Li Yuhan (李昱函)

Comments Off on Li Yuhan (李昱函)
Li Yuhan (李昱函)

Li Yuhan (李昱函)

*Under medical watch

Criminal charge: “Picking quarrels and provoking trouble” & “fraud”

Length of Punishment: 6 years and 6 months

Court: Shenyang, Heping District People’s Court

Trial Date: October 20, 2021

Sentencing Date: October 25, 2023

Dates of Detention/Arrest: October 9, 2017 (detained); November 15, 2017 (formally arrested)

Date of Birth: October 9, 1957

Medical conditions: Atrial fibrillation arrhythmia, coronary heart disease, unstable angina, hyperthyroidism, acute erosive gastritis, cerebral concussion, and cerebral ischemic

Place of Incarceration: Shenyang City No. 1 Detention Center (Liaoning Province)


Liaoning police seized veteran human rights lawyer Li Yuhan on October 9, 2017. They took her away without providing a warrant or notice to her family. However, Li was able to send her brother a text message that day, revealing that she was being taken away by officers from the Heping Sub-division of the Shenyang City Public Security Bureau. She was then disappeared for three weeks. Li’s detention, according to her lawyer, Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), appears to be partly in retaliation for her repeated appeals to authorities to locate and support lawyers who had disappeared into police custody in the “709” Crackdown. The oft-persecuted Li had represented lawyer Wang Yu (王宇), one of the main crackdown targets. Authorities had made clear that they regarded Li’s work on Wang’s case as “sensitive,” warning Li’s family members to “keep their distance” from Li, or else “face severe consequences.”

From October 9, Li’s family frequently inquired about her whereabouts at the Shenyang City Letters and Visits Office, and only in late October did a police officer confirm her location and detention status. Lawyer Lin Qilei, who along with Li’s brother visited the detained lawyer on November 9 for the first time, has reported her allegations that she had been tortured and mistreated in custody. Li revealed that officers had hooded her when seizing her, and threatened to kill her if she did not give up her cellphone password. Police formally arrested Li Yuhan on November 15, 2017 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” In February/March 2018, authorities added the charge of “fraud” to the arrest sheet.

In subsequent visits with her lawyers, Li has made serious allegations of torture, including deprivation of medical care. During another visit by Lin in November, Li was having difficulty walking, and told Lin that she had suffered severe chills after a basin of cold water had been poured on her while bathing. When Li had complained about pain and discomfort, the head of discipline management mocked Li and threatened to have her handcuffs tightened. Police eventually took Li to a hospital for an examination, but even there she was not given food or water. Upon returning to the detention center, a guard pushed her roughly back into a cell.

According to information released by lawyer Li Boguang (李柏光) who had met her on December 4, a female detention guard and other detainees have continued to force the elderly Li to bathe in ice cold water during the freezing winter in Shenyang, where the weather is around 10 degrees below zero. She only receives one steamed bun during meals while other detainees receive two. As a result, preexisting medical conditions have flared up, but guards refused to give her any medication and she only received some medicine from her family. Li Yuhan requested to see a doctor, but the officials refused and reportedly told her, “Hurry up and die! It’s good for you to get closer to death, as we sooner or later want to beat you to death, you old woman.” Li’s mental state is also reportedly suffering due to the psychological torture.

Li Yuhan has a several medication conditions: arrhythmia (abnormal heath rhythm) and is suffering from complications, such as fluttering in chest and tremors, coronary heart disease, unstable angina, hyperthyroidism, acute erosive gastritis (inflammation of the stomach with lesions in the mucous membrane and ulcers), cerebral concussion, and cerebral ischemic (blood clots in the cerebral vessel).

Like other rights lawyers in China, Li has been subjected to physical violence and harassment by police and other agents in attempts to interfere in her independence as a lawyer. In Li’s case, abuses go back over a decade. In one of the more recent incidents, Beijing police kidnapped and assaulted Li in May 2015 after she had reported to authorities the illegal behavior of local officials, who she maintained had obstructed justice in a civil lawsuit case. While Li was in custody at that time, an officer shoved her head against a toilet and she lost consciousness. After her release, Li was diagnosed with a concussion and many injuries.

Violence that Li has suffered has exacerbated her persistent medical conditions, and she has had to suspend her work due to her poor health. Li has been admitted to the hospital several times since 2015, as she is at high risk of cerebral hemorrhage and stroke. In March 2017, Li required extensive medical treatment and surgery for worsening illnesses, and her hefty medical fees were covered through donations raised from supporters. When taken into custody in October 2017, Li was reportedly suffering from atrial fibrillation arrhythmia, coronary heart disease, hyperthyroidism, diffuse gastritis, and other health problems.

On October 17, 2018, lawyers Ma Wei (马卫) and Wu Li (吴莉) visited Li Yuhan, and the next day they went to a court for a pre-trial hearing. Li provided the lawyers several updates on her conditions in detention on October 17. Li was still taking medication to treat a heart condition and gastritis. She also was being abused by cellmates; one of her abusers, who had been verbally abusive, was apparently given extra food by guards as reward for her behavior, and another inmate had stolen some of Li’s possessions and poured soup on her clothing. In late September, Li had written a complaint to detention authorities about ill-treatment that she was suffering. This led to a dispute between lawyer Li and the head of discipline management, however, and as apparent punishment Li was given less drinking water, causing her some dehydration, and she was provided less medication. The head of discipline management also refused to allow Li to bring materials that she had prepared to the pre-trial hearing, set for the following day.

At pre-trial proceedings on October 18, 2018, the lawyers obtained evidence in Li’s case and submitted new evidence, and witnesses appeared. The presiding judge reportedly did not provide any justification for delaying prosecution of the case but did say that case proceedings would begin the following week. The lawyers asked if the judge could move the hearing to a larger courtroom to allow more observers to attend the trial, but the judge said there was no bigger courtroom available.

Li’s lawyer visited her in early March 2019, where he found out that Li had been taken to the hospital before the Lunar New Year (in early February) for tests on her stomach and for hyperthyroidism, but still had not been told the results. She also said she was meant to see doctors about her heart and orthopedics in two days time, but that her lawyer likely couldn’t accompany her. It’s unknown if she was actually allowed to see the specialists. Her lawyers had been trying to contact the court about the delay in holding a trial hearing, but there had been no response from authorities.

A trial was scheduled for April 9, 2019, but acccording to Li’s brother Li Wensheng (李文生), it was abuptly cancelled on April 6. Li Wensheng travelled to Shenyang Heping District Court on April 9 to see the judge in the case, but was told he was not allowed to meet with him.

On June 4, 2019 Li Yuhan’s two lawyers Ma Wei and Wu Li went to meet her at the detention center, where officials informed them that she had dismissed them as her lawyers as of April 18. The two lawyers asked to see her face-to-face to receive confirmation, and the detention center brough Li out to briefly meet them. She confirm she dismissed them because of the risks and pressure they faced for being her lawyer.

Li Yuhan later appointed a new lawyer of her own choice. This lawyer met her in the detention center on January 8, 2020. Li Yuhan is elderly and the lawyer reported she is still suffering from various medical conditions. The lawyer had applied for bail on the grounds she has been held in prolonged pre-trial detention, but the application was refused. Since the January 2020 visit, authorities have blocked all visits from the lawyer by citing the coronavirus pandemic.

On October 27, 2020, lawyer Lin Qilei visited Li Yuhan at the detention center. Shenyang Heping District People’s Court has repeatedly delayed the trial and scheduled the court hearing to November 30, 2020. Li Yuhan and her lawyer have repeatedly submitted for release on bail but they received no reply from the authorities. Li Yuhan also rejected the authorities’ condition to release her if she would agree to admit to her “offense”.

On October 20, 2021, Li Yuhan went on trial at the Heping District People’s Court in Liaoning. Diplomats from six countries tried to attend, but they were denied on the pretext that there were “no available seats”.  Her lawyers Xie Yang and Wang Yu were also not allowed in the courtroom.

On September 25, 2023, a report emerged regarding Li Yuhan’s lawyer He Wei’s recent visit to see her and interact with court officials. Li Yuhan was in good spirits, but she still had pain in her spine, which caused her some difficulties in walking. She also experienced worsening vision and her hair was completely white. She also sadness and frustration at being subjected to pre-trial detention for six years.

Meanwhile, her lawyer expressed opinions with the court regarding her innocence of the charges, and allegations of procedural illegality in the continued court extensions. The lawyer also expressed frustrations regarding the difficulties in communicating with the court. The court, meanwhile, continued to request Li Yuhan to plead guilty, which the lawyer flatly rejected. The lawyer pressed the procuratorate to supervise the court’s handling of the case.

On October 25, 2023, Li Yuhan was sentenced to 6 years and 6 months by the Shenyang, Heping District Court. Lawyers Wu Laisong and He Wei were permitted to attend, but lawyer Wang Yu, who Li Yuhan once defended, was not permitted inside. Additionally, outside of the courtroom, police put makeshift fences around the court to prevent people from attending. The EU Delegation to China said on X that they were not allowed into the courtroom to observe.

Born on October 9, 1957, Li Yuhan began practicing law in Liaoning in 1991, but moved to Beijing in 2009 to get away from harassment and persecution by Shenyang police. Before her current detention, she was practicing law at the Beijing Dunxin Law Firm. Lawyer Li spoke to members of the UN Committee against Torture in November 2015 about the rapidly worsening situation of lawyers detained in the “709 Crackdown,” as part of an effort to provide information from civil society to the Committee for its review of China’s implementation of the Convention against Torture.

*CHRD’s Watch List of Detainees and Prisoners of Conscience in Need of Medical Attention

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

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

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

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

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

“709 Defense Lawyer Li Yuhan Criminally Detained,” November 1, 2017, CHRD

Submission to UN on Behalf of Three Lawyers – June 11, 2015, CHRD

End Violence Against Human Rights Lawyers, CHRD

Back to Top