Submission to UN on Liu Feiyue – August 16, 2017

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

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

Communiqué on Behalf of Liu Feiyue,

Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,

Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Reprisal against a Human Rights Defender

I. IDENTITY

1. Family name: Liu ()  

2. First name: Feiyue (飞跃)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): February 5, 1970

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. Identity document (if any): ID Card

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):

Liu Feiyue, an activist and citizen journalist, founded the website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (minsheng guancha) in 2006. The site (http://msguancha.com/) has reported on a wide range of rights abuses, collecting information from and about victims of forced evictions and demolitions, secret detentions, migrant workers denied their rights, unpaid teachers, rural children who have been forced to drop out of school, and activists and dissidents involuntary committed to psychiatric institutions. In 1998, Liu joined a chapter of the banned China Democracy Party in Hubei Province, 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. In 2004, he gathered over 500 signatures from individuals seeking more affordable prices for medications, in a drive supporting the right to health. 

8. Address of usual residence: Suizhou City, Hubei Province

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: November 17, 2016

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): In his home in Suizhou City, Hubei Province

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: National security officers in Suizhou City (under orders of China’s central Ministry of Public Security)

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No, a detention notice was not produced when Liu was first taken into custody.

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: N/A

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: N/A

7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known): N/A

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on November 18, 2016, and formally arrested on December 23, 2016

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Liu Feiyue has been continually detained since November 17, 2016 (approx. 9 months at the time of this communication)

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Suizhou City Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Hubei Province

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Liu has been held at Suizhou City No. 1 Detention Center.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Suizhou City PSB

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “inciting subversion of state power”

7. Legal basis for the detention including relevant legislation applied (if known): Article 105 (2) of China’s Criminal Law (“inciting subversion of state power”) stipulates a fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights to those who incite others by spreading rumors or slanders or any other means to subvert the State power or overthrow the socialist system.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest.

Liu Feiyue 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.” The day Liu was taken into custody, police also searched his home and confiscated computers, printed materials, and other items belonging to Liu. Liu apparently messaged other activists on the evening of 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.

V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary.

The detention of activist Liu Feiyue is an act of reprisal for his human rights advocacy work, particularly the reporting of human rights abuses on the website Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch. Liu has been detained during a period in which Chinese authorities have heightened its suppression of groups and individuals that report on human rights abuses inside China. On December 6, 2016, police told his lawyer, Zhang Keke (张科科), that Liu was detained since he had “published articles that opposed the socialist system,” reflecting the government’s political persecution of his exercise of free expression rights. In early August 2017, the government’s act of reprisal against Liu became even clearer, when police added a charge of “illegally disseminating state secrets overseas” when recommending his case for indictment to the local procuratorate.

Procedural and legal violations have occurred throughout Liu’s current detention. His family did not receive a detention notice after Liu was taken away on November 17, 2016; this lack of official police notification violates Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which stipulates that a detainee’s family must be informed within 24 hours of the individual being taken into custody. Police only gave the family verbal notice of his detention status the following day, when the family went to the Suizhou City Public Security Bureau to ask about his whereabouts; however, police still did not provide an official detention notice. Officers also have warned Liu’s family not to speak out publicly about his detention or seek assistance from the outside world.

In addition, authorities have tried to intimidate Liu’s defense lawyers and obstructed their work on the case, including by rejecting lawyers’ requests to visit him in detention. Soon after Liu was detained, judicial authorities threatened Liu’s original lawyer, leading him to drop the case. They deprived Liu of lawyer visits for the first six months of his detention; Liu was only granted his first meeting with a lawyer, Yan Xin (燕薪), on May 25, 2017 (since then, and at the time of this communication, Liu has had more than a half dozen visits with his legal counsel). Previously, lawyer Zhang Keke was denied visits with Liu on December 6 and December 12, 2016, and lawyer Wen Donghai (文东海) was denied visits on January 21 and March 23, 2017. In denying visits, authorities often cited concerns based on “national security” grounds (i.e., Liu’s case involves an “endangering state security” crime), a restriction that Chinese authorities frequently apply in cases of detained human rights defenders (under China’s Criminal Procedure Law, Article 37). Authorities have used this legal basis as an exception provided by Article 37, which also states a detainee should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request. Pursuant to the “Body of Principles for the protection of all persons under any form of detention or imprisonment,” a detainee should be entitled to communicate and consult with his or her legal counsel and allowed adequate time, which was denied to Liu.

Suizhou City authorities have 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.” If Liu faces trial on this charge, a conviction of this offense carries a “fixed-term imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than 10 years; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment; if the circumstances are minor, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than five years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights” (Criminal Law, Article 111). 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).

Before this current detention, authorities for years had harassed, beaten, and detained Liu Feiyue in retaliation for his activism. Liu had been taken into custody in October 2016, just prior to the opening of the 6th Plenum of the Chinese Communist Party. During that “politically sensitive” period, police kept Liu at a guesthouse, and tortured and threatened him with further punishment if he continued his advocacy work—a warning being played out in his current detention. Police also detained Liu for a short period in August 2016 as part of “stability maintenance” operations before the G20 Summit of world leaders in Hangzhou.

Liu Feiyue has been detained solely due to the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The circumstances of his detentions satisfy Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights) and freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20, and 21 of the UDHR.

VI. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken.

During Liu Feiyue’s detention, his lawyers have maintained the activist is innocent of any criminal charges, and they have applied for him to be released on bail, but authorities have not granted the request.  Since Liu was taken into custody, many “petitioners”—Chinese citizens who lodge grievances about alleged rights violations and seek redress from government bodies—have publicly demonstrated and consistently called for his release. Their advocacy in support of Liu is partly due to his online reporting work, as his website has been an important space for them to share stories about their experiences of alleged abuses.

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