Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Liu Shaoming – August 2017Comments Off on Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Liu Shaoming – August 2017
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 Shaoming,
Citizen of the People’s Republic of China,
Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Reprisal against a Human Rights Defender
1. Family name: Liu (刘)
2. First name: Shaoming (少明)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): July 9, 1958
5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China
6. (a) Identity document (if any): ID Card
(b) Issued by: N/A
(c) On (date): N/A
7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):
Liu Shaoming, a prominent Guangdong Province-based labor activist and former migrant laborer, had largely concentrated his advocacy on migrant workers’ rights in China’s southern Pearl River Delta region. Shortly before he was detained in 2015, Liu helped found “Labor Defense Volunteers” (工维义工), a collective in Guangzhou whose members advocate on behalf of laborers in the area. In recent years, Liu had been increasingly summoned and harassed by police, as well as detained on several occasions, in retaliation for other rights-defense campaigning. He demonstrated for the release of imprisoned activist Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) and lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), as well as other participants in the Southern Street Movement, in which activists took to public spaces in Guangdong to express their political ideas. In 2014, he traveled to Jiansanjiang City in Heilongjiang Province to support lawyers who had been detained after trying to defend Falun Gong practitioners. In 2013, Liu went to Xinyu City in Jiangxi to call for the release of local activists, including the imprisoned Liu Ping (刘萍) and Wei Zhongping (魏忠平).
Originally from Jiangxi Province, Liu first became involved in human rights advocacy in May 1989, when he went to Beijing to take part in the pro-democracy movement. Liu lived in a tent in Tiananmen Square and joined the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation—recognized as China’s first independent labor union—and administered first-aid to protesters and remained in the square until the early hours of June Fourth, when Chinese military crushed the pro-democracy demonstration. Police later identified Liu, and he was jailed for one year for “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement” for participating in the movement.
8. Address of usual residence: Guangzhou Municipality, PR China
1. Date of arrest: May 29, 2015
2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Huadu District, Guangzhou Municipality, Guangdong Province
3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Officers of the Huadu District Public Security Bureau (unidentified at time of arrest)
4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? Yes, but a detention notice was not immediately produced when Liu was first taken into custody.
5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: Huadu District Public Security Bureau
6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”
7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known): Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law (“picking quarrels and provoking trouble”) stipulates a fixed-term imprisonment of up to five years to those who (1) willfully attacking another person and the circumstances are serious; (2) chasing, intercepting, or cursing another person, and the circumstances are serious; (3) forcibly taking away, demanding, or willfully damaging or seizing public or private property; and the circumstances are serious; or (4) creating a disturbance in a public place, causing serious disorder.
1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on May 30, 2015; formally arrested on July 6, 2015; sentenced to prison on July 7, 2017
2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Liu Shaoming has been continually detained since May 29, 2015 (approx. 27 months at the time of this communication)
3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Huadu District Public Security Bureau
4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Liu has been held at Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center
5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court
6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but subsequently changed to “inciting subversion of state power” upon formal arrest
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 Shaoming was seized from his home by unidentified men in the late evening of May 29, 2015, less than a week before the 26-year anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, and without an official detention notice being provided to his family. On May 24, Liu had posted an essay online, titled “June Fourth Remembrances” (六四回忆录), about his experience taking part in the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing. The essay was likely a factor in his initial detention and eventual imprisonment. The Chinese government heavily censors any discussion about June Fourth, and Chinese citizens are routinely detained for commenting on the events of 1989, especially during the “politically sensitive” time around the anniversary, when authorities are tasked with “maintaining stability.”
V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary.
The detention and imprisonment of activist Liu Shaoming, who is serving a 4.5-year sentence, is an apparent act of reprisal for his long-term labor rights advocacy work as well as exercise of his free expression rights related to the pro-democracy movement in 1989. According to his lawyers, although police interrogations focused on Liu’s labor activism and support for rights activists and lawyers, the case indictment itself accused Liu of criminal acts for his free expression, specifically for disseminating political writings that he had either compiled or authored.
Procedural and legal violations and irregularities have occurred in Liu’s case. No official detention notice was provided to his family when he was first detained, a violation of Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which stipulates that public security bureau officers must produce an official notice when placing an individual under detention. In addition, Liu was detained for 11 months before being brought to trial, a period of unreasonably prolonged detention according to international standards.
During Liu’s 11 months of pre-trial detention, authorities largely obstructed Liu’s access to his lawyers, Wu Kuiming (吴魁明) and Ran Tong (冉彤); Liu’s first lawyer visit occurred only in November 2015. Authorities denied visits on the grounds they might “endanger national security” (i.e., Liu’s case involves a suspected “endangering state security” offense), a restriction that Chinese authorities frequently apply in cases of detained human rights defenders (CPL, 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.
Chinese authorities attempted to concoct charges against Liu Shaoming to punish him with a lengthy prison sentence. Police initially detained Liu on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but later formally arrested him on a far more serious “political” charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” After he was arrested for “inciting subversion,” national security officers refused to divulge case details to Liu’s lawyers, including how any of his behavior could conceivably constitute “inciting subversion.”
Police prevented Liu’s supporters from attending his trial, which was held behind closed doors. At his trial on April 15, 2016, government prosecutors claimed that Liu had “engaged in rumor mongering and slander against state power and socialism” by sharing essays and other “expressions” via instant messaging and social media tools—WeChat, QQ groups, and Telegram—in 2014 and 2015. Among the works referenced were “A Letter to the CCP’s Low-ranking Soldiers and Police in the Armed Forces” (给中共当局基层武装力量的士兵和警员的一封信) and “My Views on the Overseas Democracy Movement” (我对海外民运的看法). Liu made a statement in court defending his pro-democracy and human rights activities, arguing that he was being persecuted since he had “expressed some political opinions that diverge from those of authorities.” Prosecutors requested the court convict Liu as a recidivist due to his previous conviction—a one-year sentence for “counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement”—even though the crime used to convict him was abolished in 1997.
At Liu’s sentencing on July 7, 2017, a large police presence, including many public security vehicles, blocked the entrance to the courthouse and prevented his supporters from entering to observe the proceedings, which were held behind closed doors. Afterward, Liu said that he had not been notified by authorities in advance that he would be sentenced that day. Reportedly, officers did not allow him to use the toilet before the hearing nor sit down in the transport vehicle from the detention center, and court bailiffs treated him roughly and insulted him when he arrived at the courthouse.
Liu Shaoming 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.
Liu’s lawyers made public the various legal and procedural violations in the criminal case and court proceedings. However, they did not file formal legal complaints, feeling that authorities would not either not accept them or not provide any substantive response.
After his sentencing, Liu Shaoming stated in court that he would appeal his punishment. No appellate trial has taken place at the time of this submission.