China Human Rights Lawyers Group, June 23, 2017
This year, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is partnering with the International Bar Association (IBA) to mark the annual “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture” on June 26. Through storytelling, social media campaigns, and a panel discussion, they hope to advance their “shared ambition for the absolute prohibition of torture.” This year and the year before, we have begun to learn, with horror, about the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers during the 709 Crackdown. Below is a letter from the China Human Rights Lawyers Group addressed and delivered to OHCHR and IBA. — The Editors
To the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Bar Association:
In the early morning of July 9, 2015, Chinese police began a campaign of mass arrests, interrogations, and warnings against human rights lawyers and rights defenders. Dozens of rights lawyers and other activists were detained; hundreds of lawyers, scholars, and citizens were called in for “chats” and warnings by the police; dozens of lawyers and citizens were prevented from leaving the country.
Whether they were charged with the crime of “subversion of state power,” “inciting subversion of state power,” or the more pedestrian “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” all were subjected to the coercive criminal penal measure known as “residential surveillance at a designated place,” based on the claim that they were a threat to national security.
Residential surveillance at a designated place is a compulsory criminal procedure that was specified, codified, and integrated into China’s “Criminal Procedure Law,” modified in 2012 and implemented in 2013. In the implementation of this procedure, Chinese police have been abusing the relevant clauses, using it to put subjects under completely secret control, torturing them, and acting without accountability and restraint.
The torture that 709 lawyers have been subjected to during residential surveillance at a designated place has been made clear in the transcripts of interviews of lawyer Xie Yang provided by his defense counsel Chen Jiangang. One can also listen to the accounts by Li Heping’s family and friends who visited him after he was given a suspended sentence. One can infer it from the psychological breakdown suffered by Li’s brother, Li Chunfu, after he was released on probation. One can observe it from the articles published by lawyer Li Shuyun and legal assistant Zhao Wei. One can can get a sense of it from the few choice descriptive phrases used by lawyer Xie Yanyi after he was released on probation.
Wang Quanzhang, another lawyer arrested in the 709 Crackdown, has been in detention for nearly two years now, and not a single piece of news has emerged about his condition. Even whether he’s dead or alive is unclear — and those who care for him are extremely concerned that he has been put through, or is now being put through, extreme torture. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who worked hard to try to gain the release of his colleagues and rights defenders detained in the 709 arrests, has been denied access to legal representation for over seven months now. Reports that he is being tortured emerge periodically. In late May 2017 a statement bearing Jiang’s signature stated that Jiang had dismissed his defense counsel, causing grave concern that Jiang had been, and was now being, subjected to torture.
Chinese police have never actually established that these human rights lawyers and rights defenders are guilty of any crime whatsoever. The authorities have force-fed them medication, tortured them physically, devastated them psychologically, and gone after their loved ones, solely for the purpose of breaking their will, making them confess guilt on national television, accepting the judgement against them, and thus completely driving them away from the rights defense field in China.
The human rights lawyers and rights defense activists targeted in the 709 Crackdown should be protected by all the safeguards afforded by the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The plight of rights defenders in China, in particular human rights lawyers, has become more and more grim in recent years. With a series of new laws being rolled out — including the State Security Law, the Foreign NGO Law, the Charity Law, the Criminal Law Amendment (No. 9), and the Anti-Espionage Law — they have been completely hemmed in and trapped. Now, they could lose their freedom at a moment’s notice, be spirited away to a secret detention facility, and put through brutal torture.
No individual, nor any country in the world, is an island unto itself. Concern for others is the same as concern for oneself. Protection of human rights, opposition to torture, and concern for victims of torture, should be extended across ethnic and racial boundaries. These were precisely the founding principles behind the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture.
As Chinese human rights lawyers, we respectfully request that you convey concern for the Chinese human rights defenders who have not yet been detained and tortured; that you monitor and speak out about China’s violations of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture; and that you follow the news of regular violations of human rights in China, and help the human rights lawyers and other rights defenders who have been put in danger.
China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团)
June 23, 2017
Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Jitian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651
Attached: A brief introduction to the China Human Rights Lawyers Group
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was established on September 13, 2013 as an open platform for lawyers to connect and work together. Since its founding, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group has used joint public statements, involvement in specific human rights cases, and a range of other means to protect human rights and promote the rule of law. Chinese lawyers who support the ideals of human rights and are willing to safeguard the basic rights of Chinese citizens can join the group through an existing member by making a statement affirming these commitments. Promoting the rule of law and safeguarding human rights are the tireless pursuit of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group. We look forward to working together with you.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others