China targeting human rights defenders

The Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) released its annual report (PDF) Feb. 16, highlighting an intensified crackdown on rights defenders in the People's Republic. According to the CHRD, rights activities are being criminalized as "political threats to national security." The report documents a number of practices used by the government, such as enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and acts of torture against rights defenders. It points particularly to those secretly detained in the July 2015 arrests of lawyers, known as the "709 Crackdown." CHRD stated: "Not only have authorities denied detainees access to counsel, they have increasingly pressured detainees to dismiss their own lawyers or those hired by their families, and use government appointed lawyers instead." 

The report charges that detention has often led to torture and abuse at the hands of the police, as in the case of Li Chunfu. CHRD also claims the government has cracked down on the development of civil society groups by passing the Law on the Management of Overseas NGO Activities in Mainland China, which imposes strict control over the funding, staffing, and other activities of NGOs.

From Jurist, Feb. 16. Used with permission.

  1. China: rights lawyer gets suspended sentence

    The Second Intermediate People's Court in Tianjin on April 28 gave human rights lawyer Li Heping a three-year suspended sentence for subversion. He has been in jail since being detained in the summer of 2015. Heping represented many high-profile defendants including practitioners of the banned relgious sectFalun Gong. His subversion conviction stemmed from a charge of endangering national security and social stability by working with religious groups and other lawyers to "attack" the government. The trial was closed to the public to prevent the disclosure of state secrets, according to a statement from the court. Heping's sentence was suspended for four years, which means he may be released, but  it effectively prevents him from returning to his job as a human rights lawyer. (Jurist)

  2. China: rights lawyer pleads guilty to subversion

    A Chinese human rights lawyer detained in the city of Changsha since 2015 pleaded guilty May 8 to incitement to subversion and disturbing legal proceedings. Prosecutors accused Xie Yang of conspiring with people in and out of China to distort reports of police brutality, with the ultimate goals of undermining state power and threatening national security. Xie's wife has publicly claimed that the trial was a sham, that Xie's supporters were barred from accessing the proceedings, and that he is innocent of the charges. The Changsha Intermediate People's Court released a video of Xie's statement, in which he says that he was not forced to confess. In January, however, Xie stated through his lawyers that he was was beaten and deprived of sleep while in custody. (Jurist)

  3. China releases two prominent human rights lawyers

    Chinese human rights lawyers Xie Yang and Li Heping were released from prison Tuesday after being detained for nearly two years on charges of attempting to subvert the country's ruling Communist Party. The two activists were originally rounded up in July of 2015, along with hundreds of other activists and lawyers, in the so-called "7-09 Crackdown." A video released by the Changsha Intermediate People's Court shows Xie reading a prepared statement before his release in which he appears to retract previous statements that he was tortured and denounces his activism. A statement from Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an organization that has closely followed events following the "7-09 Crackdown," refers to Xie's statement and the quick trial that preceded it a "mockery of justice." Prosecutors accused Xie of conspiring with people in and out of China to distort reports of police brutality, with the ultimate goals of undermining state power and threatening national security. Friends of Li say he is now with his wife and daughter at their family home in Beijing, adding that he appears "emaciated" and "unrecognizable" in videos and photos that have been shared on social media. (Jurist)

  4. China: another human rights lawyer arrested

    Family members of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong said June 2 that police have informed them of his formal arrest and his decision to dismiss all legal counsel. The legal activist disappeared in November after publicizing the plight of families of human rights lawyers and activists that have been detained in an effort to stifle opposition to the Communist Party. Jiang was disbarred in 2009 after publicizing the crackdown on lawyers but continued his activism. Jiang's wife, Jin, believes that Jiang dismissed his lawyers  under conditions of torture. Jiang's family and lawyers have not been allowed to meet with him despite requesting numerous meetings. According to state media, Jiang is accused of "inciting subversion of state power" and is being held at a secret location. (Jurist)

    Jiang Tianyong was first reported missing late last year.

  5. China: rights lawyer ‘confesses’

    Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong confessed at a trial on Aug. 22 to attempting to overthrow the Chinese government. Jiang has been in custody since November of last year. At the trial, he stated that Western notions of rule of law led him to attempt to overthrow the country's Communist government and that he helped fabricate tales of torture for another human rights lawyer, Xie Yang, who was tried in May. Jiang represented  rights cases in China for over 10 years. The government removed his law license in 2009. Supporters of Jiang, including his wife, assert that his confession was coerced through torture. Sentencing for Jiang will take place at an undetermined date. (Jurist)

  6. UN experts concerned about health of jailed China rights lawyer

    UN human rights experts expressed concern March 23 over the declining health of Jiang Tianyong, a prominent human rights lawyer jailed in China for inciting subversion of state power.Jaing's health has dramatically deteriorated in recent months, and the experts believe that he suffers from severe memory loss and that he may have been drugged. "This raises fears of torture or ill-treatment in detention, without access to adequate medical care." The experts urged that Jiang be given urgent medical attention and that a full report on his health status be provided to his family.

    Jiang provided legal defense for human rights lawyers arrested in an unprecedented crackdown by the Chinese government. He subsequently disappeared on Nov. 21, 2016, and was held in a secret detention. He was found guilty on the incitement charge and sentenced to two years in jail. The experts condemned the verdict and believe his confession may have been coerced by the use of torture.

    The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who met with Jiang during his visit to China in August 2016, has also expressed concern that his enforced disappearance may have occurred, at least in part, in reprisal for his cooperation with the UN during his visit to China.

    Alston noted that others he visited in China have been subject to harassment and retaliation. "The international standards are clear: States must refrain from and protect all persons from acts of reprisal." (Jurist, March 23)

  7. Chinese rights lawyer ‘reappears’ but ‘still not free’

    A prominent Chinese human rights lawyer has reappeared two days after going missing following his release from a jail sentence for state subversion, his wife said March 3. Jiang Tianyong—who took on high-profile cases including those of Falun Gong practitioners and Tibetan protesters—was one of more than 200 lawyers and activists detained in a 2015 clampdown on courtroom critics of Communist authorities.

    The 47-year-old had disappeared Feb. 28 after completing his two-year jail sentence, before he finally reappeared in his hometown of Xinyang, Henan province, said his US-based wife. "After not seeing each other for six years, we were finally able to talk and video chat," Jin Bianling told AFP. "But even though Jiang has been released from jail, “he is still not free”, she added. He is living at his parents’ home now, but there are police stationed outside. Wherever he goes, the police follow him." (HKFP)