Jiang Tianyong (江天勇)Comments Off on Jiang Tianyong (江天勇)
Jiang Tianyong 江天勇
Crime: Inciting subversion of state power
Length of Punishment: Two years
Court: Changsha Intermediate People’s Court
Trial Date: August 22, 2017
Sentencing Date: November 21, 2017
Dates of Detention/Arrest: November 21, 2016 (disappeared); December 1, 2016 (residential surveillance at a designated location); May 31, 2017 (formally arrested)
Place of Incarceration: Changsha No. 1 Detention Center (Changsha City, Hunan Province)
Prominent human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong disappeared on November 21, 2016, at the Changsha South Train Station in Hunan Province, where he was meant to board a train to Beijing. Jiang had been in Hunan Province to meet with Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), wife of arrested human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), and Xie’s defense lawyers. For the next 25 days, Jiang’s family attempted to report his disappearance to police in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, where Jiang is a registered resident, as well as in Beijing and Changsha, but police refused to investigate.
In a state media report on December 16, 2016, Chinese authorities finally confirmed that Jiang was in police custody under “compulsory criminal measures”—the first information Jiang’s family received about his status since he disappeared. According to the report, public security officers took Jiang into custody on November 21 and gave him a nine-day administrative detention for “fraudulent use of another person’s ID.” The report then said that, on December 1, Jiang was placed under “compulsory criminal measures” for “illegally possessing documents classified as state secrets” (Criminal Law, Article 282) and “illegally disseminating state secrets overseas” (Article 111), among other unnamed “crimes.” However, on December 23, Jiang’s family received a notice from Changsha Public Security Bureau indicating that Jiang was under “residential surveillance at a designated location” on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” a different crime from the state media report. The police notice did not list where Jiang was being held. Authorities turned down a request from Jiang’s lawyer, Chen Jinxue (陈进学), to visit him and refused to release information on his whereabouts, claiming it may “endanger national security.”
State media launched a series of articles and television broadcasts in early March 2017, claiming Jiang had “fabricated” stories of Xie Yang being tortured, with the Global Times alleging that Jiang had told them that he made up the stories. However, the circumstances of the state media reports were suspicious, as Jiang had been held incommunicado since disappearing in November 2016. On April 1, 2017, his lawyer was again denied a visit with him on the grounds it would “hinder the investigation” or “leak state secrets,” even though state media have been allowed to meet him.
When formally arrested on May 31, 2017, Jiang was charged with a more serious crime, “subversion of state power.” At that time, authorities also claimed that Jiang had “fired” his family-hired lawyers, continuing a trending government tactic of “forced firing” rights defenders’ legal counsel. On July 17, 2017, police rejected a request by lawyer Zhang Lei (张磊), who Jiang’s family had brought on to represent him, to meet with Jiang, asserting that Jiang had already hired government lawyers. In June 2017, Changsha police recommended Jiang be indicted on the downgraded charge of “inciting subversion,” and he was indicted by the Changsha procuratorate in July.
Jiang Tianyong went on trial on August 22, 2017, at Changsha Intermediate Court on charges of “inciting subversion” and was represented by government-imposed lawyers. He pled guilty, according to the court transcript. The court only publicly announced the trial on its social media account half-an-hour before the hearing began. Outside the courthouse, police prevented supporters of Jiang from attending. The case against Jiang clearly targeted his exercise of his rights to free expression, association, and assembly. Prosecutors claimed he used postings online and interviews with foreign media to “attack” the government, judicial authorities, and China’s political system, and “incited” others to gather in public places.
Jiang was sentenced to two years in prison on November 21, 2017, exactly one year after he had initially disappeared. Like at his trial in August 2017, supporters were violently blocked from attending Jiang’s sentencing. Jiang was represented by a government-appointed lawyer, as authorities had refused to let him meet with lawyers hired by his family and then claimed he had “dismissed” them. In convicting Jiang, the court largely pointed out the “evidence” presented at his trial, specifically mentioning his advocacy around Zhou Shifeng and other 709 crackdown victims, claiming it “severely harmed” national security and social stability. In addition, the court cited his attendance at trainings overseas, applications for funding from so-called “anti-China forces,” and establishing with other lawyers the association “China Safeguard Human Rights Lawyers Service Group” (中国保障人权律师服务团).
Jiang Tianyong’s father, Jiang Lianghou (江良厚), attempted to sue Legal Daily and Procuratorate Daily, two state-run newspapers, for defamation over their reprinting of the state media report on Jiang’s detention. However, the Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing refused to docket the case, stating that it would “interfere with the law” as his case is still in the investigation phase. The Shanghai Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court also refused to hear the case. The article printed by the newspapers falsely asserted that the family had been notified of Jiang’s detention, and included unsubstantiated police accusations that Jiang had accepted overseas funding for a long time, used the Internet to spread rumors, and “incited” petitioners and family members to confront government institutions.
Jiang, born May 19, 1971, is a leader of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团) and an outspoken supporter of detained rights lawyers from the “709 Crackdown.” He has defended or supported many high-profile human rights defenders, including lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) and legal advocate Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚). Judicial officials disbarred Jiang from practicing law in 2009 due to his involvement in such cases. Since then, Jiang has taken an active role in organizing Chinese human rights lawyers to provide legal counsel to victims of rights abuses and criticized authorities’ abuses of legal rights.
Authorities have tortured, disappeared, and arbitrarily detained Jiang Tianyong on several occasions. Police detained Jiang in March 2014 after he and three other lawyers went to investigate a “black jail” in Jiansanjiang City in Heilongjiang where Falun Gong practitioners were allegedly being held; Jiang was beaten in police custody and suffered eight broken ribs. In May 2012, police seized Jiang when he was on his way to visit Chen Guangcheng in a Beijing hospital, detained him for nine hours, and beat Jiang so badly that he suffered hearing loss. In addition, police forcibly disappeared Jiang for two months in the spring of 2011, following online calls in China to hold “Jasmine Rallies” just as pro-democracy movements spread across the Middle East and North Africa.