By China Change, published: July 23, 2015.
Chinese government has been reining in rights lawyers, a group of law practitioners passionate about seeking social justice by fighting a judicial system riddled with injustices. On July 10, China astounded the world by arresting dozens of them (some were released later). Over 200 more in 24 provinces have since been summoned for questioning. Below are short biographies of those who have remained in custody or forced disappearance.
13 Lawyers and Staffers
Wang Yu (王宇), age 44, is from Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia. She graduated with a degree in law from China University of Political Science and Law in 1994 and at the time of her arrest was a lawyer with the Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing. Wang has acted as legal counsel in many famous rights defense cases, including the Fan Mugen case, the Cao Shunli case, the Ilham Tohti case, the Li Tingting case, and the Wu Gan case. Wang Yu also appeared in court on behalf of many Falun Gong practitioners, arguing for their acquittal. In an act of retaliation by the Tianjin Railway Public Security Bureau, Wang was sentenced in 2008 to 2-1/2 years in prison on trumped-up charges.
During the early morning hours of July 9, the electricity and Internet were shut off at Wang Yu’s home, the front door was pried open, and she was taken away. Two days later, Xinhuanet published an item confirming that she had been placed under criminal detention. Her husband, Bao Longjun (包龙军), was also placed under criminal detention, while their 16-year-old son Bao Zhuoxuan has been placed under surveillance and barred from leaving China to study overseas.
Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), age 51, is from Anyang, Henan. He has a master’s degree in law from Peking University and a doctorate in law from the Macau University of Science and Technology. In 2007, he set up the Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing to promote freedom, democracy, and constitutionalism. Zhou has taken on many rights defense cases, representing the families of children poisoned by contaminated milk powder in their lawsuit against the Sanlu Company and presenting an argument for acquittal in the case of Zhang Miao (张淼), a reporter for the German magazine Die Zeit arrested for taking part in Occupy Central in Hong Kong in 2014 . Zhou, along with two other lawyers, also established the “Independent Observation Group of Chinese Lawyers in the Nie Shubin Case,” calling for a new investigation of the case of Nie Shubin.
On the morning of July 10, Zhou Shifeng was taken away from his hotel room by three men in what was later confirmed to be the execution of a criminal detention. Not long before he was detained, Zhou had said that he was willing to contribute 8 million yuan to establish a Chinese Lawyers Rights Defense Fund to provide assistance to the families of persecuted lawyers throughout the country.
Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), age 39, is from Wulian, Shandong. At the time of his arrest, he was a lawyer with the Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing. A 2000 graduate of Shandong University Law School, Wang had received a formal warning while still at university for providing legal assistance to Falun Gong practitioners. As a lawyer, he defended Falun Gong practitioners on many occasions, for which he was beaten and detained. Wang Quanzhang has represented defendants in several famous rights defense cases, including Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮), a Shandong journalist sentenced to 12 years in prison for extortion and misappropriating property in connection with his reporting on official corruption; Hong Maoxian (洪茂先), a Henan villager sentenced to one year in prison for leading rural residents to study central government policies regarding reducing the burden on farmers; and Wang Dengchao (王登朝), a Shenzhen police officer sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of corruption in retaliation for his efforts to propagate democratic ideas. In 2014, Wang Quanzhang was violently attacked while defending the rights of lawyers detained in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang.
On the afternoon of July 10, Wang Quanzhang lost contact with the outside world. Later, it was confirmed that he had been placed under criminal detention. Prior to his detention, Wang had written a letter to his parents asking them not to believe any characterizations of him in the official media.
Wu Gan (吴淦), a.k.a. “Super Vulgar Butcher” or “Butcher,” age 42, is an administrative assistant at the Fengrui Law Firm. He was detained on May 19. Please read China Change’s profile of Wu Gan.
Huang Liqun (黄力群), age 58, is from Beijing. Earlier in his career he was employed at the Beijing Number Two Intermediate People’s Court. After receiving a master’s degree in law from Peking University in 1996, he worked successively for the Internal and Judicial Affairs Committee, Legislative Affairs Committee, and Office of Letters and Visits at the National People’s Congress, eventually serving at the vice-ministerial level as the deputy director of the NPC Office of Letters and Visits. In 2013, Huang left his post to join the Fengrui Law Firm, taking responsibility for handling cases related to petitioning.
Huang Liqun was taken away on the morning of July 10 and subsequently placed under criminal detention. The following day, the Xinhua News Agency issued an article smearing the Fengrui Law Firm, in which it claimed that Huang had “confessed” that Zhou Shifeng had “incited” him to take on rights defense cases with the goal of “creating social chaos.”
Chen Taihe (陈泰和), originally from Qiyang, Henan, is a law professor at Guilin University of Electronic Technology. He concurrently worked as a lawyer, serving as a legal consultant for many organizations and acting as legal counsel to petitioner Zhang Xiaoyu. Chen Taihe has been an avid promoter of the Anglo-American jury system and published a book on the subject entitled The Most Common Rights (《最普通的权利》). Chen’s efforts to promote juries in China have encountered many forms of government interference.
On July 13, Chen Taihe was placed under criminal detention on suspicion of “provoking a serious disturbance.” According to his lawyer, Chen’s arrest may be connected with efforts to organize a “Jury System” WeChat group and his links to lawyer Li Heping. Chen’s lawyer also said that Chen is being held together with three death-row prisoners in a cell less than four square meters in size.
Sui Muqing (隋牧青), age 47, is a graduate of the China University of Political Science and Law. A firsthand participant in the 1989 student movement, Sui was a lawyer with the Guangdong Yaohui Law Firm at the time of his arrest. Sui has in recent years served as defense counsel for many well-known rights defense activists, including Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), Wang Qingying (王清营), and Chen Yunfei (陈云飞). Sui has also provided legal representation in civil rights cases, such as cases involving Guangzhou urban management officers who beat street vendors and the case of striking taxi drivers in Shuangliu, Chengdu, arrested for illegal assembly. For taking on such cases, Sui has been harassed, put under surveillance, and detained by the authorities.
Sui Muqing was taken away on the evening of July 10 and placed under “designated-location residential surveillance” (equivalent to secret detention) on suspicion of “inciting subversion.” Sui’s lawyer has been barred from meeting him and prohibited by the authorities from revealing any information about the case.
Xie Yang (谢阳), age 44, is an attorney from Hunan. His rights defense cases include the Xue Mingkai case (薛明凯), the Zhang Baocheng case (张宝成), and the Xu Chunhe case (徐纯合). While working on the Xu Chunhe case, Xie was beaten by several unidentified men. Xie has also been an active participant in the rights defense movement, attempting to visit Chen Guangcheng and supporting the lawyers detained at Jiansanjiang. Because of these efforts, he has been forced to resign from his law firm and another firm has been forced to terminate its contract with him.
Xie Yang was forcibly taken away on the afternoon of July 11. On July 15, his family members received a notice from the Changsha Public Security Bureau indicating that it had placed Xie under “designated-location residential surveillance” for suspected “disrupting court order” and “inciting subversion.” Xie’s lawyer was subsequently prevented from meeting with him on grounds that his case involved matters that endangered state security.
Li Heping (李和平), age 45, is originally from Xinyang, Henan. He received his undergraduate law degree from Henan University and his master’s degree in law from Renmin University of China. Since becoming a practicing attorney in 1997, Li has repeatedly provided rights defense for political dissidents, those persecuted for their religious beliefs, victims of land seizure and forced housing demolition, and other disadvantaged groups. For these efforts, he has often been harassed, followed, threatened, and even kidnapped, beaten, and abused by security agents. Among the famous rights cases Li has handled are the Yang Zili case (杨子立), the forced sterilization case in Linyi, Shandong, the Zhu Jiuhu case (朱久虎), and the Gao Zhisheng case (高智晟). Beginning in 2007, Li Heping also represented many cases involving Falun Gong. In 2009, the Beijing Judicial Administration Bureau suspended Li’s license to practice law. Li was one of 14 rights defense activists selected as “Persons of the Year” by Asia Weekly (Yazhou zhoukan) in 2005. In 2008, he received the National Endowment for Democracy’s Democracy Award, and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe presented him with its Human Rights Award.
Li Heping was forcibly taken away on the afternoon of July 10. According to a report by the Xinhua News Agency, Li has been “placed under criminal coercive measures.”
Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), age 41, is from Dianbai, Guangdong. At the time of his detention, he was a lawyer at the Beijing Kaitai Law Firm, where he handled many rights cases. In 2003, he attempted to sue Jiang Zemin for using a single-candidate election to continue serving as chairman of the Central Military Commission in defiance of public opinion and in violation of the constitution. In 2008, Xie filed a criminal suit with the Beijing Procuratorate alleging that Minister of Industry and Information Technology Li Yizhong had violated citizens’ right to freedom of communication by forcing through a requirement that all computers install Green Dam surveillance software. Xie Yanyi has also provided legal counsel in the He Xianfu case (何显福), as well as many cases involving Falun Gong practitioners. After the shooting of Xu Chunhe, Xie and three other lawyers traveled to Heilongjiang to investigate, after which they filed a formal accusation with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and Ministry of Public Security charging the Qingyang Railway Public Security Bureau with intentional homicide.
On the morning of July 12, Xie Yanyi was taken away and his home searched. According to a July 19 report from the Xinhua News Service, Xie has been placed under “criminal coercive measures,” but his family members have not yet received any legal document to confirm this. Xie’s wife has therefore filed suit against the Xinhua News Agency, alleging distortion of facts and reckless damage to Xie’s reputation.
Xie Yuandong (谢远东) was a former reporter for Legal Daily and China Central Television who was interning as a lawyer at the Fengrui Law Firm. According to the July 19 Xinhua report, Xie has been placed under “criminal coercive measures.”
Liu Sixin (刘四新) is an administrative assistant at the Fengrui Law Firm. He received a master’s degree in law at American University and has a doctorate in criminal law from Peking University. He has also done post-doctoral research at Zhejiang University.
In 2009, Liu was sentenced to four years in prison for assault and extortion after he injured his wife’s boss who had sexually assaulted her and demanded that the man pay compensation. Following his release from prison, Liu took active part in civil society rights defense activity and was detained for voicing support for rights defense lawyer Cheng Hai (程海), whose license to practice was suspended for his representation of participants in the New Citizen Movement and Falun Gong practitioners.
Liu Sixin was taken away on the morning of July 10 and subsequently confirmed to have been placed under criminal detention.
Bao Longjun (包龙军) is Wang Yu’s husband and a rights defense activist. In 2013, he and Ye Hongxia issued a “Citizen Recommendation” calling for an end to unnecessary restrictions on non-lawyers’ ability to provide legal counsel in civil actions. In 2014, Bao was beaten and detained while helping residents in Fangshan, Beijing, defend their rights against forced demolition and relocation.
In the early morning hours of July 9, Bao Longjun and his 16-year-old son Bao Zhuoxuan were forcibly detained at Beijing Capital International Airport, after which Bao Longjun was formally placed under criminal detention. Although Bao Zhuoxuan was released the next day, he has been summoned for questioning multiple times by police and prevented from leaving China to study overseas.
Jiang Jianjun (姜建军), age 53, is a rights defense activist from Dalian, Liaoning. In March 2014, he went with Jiang Tianyong and three other lawyers to Qinglongshan State Farm, Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang, to demand the release of Falun Gong practitioners and petitioners being held illegally at a so-called “legal education base” being used as a black jail. Jiang’s mouth was taped shut and a black hood placed over his head as police forcibly took him away from the hotel where he was staying, after which he was given a 15-day administrative detention. In August 2014, Jiang was illegally detained for 28 days for voicing support for the “Zhengzhou 10.” In May 2015, Jiang was given a 10-day administrative detention for going to Heilongjiang to protest the fatal shooting of Xu Chunhe by police.
On July 12, Jiang Jianjun was placed under criminal detention for “provoking a serious disturbance.” The specific reason for his detention has yet to be determined.
Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), who is known online as Ge Ping (戈平), is a 54-year-old Tianjin native who currently resides in Beijing. A former military officer, Gou later went into business. For many years he has paid attention to people from the lower strata of society and has actively helped rights-defense activists and promoted democracy and liberal ideas. He previously went to Suzhou to present Fan Mugen with a banner honoring him as a “Hero for Resisting Violence in the Name of Rights Defense.”
On the morning of July 10, Gou Hongguo was taken away from his Beijing home by police from the Tianjin Public Security Bureau. His home and company were both searched, police seized computers and books, and Gou’s bank cards were confiscated. On July 13, his wife was notified by the public security bureau that Gou had been placed under “designated-location residential surveillance” on suspicion of “provoking a serious disturbance.” The specific location of detention is presently unknown.
7 in Forced Disappearance
Li Zhuyung (李姝云), lawyer at Fengrui Law Firm, taken away by police on July 10.
Tang Tianhao (唐天昊), lawyer in Chongqing, summoned for questioning the second time on July 22 and has not returned from police station.
Wang Fang (王芳), Beijing, Fengrui Law Firm accountant, disappeared on July 10.
Zhao Wei (赵威), a.k.a. Kaola, Beijing, Li Heping’s assistant, taken away on July 10.
Liu Yongping (刘永平), a.k.a. Lao Mu, Beijing, confirmed detained on July 10, reportedly being held in Tianjin.
Hu Shigen (胡石根), Beijing, disappeared since July 10.
Lin Bin (林斌), a.k.a. Monk Wangyun, taken from Chengdu Airport at noon on July 10.
(For the latest update, please visit: http://chrlawyers.hk/zh-hant/%E6%96%87%E7%AB%A0%E9%A1%9E%E5%9E%8B/%E6%9C%80%E6%96%B0%E6%B6%88%E6%81%AF)
Lawyers Previously Arrested
Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), age 47, is originally from Yichang, Hubei province, and a graduate of Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (or Beihang University) with a master degree. He began law practice in 1996, specializing in corporate merging, investment, bankruptcy, and intellectual property. In recent years he joined legal scholar Dr. Xu Zhiyong to promote the New Citizens Movement that aims at growing civil society and building foundation for China’s peaceful transition to a democracy. Their activism included signature campaigns and street demonstrations calling on Chinese leaders to publicize their personal wealth. Ding was a key organizer of the equal education right campaign for children of migrant workers to take college entrance exams where they currently live, not where their household registrations are.
In April 2013, Ding Jiaxi was arrested, and a year later he was sentenced to three and half years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” He said in his court statement, “I don’t regret what I have done, which is nothing. ….I wish to be a butterfly that keeps flapping its wings so as to bring about great social changes.”
Xia Lin (夏霖), age 45, is originally from Zheng’an, Guizhou. A 1992 graduate of the law department at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Xia was at the time of his arrest a partner at the Beijing Huayi Law Firm. He has worked on many well-known rights cases, including the Cui Yingjie case (崔英杰), the Deng Yujiao case (邓玉娇), and the Tan Zuoren case (谭作人).
In November 2014, Xia was taken away by police after agreeing to act as defense counsel for Guo Yushan, the arrested director of the Transition Institute. Xia was later placed under criminal detention on suspicion of fraud and is now being held in the Beijing Number One Detention Center. As police have for a long time prevented Xia from meeting with his lawyers, his condition in the detention center is unclear.
Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), age 44, is from Jingzhou, Hubei. After earning his undergraduate degree in law at Shanghai Jiaotong University, Tang passed the lawyers examination, obtained his lawyer’s certificate, and began to practice as a lawyer. Among the rights cases handled by Tang Jingling are the Xing’ang shoe worker case (兴昂劳工骚乱案) and the Taishi Village recall case (太石村罢免案). Because of his repeated involvement in rights cases, Tang’s license to practice law was suspended in 2005. Subsequently, as an independent legal consultant, he provided pro bono legal education to the general public and took part in all sorts of human rights cases, such as helping the families of children harmed by vaccines to file suit against the manufacturer and distributor and the investigation into the suspicious death of well known Hunan democracy activist Li Wangyang. Tang was also among the first group of people to sign “Charter 08” and a principal promoter of the Chinese Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Movement. For many years, Tang has endured harassment, surveillance, and “soft detention” by the authorities. During the “Jasmine Incident” in 2011, he was illegally detained and tortured.
In May 2014, Tang Jingling was placed under criminal detention in Guangzhou on suspicion of “provoking a serious disturbance” and subsequently indicted on charges of “inciting subversion.” He is currently being held in Guangzhou’s Baiyun Detention Center. The trial of Tang Jingling and two others are being resumed on July 23, 2015.
 Fan Mugen was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment after he killed two men while resisting their use of violence to carry out a housing demolition and forced relocation, during which the men had beat him and family members with metal pipes.
 Cao Shunli, who was arrested on her way to Geneva to attend a human rights training program, died in detention after being deprived of her needed medication.
 Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment for promoting ethnic equality and self-rule.
 Li Tingting was one of the “Feminist Five” arrested for their activities to protect the rights of women.
 Known as “Super Vulgar Butcher,” Wu Gan was arrested on charges of “inciting subversion” and “provoking a serious disturbance” in connection with many well known rights-defense cases.
 In 2008, 3 million babies and young children developed urinary system diseases after ingesting milk powder containing melamine.
 In 1995, Nie Shubin was executed for rape and intentional homicide. Ten years later, the actual culprit later confessed to committing the crime.
 The four lawyers had gone to Heilongjiang to demand that the authorities release citizens illegally detained there but were themselves detained and tortured.
 After Zhang and her husband Xu Youchen were intercepted in Beijing and were being returned to their hometown, Xu fatally stabbed a police officer during a scuffle. Zhang and Xu were subsequently arrested on charges of intentional homicide.
 One of the leaders of the Southern Street Movement, Guo Feixiong is currently being held on suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.”
 Ding was a key member of the New Citizen Movement sentenced to 3-1/2 years’ imprisonment in 2013.
 Together with Tang Jingling and Yuan Xinting, Wang Qingying is currently being held on charges of “inciting subversion” for promoting non-violent resistance and taking part in various rights defense activities.
 Chen is currently being held on charges of “provoking a serious disturbance” and “inciting subversion” for his efforts to commemorate June Fourth.
 Xue was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison for joining the China Democracy Party and taking part in pro-democracy activities, and his father died under mysterious circumstances while in custody.
 Zhang was sentenced to two years in prison for taking part in the New Citizen Movement and holding up signs in the street calling on officials to make their assets public.
 Xu, his three children, and his mother were intercepted without cause at the Qing’an Railway Station in Heilongjiang. Xu and a police officer got into an argument, during which the officer fatally shot him.
 Yang was sentenced to eight years in prison after he and three others set up a study group called the “New Youth Study Society.”
 When the government in Linyi was forcing women of child-bearing age to undergo sterilizations and abortions and arbitrarily detaining their family members, Li Heping was retained by Chen Guangcheng to sue the Yi’nan Public Security Bureau for infringement of citizens’ rights of person and property.
 Zhu Jiuhu is a lawyer arrested after suing the Shaanxi provincial government on behalf of the owners of private oil wells that had been seized by the government.
 Gao Zhisheng is a lawyer who has been subjected to secret detention and torture for his longtime defense of Falun Gong practitioners.
 He Xianfu, from Baihutou Village, Beihai, Guangxi, was sentenced to two years in prison for writing protest banners after his house was forcibly demolished.
 In February 2014, members of the “Zhengzhou 10” were arrested after they went to Zhao Ziyang’s hometown in Hua County, Henan, to carry out a memorial service commemorating June Fourth.
 Beijing street vendor Cui Yingjie was sentenced to a suspended death sentence for fatally stabbing an urban management officer named Li Zhiqiang during a scuffle over Li’s attempt to seize Cui’s tricycle cart.
 Deng, a waitress from Badong County, Hubei, was detained on suspicion of intentional homicide after she fatally stabbed a customer named Deng Guida while resisting the latter’s attempt to rape her.
 Sichuan editor Tan Zuoren was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in connection with his investigation of the construction quality of student dormitories destroyed during the Wenchuan earthquake. Another lawyer involved in this case was Pu Zhiqiang.
 Shoe workers at the Xing’ang Shoe Factory in Dongguan, Guangdong, were arrested for organizing a labor strike to protest exploitation.
 Several residents of Taishi Village were detained after launching a campaign to recall the corrupt head of the village committee.
Yaqiu Wang contributed research.
Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu explains why Chinese government is out to get them, China Change, July 23, 2015.