Update to UN on Chen Yunfei – October 25, 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 rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

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

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

CHRD update on case of human rights activist Chen Yunfei, alleging arbitrary detention and torture/ill-treatment

Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) respectfully submits an update on the arbitrary detention and torture and ill-treatment of human rights activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞). This update follows an urgent appeal on behalf of Chen that CHRD submitted on September 21, 2015 (see:  https://www.nchrd.org/2015/10/submission-to-un-on-chen-yunfei-september-21-2015/). CHRD is again writing on behalf of Mr. Chen Yunfei seeking intervention from special procedures due to developments in the case; Chen was issued a four-year prison sentence in March 2017, and reportedly has been subjected to further cruel and degrading torture and mistreatment. Chen’s defense lawyers have provided the information contained in this update.


Sichuan police took activist and blogger Chen Yunfei into custody in March 2015, after he had organized and taken part in a memorial service calling for justice for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. Mr. Chen participated in the 1989 pro-democracy movement while studying in Beijing, and has long been involved in calls for the Chinese government to investigate the Tiananmen Massacre and provide compensation to victims’ families. His human rights advocacy, which has often included humor and “performance art,” had made him a frequent target of harassment, violent assaults, and arbitrary detention by authorities.

Criminal prosecution and violation of due process rights

Chen Yunfei was indicted on March 21, 2016, after nearly a year in detention, on a criminal charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” (In indicting him, authorities dropped a more serious charge, “inciting subversion of state power,” for which Chen also had been formally arrested.) As “evidence” of Chen’s alleged criminal behavior, the indictment in his case cited, among other acts, Chen’s posting of content online and on social media that “slandered China’s political system.” The charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” has been widely applied by Chinese authorities as a pretext for incarcerating government critics, including posting comments or sharing information online that authorities deem threatening to “political stability.” Police have increasingly used the charge against civil society activists since the Supreme People’s Court issued an interpretation in 2013 which stipulated that the Internet is a “public space” that can be “disrupted” by speech.

After the Wuhou District People’s Court in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province announced that Chen would be tried on December 26, 2016, authorities delayed the hearing but without providing any reason. When Chen was eventually tried, on March 31, 2017, the court held closed-door proceedings, resulting in a de facto secret trial. A heavy police presence outside the courthouse blocked Chen’s family members and supporters from attending the trial. Inside the courtroom, the presiding judges repeatedly interrupted and warned Chen’s defense lawyers, Guo Haibo (郭海波) and Sui Muqing (隋牧青), refused to admit evidence from them, and cut off Chen when he was giving his closing statement. At the end of the proceedings, the court issued Chen a four-year prison sentence. On April 20, 2017, the Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court upheld the original verdict at an appellate trial.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

While incarcerated, Chen has reportedly been tortured and mistreated in various ways. During a visit with his lawyers at Xinjin Detention Center on January 13, 2017, Chen said that he had suffered injuries from having both of his hands cuffed and feet shackled, and all of them chained together, for two weeks. Due to the restraints, Chen had to be fed by others, was virtually immobile, and was deprived of sleep. This torture was apparent punishment for Chen’s refusal to “properly” greet police officers at the center, including the detention center director, Zhang Lin (张林), who reportedly ordered the shackling. At the visit in January 2017, guards prevented Chen’s lawyers from photographing the injuries as evidence. While Chen overall appeared to be in good health during that meeting, the detention center had not fulfilled his nutritional requirements; as a vegetarian, Chen had not been given eggs for protein, despite his request and the detention center’s previous verbal agreement to do so.

Chen, who officials have said is “difficult to discipline,” is considered a prisoner under “strict control.” According to one of his lawyers, Chen was transferred in the summer of 2017 from Qionglai Prison to Meizhou Prison, where officers are known for forcing inmates to engage in physically strenuous work (to make products for sale outside the prison). Considering the torture that Chen has already been subjected to while incarcerated, Chen’s current incarceration in Meizhou Prison only increases the risk of his suffering further ill-treatment.

Date: October 25, 2017

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