Submission to UN on Xing Qingxian & Tang Zhishun – June 14, 2016

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Communiqué on Behalf of Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun,

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders


1. Family name: Xing ()

2. First name: Qingxian (清贤)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): June 4, 1966

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

6. (a) Identity document (if any): ID Card

(b) Issued by: 

(c) On (date): 

(d) No.: 

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Xing Qingxian became involved in rights defense work after filing a lawsuit in 2004 over a wage dispute and unlawful termination against a construction company where he had worked as a technician. He studied law on his own and began providing legal advice to workers who were defending their labor rights. In 2009, Xing received a two-year prison sentence for “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order” for participating in a peaceful demonstration held outside the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. After his release in 2011, Xing continued to document rights violations, assist petitioners, and train others to do rights defense work. Xing had also helped many victims of government wrongdoing by representing them in administrative lawsuits. 

8. Address of usual residence:

Jinniu District, Sichuan Province


1. Family name: Tang ()

2. First name: Zhishun (志顺)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): May 25, 1975

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

6. (a) Identity document (if any): ID Card

(b) Issued by: 

(c) On (date): 

(d) No.: 

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Tang Zhishun, formerly an engineer, began to engage in rights defense issues after his home was demolished in 2006. He wrote a training manual to assist others in defending land rights, helped villagers in Beijing whose homes were threatened with demolition, and helped found a public welfare NGO. Tang has also engaged in philanthropy; he donated money and goods to victims of the earthquakes in Sichuan in 2008 and Qinghai in 2010.

8. Address of usual residence:

Chaoyang District, Beijing

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: October 6, 2015

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Room 8348, Huadu Guesthouse, Mong La, Myanmar

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out:

Chinese authorities, in coordination with Burmese police officers from Mong La Special Region No. 4. One Burmese officer showed a police identification to the owner of the guesthouse.

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority?

No notice was shown at time of detention.

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision:

No notice was shown at time of detention.

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities:

No reason was known to be given at the time.

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

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: No information on the date of criminally detention; Mr. Tang and Mr. Xing were officially arrested on May 4 and May 6, 2016, respectively.

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Mr. Xing and Mr. Tang have been in detention since October 6, 2015

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB)

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention):

Mr. Tang and Mr. Xing were held under incommunicado detention until May 4 and 6, respectively, as no confirmation was given to family or lawyer about the location of their detention. They are currently held at Tianjin City No. 2 Detention Center.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Tianjin PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities:

Both have been arrested on suspicion of “organizing people to secretly cross national borders.”

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

Article 318 of China’s Criminal Law stipulates whoever organizes people to secretly cross the national boundary (border) shall be sentenced to not less than two years and not more than seven years of fixed-term imprisonment and a fine; or not less than seven years of fixed-term imprisonment or to life imprisonment, and may in addition be sentenced to a fine or confiscation of property for any of the following situations:

(1) ringleader who organizes people to secretly cross the national boundary (border);

(2) repeatedly organizing people to secretly cross the national boundary (border) or organizing a large number of people to secretly cross the national boundary (border);

(3) causing serious injuries and deaths to the people being organized;

(4) depriving or restricting personal freedom of the people being organized;

(5) resisting investigation by violent or threatening methods;

(6) obtaining huge amounts of illegal income;

(7) other exceptionally serious circumstances.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

Chinese authorities and Burmese police arrived at Huadu Guesthouse in the afternoon of October 6, 2015, and seized without warrant Xing Qingxian, Tang Zhishun, and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), the 16-year-old son of detained human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and activist Bao Longjun (宝龙军). All three were reportedly taken to Yunnan Province in China that evening.   

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

It is believed the detentions of activists Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun have principally been an act of reprisal against them for helping Bao Zhuoxuan escape from house arrest in China. Bao’s parents were arrested in January 2016, after being initially seized in July 2015 during a nationwide crackdown against human rights lawyers. On July 9, 2015, Chinese authorities confiscated Bao’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 then put under house arrest and police monitoring, first in Tianjin and then in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. He said he went through “hell” during the first 48 hours under police control. He was threatened when he tried to ask for the return of his cellphone and passport, and police also warned him not to try to hire lawyers for his parents. Bao continues to be held under house arrest and tight police surveillance.

The criminal charge against Mr. Xing and Mr. Tang is a blatant pretext used by the government to punish them for challenging authority’s decision to subject Bao Zhuoxuan to collective punishment as his parents remain in custody for being adamant human rights defenders. Lawyer Wang Yu, the 2016 winner of the prestigious Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Prize for her rights defense work, has been a prominent defender in many politically sensitive cases in China. She has been a central figure in the crackdown against lawyers for taking on human rights cases. Barring her son from traveling, forcing him to relocate, and holding him under house arrest are gross violations of Bao Zhuoxuan’s human and legal rights.

Procedural and legal violations in Xing and Tang’s case began from the moment the activists were seized and have continued throughout their detention. Xing and Tang were taken into custody without a warrant, and their families did not receive any official notice regarding their status or whereabouts. The activists’ homes in China were raided and searched several days after they were disappeared. On October 8, police officers from Chengdu City Beixiangzi Police Station of Jinniu Public Security Bureau (PSB) Branch searched Xing Qingxian’s residence. A document listing confiscated computers and other equipment that was provided to Xing’s mother-in-law was stamped by the Inner Mongolia Xing’anmeng PSB, indicating that the bureau was the approving body. During the search, only two out of the four men were in police uniform and showed police identification, and no search warrant was produced. Two days later, on October 10, half a dozen officers searched Tang Zhishun’s home and seized his computers. According to Tang’s family, officers from Beijing Municipal PSB and Changying Police Station conducted the raid. The police who searched the residence did not provide a search warrant, detention notice, or information on where and why Tang was detained. Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) stipulates that a detainee’s family must be notified of a criminal detention within 24 hours.

At the time of this communication, both activists have been held incommunicado for 8 months without seeing a lawyer or family member or being brought before a judge. Although the men’s lawyers were told in October 2015 that the case had been transferred to Tianjin, police from Tianjin Municipal PSB have repeatedly refused to let the lawyers meet with their clients. Reportedly, authorities denied lawyer visits in October and November 2015, and again in January, February, and May 2016; police stated that the cases are of “grave significance, hence a meeting is not allowed.” Such deprivation of counsel visitation violates Article 37 of the CPL, which states a defendant should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request. According to CHRD’s records, Xing and Tang are among nearly three dozen Chinese human rights defenders who have been held incommunicado during the crackdown on lawyers.

It is illegal and inhumane to deny the activists 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 stipulates that an investigating organ can refuse a visit during the investigation of cases of crimes that involve endangering national security. However, the charge of “organizing people to secretly cross the national border” falls under the category of Crimes of Obstructing the Administration of Public Order, so it is not a crime under endangering national security. Also, 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 State Security) to include virtually any crime so deemed by police, an 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.

Due to their lengthy enforced disappearance, there are ongoing concerns about the activists’ vulnerability to mistreatment, including being deprived of necessary medication for serious health conditions. Xing Qingxian requires medicine to treat severe asthma, and he also suffers from rhinitis, a chronic inflammation of the nasal cavity. The Beijing-based Tang Zhishun has hyperthyroidism that requires daily medication and that, if left untreated, can lead to heart problems.

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 rights lawyers, Xinhua reports claimed that police had “broken up a criminal gang” and those detained were “implicated in serious crimes.” The reports have “guided” public opinion—and vilified—the rights lawyers and, by extension, their supporters, like Xing and Tang.

Both Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun have 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.

On October 8, 2015, friends and lawyers filed police reports for the disappearances of Xing, Tang, and Bao at Special Region No. 4 Police Station in Mong La, Myanmar. The day before, friends and lawyers went to the local police station in Mong La seeking information about the detention of Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun. The officers there denied that the police action on October 6 had taken place, denying that they had seized the three individuals; an eyewitness later disclosed that one officer erased visual evidence of the incident. Friends and lawyers also went to the local politics and law department seeking information, but to no avail.

Nearly 300 people signed an open petition requesting that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security protect the rights of Xing Qingxian, Tang Zhishun, and Bao Zhuo -xuan to personal liberty and security, and to inform their family of their whereabouts. Family members of Xing Qingqian and Tang Zhishun inside China have been under pressure and harassed by authorities since the men’s disappearance, and they are afraid to speak out due to fear of government reprisal. Tang’s family was brought into a police station for questioning on October 12, and officers copied down information on all of Tang’s personal contacts.

In April 2016, the men’s wives wrote to Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and appealed for assistance in securing the men’s release, after learning that she played a key role in the recent decision to free political prisoners in Myanmar.

VII. Full name, postal and electronic addresses of the person(s) submitting the information (telephone and fax number, if possible).

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