Submission to UN on Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing & Yuan Xiaohua – July 25, 2016

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

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

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

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Communiqué on Behalf of Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua,

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders


1. Family name: Huang ()

2. First name: Wenxun (文勋)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): February 16, 1990

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):

Huang Wenxun (also known by his screen name, Huangzi 黄子) was a student when he began his activism in 2011, taking to the streets to support prisoners of conscience and to promote democracy. Before his current detention, he had been detained multiple times in 2013 and was subjected to beatings in retaliation for taking part in demonstrations, including calling on top Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao to disclose their financial assets. When taken into custody most recently, Huang was in Chibi City, Hubei Province, taking part in an advocacy campaign tour called “Enlightening China,” which was intended to encourage citizen activism and spread democratic ideas and rule of law. The tour, initiated by Huang, began in April 2013, and he had stopped in nine cities before arriving at Chibi, where activists Yuan Bing and Yuan Xiaohua (below) joined the advocacy tour.

8. Address of usual residence:

Huizhou City, Guangdong Province


1. Family name: Yuan ()

2. First name: Bing ()

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): January 19, 1982

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):

Yuan Bing (also known by his screen name, Yuan Fengchu 袁奉初) moved to Guangdong Province and began to engage in activities promoting democracy in 2010. Yuan has said that, when he was young, he learned about Sun Yatsen’s Three Principles of the People and concepts of democracy. He has traveled across the country meeting activists and discussing strategies to push for democracy China. Formerly a school security guard, Yuan lost his job after local authorities forcibly returned him to Hubei in 2012. Despite facing constant arbitrary detentions and violent assaults in retaliation for his advocacy work, Yuan continued to protest peacefully on the streets on topics ranging from anti-corruption to China’s ratification of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights from late 2012 until he was detained. Before his current detention, he had previously been detained in January 2013 while taking part in a demonstration defending media freedom in support of the Southern Weekly newspaper. Four months later, he was seized after joining Huang Wenxun’s advocacy tour in Hubei Province.

8. Address of usual residence:

Chibi City, Hubei Province


1. Family name: Yuan ()

2. First name: Xiaohua (小华)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): December 6, 1972

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):

Yuan Xiaohua is a democracy activist based in Guangdong Province. He graduated from Hunan Normal University and became a teacher. He then moved to Guangdong to work in the private sector, and began to get involved in organizing gatherings to discuss democracy and initiated a series of rallies. He has advocated on behalf of political prisoners and supported local democracy movements like the Wukan Village protests by farmers against corrupt officials in Guangdong in 2011. He lost his job due to his activism, as local authorities often retaliated against him by detaining him and forcibly returning him to Hunan. In 2012, he was arbitrarily detained for a month and tortured, including being deprived of sleep for six days. He had been previously detained in April 2013 in Dongguan City, Guangdong, for taking part in a rally calling for the release of other activists seized in a crackdown on peaceful assembly, association, and expression. Yuan Xiaohua joined Huang Wenxun in his advocacy tour stop in Chibi City, Hubei Province.

8. Address of usual residence:

Yuanjiang City, Hunan Province

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: May 25, 2013

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): At a park square in Chibi City, Hubei   

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

National security officers in Chibi City (under Ministry of Public Security)

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: Criminally detained on June 8, 2013, then officially arrested on July 13, 2013.

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): All three have been detained since May 25, 2013.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Chibi City Public Security Bureau (PSB)

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

All three activists were originally detained at Chibi City Detention House, then transferred to Chibi City Detention Center after they served a 15-day administration detention. Half a year later, the three were moved to Jiayu County Detention Center until November 2014, when they were sent back to Chibi. Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing have remained at Chibi Detention Center after their sentencing in May 2016. However, Huang Wenxun was transferred to Xian’an District Detention Center in Hubei on April 18, 2016, after he was indicted for a second time (on a different criminal charge from the one he had faced in an earlier indictment).

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Chibi PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities:

All three activists were originally put under administrative detention for “illegal assembly” and later criminally detained on “inciting subversion of state power.” The Chibi City People’s Procuratorate then changed the charge against them to “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.” In May 2016, Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing were convicted of this crime and an additional crime, “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Huang Wenxun has been tried on charges of “inciting subversion” and has been waiting for a sentence hearing.

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

Article 105 (2) of China’s Criminal Law (“inciting subversion of state power”) 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.

For the crime of “gathering a crowd to disrupt the order of a public place,” Article 291 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China stipulates a fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention or public surveillance to those who are gathered to disturb order at railway stations or bus terminals, wharves, civil airports, marketplaces, parks, theaters, cinemas, exhibition halls, sports grounds or other public places, or to block traffic or undermine traffic order, or resist or obstruct public security administrators of the State from carrying out their duties according to law, if the circumstances are serious.

Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law, stipulates fixed-term imprisonment of up to five years to those who provokes troubles in a public place, causing serious disorder.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua, along with a few other activists, were kidnapped from a park in Chibi City during the early morning of May 25, 2013, by a group of unidentified men. The activists were planning to take a photo together while holding signs promoting Huang Wenxun’s advocacy tour. Huang was stopping in Chibi as part of his tour, where Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing joined the activity to show their support. At the time the men were taken into custody, no police notice or reason was given. Only after they were taken to Chibi City Detention House a few days later did they know that they were under 15-day administrative detention for “unlawful assembly.”   

After the three men served out the administrative detention, they were transferred to Chibi City Detention Center, where they were put under criminal detention for “inciting subversion of state power” on June 8, 2013, and then officially arrested on July 13. On February 10, 2014, they were indicted on a different charge: “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place.” After more than two years and four months of pre-trial detention, on October 19, 2015, the Chibi City People’s Procuratorate added an additional charge, “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” to Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing’s cases while they replaced Huang’s previous charge with this crime. However, in April 2016, the charge against Huang Wenxun was changed again, but back to “inciting subversion of state power.” This time, the indictment was brought forth by the Xianning City People’s Procuratorate. 

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

The detentions of activists Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua have principally been acts of reprisal against them for exercising the rights to free expression, assembly, and association. Huang’s advocacy tour was intended to promote democracy and inspire Chinese citizens to become aware of their civil and political rights. At every stop, other defenders joined him and echoed the calls for free expression and rule of law. Yuan Bing and Yuan Xiaohua went to support Huang in-person, and they took photos together holding banners that said “Enlightening China.” The three men were seized in a seemingly planned abduction; reportedly, Huang Wenxun recounted in a written testimony that as they tried to gather in a park, a group of unidentified men appeared immediately and grabbed all their belongings, including identification cards and wallets. Then, they were forcibly taken to Chimagang Police Station. No notice or reason was given at the time of arrest, even after the activists had asked repeatedly for the legal basis of their detentions.

The criminal charges against Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua were a blatant pretext used by the government to punish them for their advocacy efforts, particularly for promoting the ICCPR and calling on citizens to be more politically aware. According to the first indictment filed by the Chibi City People’s Procuratorate, Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing, along with others, were accused of coordinating a major rally in front of the headquarters of Southern Weekly,  a state newspaper, in Guangzhou. The demonstration in January 2013 was not organized by any particular individual or group of people; instead, it was a spontaneous rally where people gathered to support journalists at the newspaper and express their objection to interference from propaganda authorities. To blame the activists for an unplanned and peaceful demonstration held in response to infringed media freedom is not only legally baseless, but also an act of political abuse. In addition, the indictment also mentioned that Yuan Bing called for the Chinese government to ratify the ICCPR on multiple occasions. To detained an activist based on calls to ratify a signed international treaty is arbitrary and a gross contradiction to what China promotes and pledges at the UN about upholding and promoting human rights.

Procedural and legal violations occurred during the detention period and through the first-instance trials of Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua. All of their families did not receive any written notice of their administrative or criminal detention. Family members only obtained confirmation of their whereabouts in mid-July 2013, or well over a month after their initial detention, and after repeatedly inquiring at police stations in Chibi or at the Chibi National Security branch. This lack of notice by police violates Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that a detainee’s family must be notified within 24 hours of that individual being taken into custody. Moreover, the three activists were not informed of their detention status or reason for their deprived liberty when they were seized in May 2013. Furthermore, all three experienced limited access to their lawyers, including immediately after being taken into custody, in late 2013, and during some parts of 2014, when lawyers’ requests for meeting were denied. Such deprivation of counsel visitation violates Article 37 of the CPL, which states a detainee should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request. Pursuant to the “Body of Principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment,” a detainee shall be entitled to communicate and consult with his or her legal counsel and allowed adequate time. During extensive periods of incommunicado detention, the detainees faced torture and other inhumane mistreatment, as revealed later in meetings with lawyers.

Furthermore, all three faced obstacles to a fair trial, primarily by being held under prolonged pre-trial detention without being brought before a judge, for periods close to three years (Yuan Bing and Yuan Xiaohua) and a full three years in the case of Huang Wenxun. The crimes the activists were suspected of committing changed multiple times, further demonstrating the arbitrariness of the charges. Lawyers were not properly and timely informed of procedural changes that occurred in their cases, including when the Chibi City People’s Court repeatedly delayed a trial for them, specifically in April and July 2014. Initially, the lawyers were gathered for a pre-trial meeting in March 2014, but the trial proceedings had been extended several times until 2016, when both Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Bing were tried on April 19. Huang Wenxun stood trial on June 24 at the Xianning City Intermediate People’s Court, few months after the prosecutors rescinded the original indictment and charged him with “inciting subversion of state power” instead. The activists were represented by their lawyers at the trials, but police cordoned off the courthouses and barred other activists from attending, and some were even detained. For the activists to spend nearly three years or more in pre-trial detention is an egregious violation of their due process rights, specifically Article 14 in the ICCPR regarding the right to fair trial. 

As another sign of political persecution, Chinese police and courts, in seemingly concerted efforts, stretched the law to hold these defenders beyond reasonably permitted periods of time by adding or replacing criminal charges. The Chibi City People’s Court convicted Yuan Bing and Yuan Xiaohua on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place,” and sentenced them to 4 and 3.5 years, respectively. Both have said they will appeal their convictions, describing the case against them as a “clear example of political persecution.” No verdict has been announced for Huang Wenxun’s “inciting subversion of state power” case since his trial in June 2016.    

For the three activists, their lengthy pre-trial detentions and limited access to legal counsel have made them especially vulnerable to mistreatment. During their current detentions, all three activists have been subjected to inhumane and cruel treatment, including assault, forced labor without pay, deprivation of food and sleep, and threats. While serving his 15-day administrative detention in May-June 2013, Huang Wenxun was subjected to electric shocks twice in apparent retaliation for questioning the legality of his and others’ detentions. At Chibi City Detention Center, Huang reportedly was deprived of food, a blanket, and access to a shower, and forced to do extensive labor. Both Yuan Bing and Yuan Xiaohua were also required to work in detention. All three suffered beatings by cellmates; however, after they complained, they were ignored by officers and prosecutors stationed at the detention center. In addition to the physical pain and suffering, authorities have subjected the activists to tremendous psychological stress. In Yuan Bing’s case, a video clip of his mother in tears was used during interrogation to pressure him to admit wrong-doing. Reportedly, Yuan Bing has frequently been threatened by his fellow cellmates, but his complaints have gone unanswered.

Activists Huang Wenxun, Yuan Bing, and Yuan Xiaohua have been detained solely on the basis of the peaceful exercise of their rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The circumstances of their detentions 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). Furthermore, their detentions violate articles 9(1) and 9(3) of the ICCPR where “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention” and “anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release.” Three years in pre-trial detention far exceed a reasonable time in Chinese law and by international standards.

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.

Domestic remedies, especially legal ones, have proved to be futile. Lawyers have received no response to formal requests or complaints filed. In December 2014, when the three activists had been held for approximately 19 months, all of their lawyers requested the Chibi City People’s Procuratorate release them after such a prolonged period of pre-trial detention, but they did not receive an answer. The lawyers filed another such request in February 2015, but it was not granted. The lawyers also filed allegations of torture and mistreatment with the procuratorate after meetings with their clients, and asked for investigation and appropriate remedy, but no results came about. Lawyers also had limited access to their clients, as authorities had cited their cases as “political” and “sensitive,” hence, meetings needed to be approved before they could take place.

Supporters and local organizations in China have posted public calls for the release of the three activists and tried to attend their trials; however, they were blocked from going near the courthouses and subjected to harassment, where some were even detained by police days before and also during the trials.

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

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