CHRD Communiqué Alleging Arbitrary Detention of Huang Yunmin, Citizen of PR China – February 3, 2020

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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 promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

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

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

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

Communiqué on Behalf of HUANG Yunmin, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China, 

Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Deprivation of Rights to Expression, Assembly, and Association, and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender


1. Family name: Huang (黄)  

2. First name: Yunmin (云敏)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): July 1, 1958

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):

Huang Yunmin, a former soldier and ex-judge, began taking part in rights defense activities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region as a legal advocate in 2008. At that time, he helped defend the health and economic rights of ex-soldiers who had sought medical testing and potential state compensation for any health damages that they suffered from their past work protecting nuclear sites and conducting nuclear tests. Huang was detained in connection to this campaigning in 2009 and accused of “possessing firearms” but was released without trial. Beginning in 1992, Huang served as a judge on the Third Agricultural Army Brigade People’s Court in Tumxuk (图木舒克) City in Kashgar Prefecture in Xinjiang, eventually rising to head the court’s human resources department before being pushed out of his post in 2006. According to his family, higher-level officials pressured Huang to quit after he had criticized judicial bureaucracy and exposed court corruption. 

8. Address of usual residence: Tumxuk City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: March 12, 2017 (criminal detention)

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Residence in Tumxuk City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Public Security Bureau of the Third Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Brigade (Tumxuk City, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region)

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? Yes

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: Public Security Bureau of the Third Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Brigade

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: “Inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination”

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

Article 249 of China’s Criminal Law (“inciting ethnic hatred and discrimination”) stipulates: “Whoever incites national enmity or discrimination, if the circumstances are serious, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than three years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights; if the circumstances are especially serious, he shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than three years but not more than 10 years.”

III. Detention

1. Date of detention: April 17, 2017 (formal arrest)

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Huang Yunmin has been detained since March 12, 2017, when he was placed under criminal detention. Since he was issued a 10-year prison sentence, Huang is set to be released on March 11, 2027, if he completes his full sentence according to Chinese law.

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

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): Xinjiang Production and Construction Bingtuan (Corps) Prison (previous: Kashgar Prefecture Detention Center in the Third Division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Bingtuan Brigade) 

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Tumxuk City People’s Procuratorate (formal arrest); Kashgar Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court (criminal sentencing and imprisonment)

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “Organizing, leading, and actively participating in a terrorist organization”

7. Relevant legislation applied (if known):

Article 120 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China (“Organizing, leading, and actively participating in a terrorist organization”) stipulates: “Whoever forms or leads a terrorist organization shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 10 years or life imprisonment; persons who actively participate in a terrorist organization shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not less than 3 years but not more than 10 years; other participants shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of not more than 3 years, criminal detention, public surveillance or deprivation of political rights.”

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest

Huang Yunmin was criminally detained on March 12, 2017, within days of serving out a 5-day administrative detention, about which no documentation was released to the family or Huang’s lawyer. Police from Tumxuk City in Kashgar Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region had initially seized Huang at his home on March 3, 2017 and searched his residence. 

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

The detention of Huang Yunmin constitutes government retaliation against his support for victims of rights abuses in Xinjiang and his spreading of information that authorities considered “politically sensitive.” This state persecution violates his rights to peaceful expression, assembly, and association. The punishment issued to Huang follows years of state suppression against him for various advocacy activities. 

It remains unclear why Huang faced the serious charges under which he was detained, prosecuted, and sentenced. However, his case appears to reflect the high degree of political sensitivities in Xinjiang, as other civil society figures in the region have been given extraordinarily harsh punishments in prior years, including professor Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木.土赫提), who is serving a life sentence, and activist Zhang Haitao (张海涛), who is serving a 19-year prison sentence. In addition, Huang Yunmin is related to another persecuted human rights defender; his brother, Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏), a prominent and oft-persecuted activist, was issued a 2.5-year prison sentence in September 2019 in retaliation for his own peaceful exercise of expression rights.

The alleged criminal acts by Huang Yunmin listed in the indictment, which was issued on July 24, 2017, should be protected under his free expression rights. Police took Huang Yunmin into custody as he planned to accompany farmers to Beijing to present grievances to central authorities during China’s major legislative sessions in March 2017; he had long been using his legal knowledge and advocacy to lawfully assist farmers and ex-soldiers to organize and pursue individual complaints against officials over perceived unjust court verdicts and other abuses of their rights. However, the case indictment largely concerned online activities between 2009 and 2017 related to the “July 5 Incident”, ethnic unrest which took place in 2009 in Ürümqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. (The unrest was sparked by protests by Uyghurs and eventually turned violent, resulting in a large number of deaths and injuries and subsequent persecution and heightened suppression against the Uyghur community.) Related to the July 5 Incident, prosecutors accused Huang of “propagating violence and terror” and “extremist recordings,” scaling China’s “firewall” of cyber censorship and visiting foreign news sites antagonistic to China and downloading content, and also using his cell phone to share violent terrorist content. In his defense statement, Huang’s lawyer argued that Huang had actively combatted terrorism while serving as a judge in the past, and that his online behavior for which he had been indicted did not constitute crimes tied to terrorism.

There are concerns that Huang Yunmin has been mistreated, and possibly tortured, in custody, based on information gathered by his wife during a visit to Bingtuan Prison on November 15, 2018. Guards brought Huang out for the visit in handcuffs and leg shackles. After he told his wife that he had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2018 but had not committed any crimes, guards manhandled Huang and dragged him away. Police told Huang’s wife that he had been beaten for refusing to admit to crimes, likely during interrogations when police had tried to 

coerce or torture him in order to extract a confession. Police then warned her not to disclose this abuse to others. Her visit also prompted concerns about Huang’s health, as she found out from him that he was suffering from stomach discomfort and respiratory issues.

The above circumstances related to Huang Yunmin’s detention constitute violations of his rights to peacefully exercise free expression, assembly, 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.

Huang Yunmin’s case of deprived liberty has involved numerous procedural violations and legal irregularities. Though Huang served an administrative detention before he was criminally detained, his family and legal counsel have never received a record of this punishment. Huang was criminally detained and arrested on different charges than those on which he was later convicted and sentenced, and the procuratorate sent his case back to police (on July 11, 2017) for further investigation. The issuing of different criminal charges and the request for further investigation both suggest that Chinese authorities lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute Huang. 

The Kashgar City Intermediate People’s Court held Huang’s trial on September 19, 2017. During the proceedings, Huang spoke strongly to his innocence and also pleaded for leniency. The court did not announce a verdict after the trial. In fact, his wife only learned of Huang’s 10-year sentence when she visited him in Bingtuan Prison over a year later, in November 2018. The lack of notification of the court verdict violated China’s Criminal Procedure Law (Article 202), which stipulates a court must pronounce a judgement within no longer than three months. In further violation of Chinese law, neither Huang’s family or his legal counsel has ever received a copy of the verdict; after Huang’s trial, his lawyer stopped his legal representation of Huang, and the lawyer who eventually took up his case also did not receive the verdict. 

The above circumstances indicate that Huang Yunmin had been detained due to the peaceful exercise of his rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and his ongoing detention constitutes violations of Mr. Huang’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).

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.

While preparing Huang Yunmin’s defense for trial, his attorney requested the local procuratorate conduct further investigation into the case, and both Huang’s lawyer and family applied for his release on “bail awaiting trial.” However, authorities did not respond to any of these requests. 

During the period of Huang’s incarceration, his defense lawyers, activists, and both domestic and international non-governmental organizations and stakeholders have advocated for the protection of his legal and human rights and for his release. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has continued to deprive him of his liberty.

Date of submission: February 3, 2020

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