Cheng Yuan (程渊), Liu Dazhi (刘大志), Wu Gejianxiong (吴葛健雄)Comments Off on Cheng Yuan (程渊), Liu Dazhi (刘大志), Wu Gejianxiong (吴葛健雄)
Cheng Yuan (程渊), Liu Dazhi (刘大志), Wu Gejianxiong (吴葛健雄)
Criminal charge: Subversion of state power
Length of Punishment: N/A
Court: Changsha Intermediate Court, Hunan Province
Trial Date: Unknown date in the week of August 31-September 4, 2020
Sentencing Date: Unknown date but in August 2021
Dates of Detention/Arrest: July 22, 2019 (criminal detention); August 26, 2019 (arrested); June 24, 2020 (indicted)
Place of Incarceration: Changsha City Kaifu District Detention Center, Hunan Province
Hunan Province police criminally detained three staff members of an anti-discrimination NGO in Changsha—Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi and Wu Gejianxiong—in July 2019 on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” The precise reason the men have been deprived of their liberty is unknown. They were initially disappeared, and lawyers and family members inquired about their whereabouts on July 24 at Wangcheng District Public Security Bureau in Changsha. Wangcheng police denied that their bureau had ordered the detention, and the families only began to receive information from authorities on July 25 that national security officers had taken the men into custody. Wu Gejianxiong’s family is the only one to have received an official criminal detention notice, which listed his detention location as a Hunan national security detention hall, though a family member of one of the three later confirmed that they are being held in the same Changsha detention center.
On August 26, 2019, as the 37-day limit for criminal detention was approaching, Cheng Yuan’s lawyer received a phone call from authorities that all three men had been formally arrested on “subversion” charges. Cheng Yuan’s family later received a written arrest notice, which listed “Hunan State Security Hall” as his detention location.
On March 16, 2020, the six defence lawyers of the three men received notice from authorities that they had been “dismissed,” with the officials claiming it was the request of the three men, despite the lawyers never having been allowed to meet the three men once in custody. The decision is likely to have been coerced or unilaterally made by the government. On March 23, 2020, Changsha public security transferred the case to the procuratorate for review for indictment. As of May 5, 2020, the procuratorate has still not provided any information to the families, including the names of the government-appointed lawyers, nor received their phone calls after March 30.
Cheng Yuan’s wife called the Changsha Procuratorate on July 10, 2020 and was orally informed that the three men had been indicted on June 24 and their case transferred to Changsha Intermediate Court pending trial. The family members had not received any written notification or pro-active notification from authorities. On July 17, Shi Minglei reportedly learnt that a pre-trial meeting had already been held at Changsha Intermediate Court on an unknown date and a trial could be held soon after.
Changsha Intermediate Court tried three NGO staffers from the Changsha Funeng NGO on an unknown date in the week of August 31-September 4, 2020. The details of the trial of the three men— Cheng Yuan, Liu Dazhi, and Wu Gejianxiong—is unknown, as is the outcome of the hearing. The families received no prior notification of the trial from authorities or the government-appointed lawyers, and there has been no online announcement by the court about the trial. The families only learnt of the hearing because the father of Wu Gejianxiong called the government-appointed lawyer, who informed him that the trial had already been held.
In August 2021, the international community learned that the three NGO staffers had been secretly tried by the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court on the charge of “subversion”, with Cheng Yuan sentenced to 5 years, Wu Gejiangxiong sentenced to 3 years, and Liu Dazhi receiving two years in prison. Liu Dazhi was released. Government-appointed lawyers refused to give a copy of the sentencing documents to the families. However, Cheng Yuan’s wife made the verdict public for the first time in June of 2023.
The organization where the men had been colleagues, Changsha Funeng (长沙富能), is a public interest advocacy NGO established in February 2016 that promotes legal and rights protections for disadvantaged groups through policy advocacy and legal empowerment. Cheng Yuan, the NGO’s head, co-founded it with Yang Zhanqing (杨占青), a prominent anti-discrimination activist who was detained for several months in 2015 in reprisal for his advocacy work. A common advocacy tool Changsha Funeng has used is to apply for public disclosure of government information as allowed under Chinese law.
Shortly before being taken into custody, Cheng Yuan had travelled to Hong Kong to handle some personal and organizational affairs, though he was not believed to have been involved in the public demonstrations occurring in the city. Liu and Wu were reportedly supposed to meet a lawyer the day they were seized. National security officers have told the men’s families that, since the case allegedly involves “national security,” it will be difficult for defense lawyers and relatives to meet with the detainees.
Cheng Yuan’s wife, Shi Minglei (施明磊), as well as his brother have faced harassment. The day Cheng was seized, police handcuffed and interrogated Ms. Shi, putting a hood over her head and issuing threats about her three-year-old daughter. Shi, who was let go early the next day after 18 hours in custody, was later placed under “residential surveillance” on “subversion” charges, and had personal items confiscated by police, despite her lack of ties to Cheng’s advocacy work. On August 3, 2019, she sent a letter of complaint about her mistreatment to the Hunan Province People’s Procuratorate, Changsha City People’s Procuratorate, and Hunan Province State Security Department, accusing the Changsha State Security Department of unlawful abuse of power in initiating a criminal case against her.
Cheng Yuan, born on October 18, 1973, in Nanjing, began defending the legal rights of vulnerable groups in the late 2000s, first with the organization Tianxiagong (天下公, or Justice for All). He supported people with Hepatitis B and AIDS in discrimination cases, helping to alleviate systemic bias against these diseases in China. In 2013, Cheng worked on the country’s first-ever case in which an individual with AIDS received compensation for job discrimination. Cheng also has provided legal support, including through filing influential lawsuits, in cases related to the implementation of China’s household registration (hukou) system and one-child family planning policy.
Liu Dazhi, also known as Liu Yongze, 刘永泽, was born on May 16, 1977 in Hunan, and joined Changsha Funeng in 2017. Beyond his work with the group, he established the Changsha Chunyu Mutual Aid Team, which has focused on protecting workers’ rights, assisting victims of occupational diseases, and supporting the education of disadvantaged children whose families were affected by workplace illnesses. He has also worked on environmental issues; in 2014, Liu sought to have Changsha authorities publicly disclose data on tap water quality, and three years later applied for information disclosure on how, and in what quantities, biomedical waste was being disposed of in the city.
Wu Gejianxiong, also known as Xiao Wu, 小吴, was born on January 1, 1995 in Hangzhou, and had only recently joined the NGO field before being detained. He had worked mainly in cooperation with lawyers on rights-defense cases.