China: Release Human Rights Lawyer Chang Weiping & End the Current Round of Arrests

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China: Release Human Rights Lawyer Chang Weiping & End the Current Round of Arrests

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders—January 15, 2020) In an indication of escalation of the December rounding-up of lawyers and activists, Chinese police detained human rights lawyer Chang Weiping in Shaanxi Province. Police told Chang’s family that he was put under residential surveillance in an unknown location on suspicion of “endangering national security.” Lawyer Chang’s detention came only days after police took into custody several lawyers and activists in Shandong, Fujian, and Beijing, starting on December 26, likely in connection to a private gathering in Fujian Province. CHRD urges authorities to release Chang Weiping and all the other lawyers and activists immediately and unconditionally. Punishing these activists for meeting peacefully violates China’s Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   

Shaanxi police seized lawyer Chang Weiping (常玮平) from a friend’s residence in Xi’an on the night of January 12. Two days later, his wife received a phone call from a police officer at the Baoji City Gaoxin District Public Security Bureau, who said that Chang had been transferred to “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” “Subversion” is one of the most serious political crimes under China’s criminal code and carries a potential life sentence. His detention is believed to be related to the December 2019 gathering in Xiamen (more below). Chang’s family have not received a written notice. Chang can be held in RSDL for up to six months without being charged nor granted access to a lawyer. He is at great risk of being tortured. In 2018, ten United Nations independent experts described RSDL as tantamount to enforced disappearance and called on China to repeal it.

Chang Weiping has been a vocal advocate for the rights of lawyers and rule of law and has taken on a number of high-risk cases in representing human rights defenders, death penalty cases, lawsuits against companies for discrimination against persons affected by HIV/AIDs and gender discrimination. He has been unable to practice law since Baoji City Judicial Bureau suspended his law license on October 14, 2018 in retaliation for his professional work and outspokenness. After a 3-month suspension of his license, other law firms have declined to hire him due to political pressure. Being employed by a firm is a requirement for having his suspended license reinstated. 

Chang’s detention and disappearance into RSDL comes after police in multiple cities detained or questioned a number of lawyers and activists in relation to the private gathering in Xiamen in December 2019.  We have confirmed that four remain in police custody and three of them have been put under RSDL:

  • Beijing lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜) was detained on December 26 in Beijing by Shandong police. On January 7, Yantai City, Shandong police informed Ding’s lawyer by phone that Ding had been moved to RSDL, and informed the lawyer two days later that the charge is “inciting subversion of state power.” The lawyer has been barred from meeting Ding on “endangering national security” grounds. His family has not received any written notices from police.
  • Activist Zhang Zhongshun (张忠顺) was detained on December 26 by Shandong police in Yantai and police raided his home. Police returned on January 2 and 4 to search an apartment rented out by the family, armed with warrants which they would not let his wife keep or copy. Police claimed to find bullets and printed material about how to make an explosive in the apartment. His wife suspects that the items were planted by police. On January 7, police told his lawyer that Zhang had been placed under RSDL, and the next day said he was being held on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and “carrying out a terrorist activity.” However, on January 9, Yantai national security officers issued a written notice to the lawyer which denied the lawyer’s request to visit Zhang on “national security” grounds. On this notice, Zhang is said to be held on suspicion of “inciting subversion.” His family have not received a written RSDL notice from police. 
  • Fujian activist Dai Zhenya (戴振亚) was detained on December 26 in Xiamen by Shandong police on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and his family was orally informed that he would be put under RSDL. The family has not received any written notices from police. 
  • Fujian activist Li Yingjun (李英俊) was detained on December 26 in Fujian by Shandong police. It is unclear what crimes he has been accused of and his current location/status remains unknown. 

In the past year, Chinese authorities have increasingly used “subversion of state power” (art. 105(1) Criminal Law) to prosecute human rights defenders. This marks a change towards even harsher police tactics—routinely treating human rights defenders, including activists working on socio-economic rights issues, as “enemies of the state.” Levelling “endangering national security” accusations allows police to use loopholes in the Criminal Procedure Law to deprive them of their due process rights. Activist Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) and three NGO workers from the Changsha Funeng organisation are currently detained incommunicado after being accused of “subverting” the state. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared in August 2019 that the crimes “subversion” and “inciting subversion” under China’s Criminal Law art. 105 violated the principle of legality. 

The international community must publicly call on China to release Chang Weiping and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in reprisal for their advocacy for human rights. China must abide by its obligations under domestic and international law and uphold the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. The Chinese government must end its systematic use of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, and torture.  


Renee Xia, Director (Mandarin, English), +1 863 866 1012 reneexia[at], Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Frances Eve, Deputy Director of Research (English), +1 661 240 9177 franceseve[at], Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD

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