Jiang Tianyong (江天勇)

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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); Februrary 28, 2019 (released)

Place of Incarceration: Changsha No. 1 Detention Center (Changsha City, Hunan Province); Henan Prison (Changsha)

Background Information

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 initial 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.

From mid-January to May 2018, Jiang’s parents, who long have been concerned about the possibility of their son being tortured, tried unsuccessfully to visit him, their applications refused by authorities each time. A visit arranged for May 4 was cancelled, when authorities said on that day that Jiang was being transferred to Henan Prison. Following a visit to Jiang on July 20, his parents said that he had been forced since May to take an unknown medication and another one that guards told him was for high blood pressure, and that Jiang’s memory appeared to have badly deteriorated.

On February 28, 2019, Jiang Tianyong was released from prison but immediately disappeared into police custody. His sister and father, who were being escorted by state security officers to meet Jiang upon his release, went missing on February 27. Authorities disappeared Jiang for three days before he was allowed to return to his parent’s home in Luoshan County in Xinyang City, Henan on March 2, 2019. However, their home is under strict surveillance and monitoring by police.

On September 26, 2019, following a public statement on September 24 from UN human rights experts, 11 national security officers from the Xinyang City Public Security Bureau in Henan Province went to Jiang Tianyong’s parents house and harassed Mr. Jiang and his parents, and one officer shouted at Mr. Jiang that he was a “traitor to the country.”

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.

Further Information

Report of the Secretary-General, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (reprisals report), September 8, 2020

OHCHR, “China: Harassment of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong must stop, say UN experts ,” September 24, 2019

Report of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (reprisals report), August 2, 2019

Six UN Special Procedures Inquiry to Chinese Government on Violations of Rights of Jiang Tianyong, May 20, 2019

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 62/2018 concerning Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Li Yuhan (中文版本, October 15, 2018

Opinion No. 62/2018 adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at its eighty-second session, concerning Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Li Yuhan (China), 20–24 August 2018

任意拘留问题工作组在第八十二届会议上通过的意见关于王全璋、江天勇、李昱函(中国)的第 62/2018 号意见, 2018年8月20—24日

Report of the Secretary-General, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (reprisals report), August 13, 2018

Chinese government response on case of Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, Li Yuhan, December 12, 2017

Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Human Rights Lawyers Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Li Yuhan, December 5, 2017, CHRD

Free Jiang Tianyong & End Suppression on Lawyers, November 21, 2017, CHRD

Reply to Chinese Government Response on Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen, Xie Yang, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Li Chunfu, and Jiang Tianyong, March 28, 2017, CHRD

China: Free Rights Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, Investigate His Enforced Disappearance and Torture, December 16, 2016, CHRD

Human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong has disappeared for nine days after visiting 709 family in Changsha, December 1, 2016, Jerome A. Cohen Blog

China Must Release Jiang Tianyong, Liu Feiyue & Huang Qi, Honor Commitment Made at UN to Protect Rights, November 30, 2016, CHRD

Chinese government response to case of Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, Zhang Junjie and Wang Cheng, August 20, 2014

CHRD Letter to UN Legal Expert Regarding Deprivation of Detainees’ Right to Legal Counsel, August 18, 2014, CHRD

Submission to UN on Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie – May 16, 2014, CHRD

China Has Obligation to End Violence Against Lawyers, April 3, 2014, CHRD

Individuals Affected by Crackdown on Civil Society Following Call for “Jasmine Revolution”, CHRD

Submission to UN on Jiang Tianyong – October 24, 2011, CHRD

Police Roughly Handle and Take Away Human Rights Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, November 18, 2009, CHRD

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