Zeng Feiyang (曾飞洋)

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Zeng Feiyang (曾飞洋)

Zeng Feiyang 曾飞洋

(released on suspended sentence)

Zeng Feiyang曾飞洋

Crime: Gathering a crowd to disrupt social order

Length of Punishment: Three years, suspended for four years

Court: Panyu District No. 2 People’s Court, Guangzhou

Trial Date: September 26, 2016

Sentencing Date: September 26, 2016

Dates of Detention/Arrest: December 3, 2015 (detained); January 8, 2016 (arrested)

Place of Incarceration: Guangzhou City No. 1 Detention Center

Background Information

Police detained labor activist Zeng Feiyang in December 2015 during a series of coordinated raids aimed at labor rights activists in Guangdong Province. Zeng is the director at the Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Service Center (番禺打工族文书处理服务部) in Guangzhou, and three of his employees were also seized in the raids, including Meng Han (孟晗), Ms. Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅), and Tang Huanxing (汤欢兴 who is also known as Beiguo 北国). Police criminally detained all on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order” except for Tang, who was instead forcibly disappeared for 37 days. Zhu and Tang were later released, but the cases against them were not dropped. On June 8, police transferred all four cases to the Panyu District People’s Procuratorate in Guangzhou, recommending indictment.

Zeng has had inconsistent access to legal counsel, and authorities likely coerced him to dismiss two family-appointed lawyers. On February 22, Guangdong authorities claimed Zeng had “dismissed” lawyer Cheng Zhunqiang (成准强) after they refused to grant a single meeting between him and Zeng, but police did not produce any written documentation about this decision. This followed a reported trend of “forced firings” of lawyers of human rights defenders in early 2016 and the hiring of government-approved lawyers, a tactic used in nearly a dozen cases in the “709 Crackdown.” After Zeng’s first meeting with a government lawyer on June 8, authorities unexpectedly granted him a visit with his newly-appointed family lawyer, Chen Jinxue (陈进学), on June 29 and again on July 4, before Chen was suddenly “dismissed” on July 11. Procuratorial authorities provided a written notice for this second forced firing but did not let Chen meet with Zeng to confirm he was free from police pressure to take such action. In one meeting with Chen, Zeng declared he was not guilty and said that, despite reprisals and persecution against him, he has had no regrets over his long-time work defending workers’ rights.

The raids and detentions of labor activists appear to be an attempt by Chinese authorities to silence Zeng and cut off overseas funding to the labor rights movement. A Xinhua state media article published on December 22 accused the labor activists of “accepting financial support from overseas organizations” and “inciting workers to assemble a crowd and stir up trouble.” Official media called the Panyu center an “illegal organization” that “tramples on workers’ rights.” Xinhua also attempted to smear director Zeng Feiyang’s character by claiming that he tried to “visit prostitutes” and that Zeng, who is married, had “at least eight mistresses.” The article quoted activist Tang Huanxing, who at that time had been forcibly disappeared into police custody with no notification sent to his family of his status or whereabouts. It may be that Tang was coerced into making these statements, given his status at the time.  In January 2016, The Hong Kong-based NGO China Labour Bulletin (CLB) wrote a letter to People’s Daily that explained the five-year relationship between CLB and the Panyu Workers Center on promoting worker’s rights. In April 2016, Zeng’s 71-year-old mother sued Xinhua News Agency for “defamation.” Chen Wenyin believed that journalists with the state-run outlet might have been permitted to meet her son at the Guangzhou detention center despite his lawyers and family being denied access. She asked for 1 million RMB (US$155,000) in compensation, before withdrawing the suit after two weeks due to police threats.

On September 26, 2016, the Panyu District No. 2 People’s Court sentenced Zeng to three years in prison, suspended for four years. His colleagues Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅) and Tang Huanxing (汤欢兴) received 1.5 year prison sentences, suspended for two years. According to a Xinhua report, all three pled guilty and stated they would not appeal.

Zeng Feiyang, born on December 21, 1974, whose real name is Zeng Qinghui (曾庆辉), graduated with a law degree from South China Normal University in 1996. After graduation, he worked at the Nanxiong City Judicial Bureau in Guangdong but left after a year to work at the Jing Lun Law Firm in Guangzhou. His role was to represent corporate management in their labor disputes with workers, a position that reportedly inspired him to move into labor NGO advocacy work. Zeng established several NGOs focusing on labor rights in the Panyu District of Guangzhou and Guangdong in the late 90s and 2000s. In 1998, he sent up Panyu Migrant Workers Documentation Service Center to assist migrant workers in labor disputes. In the 2000s, he established the “Panyu Workers Cultural Service Department” (番禹打工者文化服务部), to provide classes and sporting facilities to workers, the “Pearl River Delta Health and Safety Assistance Network” (珠三角健康与安全支援网络), and the “Pearl River Delta Casualty Community Recuperation Assistance Center” (珠三角伤者社区康复与互助支援网络). Zeng also has edited several magazines related to labor rights, including “I Am a Worker,” “Workmate Dispatches,” and “Worker’s Voice,” and wrote hundreds of articles in the field.

In October 2014, Zeng led protests outside the Ministry of Civil Affairs Office in Guangzhou against a draft law on “illegal organizations” that was seen as a prelude to the Overseas NGO Management Law. Later that year, Zeng was detained for 24 hours by police while he was helping workers with a labor dispute. After his release, unidentified men assaulted Zeng a week later on December 26, an incident that his supporters believe is related to the police threats made during his detention.

Further Information

China Should Protect Socio-Economic Rights Defenders’ Civil & Political Rights, June 3, 2016, CHRD

[CHRB] Forced “Switch” to Police-Appointed Lawyers Further Erodes Protections for Detained Rights Defenders (3/15-3/21, 2016), CHRD

[CHRB] Freedom of Association Under Assault in China: Arbitrary Detentions & Disappearances (1/8-21/2016), CHRD

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