January 31, 2017 – CHRD update on arbitrary detention and torture of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang

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Submitted to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

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

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

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

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) hereby respectfully submits an update on the enforced disappearance and later confirmed detention of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). This update follows an urgent appeal on behalf of three human rights defenders that we submitted on November 2, 2016 (see: https://www.nchrd.org/2017/01/submission-to-un-on-hu-shigen-xie-yang-zhou-shifeng_nov-2-2016-chrd/). Due to recent allegations of cruel and degrading torture and mistreatment that Mr. Xie has suffered, CHRD is writing on behalf of Xie Yang seeking intervention from special procedures. The information provided below is from statements made by Xie Yang during visits with his lawyers in early January 2017, and reports from his family.


Along with two colleagues, lawyer Xie Yang was seized from his hotel room on July 11, 2015, by a dozen plainclothes and uniformed police from Hongjiang City Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Hunan Province. According to Xie, none of the officers showed identification but he was shown a summons for questioning prior to their confiscating all his belongings and taking him into custody. The next day, Xie was transferred to No. 732 Deya Road in Kaifu District (开福区德雅路732) in Changsha City, a building at the National University of Defense Technology (国防科技大学) that has housed retired officials. Xie Yang was held in that building under “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) for the next six months, until he was formally arrested on January 8, 2016, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” On December 16, 2016, Xie Yang was indicted for an additional crime: “disrupting court order.” Xie has been detained at Changsha No. 2 Detention Center since his formal arrest.

Lawyer Xie Yang has defended many politically sensitive cases, including activists arrested during the “Jasmine Crackdown” in 2011, the suppression of the New Citizens’ Movement in 2013, and the clampdown on mainland supporters of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2014. Xie Yang also openly criticized violent assaults by state agents against human rights lawyers in retaliation for defending their clients. Xie himself became a victim in an incident of violence while handling a case. The lawyer represented the family of a man shot to death by police in May 2015, in a “politically sensitive” case authorities cited as “subversive” activity conducted by human rights lawyers who were targeted in a nationwide clampdown known as the “709 Crackdown.”

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Over the six-month RSDL period, during which the detention location was not disclosed to his lawyers or family and they were not allowed to see him, Xie Yang was reportedly subjected to many methods of torture and various forms of cruel mistreatment by officers, prosecutors, and other officials. Torture techniques included sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliation, and other methods of psychological torment. The apparent intention of the alleged torture was to force Xie to confess to criminal behavior and to incriminate other lawyers. According to information Xie provided, as many as 40 individuals have been involved in committing torture and other cruel mistreatment against him since he was initially taken into custody. Xie identified over half of the suspected perpetrators, who are listed in the chart below.

While under RSDL, the psychological torment lawyer Xie Yang was subjected to caused him tremendous distress, anxiety, and fear for his life. Death threats made against Xie Yang and his family caused him extreme emotional distress during interrogation sessions; Xie told his lawyers that there were moments where the torture became so unbearable that he wanted to commit suicide. Officers eventually increased the number of individuals monitoring Xie, in order to prevent him from committing suicide.

Xie Yang has sustained multiple injuries from the torture and mistreatment he has suffered, including swollen legs, numbness, and dizziness. He has not received any comprehensive medical examination or treatment to alleviate his injuries and pain. Violence against Xie continued since January 2016, when he was transferred to Changsha No. 2 Detention Center, despite Xie Yang have filed complaints of mistreatment with the facility. Due to retaliatory measures committed by authorities at the detention center, Xie has been undernourished and his health has worsened, including the development of gastrointestinal complications.

The following chart details reported torture and mistreatment that human rights lawyer Xie Yang has suffered since he was initially taken into custody in July 2015.

Ineffective Domestic Remedies and Continuing Violations of Human Rights

Xie Yang’s lawyers and family have sought to hold accountable perpetrators of torture, but they have faced harassment by authorities in return. On January 20, 2017, Xie Yang and his lawyer, Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), filed a complaint with the Changsha Procuratorate against 10 officers who were involved in torturing and mistreating Xie during the 6-month RSDL. They demanded an investigation and prosecution for their suspected criminal acts. After the allegations were submitted, Xie’s wife was summoned for questioning by Changsha City officials and school authorities at the Hunan University where she teaches. Authorities told Chen that they would summon Xie’s lawyer next.

Since Xie Yang’s detention in 2015, his family members have faced frequent harassment and intimidation from authorities, in addition to travel bans and threats. Xie’s family was repeatedly told not to speak to media, advocate for Xie Yang’s release, or meet with other families who have been affected by the 709 Crackdown against human rights lawyers. When Xie was seized and held incommunicado for six months, his family was not given any notification or information.

Detainees held in secrecy—and denied visits by lawyers and notification of families, as with RSDL in China—are at higher risk of being subjected to torture. RSDL is legal in China under Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which provides that an individual like Xie Yang, accused of “national security” crimes, can be held in a “police-designated” location for up to six months. Under Chinese law, families still must be informed of their status within 24 hours, but police do not have to tell families the detainees’ exact whereabouts. The law fails to provide RSDL detainees with basic legal protections, including access to lawyers or the ability to challenge the legality of their detention. The Committee Against Torture (CAT) expressed “grave concern” over Article 73, and urged China to repeal the provision “as a matter of urgency” during its 2015 review of the government’s implementation of the Convention against Torture.

Other lawyers have also reported Xie’s torture allegations to government authorities under Article 108 (1) and (3) of the CPL, which request citizens report incidents of torture to local police and the procuratorate, and require these agencies to file the cases for investigation. According to these lawyers, the accused Changsha police officers should be investigated for “torturing to force confession” and “using violence to extract evidence” under the Criminal Law (Article 247). In addition, the CPL states that procurators must investigate accusations of forced confessions (Article 55). Under Article 12 of the Convention against Torture, to which China has been a party since 1988, the Chinese government is obligated to conduct prompt and impartial investigation into accusations of acts of torture committed by these state agents.

Submission Date: January 31, 2017

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