CHRD Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Zhen Jianghua and Qin Yongmin – February 21, 2018 (updated June 6, 2018)

Comments Off on CHRD Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Zhen Jianghua and Qin Yongmin – February 21, 2018 (updated June 6, 2018)

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 the situation of human rights defenders

Communiqué on Behalf of Zhen Jianghua and Qin Yongmin,
Citizens of the People’s Republic of China,
Alleging Arbitrary Detention and Reprisal against Human Rights Defenders

I. IDENTITY

A) Zhen Jianghua

1. Family name: Zhen (甄)
2. First name: Jianghua (江华)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): November 1, 1985
5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China
6. Identity document (if any): National ID Card

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

Zhen Jianghua, a human rights activist and citizen journalist, has in recent years led campaigns on the online platform Human Rights Campaign in China (HRCC, 权利运动), which publishes information about rights abuses in the country. He also helped organize and was active with ATGFW.org, a group founded in 2012 to provide technical assistance to circumvent the government’s cyber censorship and Internet information controls. (The group’s abbreviation stands for “Across the Great Firewall, We Can Reach Every Corner in the World.”) In addition, Zhen had been a strong supporter of victims of the “709 Crackdown,” which was launched against China’s human rights lawyers in July 2015, and he has joined demonstrations to call for the release of detained lawyers and activists.

8. Address of usual residence: Guangdong Province

B) Qin Yongmin

1. Family name: Qin (秦)
2. First name: Yongmin (永敏)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): August 11, 1953
5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China
6. Identity document (if any): National ID Card

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

Qin Yongmin is a democracy activist and dissident whose rights advocacy dates back to the late 1970s. When taken into custody, Qin was the head of a group that he had founded, named “Human Rights Watch in China” (HRWIC, 中国人权观察, also known as the “Rose Team,” 玫瑰团队), which has promoted democracy and rights protections. Qin helped to establish the China Democracy Party in 1980 and participated in the launch, in January 1993, of the “Peace Charter” movement in Beijing, which called for democracy in China, demanding redress for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre and advocating for the release of political prisoners. In retaliation for his long-term rights advocacy, authorities previously imprisoned Qin on two occasions, for a total of 20 years, and also sent him to a Re-education through Labor camp for two years.

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

II. Arrest

A) Zhen Jianghua

1. Date of arrest: September 1, 2017

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): In his residence in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Public security officers in Zhuhai City

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No, uniformed and plainclothes police did not produce a detention notice for Zhen and his family when seizing him, nor any warrants for searches of his apartment.

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

B) Qin Yongmin

1. Date of arrest: January 15, 2015 (forcibly disappeared), March 30, 2015 (criminally detained)

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): At his residence in Wuhan City, Hubei Province

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Public security officers from the Wuhan City Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the Qingshan District Branch of the Wuhan City PSB. Officers identified as being involved in the arrest are:

Qu Youping (瞿佑平): Officer, Qingshan District Branch Domestic Security Brigade, Wuhan City Public Security Bureau
Wan Changfei (万长非): Office Director (retired and rehired), Qingshan District Branch Domestic Security Brigade, Wuhan City Public Security Bureau
Fu Zhiping (付志平): Bureau Chief, Qingshan District Branch, Wuhan City Public Security Bureau
Yu Chunxiang (喻春祥): Bureau Chief, Wuhan City Public Security Bureau

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? N/A

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): 

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.

III. Detention

A) Zhen Jianghua

1. Date of detention: Criminally detained on September 2, 2017

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Zhen Jianghua has been detained since September 1, 2017 (approx. 5 months at the time of this communication)

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

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): 
Zhen was initially held at Zhuhai City No. 1 Detention Center. By mid-December 2017, he had reportedly been placed by police under “residential surveillance in a designated location”—at a location that has not been disclosed.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Zhuhai City Public Security Bureau

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.

B) Qin Yongmin

1. Date of detention: May 6, 2015 (formally arrested)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Qin Yongmin has been detained since January 9, 2015 (over 37 months at the time of this communication)

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Wuhan City Public Security Bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Qin was held on Baxian Island in Wuhan after being disappeared on January 15, 2015. He was transferred to Wuhan City No. 2 Detention Center on March 30, 2015, when he was criminally detained.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Indicted by Wuhan City People’s Procuratorate
[formally arrested by Wuhan City Public Security Bureau]

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: Indicted on “suspicion of “subversion of state power” [initially arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”]

7. Legal basis for the detention including relevant legislation applied (if known): 

Article 105 (1) of China’s Criminal Law (“subversion of state power”) stipulates fixed-term imprisonment of not more than 3 years for participants, 3 to 10 years for active participants, and not less than 10 years or life imprisonment to those who organize, plot or carry out the scheme of subverting the state power or overthrowing the socialist system, and to ringleaders and others who commit major crimes.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest

A) Zhen Jianghua

Zhen Jianghua was taken from his apartment by uniformed and plainclothes police in Zhuhai City, Guangdong Province on September 1, 2017. Later that night, approximately 20 officers took him back to the residence and confiscated his cellphones and computers. Police returned on September 2 to conduct a second search, taking promotional materials and documents related to Human Rights Campaign in China (HRCC). Police did not produce a detention notice for Zhen’s family when seizing him, nor any warrants for the searches of his apartment.

B) Qin Yongmin

Qin was taken into custody on January 15, 2015, in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, immediately after completing a 10-day administrative detention, a punishment for allegedly “organizing an illegal assembly.” He was subsequently taken to Baxian Island along with his wife, Zhao Suli (赵素利). Qin was among more than 10 group members of the group HWRIC/Rose Team who police disappeared, criminally detained, or formally arrested in 2015 and 2016. (Zhao Suli remained disappeared until early February 2018, after being disappeared in police custody for over three years.)

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

A) Zhen Jianghua

Zhen’s human rights advocacy activities had for years attracted the attention of authorities, and his current detention is believed to be retaliation for his advocating for rights abuse victims through his exercise of free expression, assembly, and association. When taken into custody, Zhen Jianghua was leading campaigns on the online platform Human Rights Campaign in China (HRCC). His detention, which occurred just weeks before the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress, is a sign of the escalation of Xi Jinping’s crackdown on civil society groups. Specifically, it follows several detentions in late 2016 of heads of advocacy groups in China that use the Internet to monitor and report on human rights developments in the country, including Huang Qi of “64 Tianwang” and Liu Feiyue of Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch.

Numerous legal violations have occurred with Zhen’s detention. Zhen was taken away on September 1, 2017 (and put under criminal detention the next day), and his whereabouts were unknown for several days after police took him into custody. His family did not receive a detention notice until September 7. This 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.

Authorities have held Zhen incommunicado since taking him into custody and not allowed him to have access to a lawyer. One of his lawyers, Ren Quanniu (任全牛), requested to see Zhen on September 14, 2017, but police explicitly told him not to return to the detention center or “spread speculation” about Zhen’s case on social media. Similarly, authorities warned Zhen’s family members and supporters not to speak publicly about his case. By mid-December 2017, Zhen had been placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” a form of detention codified under China’s Criminal Procedure Law (Article 73) that constitutes “enforced disappearance” according to international standards.

The above circumstances of Qin Yongmin’s detention violate his rights guaranteed under Category II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 12) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 9 and 13).

In the past few years, and prior to his current detention, Zhen had been arbitrarily detained and harassed by police in retaliation for his human rights advocacy. For instance, he was briefly detained in September 2016 when he went to Wukan Village in Guangdong to speak with local residents who were protesting official corruption and detention of a popular village leader. Beginning in 2010, authorities in Zhuhai forced Zhen Jianghua to change his residence about once a year, because every time he moved the police would pressure landlords not to rent to him. Zhen was also prohibited to travel overseas several times.

The above circumstances of Zhen Jianghua’s detention violate the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under Category II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights under Articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, and 26), and freedoms guaranteed by Articles 7, 9, 13, 18, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

B) Qin Yongmin

For decades prior to his current detention, Qin Yongmin has been targeted by Chinese authorities in retaliation for his exercising rights to free expression, assembly, and association. Besides two prison sentences and a Re-education through Labor punishment, Qin has been taken into custody—for police questioning or some form of deprived liberty—over 40 times in retaliation for his human rights activities.

After Qin was taken into police custody on January 15, 2015, his family did not receive a detention notice. This 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. From that date, Qin was forcibly disappeared for approximately 70 days, during which time he was guarded in rounds by Wuhan public security officers and deprived of any visits from an attorney.

The above circumstances of Qin Yongmin’s detention violate his rights guaranteed under Part II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 12) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 9 and 13).

Qin Yongmin was in police custody for over three years without being brought before a judge, a period of time that constitutes unreasonably prolonged pre-trial detention according to international human rights standards. The Wuhan City People’s Procuratorate extended the period of investigation of Qin’s case on three occasions—often an indication of a weak criminal case—before indicting him on June 17, 2016. Though arrested in May 2015 for “inciting subversion of state power,” Qin was indicted for “subversion of state power,” a more serious criminal charge that prescribes a possibly longer prison sentence. Authorities did not reveal to Qin’s lawyers the reason for the change. Authorities scheduled his first-instance trial for December 29, 2017, but abruptly cancelled it without setting a new date for proceedings.

The Wuhan City Intermediate People’s Court opened proceedings in Qin Yongmin’s case on May 11, 2018, and concluded the trial the next day, but did not announced a verdict.

Reportedly, Chinese authorities restricted the movements of several of Qin’s supporters who wish to attend the hearing or gather outside the courthouse to show their solidarity. During the trial, the presiding judge often interrupted both Qin Yongmin and his lawyers, Liu Zhengqing and Lin Qilei, preventing them from exercising their right to a defense. At one point, Qin Yongmin fainted after clashing with the presiding judge, partly due to a weakened physical condition, and he was removed from the courtroom. After returning, Qin remained silent for the duration of the proceedings. In addition, on May 11, the judge did not allow Qin’s defense lawyers to leave the court (to eat a meal), restricting their freedom of movement. On May 12, after the trial ended, the lawyers refused to sign the trial transcript, in protest over the unjust court proceedings.

On the morning of May 28, 2018, Qin’s lawyers went to Wuhan City No. 2 Detention Center and requested to meet with him. A detention center officer told them that Qin’s high blood pressure, which apparently contributed to his collapse in court, was still dangerously high. The lawyers were told to go through higher-level authorities or the court to request permission, but in the end the lawyers were not allowed to visit Qin.

The circumstances described above demonstrate violations of Qin Yongmin’s rights guaranteed under Part III of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 7, 9, 14, and 15) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 3, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 11).

The main reasons in the indictment given for prosecuting Qin reflect the government’s deprivation of his rights to free expression, assembly, and association. It claims that he had circulated writings about democracy and been involved in a “series of activities with the aim to subvert state power,” including writing online essays, organizing advocacy for the China Democracy Party, forming HRWIC/Rose Team, and contacting overseas groups. The indictment alleges that Qin’s expression of political beliefs in his writings constituted criminal behavior. He advocated for political change, with a goal to “move China from a one-party dictatorship to political pluralism, and then achieve fair multi-party competition under a constitutional government.” In addition, he wrote about the fundamental principle of “national reconciliation, human rights supremacy, positive interaction, and peaceful transition.”

Before members of HRWIC/Rose Team were targeted by authorities, the group for years had issued online statements denouncing government policies and occasionally gathered for discussions about political and social issues. The group, mostly made up of “petitioners” (citizens who present individual rights complaints to authorities), has tried repeatedly to register with the government in order to operate legally as a formal NGO. However, their efforts have consistently met with police harassment and persecution of its members. Qin’s current detention is another act in a decades-long history of political persecution of his pro-democracy advocacy, including several activities cited as evidence of “subversion” in his indictment.

The above circumstances of Qin Yongmin’s detention violate the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under Part III of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights under Articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, and 26), and freedoms guaranteed by Articles 7, 9, 13, 18, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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.

Since Zhen Jianghua was detained in September 2017, his family members and lawyers have requested to see him on many occasions; however, authorities have refused all of these requests. International and domestic Chinese human rights groups have reported on Zhen’s detention and demanded that Chinese authorities release him.

International and domestic Chinese human rights groups have reported on Qin Yongmin’s detention and demanded that Chinese authorities release him. Qin’s lawyers have applied to have him freed on bail, consistently maintained his innocence, and requested that anyone with evidence against Qin be allowed to testify in court.

February 21, 2018 (updated June 6, 2018)

Back to Top