CHRD Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detentions of 3 Labour Rights Defenders in PR China – July 11, 2019

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Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 

Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances

Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

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

Communiqué on Behalf of KE Chengbing, WEI Zhili, and YANG Zhengjun, Citizens of the People’s Republic of China, Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Enforced Disappearance, Deprivation of Rights to Expression, Assembly, and Association, and Reprisal against Labour Rights Defenders

I. Identities

A. KE Chengbing

  1. Family name: Ke (柯)
  2. First name: Chengbing (成兵)
  3. 3. Sex: Male
  4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): May 9, 1989
  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):

Ke Chengbing (who is also known by the nickname “Laomu” 老木) is a labor rights defender and has been an editor at an independent online media platform that focuses on labor rights issues since 2013. Ke, who was born in Hubei Province, graduated in 2012 from Jinan University, at which he focused on grassroots rural human rights issues, joining student societies and undertaking countryside field research. After graduation, he assisted workers in the Pearl River Delta, participating in research on the situation of Foxconn workers (13 workers had committed suicide in 2010). Since 2013, he has worked as an editor for the media platform iLabour (新生代 “xin shengdai”) with activists Wei Zhili and Yang Zhengjun. The platform, which has included both a website and a WeChat account,focused on raising awareness of labor rights issues through covering worker-related stories and news. The articles, written by contributing writers that includescholars and labor activists, also included sharing workers’ human rights advocacy experiences, and providing workers with a platform for labour rights consultation. The platform’s core values were “promoting economic democracy, safeguarding labor value, and building a just society”. In May 2016, the three activists renamed the media platform as Weigonghui (微工荟) after the “iLabor/新生代” name became too sensitive.In mid-2018, the three opened up a parallel platform using the original name iLabour/新生代, and afterauthorities censored the Weigonghui account in November 2018, the three soley used the iLabour/新生代name.

8. Address of usual residence: Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, P.R. China

B. WEI Zhili

  1. Family name: Wei (危)
  2. First name: Zhili (志立)
  3. Sex: Male
  4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): June 18,1988
  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):

Wei Zhili (also known by the nickname “Xiaowei”小危), born inGuangzhou City, Guangdong Province is a labor rights defender, advocate for feminist issues, and, since 2013 has been an editor at an independent online media platform that focuses on labor rights issues. Wei, whograduated from Guangzhou University in 2010, had been attentive totheliving conditionsof Chinese migrant workers since he was in high school, and has devoted himselfto improvingtheir living conditions. At university, Wei participated in various labor-related studies and provided services to factory workers. After graduating,Wei joined Hand-in-Hand Workers’ Activity Center (手牵手工友活动室) in Shenzhen, providing legal advice, representation, and organizational support to workers. Since 2013, he has worked as an editor for the media platform iLabour (新生代 “xin shengdai”) with activists Ke Chengbing and Yang Zhengjun. The platform, which has included both a website and a WeChat account,focused on raising awareness of labor rights issues through covering worker-related stories and news. The articles, written by contributing writers that includescholars and labor activists, also included sharing workers’ human rights advocacy experiences, and providing workers with a platform for labour rights consultation. The platform’s core values were “promoting economic democracy, safeguarding labor value, and building a just society”. In May 2016, the three activists renamed the media platform as Weigonghui (微工荟) after the “iLabor/新生代” name became too sensitive.In mid-2018, the three opened up a parallel platform using the original name iLabour/新生代, and afterauthorities censored the Weigonghui account in November 2018, the three soley used the iLabour/新生代 name.

8. Address of usual residence: Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, P.R. China

C. YANG Zhengjun

  1. Family name: Yang (杨)
  2. First name: Zhengjun (郑君)
  3. Sex: Male
  4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): April 10, 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):

Yang Zhengjun (also known by the nickname “Baozi”包子) is a labor rights defender and, since 2013 has been an editor at an independent online media platform that focuses on labor rights issues. Yang, a native of Chongqing Municipality, participated in a national movement of students who went to countryside areas to conduct research that laid the basis for his rights advocacy ideas involving workers and rural residents while an undergraduate student at Beihang University. In 2008, Yang Zhengjun initiated and organized the “University Students Coca-Cola Watch Group” to investigate Coca-Cola Inc.’s bottling and supplier factory labor conditions. He acted as lead writer of a report that revealed Coca-Cola’s abuse of dispatch labor and demanded Coca-Cola respect China’s Labor Contract Law. Following the suicides of 13 Foxconn workers in 2010, Yang organized university students to investigate the plant’s labor conditions and called for a public demonstration in Beijing’s Zhongguancun Technology Park to commemorate those who had died. Yang graduated from Beihang University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological and Medical Engineering and from Minzu University of China with a master’s degree in Political Economy. Beginning in 2013, he has worked as an editor for the media platform iLabour (新生代 “xin shengdai”) with activists Ke Chengbing and Wei Zhili, acting as the group’s editor-in-chief since 2017. The platform, which has included both a website and a WeChat account,focused on raising awareness of labor rights issues through covering worker-related stories and news. The articles, written by contributing writers that includescholars and labor activists, also included sharing workers’ human rights advocacy experiences, and providing workers with a platform for labour rights consultation. The platform’s core values were “promoting economic democracy, safeguarding labor value, and building a just society”. In May 2016, the three activists renamed the media platform as Weigonghui (微工荟) after the “iLabor/新生代” name became too sensitive.In mid-2018, the three opened up a parallel platform using the original name iLabour/新生代, and afterauthorities censored the Weigonghui account in November 2018, the three soley used the iLabour/新生代 name.

8. Address of usual residence: Zhong County, Chongqing Municipality

II. Arrests

A. KE Chengbing

  1. Date of arrest: March 20, 2019
  2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): At his residence in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, P.R. China
  3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officers from the Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau
  4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No
  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): Unknown

B. WEI Zhili

  1. Date of arrest: March 20, 2019
  2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): His parent’s home in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province
  3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officers from Pingshan District Sub-Bureauof Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau
  4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No
  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): Unknown

C. YANG Zhengjun 

  1. Date of arrest: January 8, 2019
  2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): At his rental room on Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province, P.R. China
  3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officers from Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau and Yuzhu Residential District branch, Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province
  4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No
  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): Unknown

III. Detentions

(Submitter’s note: the three men have not yet been “formally arrested” but under Chinese law have been put under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location (RSDL), a de facto form of enforced disappearance.[1]They may be under this status for six months before being formally arrested. We have included the RSDL details under “Detention”).

A. KE Chengbing

1. Date of detention: April 19, 2019 (Residential Surveillance in Designated Location)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Ke Chengbing has been continually detained since March 20, 2019, and under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location since April 19, 2019.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): N/A (current location unknown under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location, transferred on April 19, 2019); Shenzhen City No. 2 Detention Center (previous)

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”

7. Legal basis for the detention 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.

B. WEI Zhili

1. Date of detention: April 19, 2019 (Residential Surveillance in Designated Location)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Wei Zhili has been continually detained since March 20, 2019, and under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location since April 19, 2019.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): N/A (current location unknown under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location, transferred on April 19, 2019); Shenzhen City No. 2 Detention Center (previous)

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”

7. Legal basis for the detention 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.

C. YANG Zhengjun

1. Date of detention: February 6, 2019 (placed under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Yang has been continually detained since January 8, 2019, and under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location since February 6, 2019.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Pingshan District Sub-bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): N/A (current location unknown under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location, transferred on February 6, 2019); Shenzhen City No. 2 Detention Center (previous)

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Pingshan District Sub-bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”

7. Legal basis for the detention 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.

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrests

Police officers from the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau seized Yang Zhengjun and three individuals with him from a rented room on January 8, 2019, searched the room and took away computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Officers did not present a search warrant or any written notice of summons or arrest, and they refused to state a reason for the police action. When asked to show their public security identification badges, only one officer (of approximately 10 officers) briefly displayed a badge, but not long enough for the detained individuals to clearly read it. 

On the previous day, January 7, a group of migrant workers, originally from Hunan Province, and on whose behalf Mr. Yang and others had been advocating for their labor rights, had come to Shenzhen to demand a reply from local authorities about their complaint over an occupational lung disease, pneumoconiosis, which they had contracted from working in the construction industry in Shenzhen. While Mr. Yang remained in custody, the three other individualswho were seized with him were released within 24 hours, apparently after being questioned about both the rights-defense case of the workers suffering from the occupational disease as well as their relationship with Mr. Yang.

Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing, both colleagues of Mr. Yang with the independent online media platform iLabour, were taken into custody by police in Guangzhou on March 20, 2019. Police seized Mr. Wei and Mr. Ke after the men had continued to provide legal advice to the afflicted workers from Henan and publicize their cases. When seizing Mr. Wei, police also confiscated his computer and cell phone.

V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrests and/or detentions to be arbitrary

The detentions of Mr. Yang, Mr. Ke, and Mr. Wei appear to be state retaliation for their advocacy for migrant laborers, constituting deprivation of the three men’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and free association.Most recently and specifically, the detainees had used their independent media online platform to publish information on the cases of migrant workers from Hunan Province who had contracted an occupational lung disease, while also counseling them about labor rights and petitioning (i.e., formal procedure by which citizens in China submit complaints to government authorities).The workers had demanded financial compensation after being sickened with pneumoconiosis, which is caused by inhaling dust, and whose symptoms include coughing and lung inflammation and fibrosis. (See below for more background on the workers’ labor rights campaign and the response by state authorities.)

The men’s deprivation of liberty appears directly connected to their operation of the online labor rights media platform “iLabour” (from here on out, we will refer to their media platforms as “iLabour” despite previously mentioned name changes), and thus constitutes a deprivation of their rights to free expression and association. Chinese authorities had previously censored and tried to shut down iLabour on several occasions due to its mission and “politically sensitive” content. In November 2014, Chinese authorities closed the platform’s WeChat account, but without providing any reason for this action. That same month, a second iLabour WeChat account was created, but it was also shut down. In April 2016, police interrogated editor Ke Chengbing after articles on a protest by coal miners in Shuangyashan in Heilongjiang Province were posted on iLabour’s WeChat account.

In January 2017, the WeChat account, by then having been renamed “Weigonghui,” was again censonsered, for publishing an article about a labor strike in Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province. Another new account for iLabour was created in February 2018. In November 2018, the“Weigonghui”Wechat account wasshut down by authorities during protests by workers from Jasic Technology, Inc (AL CHN 3/2019).[2]The last article shared on the Weigonghui account before it was blocked was aboutthe use of pepper spray by police who suppressed a protest by Hunanese workers suffering from pneumoconiosis. 

When detaining Wei Zhili, police from the Pingshan District Sub-Bureauof the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau told Wei Zhili’s parents that they were taking Mr. Wei away for “education,” claiming that Mr. Wei had been “brainwashed,” as he hadneither purchased a house nor hadchildren since graduating from university, and because he had not worked in a formal occupation for several years. Police did not show a warrant when detaining Mr. Wei and rationale provided has no legal grounds to deprive Mr. Wei of his liberty. Police also said that Mr. Wei, through his advocacy actions, had “disrupted public security” and “opposed the Communist Party.”

The above circumstances constitute violations of the rights of Mr. Yang, Mr. Ke, and Mr. Wei to peacefully exercise free expression and association, including those 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 18, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Furthermore, during the detentions of the three activists, authorities have violated provisions of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), depriving Mr. Yang, Mr. Wei, and Mr. Ke of their rights, including by delaying notification of, and information on, their detentions to their families, restricting access to legal counsel, pressuring families to dismiss lawyers they have engaged, and exposing them to risk of torture in secret detention.

When detaining the three men, police did not provide information on criminal charges or their whereabouts. The family members of Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing did not receive official notice of their detentions, which occurred on March 20, 2019,untilMarch 26 and April 3, respectively. The delayed notification violates China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which stipulates a public security bureau must produce an official notice to the family within 24 of placing an individual under detention (CPL, Article 83). Ke’s family was only able to surmise for themselves that Ke was being detained at ShenzhenNo 2.Detention Center on March 27, when their monetary deposit for him was accepted, likely indication that Ke was being held there.

At the time of this communication, the three detainees are being secretly detained, having each been transferred intoResidential Surveillance in a Designated Location (RSDL) after approximately four weeks in custody, and as the legal limit of 37 days for criminal detention under Chinese law approached. Mr. Yang was transferred fromShenzhen No. 2 Detention Centerto RSDL on February 6, 2019, after 30 days in custody, though police did not provide official notice of this change in status to his family or lawyers. Mr. Wei and Mr. Ke were transferred to RSDL on April 19, after 31 days in custody. The legal basis for holding the three under RSDL is a violation of China’s law. All three men are being held under RSDL on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” which is a crime in the category of “disrupting public order” according to China’s Criminal Law. Under China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL, Article 75), RSDL can only be used when a suspect is held on suspicion of an “endangering national security, terrorism or serious bribery” charge. 

RSDL is a form of detention that constitutes de facto enforced disappearance according to international standards, exposing detainee to greater risk of torture. According to Chinese law, detainees can remain under RSDL, at a secret location, for as long as six months. Requests for meetings with their lawyers must be approved by police, and are routinely denied in cases involving human rights defenders. Ten UN Special Procedures called on the Chinese government to repeal the provision in August 2018 (OL CHN 15/2018). The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in Opinion No. 15/2019 (China) that placement in RSDL is a violation of articles 6, 9, 10, and 11(1) of the Universal Declatation of Human Rights. 

The men are being deprived of access to lawyers and their families, putting them at high risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Authorities have deprived Yang Zhengjun of access to a lawyer during his entire period in custody, in violation of Article 37 of China’s CPL, which states a detainee should be given access to a lawyer within 48 hours of a request. Both Ke Chengbing and Wei Zhili have been deprived of access to legal counsel since being transferred to RSDL on April 19, 2019, although they were allowed to meet with lawyers several times after being initially taken into custody. 

While depriving detainees of legal counsel, Chinese authorities also have tried to pressure the families of all three men to dismiss the lawyers that the families have engaged, and possibly have coerced the detainees to express the desire to “fire” such lawyers or refuse to have the lawyers represent them. This violates the detainees’ rights to access legal counsel of their own or their families’ choosing, according to both Chinese law (CPL Article 32) and international human rights standards. 

Yang Zhengjun’s family hired a lawyer in early February 2019, but in mid-February authorities fromPingshan District Sub-bureau of Shenzhen City Public Security Bureaurejected the lawyer’s application to meet with Mr. Yang, and they subsequently demanded that the family dismiss the lawyer. Police also told the family that Mr. Yang wrote a note expressing his desire to have the lawyer dismissed, but the family has never seen the note and has not agreed to dismiss his legal counsel. On April 22, 2019, the lawyer requested a visit at the Shenzhen City No. 2 Detention Center, where he was believed to be held despite his official detention status of RSDL (which would imply he was being held outside of any official detention center at a “location” determined by police), because Mr. Yang’s name and cellphone number were still searchable at that detention center in mid-April 2019. The lawyer was able to officially make an appointment to see Mr. Yang; however, on the day of the appointment, the lawyer was denied entry by detention center staff, who told him that Mr. Yang had already been transferred to another location.

On April 20, 2019, when Shenzhen police orally informed Wei Zhili’s parents of his transfer to RSDL, they requested that his family immediately dismiss the lawyers who they had hired to defend Mr. Wei and warned his parents “not to cause any trouble.” While authorities had previously allowed Wei Zhili to meet his family-appointed lawyers on at least three occasions before he was transferred into RSDL (on March 28, April 8, and April 18, 2019), Mr. Wei told a lawyer during one of those visits that police had verbally humiliated him and threatened that they would bring his family to the interrogation room if he continued to “refuse to cooperate” with their investigation. The behavior of police officers raises concern that Wei is at risk of being tortured or ill-treated while under RSDL.

On May 14, 2019, one of two lawyers that Mr. Wei’s family had brought on to defend him requested a meeting with Mr. Wei through the Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau. However, authorities claimed Mr. Wei had written out a statement expressing that he had “dismissed” another lawyer and would not acknowledge that he had any other lawyer; thus, authorities did not permit the lawyer who requested the visit to meet with Mr. Wei. 

Ke Chengbing was granted a visit with two different lawyers hired by his family on April 4 and April 11, 2019 but has not been granted any visits since being transferred to RSDL on April 19. On April 22, a new third lawyer hired by Mr. Ke’s family attempted to visit Mr. Ke but his request was denied by authorities. On April 23, national security officers visited Mr. Ke’s father at his workplace and held him for ten hours without food until he signed an agreement dismissing this lawyer and another statement to Mr. Ke persuading him to confress. 

The above circumstances constitute violations of Mr. Ke, Mr. Wei, and Mr. Yang’s rights guaranteed under Category III of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 9).

The three men’s detentions come amid a widening crackdown by Chinese authorities on grassroots labor rights movements addressing unjust work conditions. Authorities have responded to such activism with arbitrary detentions and harassment, depriving scores of laborers and activists of their rights to peaceful expression, assembly, and association. For example, in July 2018, authorities launched a crackdown against Jasic Technology workers in Shenzhen, as well as their university student and labor activist supporters, with police detaining dozens of individuals. Five of these individuals remain detained at the time of this communication (AL CHN 3/2019), and some students’ whereabouts are unknown. 

Background: Hunanese migrant workers’ campaign for compensation from effects of occupational disease and suppression by state authorities:

The migrant workers stricken with pneumoconiosis, who are originally from several counties in Hunan Province (and most of whom have returned to that province to live), had worked in the demolition industry in Shenzhen for over 20 years. They had engaged in pneumatic drilling and blasting as part of construction projects across Shenzhen. The laborers were poorly protected in terms of work conditions and contractual status; they worked in a dusty industrial environment and only provided a mask as “protective equipment,” and their employers did not sign labor contracts with them or pay into a social security fund for the workers. The workers diagnosed with pneumoconiosis have had difficulty accessing identification, treatment, and compensation for the occupational disease in part because they lack sufficient evidence to prove their past employment status. At present, a domestic NGO has confirmed over 600 cases or suspected cases of pneumoconiosis among migrant workers who had returned to Hunan from Shenzhen, including in some workers who have already died. 

In January 2018,stricken workersbegan peacefully and lawfully campaigning to defend their rights in Shenzhen, by presenting complaints to the Shenzhen City Office of Letters and Petitions (深圳市信访办) and to the Shenzhen City Government. In their petitions, the workers have demanded Shenzhen authorities both recognize that laborers contracted pneumoconiosis while working in the pneumatic drilling industry in the city and provide financial compensation for medical treatment and support for workers’ families. 

In response to this campaign, however, government authorities from Shenzhen and Hunan together intimidated and suppressed the workers.In earlyNovember 2018, about 300 workers protested in front of the Shenzhen City Government building and requested a meetingwith government officials. In response, police used an unidentified liquid to attack protesters. Subsequently, hundreds of the workers threatened to commit suicide, a move that led officials from the Shenzhen City Social Security Bureau and the Shenzhen City Government to negotiate with the workers.

Acting under pressure from the workers, the Shenzhen City Government finally provided 300 million yuan (approx. US $43.5 million) in compensation funds to the Hunan Provincial Government, which Shenzhen authorities entrusted with implementing compensation measuresfor the workers suffering from pneumoconiosis. As of January 2019, however, reimbursements for medical expenses and compensation for living expenses had not been fully paid out. 

Meanwhile, authorities in Hunan Province have been closely monitoring workers and attempting to restrict their movements in efforts to block them from going to Beijing and Shenzhen to advocate for compensation, including by preventing workers from boarding trains or buses destined for those cities. On January 7, 2019, approximately 50pneumoconiosisworkers from Hunan went to Shenzhen to demand an official reply from the city government. However, just as they arrived at thefront entrance of the government’s petitioning (“letters and visits”) office, police surrounded them and prevented them from entering, and officers forcibly sentthe workers in a bus back to Hunan.

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.

Family members and lawyers of detainees have attempted various remedies regarding their detentions. These efforts have, in some instances, resulted in government retaliation against these supporters. On April 22, 2019, the family members of all three men sent a joint letter to the Pingshan District Shenzhen City People’s Procuratorate expressing their reasons for believing that Mr. Ke, Mr. Wei, and Mr. Yang’s actions did not constitute the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and called for them to be treated justly and released. The families of the three also wrote in their letter that they were concerned about the wellbeing of their family memebrs as they had learnt that many detainees in past RSDL cases were blocked from meeting their lawyers and were exposed to torture in custody. 

Below is specific action taken in regards to each men:

Ke Chengbing

On April 23 and 24, Mr. Ke’s lawyer filed complaints with Pingshan District Shenzhen City People’s Procuratorate over the deniel of his right to visit his client on April 22 and the illegal actions of the police to deprive Mr. Ke’s father of his liberity to coerce him into dismissing the lawyer on April 23. The Procuratorate replied to the lawyer that according to the information given by the Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau, Mr. Ke’s family has ended his representation as Mr. Ke’s lawyer and did not reply to the complaints regarding illegal conduct of the Pingshan District Sub-Bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau.

Wei Zhili

Ms. Zheng Churan, Wei Zhili’swife and a well-known Chinese feminist activist, inquired about Wei’s whereabouts and the basis for his detention after Wei was taken into custody, and also has spoken outonline in advocating for his case.As a consequence, Ms. Zheng has faced ongoing harassment and retaliation from Chinese authorities.From March 20 to March 25, 2019—before Ms. Zheng learned that Mr. Wei had been placed under criminal detention—she visited four police stationsin Shenzhen City to seek information on Wei’s case; however, authorities did not provide herany information. (On March 26, Ms. Zheng and Mr. Wei’s fathereach received a phone call from Shenzhen police informing them thatMr. Wei was suspected of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”and was being detained at the ShenzhenNo. 2 Detention Center.) Due to her advocacy for Mr. Wei, Ms. Zheng’s WeChat accounts, which she had used to release information about his case, have either been deleted or blocked by state censors. In April 2019, her landlord, who has been under police pressure, requested that Ms. Zheng move out of her rented apartment. 

Yang Zhengjun

On April 25, 2019, Mr. Yang’s lawyer submitted a written bail application to the Pingshan District Sub-bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau. On April 26, Mr. Yang’s lawyer requested another visit with Yang through the Pingshan District Sub-bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau. Police at the sub-bureau claimed Mr. Yang’s cases files were not at their location and told Mr. Yang’s lawyer to visit the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau. At the Shenzhen Bureau, Yang’s lawyer was informed that the “special working group” responsible for the case was unwilling to provide any method to directly contact their personnel, would not tell the lawyer what official was in charge of the case, and told the lawyer that his communications should be submitted through a “petitioning office.” 

On May 20, Yang’s lawyer submitted another written bail application and a written application to see his client with an officer of the Pingshan District Sub-bureau of the Shenzhen City Public Security Bureau. Yang’s lawyer was informed again that Yang had written a statement in February declaring that he would accept no lawyers entrusted by anyone other than himself. Yang’s lawyer requested to see the statement but was told he would have to make an appointment in advance next time in order to see the statement.

Submitted: July 11, 2019

For more details on Ke Chengbing (柯成冰), Wei Zhili (危志立), Yang Zhengjun (杨郑君), read their profile on CHRD’s website here


[1]OL CHN 15/2018, https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=23997

[2]https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=24516

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