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Members of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, March 8, 2019
Lu Tingge (卢廷阁) is a lawyer based in Shijiazhuang (石家庄), the capital of Hebei province. He is one of the newer faces in the community of human rights lawyers in China. In February he put forward a proposal to limit the legislative authorities of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, and more than a thousand Chinese citizens signed to support the proposal. He has been missing since March 2. — The Editors
We have learned from multiple sources that, on March 2, the Shijiazhuang-based lawyer Lu Tingge was taken away by officials of Shijiazhuang municipal Justice Bureau and his neighborhood police officers, and that his family and colleagues have not been able to get in touch with him for seven days as of today.
Lawyer Lu called his wife once on the evening of March 2, not using his own cell phone, but that of Xing Qiang (邢强), an official of the Bureau. Since then his family has not been able to get in touch with him.
We as lawyers believe this is a serious violation of a citizen’s basic human rights such as freedom of movement and freedom of communication. It is a typical act of enforced disappearance. Those who are involved in disappearing lawyer Lu Tingge have committed the crime of extralegal detention defined by Article 238 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China.
We have reasons to believe that the enforced disappearance of lawyer Lu is probably related to his proposal for amending the Constitution and his gathering signatures of support because several lawyers who signed have been summoned for talks by officials of their local Justice Bureaus.
Lawyer Lu’s disappearance reminds us of a number of human rights defenders whose freedom has been partially restricted for their expressions. We believe that:
First, it is immoral to secretly categorize and identify citizens for their expressions and political orientations; it is immoral to conduct secret and prolonged investigations of lawful citizens who are merely exercising their constitutional rights.
Second, it is illegal to forcibly evict or limit the movement of certain citizens based on such secret categorization and identification when the National People’s Congress (NPC), the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), or the Chinese Communist Party’s national conference convenes, or on dates deemed particularly sensitive. It is a blatant contravention of constitutional rights and in opposition to the government’s claim of governing the country according to the law.
Third, the central requirement of governing the country according to the law is to respect and protect basic human rights and to allow citizens to be free of fear. Enforced disappearances by the government will create permeating fear. Such inappropriate exercise and transgression of power sets a precedent and can easily be multiplied, creating threats to all citizens. The enforced disappearance of lawyer Lu Tingge will inevitably and adversely affect ordinary people.
Fourth, according to article 16 and article 23 of the United Nations’ “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers,” “governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference,” that “lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly,” and that “they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights…”
We call on Shijiazhuang Justice Bureau and neighborhood police to immediately restore lawyer Lu Tingge’s physical freedom and freedom of communication.
We call on the Hebei provincial government’s disciplinary and supervisory entities to investigate the civil servants who have been involved in committing the crime of illegal detention in this case and to eliminate the ill effects it has created.
Members of the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团)
March 8, 2019
Perseverance Will See Us Through — A 2018 New Year’s Message From the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2018
It is with a heavy heart and a sense of desolation that we begin our New Year’s dedication, just as China is shrouded in smog and enveloped in haze. But regardless of the challenges and suffering of the past year, we have not cowered. We continue to hope that 2018 will bring us closer to freedom. We also wish that our own hope will become infectious, and that the citizens of China will together fight for a free, beautiful future and country.
2017 was again a year of no shortage of injustice and wanton violations of the law by the country’s judicial organs. Ugly words such as suffocation, shackles, and dungeons tested our resolve; deaths, disappearances, and bloodshed caused us enormous pain. Though we see no justice and feel no freedom, our faith girds us to continue to persevere — to wait for conscience, to wait for strength, and to await the arrival of spring.
2017 was the year in which we lost a great intellectual of liberty, Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波). He left the world with the saddest dirge, and while alive he expounded in his works, and demonstrated in his life, the incorruptibility, uprightness, and patriotism of the Chinese intellectual. His soul returned to the sea where waves will carry his dream of a free China forever.
2017 saw the persecution of numerous human rights lawyers. Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Li Heping (李和平), and Xie Yang (谢阳) were all convicted on false charges. Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was illegally held incommunicado for a cumulative 900 days. The persecution of Li Yuhan (李昱函) has been relentless. All of these cases show just how harsh and dangerous it has become to be a human rights lawyer in China.
In 2017, a large number of lawyers were threatened, coerced, and silenced by local judicial bureaus and legal associations, including Zhu Shenwu (祝圣武), Wu Youshui (吴有水), Wen Donghai (文东海), Wang Liqian (王理乾), Wang Longde (王龙德), Yu Wensheng (余文生), and Peng Yonghe (彭永和). For no more than exercising their freedom of expression and proactively defending the interests and rights of their clients, these lawyers were made targets of harassment — and in some cases subject to sanctions by the official lawyer’s association, or administrative penalties. This entirely contradicts the claims of officialdom that China is a country ruled by law and that human rights are guaranteed.
In 2017, the draft Law on Supervision (《监察法》) made its appearance. This law, which on the surface appears to be codying anti-corruption measures, could before long become yet another extraordinary tool for the dictatorship to infringe on human rights on a massive scale under the guise of “ruling the country according to the law.”
In 2017, the number of occasions on which the law was distorted beyond recognition is countless. Numerous defense lawyers were forcibly dismissed for inexplicable reasons, and there was no further pretense that trials in China are open and public affairs. It has become abundantly clear that citizens in China have no actual rights whatsoever.
In 2017, citizens of conscience were suppressed; the rights of petitioners were dismissed; forced demolitions for the acquisition of land, and their attendant social contradictions, became an endless source of tragedy. The abuse scandal at RYB Education kindergartens in Beijing, and the expulsion of the “low-end population” in Beijing, became capstones to a year already brimming with human rights disasters, and drew widespread, appalled attention from the public.
Despite all of the above, countless Chinese who hold tightly to ideals continued to spark hope that human rights must be protected, and justice must be served. The society-wide discussion of the draft Law on Supervision, the heated opinions given in response to the Law on Detention Centers (《看守所法》), the condemnation of the expulsion of the “low-end population” from Beijing, and the support for citizen actions around the country — all of this gave us hope.
For their part, human rights lawyers have not hesitated in assuming their historical responsibility, as shown in the spirited defenses given in the political trials and cases of Wu Gan (吴淦)、Chen Yunfei (陈云飞)、Huang Qi (黄琦)、and Qin Yongmin (秦永敏). The coalition of eight lawyers in Guangdong, involved in a case of a tuberculosis outbreak at a school in Hunan (湖南肺结核事件), is the first time since the 709 crackdown that lawyers have banded together to make a sally, and it is a demonstration of their staunch conviction that human rights must be safeguarded.
Despite the fact that human rights lawyers are illegally prevented from entering the courtroom on a regular basis, colleagues in the legal profession speak out on their behalf. Lawyers collectively censure and protest illegal verdicts, sometimes causing malefactors to retreat in guilty conscience. Rights lawyers also continue to provide legal assistance to petitioners, believers, and other vulnerable populations. Though the help is far from meeting the need, it plants a seed of good that will overcome.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of rights cases end in failure — but it is precisely perseverance in the face of such setbacks that has forged the indominidable character of human rights lawyers in China. The history of human society shows that it’s futile for any dictatorship to stand in the way of progress. The law of the jungle is a temporary phase; the progress of civilization is an inevitability.
In 2018, we won’t harbor false hopes, nor indulge in fantasy — but we will remain steadfast to our cherished ideals of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and we will not stop in our defense and safeguarding of human rights. We’ll be tenacious in our defense of the wronged, the prisoners of conscience, and the pursuit of justice.
2018 is the 20th anniversary of the Chinese government’s signature to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Chinese authorities to fulfill their promises, immediately ratify the Convention, and implement the protections of civil rights therein, making every Chinese person an actual citizen of their own country.
In 2018, we call for Wang Quanzhang to be released — the suffering he has endured pains all of our hearts. We also wish well for liberal intellectuals, two exemplars of which, Liu Xiaobo and Yang Tianshui (杨天水), passed away this year. The two were not the enemies of this country, and their departure is a loss to the Chinese people.
In 2018, for moving China toward a more civilized, reasonable, and peaceful society, for helping the Chinese people become more free, more hopeful, and happier, we won’t relent in our efforts, and we know that we must endure. Only by doing so will we live up to this period of time.
The New Year is upon us, and though the haze won’t dissipate all at once, we believe that as long as we continue in our efforts, our lives will have meaning, and we’ll be part of a new history for a free China.
In 2018, let’s persevere together!
China Human Rights Lawyers Group
December 31, 2017
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团) was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.
Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Ji Tian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing, January 19, 2017
In a series of interviews, the still incarcerated human rights lawyer Xie Yang provided a detailed account of his arrest, interrogations, and the horrific abuses he suffered at the hands of police and prosecutors, to his two defense lawyers Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清). This revelation, and the extraordinary circumstances of it, mark an important turn in the 709 crackdown on human rights lawyers. This group, seen as the gravest threat to regime security, has not been crushed, but instead has become more courageous and more determined. This is the first of several installments in English translation. — The Editors
Date: January 4, 2017, 3:08:56 p.m. (interview start)
Location: Interview Room 2W, Changsha Number Two Detention Center
Interviewee: Xie Yang (谢阳, “Xie”)
Interviewers: Lawyers Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) (“Lawyers”)
Transcription by Chen Jian’gang
Lawyers: Hello, Xie Yang. We are Chen Jian’gang and Liu Zhengqing, defense lawyers hired by your wife, Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋). Do you agree to these arrangements?
XIE: Yes, I agree to appoint you as my defense counsel.
LAWYERS: Today, we need to ask you some questions regarding the case. Could you please take your time and describe the circumstances of your detention and interrogation?
XIE: I was picked up in the early morning hours of July 11, 2015, at the Qianzhou Hotel in Hongjiang City, Hunan (湖南怀化洪江市托口镇黔洲大酒店). As I was sleeping, a bunch of people—some in plain clothes and others in police uniform—forced their way into my room. They didn’t display any identification but showed me an official summons for questioning before taking me away to the Hongjiang City Public Security Bureau. Everything I had with me, including my mobile phone, computer, identification card, lawyer’s license, wallet, bank cards, and briefcase were confiscated. When they got me downstairs, I saw there were three cars waiting. They sent around a dozen or so people to detain me.
LAWYERS: What happened next after you got to the Hongjiang City Public Security Bureau?
XIE: It was around 6 a.m. when we arrived at the station, at the crack of dawn. Someone took me to a room in the investigations unit and had me sit in an interrogation chair—the so-called “iron chair.” Once I sat down, they locked me into the shackles on the chair. From that point, I was shackled in whether or not they were questioning me.
LAWYERS: Did anyone at the time say that you had been placed under detention or arrest? Why did they immediately shackle you?
XIE: No, no one said anything about placing me under any of the statutory coercive measures. They just shackled me right away, and that’s how I stayed for over three hours. No one cared—they just left me shackled like that.
LAWYERS: What happened next?
XIE: Sometime after 9 a.m., two police officers came in. Neither of them showed me any paperwork or identification, either. I could tell by their accents that they weren’t local police from Hongjiang. They hadn’t been among the group that detained me, so they must have come later.
LAWYERS: What questions did they ask you?
XIE: They asked me whether I’d joined “that illegal organization the ‘Human Rights LAWYERS Group’” (人权律师团) and some other questions about the Human Rights Lawyers Group. I said that as far as I knew there was no organization called the “Human Rights Lawyers Group.” They said there was a chat group on WeChat, and I said I was a member of that group. They said: “The lawyers in that group are anti-Party and anti-socialist in nature.” Then they asked questions about who organized the group, what sort of things it did, and so on.
LAWYERS: How did you answer them?
XIE: I said that almost all the members of this group were lawyers and that it was a group set up by people with a common interest. I said it was a place for us to exchange information and that there was no organizer—everyone was independent and equal and there was no hierarchy of any kind. It was only a group for exchanging information and chatting amongst each other, sometimes even cracking jokes and things like that.
LAWYERS: What then?
XIE: Then, one of the officers asked whether we’d publicly issued any joint statements or opinions regarding certain cases in the name of the “Human Rights Lawyers Group.” I said that we had and that this was an act we took as individuals and that we signed as individuals, voluntarily.
Then they asked whether I was willing to quit the Human Rights Lawyers Group. I said that, first of all, since I hadn’t joined any organization called “Human Rights Lawyers Group,” there was no way I could leave it. Then they asked whether I’d be willing to quit the “Human Rights Lawyers Group” chat group. I said that I had the freedom to be part of the chat group and that they had no right to interfere.
LAWYERS: What happened after that?
XIE: They told me the Ministry of Public Security had passed judgment on the chat group known as the “Human Rights Lawyers Group,” saying that there were anti-Party, anti-socialist lawyers in the group. They said they hoped that I could see the situation clearly and that I’d be treated leniently if I cooperated with them. This lasted for more than an hour. They finally said: “Leaders in Beijing and the province are all involved in this case. If you quit the Human Rights Lawyers Group, you’ll be treated leniently.” I asked what they meant by “leniently.” They said I should know that lawyers from the group were being questioned throughout the country and said that there was a possibility that I’d be prosecuted if I continued to refuse to come to my senses.
LAWYERS: What then?
XIE: At the time I thought they’d only brought me in for a talking-to and to see whether I’d agree to quit the group. But I continued to say that the group was only a chat group. They made me give a statement to sign, two pages long, regarding the chat group. The summons said they were investigating “gathering a crowd to disrupt order in a work unit,” but there was no mention of that in the statement. They also asked me about some of the cases I’d been involved in, such as the Jiansanjiang case (建三江案) and the Qing’an shooting case (庆安枪击案). I told them I’d taken part, and they asked me who’d instructed me to do so. I said I went to take part in those cases of my own accord and that no one had instructed me to do anything. What’s more, I said that I’d been formally retained as a lawyer in those cases and that this fell within the scope of ordinary professional work. I’ve since seen my case file, and that statement isn’t in it.
LAWYERS: What happened after you gave your statement?
XIE: After I gave my statement, they said they were relatively satisfied with my attitude and they needed to report to their superiors. They also said that I should be able to receive lenient treatment. Then they left.
About 10 minutes or so later, sometime after 10:30, another police officer came in. He introduced himself as Li Kewei (李克伟) and said he was the ranking officer in charge of my case. I asked him how high a rank, and he drew a circle with his hand and said: “I’m in charge of this entire building.” I guessed he might be the chief or deputy chief of the Changsha Public Security Bureau. I later found out that Li Kewei was the head of the Domestic Security Unit at the Changsha Public Security Bureau.
LAWYERS: What happened then?
XIE: He told me he was not dissatisfied with my attitude. He said I’d only touched very lightly on my own actions and hadn’t “reflected” on things “deep enough in my heart.” He said: “You have to give a new statement, otherwise you won’t get any lenient treatment from us.”
I told him that I was disappointed in the way they were going back on their word. I asked what sort of “reflection” would qualify as “deep enough in my heart”—what was his standard?
He said: “We’re in charge of setting the standard.” I said that if they were in charge of the standard, then there was no way for me to assess it. I told him I was extremely disappointed by their lack of sincerity and that I was unwilling to cooperate with them.
LAWYERS: What happened next?
XIE: Another officer brought in my mobile phone and demanded that I enter the PIN so that they could access my phone. I told them they had no right to do that and I refused. I later found out that this officer was from the Huaihua Domestic Security Unit. He’s someone in charge of my case, but I don’t know his name.
LAWYERS: Then what happened?
XIE: Li Kewei said they weren’t after me and that he hoped I would change my attitude and cooperate with them. Then it was lunchtime. After lunch, there was no more discussion until 5 or 6 p.m. The police had an auxiliary officer stay with me. He didn’t let me sleep at night and kept me shackled like that up until daybreak. For the whole night, the auxiliary officer kept a close eye on me and didn’t let me sleep. As soon as I closed my eyes or nodded off, they would push me, slap me, or reprimand me. I was forced to keep my eyes open until dawn.
LAWYERS: What happened at dawn?
XIE: It must have been after five in the morning when five or six men burst in. Some were in plain clothes and some in uniform. They brought a faxed copy of a Decision on Residential Surveillance and had me sign it. After I signed, they brought me to a police car and took me away.
They drove me all the way to Changsha to a building that housed retired cadres from the National University of Defense Technology (国防科技大学). It was at 732 Deya Road in Kaifu District (开福区德雅路732号) — I saw this in my case file. I had no idea what sort of place it was when they brought me in. I only knew it was in Changsha, but I didn’t know where exactly.
In the car there was a police officer named Li Feng (李峰). I later learned he was from the Domestic Security Unit of the Hunan Provincial Public Security Bureau. He told me I’d already squandered one opportunity and said he hoped I would seize the next one and actively cooperate with them during my period of residential surveillance in a designated location. He said if I did, he’d report up to his superiors and seek lenient treatment for me. I thought that everything I’d done had been above board and I didn’t need to hide anything. I told them the PIN on my mobile phone and he was looking through my WeChat messages the whole ride over. He became very familiar with all that I’d done.
LAWYERS: What then?
XIE: It was about noon on July 12, 2015, when we got to the place in Changsha where they held me. They took me to that hotel and we entered through a side door. There were two police officers on either side of me, each grabbing hold of my arms and pressing on my neck to push me forward. They took me to a room on the second floor, which I later learned was Room 207. It was a relatively small room, with a small bed, two tables, and two chairs. There was a camera in the upper left corner as you entered the room.
LAWYERS: What happened after you went in?
XIE: After they brought me in, they had me sit on the chair. Three people stayed with me. None of them were police. I found out later that they were “chaperones” (陪护人员).
(The interview concluded at 4:54:45 p.m. on January 4, 2017.)
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
Media coverage of the Xie Yang torture and the 709 crackdown:
Punches, Kicks and the ‘Dangling Chair’: Detainee Tells of Torture in China, New York Times, January 20, 2017.
Document of Torture: One Chinese Lawyer’s Story From Jail, WSJ China Real Time, January 20, 2017.
A broken lawyer and a hawkish judge cast deep pall over China’s legal system, Washington Post, January 21, 2017.
Beijing Breaks Lawyers, Wall Street Journal editorial, January 22, 2017.
‘Your only right is to obey’: lawyer describes torture in China’s secret jails, the Guardian, January 23, 2017.
In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post editorial, January 27, 2017.
‘We Bear Witness; We Keep the Faith’: A New Year’s Message From the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 2, 2017
Time sweeps by, the seasons change, and another year is upon us. As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, China’s human rights lawyers greet 2017.
We bore witness to too much in 2016.
We saw the hidden poverty that lies behind the bright and orderly image of the nation.
Due to poverty, a 13-year-old in Jinchang, Gansu, leapt from a building to her death after being humiliated. She had pilfered and eaten a few chocolates at the local market — the first time in her life that she’d savored the taste.
Due to poverty, a student from Linyi, Shandong, who had matriculated but not yet begun college, died after falling into depression due to the shame of being cheated out of her 9,900 yuan ($1,400) in school fees. It may be no more than the price of a meal for China’s nouveau riche, but for this girl, it was her family’s entire savings — and probably debt, too.
Due to poverty, a young mother in Linxia, Gansu, killed her four children then poisoned herself. The local authorities said that they were not responsible.
We’ve seen the unstoppable crushing force of the demolition brigade throughout the country tearing down homes, and the tragedies it’s wrought.
Because of a forced demolition, the young Fan Huapei (范华培) from Zhengzhou killed three people before being shot to death. This was the level of hopelessness experienced by someone who’d been to university. And when the police could have captured him alive, they killed him instead. Other victims who had similarly been harmed and humiliated paid respect to him at his funeral. This should give cause for thought.
Because of a forced demolition, a young man named Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙) killed the village official responsible with a nail gun. Jia was executed this year. Before he died, he declared to his lawyer and family that he was willing to donate his organs after death, and left behind a heartfelt poem bidding farewell to the world. He had a kind heart. If his case wasn’t treated as a question of social stability and political security, he would have been spared the death penalty, given that he had repeatedly sought resolution of the dispute, and gave himself up after the crime.
We’ve seen more environmental pollution and a ceaseless smog that suffocates the cities; we’ve seen contaminated food and poisoned vaccines; we’ve seen how the downtrodden in society hurt each other, and an increase in violent crimes. We’ve seen the death of Lei Yang (雷洋), the outrage in public opinion that followed, the trivial punishments given to police officers, and the increasing abuses of police power. We’ve seen an economic decline and a devaluation of the currency. We’ve seen the deep sense of insecurity that grips the middle class.
For human rights lawyers, the year 2016 is a year of anxiety, dread, and perseverance.
As in 2015, human rights defenders in China continued to suffer enormously in 2016. Civil society was savaged, citizen activists and dissident intellectuals were taken into captivity one by one, some vanished for weeks before news of their detention was released, and others are now still being held incommunicado. In an uninterrupted succession, relatives and friends posted notices of “missing persons” — those who have been forcibly disappeared. They include: the couple Ge Jueping (戈觉平) and Luo Guoying (陆国英), Gu Yimin (顾义民), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang Wanping (王婉平), Chen Zongyao (陈宗瑶), Sun Cun (孙林), Deng Hongcheng (邓洪成), Xiao Bing (肖兵), Wang Jianhua (王建华), Li Nanhai (李南海), Ding Yan (丁岩), Wang Jun (王军), Deng Jianfeng (邓剑峰, released just recently), Ma Zhiquan (马志权), Wang Wei (王威), Dong Lingpeng (董凌鹏), Song Liqian (宋立前), Huang Anyang (黄安阳), Huang Qi (黄琦), Pu Fei (蒲飞, recently released), Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Xiong Feiling (熊飞骏), Wang Fei (王飞, a.k.a. Hai Di [海底]), and a long list of others. Whether or not these human rights defenders were charged with national security crimes, almost all were placed under residential surveillance at a designated location and denied access to lawyers and any other communication. They were forced into isolation and helplessness, as a way of trying to make them submit. The model of punishment used against “709 incident” rights lawyers was replicated again and again against them.
As for those rolled up in the shocking “709 incident,” after a year of detention incommunicado, and after much preparation by the authorities, Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) and two others were hauled before a court for show trials. Every one of them confessed guilt, expressed repentance, and vowed not to appeal. Instead of remonstration and urgent defense, the defense lawyers who were appointed to defend them behaved in lockstep with the prosecutors that one could hardly separate them. The court hearing was composed like a concerto, performed to perfection. Just what took place behind closed doors to bring this about will only be known in time.
As for the sentencing to ten years imprisonment of Zhejiang Democracy Party figures Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) and Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) — it has once again become manifestly clear that independent organization and assembly is absolutely forbidden, and that those who venture into this forbidden realm can be charged over and over again for the same “offense.”
The sentencing of dissident Zhang Haitao (张海涛) to 19 years was unprecedented. Such madness and hysteria is a tragic sight to behold.
The secret detention of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) towards the end of the year was both a continuation and expansion of the 709 arrests. Everyone knows the reason he was arrested: It was to cut off support for the families of the 709 detained lawyers and their rescue efforts, so that they’ll be forced to face the system alone, and, the authorities hope, give up their rights and hope, and cease to protest on behalf of their loved ones. Jiang Tianyong’s case is a clear warning of the severity and urgency that Chinese rights lawyers face.
Of course, through the year we’ve also witnessed the continued awakening and growth of rights awareness in China. These ordinary men and women have taken to the streets to defend their homes, they’ve signed petitions, speaking out for Lei Yang and Jia Jinglong online and offline.
We salute those human rights defenders for their bravery and indomitability. They refuse to submit in the face of increasing repression and persist in the face of danger.
After 17 months of persevering, lawyers were finally able to meet their clients Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wu Gan (吴淦) respectively. The two had not surrendered or been silenced by the cruelty of prison, and they showed again the strength of their commitments even from inside the cell. Perhaps, in the eyes of the cultural elite, these are the uncultivated grassroots members of China’s society, but at this moment, they are models of tenacity and courage and a source of inspiration.
The wives of the persecuted lawyers, meanwhile, have been courageous, wise, broad-minded, tenacious, and united in helping one another. This includes Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Wenzu (李文足), Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), Liu Ermin (刘二敏), Fan Lili (樊丽丽), and others. They’ve been threatened, intimidated, beaten, detained, and yet not stopped. Their efforts have led their husband’s cases to be more widely known, and their public profile more complete. They’re tender, but not weak. They shed tears before the camera when discussing their husband’s captivity, but they’ve never made a display of weakness to the authorities to plead for false leniency, for they are convinced that their loved one are heroes, not criminals. They’re a group of extraordinary women who have defended rights in their own way in the face of immense adversity. Their behavior and their composure has made them the most beautiful vision in this grim winter, and their actions are thorns in the side of the authorities.
Though the political climate now is perilous, China’s human rights lawyers have not ceased their steps out of fear. Instead, they persist in spite of fear, overcoming it. Fear has not prevented them from taking on the 709 cases. They’ve wielded the law, bringing suits, submitting requests for reconsideration, lodging appeals, writing articles, and fighting for their right to see and defend their clients. These suits may prove to be fruitless in the current circumstances, but the efforts themselves are significant nonetheless. Indeed, in the absence of rule of law, it makes little sense to see only outcomes as measures of heroism.
It’s no exaggeration to say that wherever there are human rights abuses in China, there they are defending against them: in Suzhou, Wuxi, Chengdu, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen…
They’ve been on the road through all of 2016.
Because we’ve borne witness, we’ve reason to believe that in this new year, China’s human rights lawyers, determined and idealistic, will do whatever is called for to bring light and hope as the regime’s iron curtain continues to descend.
Because we’ve born witness, we believe that human nature yearns for liberty, and that the freedom so hoped for won’t be stopped by the will of a few tyrants. The time will come when human rights will be valued and respected and rights lawyers will have a free, vast platform on which to pursue their vocation.
With the continued advancement of the internet, and the increasing impact that China’s severe social problems are having on each and every person, the ideology and doctrines preached by the Party will have increasingly less purchase. Everyone who has had their interests or rights harmed is a latent ally. Like seeds planted and buds sprouting, is there any question about their strength as they grow by the multitudes?
It is our hope that a China with benign and rule-based governance will eventually be formed by the germination and growth of those countless seeds.
In 2017, let us look up the starry sky above and obey the calls from our hearts. Let us continue to fight through thorns and brambles to do our job. In this era of great change, let us set down more milestones toward the betterment of human rights in China.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
January 1, 2017
Editors’ note: The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group has about 300 members currently.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, September 13, 2016
On September 13, 2016, Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group marks the third anniversary of its founding.
Over the last three years, the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group has been an open platform for lawyers, offering them a channel to get to know one another, exchange their thoughts, and put out calls for mutual aid. It has also become the main force in “effective criminal defense,” Chinese-style. We deeply believe that behind these achievements lies the fact that human rights is not a dull, abstract idea, or some unfathomable theory — the universality of human rights is already deeply rooted in the hearts of the Chinese people. They spring every moment from the human experiences of freedom, safety, equality, and dignity. We realize that as long as there are lawyers, they’ll inevitably defend rights, they must defend rights, and that in the final analysis, all that they do is directed toward safeguarding human rights. Thus, the Human Rights Lawyers Group is extremely happy to become a bridge, operating within a legal framework, for Chinese lawyers to throw themselves into the work of safeguarding human rights in whatever form it may take.
Over the last three years, this group of lawyers has intervened in countless cases of human rights violations, making passionate appeals to the public, taking on defense cases, and persisting in legal appeals. They’ve withstood immense pressure and put their personal safety at risk in order to expose the facts and uphold the truth, demonstrating a rare and precious courage and sense of responsibility. They rejoice with the just disposal of each case, and their hearts ache at the countless human rights tragedies trapped in the black hole of the system. If these lawyers can’t be the sharp sword defending civil liberties, then they’ll be the stubborn, final thorn in the side of those who would abuse power. They’ve been ground and polished into a shining spearhead by a maelstrom of suppression. But they’re also full of warmth and affection for the people living on this land.
Over the last three years, human rights lawyers have, as expected, been on the receiving end of retrograde suppression. This includes many of the lawyers arrested during the “709 incident,” still not free to this day. After those arrests, the United Nations High Commissioner, the U.S. State Department, over ten countries in Europe, and a large number of legal associations around the world, all expressed serious concern and condemnation. And after the show trials of four [one lawyer and three activists] in early August, and the deceptive propaganda in state media that accompanied them, China’s own public began to wonder whether we were even living in a modern country.
In China, the protection of human rights has been written into the constitution, but what’s written on paper is no more than dressed-up formality: intellectuals don’t dare to speak up, and victims are ignorant of their rights. When we look toward the future, we will have to face the following problems:
In 2015, the United Nations’ Committee against Torture provided concluding remarks about China in its quinquennial report, describing the battle against torture in China as particularly severe, with enormous work still left to be done. China executes the greatest number of people of any country in the world, while 150 countries in the world have already abandoned the extremely cruel death penalty. The Chinese government signed the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in 1998, but 16 years later to the day, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has still not ratified it. Instead, the authorities have passed or implemented the “Foreign NGO Law,” the “Charity Law,” the “State Security Law,” and the “Cybersecurity Law” that is currently available for public feedback. Clearly, the effect of all these laws is to suppress rights imperiously.
While this has happened, offenses like “picking quarrels,” endangering state security, and other “pocket crimes” [so named because, like a pocket, one can put anything in them] have been given a broad interpretation and been widely abused to target political offenders. Freedom of expression has thus been severely muzzled, the public has been left with no channels to vent its frustration, and their creativity is fading. State media have been delivering pre-trial guilty verdicts on human rights cases, while claques of Communist Party boosters online and the “internet army” have been more active than ever before, with a “small bunch of people” [as the Party names its perceived opponents] having their Weibo and Weixin accounts shut down on the slightest pretext. All this has made the absence of free speech more obvious than even before.
Law enforcement agencies are abusing the law, making regular people live in anxiety and dread. Incidents like “Taiyuan police beating a peasant woman to death,” and the “Lei Yang incident” are cases in point. There are also numerous instances of extralegal restrictions on the rights of citizens, including abuses like “shuanggui” and “residential surveillance at a designated place.”
When it comes to worker rights, the enforcement agencies are hopelessly bureaucratic, the worker unions sit by and do nothing, the arbitral awards system exists in name only, and judicial channels of redress are tedious and complex, exhausting enough to wear out workers who would use them to protect their rights. A number of legal service NGOs that helped workers defend their rights became targets for attack, after their work fell afoul of vested interests. Social insurance fees are far too high; there are countless obstacles for unemployment relief; the retirement age is too high — all of which leads the youth of society to feel that they’re being crushed into dregs.
With an unjust judiciary, the absence of civil and political rights, economic growth flagging, an imbalanced distribution of educational resources, unreasonable budget allocations, discrimination against certain social groups for all manner of reasons, and a range of other phenomena, we’re not optimistic about the current human rights situation in China. There are many more issues than we can list here.
We will pour our efforts into calling for judicial transparency and independent trials, and strongly demand that judicial organs guarantee the visitation rights and rights to legal representation of those detained during the “709 incident.” We also demand that they be given the right to a transparent and fair trial.
We will continue to demand the truthful disclosure of all public incidents, for limitations on police power, and for the guarantee of personal liberties.
We will continue, as we always have, to provide legal representation to citizens who simply pursue their fundamental human rights. We believe deeply that the individual awakening of each citizen shows that the value of human rights has become deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.
We call on the legislative organs to ratify a series of international human rights conventions: these conventions are civilization’s distillation of lessons hard won through suffering, slaughter, war, and religious persecution. Refusing to do so is like refusing sunlight and air. We demand that the process of creating legislation be democratic. We can’t accept that the law be a tool for a few to repress the rest of the population.
Our love for this country is so deep that our hopes are all the more earnest, and our censure all the more severe. We demand that those who trample on human rights and disregard the rule of law be investigated and held responsible. But we will not blame any specific political party, class, interest group, government official, and even less be angry at the common folk for not fighting back in the face of it all. Every single person in China has an unshirkable responsibility for the progress of human rights. We’ll begin little by little, and change the future with concrete actions.
We make our appeal again: We need a society where people can express themselves. We need a society where people can live openly and freely, with basic human dignity. In order to realize these ideals we’ll walk this tortuous road without letup for as long as it takes. History will bear witness to our suffering and tears, and in the future, our country will remember the sacrifices its human rights lawyers have made for it. This we believe, truly and deeply.
Friends: may human rights abide forever, and that we all come to share them. As the Mid Autumn Festival approaches, good things come in pairs. Let’s begin our journey with the cry: “Human rights are paramount, and freedom is forever!”
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group*
September 13, 2016
Editor’s note: The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group has 315 members currently.
America and Europe’s Failure in Securing the Release of Lawyers and Activists in Connection With the ‘709 Incident’
Jiang Tianyong, July 17, 2016
Recently I’ve been thinking: Leading up to 1949, the Chinese Communist Party had been able to steadily grow its strength partly because of the United States. And a major reason the Party has become the disruptive and powerful giant it is today is because of the greed and appeasement of the United States, Europe, and other Western countries.
This became particularly clear with regard to the “709 Crackdown” last year, when the new communist boss, “Xitler,” directed a massive campaign of arrests in just a few days, targeting the most influential and active human rights lawyers and activists. As the only country with the actual leverage to exert pressure on the Communist Party (leverage being only one of the many reasons to speak out), the United States failed to do so in a forceful and timely manner. This is due to an opportunistic approach to the Communist Party, which favors policies of appeasement and prioritizes trade above all else. Thus, it appeared that President Obama, looking forward to “Xitler” visiting the United States, was afraid to anger the regime and lose out on business and other deals. If Obama could think of anything else but trade and empty rhetoric — if he could truly consider for a moment the value of liberty and human rights — then he ought to be able to think of the real, living people like Hu Shigen (胡石根) and Li Heping (李和平), both of whom are recipients of awards by the National Endowment for Democracy; Wang Yu (王宇), a prominent female lawyer that Hillary Clinton and other politicians have repeatedly mentioned, and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋). He’d then work hard at making sure these people are freed!
Xi Jinping’s trip to the United States last September would have been the absolutely perfect opportunity. Right then, “Xitler” had placed great importance on the trip to America, and desperately needed it to be a success. At the same time, those who had been detained were merely “disappeared” — they hadn’t been formally arrested, and so, under pressure, it would have been easy for the regime to release them without losing face. It’s entirely possible that the 709 Incident could have had the same outcome as the 2011 Jasmine Movement, where the majority of those extralegally abducted and disappeared were ultimately released.
Grumbling about it now doesn’t do much good, given that the perfect opportunity to rescue the lawyers was lost last September during the Xi Jinping and Obama summit. But there is no reason for the U. S. and Europe to miss the next opportunity: the G20 Summit in Beijing this year.
However, we are witnessing with deep regret that this important opportunity is now also slipping away, an opportunity that will not be in a long time to come, if it hasn’t been lost already.
Precious time for rescuing the 709 detainees has been lost. Now that the CCP has suffered a defeat on the South China Sea issue, they’re stepping up anti-Western propaganda domestically. It’s at this juncture that they began to process the “709” cases, indicting the four on July 15. Thus, pressure at the G20 Summit to release the lawyers has already lost much of its force.
A great misfortune is happening in front of our eyes.
The 709 Incident is now heading in the worst possible direction: it has been handled in a black box manner, the trials will be secret, and these pioneering advocates of peaceful social progress will be given heavy prison sentences. The consequences are extremely severe for all stakeholders.
For Xi Jinping, he has completely lost both the opportunity and qualification to lead China’s future transition to a constitutional democracy. All he can do now is continue down the path toward greater totalitarianism and dictatorship. He should thank the heavens if he’d be given a dignified trial in the future — more likely he’ll be lynched by an angry mob, venting its fury as the regime collapses, like Gaddafi.
For the Chinese people, the terrible denouement of the 709 Incident will be a heavy blow to their confidence and psyche. It will trigger a new wave of exiles; it will make a portion of peaceful resisters reconsider their means, methods, and strategies of protest; and it will suck all hope from the bullied and humiliated masses on the bottom rungs of society. As the economy continues to deteriorate, there will be a large number of people who lose their jobs, feeling angry and trapped. More frightening is the fact that this disenfranchised population has already lost its peaceful and rational leadership, all of whom have been jailed or forced into exile. In the end, China’s peaceful path toward the future has just become that much more difficult.
At that point, will a China that is absent peaceful and rational leadership be in the interests of the United States and Europe? Who can say that the crazed, xenophobic, and lawless Xitler and Communist Party won’t start on the path toward a new Third Reich?
The United States and Europe will suffer the consequences of their greed and myopia for years to come.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a Chinese human rights lawyer based in Beijing. Due to his taking on politically sensitive cases, including those of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, petitioners, and others, he has had his license to practice law cancelled. In 2011 he was taken into custody by Chinese security forces for two months, during which time he was tortured. He was also briefly detained in the recent crackdown.
After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, July 15, 2016
Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, Ji Dunhuang, January 28, 2016
From China, Messages to President Obama Before Xi Jinping’s Visit (2), Jiang Tianyong, September, 2015.
China’s Shattered Dream for the Rule of Law, One Year On, Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.