China Change, May 18, 2016
On October 6, 2015, the two Chinese human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) were arrested for attempting to help the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) escape China through Burma, so he could come to the United States to study. Now, seven months after their arrest, the first word of their fates has been heard: Xing Qingxian’s wife was provided with a notice of arrest dated May 5 saying that he is suspected of “organizing human trafficking across borders.” He is currently held in the Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center.
The news is a result of months of fruitless efforts on the part of the lawyers and families, though we have yet to see Tang Zhishun’s arrest notice.
Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou (覃臣寿) wrote on Twitter that “From their arrest last October, this is the first time we’ve learnt where they are being detained. Someone has to take responsibility for this forced disappearance and inhuman treatment.”
As part of the biggest assault on human rights in China last year, police on July 9 detained the husband of Wang Yu, rights activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), as well as their son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), at the Beijing Airport. Bao Zhuoxuan was set to make his way to Australia for his studies and his dad was accompanying him. At the same time, Wang Yu was taken from the family home, while in the days that followed, several hundred human rights lawyers across China were disappeared, detained, or subject to questioning. It’s already been over 10 months since this took place, and over 20 lawyers and law firm staffers are still being held in secret detention, without access to counsel. It’s been widely feared that they have been subjected to torture.
The “July 9 Incident” highlights the arbitrariness and deteriorating conditions of China’s sham rule of law. Strong and sustained criticism from the international community and human rights groups have fallen on deaf ears.
The 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan was released after a temporary detention, but police confiscated his passport and told him that he was forbidden to leave China to study. He was then sent off to the home of his paternal grandparents in Ulaan xot, Inner Mongolia. Last October during the National Day celebrations, friends of Wang Yu and Bao Longjun decided to mount a daring rescue operation and spirit Bao Zhuoxuan out of the country. Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian were responsible for escorting him. Their plan was to take him to Thailand through Myanmar, and then to the United States. But the authorities got wind of the plan, and they were arrested in Mong La, a quasi-independent part of northern Myanmar. Local police made the arrest, and handed them to Chinese authorities for repatriation.
Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan (何娟), and Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen (高沈), as well as their 8-year-old daughter, are currently in the United States.
After Bao, Tang, and Xing were arrested, Bao Zhuoxuan was again returned to the grandparents in Inner Mongolia and put under strict surveillance.
Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou told China Change that he has been asking about his client’s status for months now, and hasn’t received a single response. Qin said that because Wang Yu and Bao Longjun are being held in the Hexi detention center in Tianjin, that’s the first place he went on December 28 last year to make inquiries. He was told that Tang wasn’t there. The mother and younger sister of Tang told him that after he was arrested, police from Beijing and Inner Mongolia went to his home and carried out a thorough search, taking away several computers. The next day, lawyer Qin Chenshou traveled to Ulaan xot, in the Hinggan League prefecture of Inner Mongolia, and was told that Tang’s case had nothing to do with them. He was also told that the case was a matter of national security. Later, Qin submitted numerous requests under freedom of information rules for information about his client, to the Ministry of Public Security at the central level, and to the bureaus in Tianjin and Hinggan League in Inner Mongolia. He has never received any answer to these requests.
Lawyer Qin said, the last seven months Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhushun have been subject to “forced disappearance by the government.”
On January 8, when Qin attempted to traveled from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, he was stopped at the border and refused exit. He wasn’t sure whether this denial was related to his involvement in the Tang Zhishun case, he told China Change. Last July and this year during the Chinese New Year, Qin was called in for chats by the Guangxi police, who warned him not to reveal any details of the cases he was handling to the media, or put them online.
Xing Qingxian’s lawyer Ran Tong also made similarly futile efforts for his client.
Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan attempted to raise awareness about the disappearance of her husband online, but was quickly shut down by the censors. Two blogs she opened on Sina were only around for 20 days before being deleted; the third only survived only two days. “I’ve just been trying to raise awareness about my husband’s disappearance — I don’t know what would work,” she said. Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen, as well as He Juan, went to protest outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during the Lantern Festival this year, demanding that the Chinese government immediately release their husbands.
Tang Zhishun suffers high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and other illnesses, while Xing Qingxian has asthma and needs constant medication.
Last October, Gao Shen told Voice of America that before her husband was arrested, Tang was an engineer at a state-owned enterprise, while she worked at an office job—the two of them, and their daughter, were a happy family, and never expected this sort of disaster. Now, their eight-year-old daughter asks where her father is every day. “I have no idea how to answer her,” Gao said. She described her husband as a man eager to help others, and the couple had on numerous occasions donated money and clothing to earthquake survivors in Yushu, Gansu Province, and Wenchuan, in Sichuan. They’ve also helped many victims of forced demolitions.
Xing Qingxian is a human rights defender who has worked in both Chengdu and Guiyang, southwestern provincial capitals. While not a lawyer, he has since 2006 been helping the vulnerable members of the society to defend their rights using legal tools. He also provided free legal consultation to workers on a QQ platform. In 2009, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” after participating in a protest outside the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. After he was released in 2011, Xing Qingxian continued his involvement in rights defense work, and took part people’s representative elections in Guiyang as an independent candidate.
Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, January 28, 2016.