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Wang Qiaoling, January 13, 2017
Li Chunfu (李春富) is a human rights lawyer and the younger brother of the well-known rights lawyer Li Heping (李和平). On August 1, 2015, he was taken into custody (less than a month after his brother was also detained on July 10) and put under residential surveillance for six months. In January 2016 he was formally arrested on charges of “subversion of state power.” On January 5, 2017, he was granted China’s version of bail awaiting trial, and on January 12 returned home by police. Following is the first report by Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Heping’s wife, of the homecoming. We know from multiple cases of personal testimony, both published and privately relayed, that the 709 detainees have been subjected to extreme torture in custody. Given the mental and physical condition Li Chunfu was left in after nearly 18 months in police custody, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. — The Editors
When the human rights lawyer Li Chunfu was delivered to the front doorstep of his family home in Beijing at 5:00 p.m. on January 12, his wife was stunned by what she saw: Li’s body was emaciated, his complexion wan, his eyes lifeless — like he’d just aged to a 60-year-old-man.
The police told Li’s wife that he was being released on “bail,” then turned on his heel and left. But Li stood, hovering at the door, refusing to enter. His wife began to weep.
When she tried to pull him in by the hand, he was terrified and pulled away. Relatives who lived nearby heard that he’d been dropped off and rushed over, but rather than greet them Li became agitated and upset, jumping up and pushing them away, yelling “Get out of here! Danger!” Friends and family could do nothing but back away and sit at a distance from him.
Today (January 13), Li is still in a state of terror and confusion. When he saw his wife making a phone call, he shot his arm out and gripped her tight around the neck, growling: “Who are you calling?! You want to harm me!” As he yelled, he dug his fingers in, strangling her. Luckily, a relative was there and took control of the situation, pulling him away.
Li’s relatives can’t bear it and called his sister-in-law, Wang Qiaoling, to explain the situation. The security police (国保) had warned Li’s wife that she was allowed no contact with Wang Qiaoling, or else Li would be taken away again.
Our hearts were seized when we heard that Li Chunfu was in this state. And now what about Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) — are you still alive?
Signed: Family members of 709 victims
Wang Qiaoling (wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (李文足, wife of Wang Quanzhang)
Addendum: The Story of Li Chunfu
The following is note written by Wang Qiaoling, the wife of Li Heping, in August 2015, and posted to a number of dissident websites. It narrates Li Chunfu’s journey from a village boy who wasn’t able to finish high-school due to poverty, to a rights lawyer. — The Editors
Actually, the most inspiring story from the Li brothers isn’t Li Heping, but his younger brother Li Chunfu.
Heping’s family was poverty-stricken. After we got married in his hometown, there was no mattress on the bed — instead, we laid a coarse sheet atop rice straw and slept on that.
Years earlier, Heping was in the first year of college and Chunfu was entering his third year of middle-school — but the family couldn’t afford tuition for them both. Chunfu, despite his excellent grades, was the one who had to sacrifice. My mother-in-law once told me that Chunfu lay on his bed for a few days, but in the end simply accepted the reality, got up, and headed south to work and earn money to support the family and his older brother.
His experience was harsh and unforgiving — he once slept in a cemetery, often went hungry, got stabbed in the stomach, had his wages held back, and went through all the typical experiences of the hapless, downtrodden migrant workers. One day in a factory he saw a work demonstration by one of the technicians, and was mesmerized: he decided that he also wanted to do that. Diligent and keen on learning, he eventually became the head of the technical team.
He eventually saved up about 10,000 yuan. The year was 1998. His plan was to go back to the village and build a house. But his brother Heping told him to forget it, encouraging him to use the money to study toward a degree. He recommended studying for the bar and become a lawyer.
Chunfu was struck by the idea, and in 1999 decided to take the biggest risk of his life. He moved to the provincial capital of Henan, Zhengzhou, hired a small flat next to Zhengzhou University, and began a regime of self-study in the law. It was a process of six years of gritty perseverance and countless setbacks, economic as well as academic.
Few expected that he would be able to persevere to the end. Those six years he withstood, to finally triumph in the end, led the whole family to look upon Chunfu with renewed respect and admiration. Another consequence of the grueling years of study to obtain his law license, however, was obvious: it seemed that he’d aged far more than a mere six years. His hair started to go grey and fall out, and what should have been the head of hair of a 30-year-old started to look like that of an old man.
In 2005 Chunfu went through a series of exams for a position of judge in the Zhengzhou court system, which he passed smoothly. But before he went for the interviews, a lawyer friend* urged him not to do it, describing the broad picture of China’s legal field and the pivotal role of attorneys in bringing about the rule of law. Chunfu was convinced and abandoned the idea of being a judge — but in hindsight, perhaps the two of them were too hopeful about the prospects of the rule of law in China and the place of lawyers in it.
I remember that it was also in 2005 that Chunfu formally started practicing law. He cherished every case that came his way. A few days ago I told my son that “If one day it gets so bad in China that people can’t even go to school, don’t give up: we can study ourselves. Uncle Chunfu is a case in point!”
*The lawyer who talked Chunfu out of being a judge was Jiang Tianyong. Jiang was disappeared in the evening of November 21, 2016; he is in the custody of Chinese public security personnel and has been charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
“My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer”, Li’s 2010 interview with Ai Weiwei.
January 12, 2017
Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate Number Two Branch
Bill of Indictment
TJ 2d Br Proc Crim Indict (2016) No. 10001
Defendant Wu Gan (吴淦), male, [redacted], identification card number [redacted], Han ethnicity, high school graduate, a native of Xiamen city Fujian province, administrative employee of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), registered address [redacted], residence [redacted], placed under criminal detention by Public Security Bureau of Siming precinct of Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, on May 27, 2015, on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking trouble and defamation. With the approval of this procuratorate, arrested by the Xiamen Public Security Bureau on July 3, 2015, on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. His period of detention was recalculated on January 20, 2016, due to suspicion of the crime of subversion of state power.
Investigation of this case has been completed by the Tianjin Public Security Bureau. On August 17, 2016, it referred the case to this procuratorate for prosecutorial review of defendant Wu Gan’s culpability for the crimes of inciting subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Upon jurisdiction was determined in accordance with the law, this procuratorate, on August 19, 2016, informed the defendant of his right to retain defense counsel, questioned the defendant in accordance with the law, heard the defense lawyer’s opinions, and reviewed the complete set of documents in this case. During this period the case was twice sent back to the investigating organ for additional investigation in accordance with the law, and the deadline for prosecutorial review was extended three times.
Having reviewed the case in accordance with the law, we find:
Defendant Wu Gan has long been influenced by the infiltration of anti-China forces and gradually formed his idea of overthrowing the country’s current political and judicial system. Since 2010, Wu Gan has used the Internet to publish his ideas about subverting state power and incited people who are unaware of the truth to oppose the government. He published the online articles “Guide to Butchering Pigs,”* “Guide to Drinking Tea,”** and “Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes,” and attacked institutions of the state. He accepted interviews by foreign media and posted online video lectures, promoted the so-called idea of “toppling the wall,” and willfully attacked the socialist system. He engaged in criminal activities subverting state power, such as unlawful gatherings and causing disturbances. In October 2014, Wu Gan joined the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm headed by Zhou Shifeng (who carried out activities of subversion of state power using the firm as a platform to hype sensitive cases and incidents, and who has been sentenced) and colluded with Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民 who, for a long time, carried out activities of subversion of state power by unlawfully organizing petitioners to make disturbances and has been sentenced), and Li Heping (李和平 who engaged in activities of subversion of state power by using funds from certain overseas non-governmental organizations and has been dealt with separately) to strengthen the idea of subversion of state power, concentrate on hyping sensitive cases and incidents, and carry out a series of criminal activities of subversion of state power and overthrow of the socialist system, severely harming the state security and social stability. Specific facts are as follows:
- In April 2010, Fujian Province Fuzhou City Mawei District People’s Court reviewed a case involving false accusation and framing. During this period, defendant Wu Gan maliciously hyped up this case on the internet, inciting people to gather at the court to make disturbances and antagonize the judicial institutions of the state. On the date of hearing, Wu Gan hung banners and shouted slogans with others outside of the court and posted video on the Internet, severely affecting the People’s Court in its examination of the case according to the law, smearing the image of the judicial institution, and creating bad political effects both at home and abroad.
- In April 2012, defendant Wu Gan was involved in a dispute in connection with relocation compensation in Jin’an District, Fuzhou City, Fujian Province. From April to August of the same year, Wu Gan several times organized many people to put up banners and set up tents in front of the Fuzhou Urban and Rural Construction Committee. He posted slogans on houses to be torn down, insulted and verbally abused the Jin’an District director on the Internet, and severely harmed the image of the government and of state employees and instigated people who did not know the facts to oppose the government.
- In September 2012, Fujian Province Fuqing City Public Security Bureau investigated by law a case involving official embezzlement. During the investigation, defendant Wu Gan stirred up trouble by holding up signs in front of the Fuqing Public Security Bureau, and online many times wantonly insulted and verbally abused the director of the Public Security Bureau and police officers, and called the martyr who died on duty a “protector of the criminal underworld.” Through these actions he severely harmed the image of the public security apparatus and people’s police, and instigated hatred against state institutions by people who were unaware of the truth.
- On March 22, 2014, the Heilongjiang Province, Jiansanjiang Wasteland Reclamation Public Security Bureau administratively detained people involved in disturbing social order. Defendant Wu Gan and others organized a so-called “Jiansanjiang Citizen Solidarity Rescue Group,” published a “Fundraising Proposal for Citizen Rescue,” and acted as the fundraising contact person and supervisor, and encouraged others to illegally gather in Jiansanjiang and create disturbances. Some lawyers and petitioners subsequently unlawfully gathered in front of Jiansanjiang Wasteland Reclamation Public Security Bureau and at Qixing Detention Center to sit in, shout slogans, display banners, and hype up the incident on the internet to defame and attack the institutions of state authority. Wu Gan then published on the Internet personal information of police officers, and asked people to do a “human flesh search” and issued a “most wanted reward notice.” He also insulted and verbally abused public security and police officers, and incited resistance to the state, creating a bad political influence at home and abroad.
- In May 2014, Hunan Province Huaihua City Intermediate People’s Court heard a case concerning gathering a crowd to disturb the social order. During the trial, defendant Wu Gan together with Li Heping attempted to hype the case in Mayang County, Huaihua City. From May 20 to 21, Wu Gan held up a sign in front of the Mayang County government headquarters, and submitted a letter of complaint to the Huaihua City People’s Procuratorate, slandering and defaming the county’s Communist Party secretary. He then continued to hype this case on the internet, inciting people who did not know the truth to resent the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.
- In May 2014, Henan Province Zhengzhou City Public Security Bureau conducted an investigation of related people involved in disrupting public order. Defendant Wu Gan, together with Zhai Yanmin and others, hyped up antagonism toward the case and numerous times sought fundraising support online. In July of the same year, some lawyers and visiting petitioners gathered illegally in front of the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center to sit-in and hold a hunger strike. They hung banners and shouted slogans, unreasonably demanding the release of the detainees. They maliciously publicized the incident online, slandering and attacking government organs. During this period, Wu Gan issued on the internet the so-called “Award Order” and “Wanted Order,” and carried out so-called “performance art” in front of the detention center to insult and slander the Public Security Bureau director and incite people who didn’t know the facts to resent state organs and thereby created an adverse effect at home and abroad.
- In September 2014, Beijing Municipal Changping District Justice Bureau held a hearing on an administrative penalty case. Defendant Wu Gan went online to encourage other people to gather illegally at the hearing. At the scene, he also held up posters insulting the Justice Bureau and Lawyers Association, verbally abused police officers on duty, and shouted slogans and blocked the entrance with others, creating serious chaos at the scene. Upon learning that related people had been administratively detained by the public security organs, Wu Gan maliciously published blog posts with a great number of photos humiliating police officers to slander and attacking the government.
- In December 2014, a civil case handled by the Beijing Fengrui Law Office was settled upon mediation by the court. On instructions from Zhou Shifeng, defendant Wu Gan and Xie Yuandong (谢远东 who was dealt with in another case) went to the Dali Bai Ethnic Minority Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, to publicize this case. Between January 7 and 12, 2015, Wu Gan attacked the judicial organs and defamed the judicial system by putting up big-character posters at the Prefecture People’s Government, People’s Procuratorate, Intermediate People’s Court, and other places, and by driving a vehicle with big-character posters inside and outside of the court to make provocations. He also maliciously stirred up trouble on the internet, attempting to incite people who did not know the truth to resent China’s socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics judicial system.
- On December 3, 2013, two people were killed during a home demolition in Huqiu District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. In January 2014, defendant Wu Gan attended a so-called “Suzhou Urbanization and Demolition Symposium.” It slandered this case, and attacked our country’s system, inciting hatred against the socialist system. From January-February 2015, Wu Gan learned that this and a related case were starting. He actively started organizing fundraising online, maliciously created a disturbance, and incited people who didn’t know the facts to come to Suzhou to illegally assemble, stir up trouble and oppose the government.
- In March 2015, Hebei Province Baoding City Mancheng District People’s Court heard the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm representative’s extortion case. During the hearing, defendant Wu Gan took instructions from Zhou Shifeng and fabricated a rumor about “Injustice Caused by the Baoding Municipal Communist Party Politics and Law Committee” and other rumors, and created a malicious disturbance online, stirring up resentment against China’s socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics judicial system among people who didn’t know the true circumstances.
- On May 2, 2015, a police officer was attacked in the Qing’an County, Heilongjiang Province Railway Station waiting room, and the officer then shot and killed the attacker. After this incident, defendant Wu Gan published many blog posts distorting the facts of this event, concocting rumors that the attacker was a petitioner and the police opened fire to prevent him from traveling to petition the government. Wu Gan incited others to come to Qing’an County to unlawfully protest. Afterward he published online a so-called “Qing’an Incident Investigation Report,” disseminated falsehoods, and instigated people who didn’t know the facts to oppose the government.
- In May 2015, the Higher People’s Court of Jiangxi Province convened a criminal appeal hearing. From May 18-19, defendant Wu Gan made a malicious disturbance online and afterward loudly abused and insulted the judge in front of the court and erected a “mourning hall,” blackening the image of judicial organs and vilifying and attacking the nation’s legal system.
On May 27, 2015, defendant Wu Gan was arrested and brought to justice.
The principal evidence of the above facts includes: 1. Material and documentary evidence such as big-character posters and criminal court judgment; 2. Testimony of witnesses Zhai Yanmin and Xie Yuandong, etc.; 3. Inspection reports and evaluative opinions; 4. Written notes of searches, detention, and examinations; 5. Video and audio material and digital data; 6. Defendant Wu Gan’s deposition and defense.
This court believes that defendant Wu Gan organized, plotted, and implemented the crime of subverting state power and overturning the socialist system. His actions violated Article 105(1) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China. The criminal facts are clear and the evidence is reliable and abundant. He should be held responsible for the crime of subverting state power.
Prosecution is brought in accordance with Article 172(2) of the Criminal Procedural Law of the People’s Republic of China. Please sentence in accordance with the law.
To: Tianjin Number Two Intermediate People’s Court
Prosecutor: Guan Ning
Acting Prosecutor: Sheng Guowen
Acting Prosecutor: Cao Jiyuan
December 23, 2016
*Guide to Butchering Pigs (《杀猪宝典》) is Wu Gan’s guide to confronting human rights violators, including collection of personal information, and strategies and techniques of effective activism. The Guide, first posted in 2012, has been very popular and its tactics widely adopted by activists.
**Guide to Drinking Tea (《喝茶宝典》) is Wu Gan’s guide to how to cope with police interrogations, which often is given the euphemism of “drinking tea.” He details strategies and tactics on how to overcome fear, and how to give as little information as possible.
***Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes (《访民杀猪宝典》). In this Guide, Wu Gan, who has worked with many petitioners whose homes have been demolished illegally and by force, instructs petitioners how to fight for their rights by exposing officials, making use of the law, and staging effective activism.
Wu Gan the Butcher, July, 2015.
January 10, 2017
On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed into law “The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act” (NDAA 2017, section 1261-1265). The law authorizes the U.S. president to levy sanctions against foreign nationals who engage in the following acts: significant corruption, extrajudicial killings, torture, violation of international human rights covenants, and persecution of those who expose government corruption or seek to defend internationally recognized human rights.
The mechanisms it provides to the president to carry out such sanctions include prohibiting or revoking U.S. entry visas or other entry documentation; freezing and prohibiting U.S. property transactions of an individual if such property and property interests are in the United States, come within the United States, or are in or come within the control of a U.S. person or entity.
The absence of democratic election, rule of law, and checks and balances, breeds corruption. As a result, power and money work hand in hand to pillage the people and society.
The Chinese communist regime is unrestrained in violating China’s own law and internationally recognized human rights standards. Its barbaric attack on civil society actors is widely known; forced disappearances, torture in custody, illegal and arbitrary detention, and use of severe prison terms have become routine.
While the regime acts at will to violate its own laws or alter them as it sees fit, it has also established an extralegal apparatus dedicated to human rights persecution, systematically targeting rights defenders.
The Chinese Communist regime uses the promise of profit to turn interest groups in China into violators of human rights — and these human rights violators in turn operate under the shelter of the regime, never punished for their transgressions.
As human rights defenders, we will use this new U.S. law, as well as similar laws that have been and will be passed in other countries, as a tool to bring sanctions against Chinese human rights violators and corrupt officials.
We hereby announce the joint establishment of the China Human Rights Accountability Center (中国人权问责中心).
The Center will conduct the following tasks:
- Collect cases, data, and evidence on Chinese human rights violators and corrupt officials;
- Write reports based on such data and evidence;
- Push the U.S. government to enforce the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, to ensure that specific and effective sanctions are taken against human rights violators;
- Promote the establishment of similar human rights accountability legislation in other democratic countries.
The work of the office will be conducted in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Washington, D.C.
Founders (not in order of importance):
Hu Jia (胡佳), Yaxue Cao (曹雅学), Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁), Yang Jianli (杨建利), Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), Teng Biao (滕彪), Han Lianchao (韩连潮), Bob Fu (傅希秋), Fang Zheng (方政), Tong Mu (童木).
(The official website is under construction. Inquiries may be sent to email@example.com)
2016年12月23日，美国总统奥巴马签署了全球马格尼茨基人权问责法(The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act) (《2017财政年度国防授权法》第 1261-1265节)，该法案正式成为美国法律。
January 8, 2017
July 9, 2015, marked the beginning of a large number of arrests of human rights lawyers and rights defenders in China. Dozens of lawyers and human rights defenders have been disappeared, and hundreds of lawyers and defenders have been called in for intimidating “chats” with the police, or been temporarily detained. The campaign has extended to 23 provinces, shocking both China and the world alike, and is now known as the “709 mass arrest.”
The “709 mass arrest” is the most severe attack on the rule of law and human rights in China for the last decade. This is shown clearly in how it has turned lawyers into imaginary enemies, making their lawful activities a primary target of attack. They’ve been arbitrarily disappeared without notification to their family and subject to torture and abuse in custody; they’ve been subject to forced confessions; they’ve been slandered and tried by state-controlled media; they’ve been deprived of their right to be represented by counsel of their choosing; their own lawyers have been deprived of their right to represent their clients, at times detained and intimidated; and their families have been implicated in collective punishments. This mode of suppression continues to the present, with lawyers in Chengdu, Suzhou, and Shenzhen subject to similar attacks. A sense of terror is spreading, and everyone feels that they could be next. On November 21, human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was disappeared after he went to call on the detained lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), one of the “709” lawyers. To this day Jiang’s whereabouts are unknown.
The 709 mass arrests have gone on for 18 months now, with lawyers and activists like Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yang, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益)*, Li Chunfu (李春富), Wu Gan (吴淦)**, and others still being jailed. The cases of Li Heping and Xie Yang have been handed over to the courts, and will likely soon be tried: Xie Yang was indicted on December 16, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order,” and his case has now been handed to the Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court for trial; Li Heping was indicted on December 5, 2016, for “subversion of state power,” and his case has now been handed to the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court for trial.
All people should enjoy the right to live free of terror, and all yearn for safety, individual rights, and dignity. If this is our consensus, let’s unite and join the “709 Trial Observation Group” to bear witness to the illegal methods of the “709 model” of persecution as well as the bravery of the 709 heroes, and let’s do so from inside and outside the courtroom, in China and outside China.
Those interested in joining the “709 Trial Observation Group” are invited to provide their contact information to the group’s administrator, available at +852-9240-7356 (for WhatsApp or Telegram) or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attachment: A short summary of the Li Heping case and the Xie Yang case
In the course of the past 18 months, Li Heping has been forcibly disappeared for half a year. No word was given to his family by the authorities. On January 8, 2016, he was deprived of the right to legal counsel, though in a disguised manner: the authorities simply refused to recognize the defense lawyers appointed by his family. Li Heping’s wife had her home broken into and was summoned by the public security bureau after she brought suit against state media who had slandered Li Heping. She was then forced to move home, but found she had been locked out of her new residence. She’s also been prevented from leaving the country, and has been unable to secure a passport for her daughter. The couple’s daughter was blocked from enrolling in school, and harassed while attempting to attend school; Li Heping’s wife has herself been followed, threatened, and illegally detained, and Li’s defense lawyers have been denied meetings, access to case files, or communication with their client.
In the course of the past 18 months, Xie Yang has been tortured and subject to sleep deprivation and long hours of interrogation. His legs were injured, exacerbating an existing injury and leading to severe swelling and pain. He was suffocated with cigarette smoke, violently beaten while he suffered an illness, kept in manacles for prolonged periods, locked in a cell with prisoners who had communicable diseases about which he was not informed, been beaten by death row prisoners, had rags stuffed in his mouth by disciplinary officers, been isolated long-term in an attempt to crush his will, and beaten in the head just before a meeting with his lawyer. In Xie Yang’s case, the prosecuting and security agencies prevented defense counsel from seeing him or accessing any of his case files for 16 months. They refused to acknowledge that lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) was indeed Xie Yang’s counsel. They prevented his wife from leaving the country, trailed her, coerced her, eavesdropped on her calls, and abducted her for forced “vacations” in the company of security personnel. They called in defense counsel for intimidating “chats,” threatened them, prevented them from leaving the country and ignored entirely all of their opinions. The first and second times the case was transferred to the Procuratorate, state prosecutors interrogated Xie Yang for weeks on end and refused to allow defense counsel access to him.
China Change’s notes:
*Xie Yanyi was released “on bail” but, as are the cases of Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, and Zhao Wei, he is still under some form of control, not free to speak to or see people.
** Wu Gan has also been indicted recently.
Translated by China Change. The original: http://www.msguancha.com/a/lanmu4/2016/1223/15295.html
‘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.
China Change, September 19, 2016
Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木), a Uighur scholar known for his incisive writings on China’s policies in Xinjiang, was named by the European Parliament to be one of the five nominees for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on September 15. Ilham has for years been a vocal advocate for the economic, cultural, and religious rights of Uighurs in Xinjiang. His role as a rational voice for Uighur autonomy led to his arrest in January, 2014, and a sentence to life imprisonment in September that year.
Incidentally, on the same day that Ilham won the nomination, Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, was received by the European Parliament where he spoke of his admiration for “the spirit of the European Union” and the need for different ethnicities and religions to exist together harmoniously in China.
In an interview from Beijing with Radio Free Asia on September 15, the renowned Chinese dissident Hu Jia (胡佳) remarked: “As both an ordinary Chinese citizen and the 2008 Sakharov Prize recipient, I feel that if one person in all of China deserved the Sakharov nomination and was qualified to receive the award, Ilham Tohti would be first on the list.”
“Ilham is a thorn in the side of the Communist Party,” he added. “He’s the conscience of the Uighurs, and has been given the most severe sentence. The people he represents have been repressed and spurned, so there’s a lot of pent-up hostility and bad blood. But the key to relieving this pressure is Ilham’s freedom. He was nominated for this award by members of a parliament elected by the people to represent Europe’s values, so it has a special place, and the Chinese authorities know the weight of it. They know that for whoever gets this prize, it will give both that person and the human rights issue they represent a lot of attention. This would put enormous pressure on the Chinese government. So there’s no doubt that they’re going to exert pressure on members of the European Parliament.”
Hu Jia said that Ilham Tohti’s wife and child just returned from Xinjiang to Beijing, but that they’ve been warned and intimidated by the authorities not to speak to anyone about Ilham.
Ilham Tohti’s daughter Jewher told China Change in an interview that her step-mother, Ilham’s wife Guzelnur, took the couple’s two children back to Xinjiang for their summer vacation, and that they visited him on one occasion, speaking face-to-face for about an hour. They were only allowed to speak about family affairs. She didn’t speak further about the circumstances of the meeting, but said that Ilham seemed to be healthy.
Ilham’s Sakharov nomination has Hu Jia feeling both glad and anxious. It so happened that, on another occasion recently he recounted how, in 2008 while in prison, the Communist Party authorities tried to force him to reject the prize:
In 2008, I was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” because I engaged in activities to promote human rights and liberty before the Olympic Games.
The European Parliament awarded me the Sakharov Prize, and I was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. When I was in prison, the head of the Beijing municipal political police led a group of public security and foreign ministry officials to pay a visit to me in prison — they were putting me under intense pressure, trying to force me to make a public announcement that I rejected both the Sakharov Prize and the nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.
In exchange, these officials said that they would reduce my sentence by 2.5 years, and also pay me double the cash award of the Sakharov Prize, as economic “compensation.” These secret political police, and the jailers in their charge, lobbied me with this proposal on up to seven occasions. I flatly rejected all of these despicable, filthy political dealings. Thus, I am deeply aware of how moral support, and awards from the international community, place the Communist Party’s security organs and foreign affairs officials under enormous pressure.
Hu suspects that Ilham will receive the same treatment if he’s also given the award—though he suspects that the Communist Party will first attempt to interfere with the process of deciding the laureate in the coming weeks.
Hu Jia told RFA that Ilham “opposes all forms of violence and bloodshed. If he’s awarded the Sakharov Prize, then his ideas, what he advocates, what he has attempted to realize, his wish that we’re all able to live with dignity as part of a big family, will be recognized by the entire world. The Xinjiang question will be looked at squarely by the world, as well as the question of the Uyghurs.”
Hu Jia added that not only Han Chinese like himself support the nomination, but Tibetans, including the well-known writer Woeser (唯色), are also behind it.
Elliot Sperling, a professor of Central Eurasian Studies at the Indiana University Bloomington, told Radio Free Asia: “China’s human rights situation is getting worse and worse, and the Party’s ethnic policies in Tibet and Xinjiang are being resisted by the people. The Communist Party doesn’t want to reflect on why its policies have been unsuccessful—instead, they look for scapegoats. Ilham Tohti is a scapegoat. The fact that he has received the nomination shows that the world is not going to be blind to this.”
James Leibold, a professor of China’s minority policies at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, used Twitter to encourage the European Parliament to give Ilham Tohti the prize. “No more worthy recipient of the Sakharov Prize than Ilham Tohti. It’s time for MEPs to resist pressure from China,” he wrote.
In March 2015, Hu Jia met Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, for half an hour, during which time he brought up Ilham’s case, as well as his support for his receipt of the Sakharov Prize. Similarly, in July of this year in Beijing, he gave a letter to Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to be delivered to the European Council’s president Donald Tusk, who was participating in a summit meeting in the Chinese capital.
The letter said, in part: “If I were to meet you and meet your for only one minute, I would use those 60 seconds to tell you about one Chinese citizen: Ilham Tohti.”
Perhaps as a result of the absence of sustained international attention, Ilham’s family in China continues to suffer persecution. Jewher Ilham told China Change that Ilham’s niece, a young nurse in Kashgar, was taken away by police earlier in the year after her cell phone was checked by police when she was at a mall buying clothes (Uighurs say it’s now become common for the police to simply stop them in the street and forcibly examine their phones). The police detained her after seeing photos of her uncle, Ilham Tohti, on the phone, and possibly also because of her refusal to cooperate with them, Jewher speculated. She said that she hopes that someone will raise the case of her cousin to the Chinese government.
Give the Sakharov Prize to an Uighur Intellectual, André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016
Essential readings about Ilham Tohti:
A Short Introduction to Ilham Tohti, 2016 (downloadable PDF)
My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen by Ilham Tohti, 2011.
Present-Day Ethnic Problems in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Overview and Recommendations (downloadable PDF) by Ilham Tohti, 2011-2013.
Voice of America Interview with Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti, November, 2013.
Ilham Tohti, a 30-minute Documentary , October, 2015.