 crackdown.
Chen was held incommunicado for weeks into his detention, and several times his lawyers’ requests to visit him were rejected during the 14 months he has been held, raising concerns of torture. In addition to “picking quarrels,” Chen was formally arrested for “inciting subversion,” but prosecutors later dropped the charge. He is being detained at Xinjin County Detention Center in Chengdu.
Chen Yunfei has frequently been harassed, physically assaulted, and detained by authorities. He is one of many former 1989 participants who continue to face state persecution in China as the government has effectively outlawed any acts of expression related to the Tiananmen Massacre. At least 10 activists and dissidents were criminally detained in early June for commemorating June 4th victims, and CHRD has tracked the cases of 12 individuals still detained or serving sentences after being taken into custody around the sensitive 25-year anniversary in 2014.