Song Ze (宋泽)

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Song Ze (宋泽)

Crime: “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, “providing programs and tools to invade illegal computer information systems”

Length of Punishment


Trial Date: 

Sentencing Date: 

Dates of Detention/Arrest/Indictment: August 15, 2023 (criminally detained), September 2023 (arrested)

Place of Incarceration: Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center.

Song Ze (宋泽), whose original name is Song Guangqiang, was born in November 1986 and is from Xiangyang City, Hubei Province. He graduated from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in 2010, with a double bachelor’s degree in law and economics. He became one of the leaders of the Open Constitution Initiative (also known by its Chinese name, Gongmeng). Song Ze, a human rights defender, was also a participant in the New Citizens Movement.

On August 15, 2023, Song Ze was criminally detained by the Wuhan Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” He is currently being held at the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center. Details are unknown. Song Ze’s last tweet on April 10, 2023 was a blog post paying tribute to imprisoned legal reform advocate Xu Zhiyong: “Xu Zhiyong who fought against windmills—a tribute to all of us idealists” (大战风车的许志永——致敬我们所有的理想主义者). That same day, April 10, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

On September 23, 2023, Rights Defense Network reported that Song Ze’s family was told by Wuhan state security officials that Song Ze had been formally arrested, but they would not give the family a written arrest notice or say what crime he was accused of. Song Ze’s lawyer protested that Song’s right to a lawyer and right to meet with a lawyer were being breached.

Over the past few months, detention center authorities had deprived Song Ze of his right to see a lawyer of his choice, on the grounds that this could potentially result in the leaking of state secrets.

On December 14, 2023, four months after his initial detention, a lawyer finally was able to see Song Ze. The lawyer conveyed that friends on the outside cared about Song Ze. Song seemed to be in relatively good in terms of his health and psychological  well-being. But he was distressed at the absurdity of the criminal charges, not just “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, commonly used to punish free expression on the internet, but also the charge of “providing programs and tools to invade illegal computer information systems” (提供侵入非法计算机信息系统程序、工具罪).


After graduating from university in 2010, Song Ze worked in business administration in the Wuhan office of a German-owned elevator company, and then worked as an assistant in the general manager’s office of an appraisal company in Shenzhen. On October 16, 2011, Song Ze wrote a letter to Xu Zhiyong, applying to join Gongmeng, and then later he worked as a volunteer. In the winter of 2011, Song Ze started helping petitioners, people who appeal to higher levels of government for redress of human rights abuses. He donated materials and supplies to petitioners in need, a process chronicled at the time in an opinion piece in the New York Times by lawyer Xiao Guozhen.

In 2012, he began to disclose information about petitioners’ cases and also started to rescue petitioners and rights defenders who had been detained in Beijing’s “black jails” – extralegal detention centers used by authorities to detain petitioners. Song Ze also compiled a map of Beijing’s black prisons. 

2012 Detention

On January 1, 2012, Song Ze was briefly taken away by the police for giving glutinous rice balls to petitioners and was released shortly thereafter. On January 13, 2012, more than a dozen people, including Song Ze and Zhao Zhenjia [who is Zhao?], stormed into a “black jail” in Beijing belonging to officials from Chenzhou, Hunan Province, and rescued petitioners Gong Jiangbao, 82, Yu Hong, 73, and Chen Bixiang, 57. On May 4, 2012, Song was forcibly taken away by several policemen of the Beijing PSB while he was waiting for an appointment with someone seeking assistance at the Beijing South Railway Station. On May 5, the Beijing PSB detained Song Ze for 37 days for the crime of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and held him in the Fengtai District Detention Center. However, when the time limit expired, the PSB did not release him. Instead, his criminal detention was converted into “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL) and he was eventually held for an additional six months, although at the time authorities refused to provide Song Ze’s lawyer or family with a RSDL notice or disclose his whereabouts. 

At the time, Xu Zhiyong believed that Song Ze was arrested because he helped three elderly people detained in black jails and the wife of Chen Kegui, Chen Guangcheng’s nephew. 

2013 Detention 

However, Song Ze once again went missing on approximately July 12, 2013, along with Xu Zhiyong and two of Xu’s other associates involved in the New Citizens Movement, Li Huanjun and Li Gang. 

Later, lawyer Liu Weiguo discovered by chance that Song Ze was being held in the Beijing No. 3 Detention Center, suspected of the crime of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” In prison, Song Ze was beaten by state security police, where he was slapped, punched, and kicked. 

On August 16, 2013, Song Ze was arrested on the charge of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” but was granted bail on January 16, 2014. 

2014 Detention

On January 1, 2014, Song Ze’s lawyers, Li Jinxing and Zhang Lei, jointly filed a complaint with the Beijing Municipal Procuratorate, the Supreme Procuratorate, and the Ministry of Public Security against police officers in the Beijing PSB who were suspected of committing crimes of intentional injury, bending the law for personal gain, and abusing detainees. 

On July 26, 2014, the case of petitioners Zhang Xiaoyu and Xu Youchen occurred in Jiaozuo, Henan province, in which Xu Youchen stabbed a police officer who was trying to prevent him from petitioning to Beijing. In order to find out the truth about the controversial stabbing incident and generally to support vulnerable people Song Ze and others launched a citizens support group. Song provided an account to raise funds for Zhang Xiaoyu’s case. (Xu Youchen was eventually executed in 2018).

On October 13, 2014, the Beijing police ransacked the offices of the Daoheng Law Firm and took away Song Ze, as well as lawyers Yu Wensheng, Wang Cheng, and Li Duilong. Lawyers Wang Cheng and Li Duilong were released shortly thereafter. But Yu Wensheng and Song Ze were criminally detained. Wang Cheng said police had detained Song Ze for holding up posters on September 30 to encourage pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

On June 5, 2015, Song Ze was released on bail pending trial, ending more than eight months of detention. Song Ze refused to confess during his detention, something viewed by lawyer-turned-activist Ding Jiaxi as the “best example of civil disobedience.”

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