Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃)

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Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃)

Liu Feiyue 飞跃

Crime: Inciting subversion of state power

Length of Punishment: 5 years

Court: Suizhou City Intermediate People’s Court

Trial Date: August 7, 2018

Sentencing Date: January 29, 2019

Dates of Detention/Arrest: November 17, 2016 (detained); November 18, 2016 (criminally detained); December 23, 2016 (formally arrested); December 6, 2017 (indicted)

Place of Incarceration: Xiangnan Prison, Hubei Province (previously Suizhou City No. 1 Detention Center from November 17, 2016-July 17, 2019)

Criminal indictment: Hubei Province Suizhou City People’s Procuratorate Criminal Indictment

Verdict: Hubei Province Suizhou City Intermediate People’s Court Criminal Verdict

Appeal Date: July 12, 2019

Appeal Court: Hubei Higher Court

Appeal Ruling: Upheld original ruling


Liu Feiyue, Hubei-based founder and director of the NGO Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (民生), was taken into police custody on the evening of November 17, 2016, and put under criminal detention the next day on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” Police also searched Liu’s home and confiscated computers, printed materials, and other personal items. Liu had apparently messaged other activists on November 17, saying that national security officers had taken him to a “mountain village,” referring to a location where he was previously detained under “forced travels” and “soft detentions” during politically “sensitive” periods. Liu’s family was told of his detention status on November 18 at the Suizhou Public Security Bureau, where they had gone to ask about his whereabouts. The family was not given an official detention notice, and authorities have warned them not to speak out, and refused to let them send clothes or money for Liu to use in the detention center. In addition, judicial authorities harassed Liu’s original lawyer and threatened him into not taking on the case. On December 6, police finally told a new lawyer, Zhang Keke (张科科), that Liu was detained since he had “published articles that opposed the socialist system.” Arrested in December 2016, Liu was only granted his first meeting with his lawyers on May 25, 2017, after police had previously denied all visits on “national security” grounds.

Liu’s criminal detention—and on suspicion of a serious political crime—is one sign of the strident suppression being felt by Chinese rights advocacy NGOs under Xi Jinping’s administration. Before his current detention, Liu had just been taken into custody in October 2016, prior to the opening of the 6th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party. During the period, police kept Liu at a guesthouse, and tortured and threatened him with more punishment if he continued his advocacy work—a warning being played out in his current detention. Police also detained Liu in August 2016 as part of “stability maintenance” operations before the G20 Summit in Hangzhou.

Suizhou City authorities built a weak criminal case against Liu Feiyue while at the same time apparently aiming to punish him with a lengthy prison sentence. After the Suizhou City PSB extended its investigation several times—a common indication that a case has a weak basis for criminal prosecution—the PSB recommended Liu’s case for indictment, on May 23, 2017. However, on July 8, the procuratorate once again sent the case back to the police, extending the period of investigation for one month. On August 8, 2017, the Suizhou City Public Security Bureau announced once more that it had recommended indictment in Liu’s case, but added a serious criminal charge, “illegally disseminating state secrets overseas.” A conviction at trial on this charge brings a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Although the period of supplemental investigation had passed, the PSB reportedly continued its investigation of Liu up to August 11 to “collect evidence,” including by interrogating Liu in the detention center. This behavior violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which limits a period of supplemental investigation to one month (Article 171).

On December 12, 2017, lawyer Wen Donghai (文东海) met with Liu in detention, and learned from the activist that he had been indicted a week earlier for “inciting subversion.” Liu also informed Wen that the “state secrets” charge against him had been dropped. The indictment accused Liu of “six major criminal offenses” over his legitimate activities running the Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch NGO and exercising his right to freedom of association and expression. The indictment cited as evidence of “inciting subversion”: (1) writing and publishing articles about non-violence between November 2006 to May 2012; (2) writing and publishing six annual reports about involuntary psychiatric commitment of human rights defenders; (3) writing commentary articles around “sensitive” events, including four specific articles between 2006 and 2015; (4) organising and publishing political cartoons on human rights issues, a monthly documentation of detained HRDs, and statements calling for the release of HRDs like Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen, and Qin Yongmin; (5), accepting interviews with overseas media, specifically Radio Free Asia, and (6) setting up the Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch website on an overseas server, collaborating with overseas institutions and groups, and applying for overseas funding.

Suizhou Intermediate Court put Liu Feiyue on trial on August 7, 2018, after he had been held for 20 months in pretrial detention. Lawyer Wu Kuiming (吴魁明) represented Liu at the trial, after authorities disbarred lawyer Wen Donghai  in May in reprisal for his human rights work. The hearing ended without a verdict being pronounced. Security was tight outside the courtroom, and there was a strong police presence in the street around the courthouse. Though authorities claimed online that the proceedings were open and public, police detained many of Liu’s supporters outside the courthouse. Police reportedly also rounded up individuals at train and bus stations in Suizhou who were trying to reach the courthouse, questioning some about how they had learned that the trial was taking place. Further away from Suizhou, some activists were blocked by police from traveling to the city.

On January 29, 2019, Suizhou Intermediate Court convicted Liu of “inciting subversion” and sentenced him to 5 years in prison. In July 2019, the Hubei Higher Court turned down his appeal and upheld the original ruling. The court did not hold a hearing and did not respond to the defence material submitted by Liu’s lawyer.

Born on February 5, 1970 in Suizhou City, Liu Feiyue has frequently been harassed, beaten, and detained by police since founding the website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, in 2006. The website has reported on a wide range of rights abuses, collecting information from and about victims of forced evictions and demolitions, secret detentions, problems faced by migrant workers, unpaid teachers, and rural children who have been forced to drop out of school. Notably, the group has been a leading source of civil society information on forced commitment of activists and dissidents to psychiatric institutions, having documented hundreds of such cases and produced regular reports on the particular rights violations of this form of illegal detention. Since police took him into custody, many petitioners—those who lodge grievances and seek redress—have called for his release, in large part since his website has been an available space for them to share stories about their personal experiences.

In 1998, Liu Feiyue joined the Hubei chapter of the banned China Democracy Party, and soon after began researching and publishing articles about non-violent civil and political rights movements. A participant in many advocacy campaigns, Liu was among a group of activists who launched a movement in 2003 urging the Chinese government to implement political reforms. The following year, he gathered over 500 signatures from individuals seeking more affordable prices for medications, in a drive supporting the right to health. Liu has worked as a teacher during some of his time as a right defender. In retaliation for his continuing activism, authorities have also targeted his family and threatened to deny his son the right to education.

Further Information

“A Brief History of Rights Defence Website ‘Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch” (维权网站《民生观察》简史), April 11, 2019, Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (Chinese only)

China: Release Liu Feiyue and Decriminalize Human Rights Activism, January 29, 2019, CHRD

Opinion No. 22/2018 concerning Liu Feiyue and Huang Qi (China), adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its eighty-first session, 17–26 April 2018 (English version) (中文)

Submission to UN on Liu Feiyue – August 16, 2017, CHRD

China Must Release Jiang Tianyong, Liu Feiyue & Huang Qi, Honor Commitment Made at UN to Protect Rights, CHRD

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