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Liu Xiaoyuan and at Least Two Other Fengrui Lawyers Face Imminent Disbarment

China Change, March 31, 2019

Front: “Certificate of Unemployed Lawyer of the People’s Republic of China.” Back: “Everything Is Fine.”

Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) stands prominent among China’s human rights lawyers. In 2004, he came to Beijing to practice at the age of 40. In the roughly one decade up to mid-2015, he represented countless rights cases. Some of the more notable of these include the appeal of a death sentence by farmer Li Zhiping (李志平) in Dingzhou, Hebei Province; the Yang Jia (杨佳) police murder case in Shanghai; the case of the three netizens in Fujian (福建三网民); the case of journalist Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮) in Shandong; and the case of Ji Zhongxing (冀中星), the migrant worker who threw a homemade bomb at the Beijing Capital Airport in 2013. Cases Liu Xiaoyuan has taken on in recent years include the “separatist” case of Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木▪土赫提), as well as numerous dissidents and activists charged with offenses like incitement, subversion, picking quarrels, or disturbing public order and obstructing official business. Among his clients, the artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is probably the most well-known.

But from July 2015 till now, Liu Xiaoyuan has been out of work for three and a half years. In 40 days, he stands to lose his practicing license. At least two other lawyers of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, Zhou Lixin (周立新) and Wang Yu (王宇), are facing the same deadline. Lawyer Huang Liqun (黄力群), a government official before becoming a lawyer, possibly faces the same situation. This is obviously due to the machinations of the Chinese Communist Party.

On July 9, 2015, the Chinese government carried out mass arrests of human rights lawyers in what became known as the 709 incident. At the center of this crackdown was the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所). That night, the firm’s lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) was taken away from her home; the next morning, on the 10th, Fengrui director Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) was detained at a hotel in Songzhuang Town of Beijing’s Tongzhou District. More than 10 other Fengrui lawyers and staff were also rounded up. Over the following two weeks, up to 300 lawyers around China were interrogated, held in short-term detention, or given warnings. The 709 Incident is regarded as a movement by the authorities to stamp out human rights lawyers. Official mouthpieces played their part in this effort, labelling the Fengrui Law Firm and the community of rights lawyers as “horses bringing trouble to the herd” (害群之马) and representatives of overseas anti-China forces bent on engineering a color revolution.

Liu Xiaoyuan is one of Fengrui Law Firm’s three partners. During the 709 crackdown (Liu himself doesn’t approve of and avoids using this term), at the time he was out of town and was placed under control for three days. Following the incident, around 50 lawyers employed by Fengrui who were not implicated left to work with other law firms. A manager with the Beijing Justice Bureau’s oversight office (监管处), which deals with lawyers, told Liu that being a partner to Fengrui, he could not transfer to another law firm until the cases involving those arrested in connection with the 709 incident were settled and the matter of Fengrui Law Firm resolved. Only then would the office let Liu transfer to a new firm.

Lawyer Zhou Shifeng, after being put under six months of residential surveillance, was formally arrested on January 8, 2016. On August 4, he stood trial and was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years of deprivation of political rights for the crime of subversion of state power. In March 2018, the Beijing Justice Bureau suspended Fengrui Law Firm’s law license. On November 9, after the firm’s sub-branch in Nanchong, Sichuan, was closed down, Fengrui’s business permit was revoked. Since that point, Feirui has ceased to exist.

Liu Xiaoyuan with clients. Unclear which year. Photo: online.

According to the Ministry of Justice’s “Regulations on Law Firm Management” (《律师事务所管理办法》) and the “Beijing Municipal Guidelines for Implementing the Management Regulations of Law Firm Operation” (《北京市律师执业管理办法实施细则》), after a law firm is closed, its partner lawyers are allowed to transfer out. Starting from November 9, 2018, Liu Xiaoyuan and another partner lawyer, Zhou Lixin, as well as lawyer Wang Yu who is the first 709 detainee and released without charges, have six months —or until May 9, 2019 — to transfer to a new law firm. If, by the six-month deadline, they have not transferred to another firm, the lawyers will have their practicing licenses cancelled.

It isn’t the first time that Liu Xiaoyuan has had to deal with firm shutdowns and transfers. On April 3, 2011, artist Ai Weiwei was arrested at Beijing Airport and charged with tax evasion. As a friend and lawyer, Liu Xiaoyuan gave interviews with the media voicing his opinion about the legality of the matter. Afterward he himself was taken away with his head covered under a black hood and detained for five days, during which he was subjected to a strip search and interrogation, then released after writing statements of repentance (悔过书) and guarantee (保证书). In 2011 and 2012, the Beijing Justice Bureau found excuses to obstruct the annual inspection of his firm Qijian Law Firm (旗舰律师事务所), forcing the firm’s several lawyers to transfer. Liu Xiaoyuan was compelled to close the firm, but allowed to transfer to a new firm and continue his practice. On November 28, 2012, Liu officially transferred to the Fengrui Law Firm, and became a partner attorney in 2013.

By regulation, when lawyers transfer from one firm to another, they must first apply for two documents from the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA). One is the certificate showing which firms they have worked at, and the other is a certificate confirming that they have not violated lawyer codes. Under normal circumstances, a lawyer can use a member’s login to access the BLA’s website and submit an application. The check will be done using the information on the website and the two documents will be sent to the lawyer, who can then take them to the new law firm that accepts him or her. A proof of employment will be issued by the firm, the local Lawyers Association will issue a certificate. These documents can be submitted online and the transferral process can be completed. The process is fairly easy if it involves just a regular transfer.

Liu Xiaoyuan speaking to media during the case of Fujian three netizens in 2010.

But in November 2018, around the time Fengrui Law Firm had its business license cancelled, Liu Xiaoyuan found that his information had been deleted from the lawyer management system on the Beijing Justice Bureau’s official site. Entering his name, ID number, or practicing license number produced no results. This meant that the new firm that had accepted him was unable to apply for a transfer number. As this was happening, the BLA’s website updated the status of his practice to “unregistered,” preventing him from logging into the website and retrieving the two documents he needed for transfer.

Lawyers Zhou Lixin, also a partner of Fengrui, and lawyer Wang Yu, find themselves in the same situation as Liu Xiaoyuan: they are also facing the possibility of their practice licenses being revoked if they do not transfer by May 9. It would seem that this is precisely what the Beijing Justice Bureau and the BLA is aiming for.

(On March 27 Wang Yu was stopped by Chinese police checking IDs outside the U.S. Embassy as she tried to enter the embassy for an event marking Women’s History Month. She was handcuffed with her hands behind her back and detained for 20 hours for questioning the legality of random ID check.)

Last year, on November 12, Liu Xiaoyuan signed the cancellation documents for the business license of Fengrui Law Firm in the certification branch of Beijing’s Chaoyang District Justice Bureau (朝阳区司法局证照科). The next day, he went to the Beijing Justice Bureau to discuss his transfer. The staff who received him said they had to make a report to their higher-ups and the discussion ended there. The subsequent talks turned into small talk. One of the staff said: “most of the cases you’ve taken on are in other provinces, you can go somewhere else to practice.” Another said: “Why don’t you develop in a new direction and handle economic cases instead?” Liu Xiaoyuan responded: “As a lawyer, the clients come to me. No matter what type of case it is, as long as I think I can take it, I will take the case. I don’t have defined boundaries.” However, he told the three staff members, some cases he took on involved people from vulnerable groups whose human rights had been infringed upon, such as those expropriated of their land and victims of forced demolition. When he went to court, many people would come to attend the hearings and express their approval of his argumentation. That led to similar cases coming his way.

He didn’t know that the 40-minute chat he had with these three Justice Bureau staff would be his last time of being received at the Bureau. After that he has had no more such good luck, even though the chat didn’t resolve any of his problems.

Liu has spent most of his three years in unemployment in his hometown in Jiangxi. On November 16, he called the Beijing Justice Bureau supervisory office in charge of managing lawyers, as well as the deputy branch chief, but got no response. Calling mobile numbers didn’t work either. On Twitter, he said: “It can’t be that there’s no one at the supervisory office during working hours.”

The same day, he wrote: “during my career as a lawyer, I’ve received warnings, threats on my life, been evicted from my rental home, had my right to travel restricted, summoned by the authorities, made to wear a black hood, disappeared, had my annual lawyer’s inspection delayed, and forced to stop operating my law firm. In conjunction with the ‘Fengrui issue,’ I’ve been put under control, made to sign repentance and guarantee statements, and forced out of work for three years and four months [to the current month]. Now it may come to me having my lawyer’s license ‘gotten rid of.’”

Over the past few months, he has called the Beijing Justice Bureau’s supervision office practically every day or every other day. No one has ever picked up. He called Xiao Lizhu (萧骊珠), secretary-general of the BLA, and got no response either. His calls to the deputy director of the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau didn’t get through. Looking through Liu’s Twitter posts from the past months, you get the impression of a neverending string of unanswered phone calls. One time a miracle occured: Liu got through to a Justice Bureau deputy director, who listened to him long enough to realize who was calling, then said he had a meeting to attend and immediately hung up.

Also in 2010.

Apart from making phone calls, he wrote to all the relevant addresses he could think of. This included four letters to Justice Bureau chief Li Chunying (李春莹), one to the bureau’s Communist Party secretary Miao Lin (苗林), two to Beijing Mayor Chen Jining (陈吉宁), and one to Yuan Shuhong (袁曙宏), Party secretary of the Ministry of Justice. He sent multiple inquiries to the online box of civil-administrative relations of the Beijing Justice Bureau, and also petitioned at the Bureau’s Letter and Visit office.

One day in December 2018, Liu was on the website of the Beijing Justice Bureau again browsing replies by the leaders to the mail in their inboxes, and unexpectedly found a response to his letter to the bureau chief. Using the password he set when sending the letter, he quickly opened it and found the following:

“Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan is urged to follow proper procedure according to the law in completing his transfer process.”

Faced with this sort of non-answer, Liu didn’t know whether to react with laughter or tears.

His letter to the Beijing mayor got a response in February saying that “given the content of your complaint, it will be handed over to the responsible party, the Justice Bureau, to be dealt with.” Liu tweeted bitterly: “[This is] petitioning with Chinese characteristics: my letters of complaint come full circle, back to the hands of the accused.”

Already in late November last year, Liu expressed doubt as to whether he would be able to transfer, thus continue his career as a lawyer. Indeed, in the course of the past year, he has seen how many of his fellow human rights lawyers have had their licenses revoked: In January 2018 it was Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Yu Wensheng (余文生); Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) in February; Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) and Li Heping (李和平) in April; Huang Simin (黄思敏), Wen Donghai (文东海), and Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), and Qin Yongpei (覃永沛) in May; Cheng Hai (程海) in August; Chen Keyun (陈科云) in October; and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) that December. Lawyer Zhang Kai (张凯) faces the same problem with his transfer.

Lawyers arrested during the 709 Crackdown were subjected to secret detention and brutal torture. Aside from Zhou Shifeng, Fengrui lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was sentenced to four and a half years in prison after being held for three and a half years without trial.

On the eve of China’s annual National People’s Congress that began on March 5, Liu Xiaoyuan launched a countdown on Twitter: 67 days until May 9, the day when he will lose his license if the stonewalling continues. He tweeted the phone number of the Beijing Justice Bureau’s supervisory office: 010-55578662. He knew that the bureau must have put him on a no-call list, but others could call and ask why lawyers like him, Zhou Lixin, Wang Yu, or  Zhang Kai were being treated so maliciously and prevented from practicing. Liu asked the media to pay attention to the situation they faced.

As the National People’s Congress convened, many human rights lawyers, dissidents, activists, and liberal scholars were given warnings, placed under house arrest, or even made to take “vacations” away from Beijing. Liu Xiaoyuan said jokingly that every day, he expected a call to appear in the Beijing Justice Bureau. But no such a call came. Instead, one day, his wife, a surgeon, was summoned to the local public security bureau, where she was asked to persuade Liu Xiaoyuan not to spread “negative energy” online. Because of this disturbance, she had to postpone the surgeries of several patients. When she got home, she was very angry and the couple had a fight. Liu Xiaoyuan was incensed: “I am doing chores and cooking at home every day. They don’t come for me, but harass my wife.”

On March 18, Liu Xiaoyuan dialed the mobile number of Gao Zicheng (高子程), president of the BLA. Gao said that he was aware of the situation, and that he had already told the Secretariat four times and would continue to ask about the matter. The reader may wonder: how is it that the president of the lawyers association asks his subordinates repeatedly to solve this matter, and still with nothing to show for it?

This is the lawyers association with Chinese characteristics, not the bar association that you know. Lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田), disbarred in 2010, explains it: After the Cultural Revolution, the lawyer system was restored with lawyers being state officials. Beginning in the early 1990s, the profession of lawyer was gradually separated from the state system, and became private, yet remained under the supervision of the Justice Bureau and the Lawyers Association. For years, the president of the Lawyers Association had been held concurrently by the head of the Justice Bureau. It was the same throughout the hierarchy of the Justice Bureaus. By the early 2000s, though lawyers began to serves as presidents, vice presidents, and supervisors of many lawyers associations, the secretariat held real authority, and the staff of the Secretariat were appointed by the the Justice Bureau. These personnel, especially the secretary-general, are actually cadres of the Justice Bureau. Some lawyer associations also have such a position as Party secretary. In these cases, the position was held concurrently by a deputy director in the Justice Bureau office that supervises lawyers. Therefore, actual control over the Lawyers Association lies with the secretariat — that is to say, the Justice Bureau.

This is why, though BLA chief Gao Zicheng is aware of Liu Xiaoyuan’s situation, he can do nothing to help even if he answers his phone calls. The current BLA secretary-general, Xiao Lizhu, has been in this position for at least ten years and has a long record of suppressing human rights lawyers.

“I am the kind of person who the bad guys say is a bad guy.”

“A lawyer’s right to practice is a human rights, and obstructing my ability to transfer to a new firm and continue practicing is a violation of my basic human rights,” wrote Liu Xiaoyuan on Twitter over and over again. Who says it is not? But this is a normal, rational and modern concept, and the Chinese regime operates neither normally nor rationally; it is still a barbaric rogue state in terms of human rights and the rule of law, the world’s second largest economy though it may be.

There are few persons more aware of this painful truth than a Chinese human rights lawyer.

As of March 31, there are 40 days until Liu reaches the May 9 deadline to transfer to a new firm. He said he has written (unclear whether it’s filed) a complaint with the Beijing Municipal Political and Legal Affairs Commission, in which he accused the Beijing Justice Bureau of abusing its power.

Hope may or may not be on the horizon, but this short-statured lawyer isn’t about to give up just yet.

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At China Change, a few dedicated staff bring you information about human rights, rule of law, and civil society in China. We want to help you understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax-deductible. For offline donation, or donor receipt policy, check our “Become a Benefactor” page. Thank you.

The Schellenberg Affair: Chinese Lawyers and Law Professors Opposing Court’s Handling of Robert Schellenberg’s Case

China Change, January 16, 2019

On January 14, a court in Dalian, northeastern China, sentenced Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to death for drug smuggling at a one-day retrial. It appears that China, after detaining two Canadians recently, is escalating the diplomatic clash with Canada over the arrest  of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), Huawei CFO, which the US requested pursuant to its extradition treaty with Canada, to the United States for suspected violation of Iran sanctions. The bizarre re-sentencing of Schellenberg seems to indicate how far China is willing to go to pressure Canada for the release of Meng, and how it is betting on Canada to give in by using the Schellenberg case as further leverage. To help clarify the legal controversy surrounding the retrial of Schellenberg, China Change gathered and translated the views of Schellenberg’s defense attorneys and several other Chinese lawyers and law professors who opposed the re-sentencing. As for opinions supporting the Chinese court’s decision, you can find them in China’s state media such as the Global Times and China Daily. — The Editors

Lawyer Ma Gangquan (马纲权) — A death sentence handed down with mysterious haste, January 16, Beijing Time, WeChat post:

1. It took about four years from Schellenberg’s detention  to his being sentenced to 15 years in prison by the e court of first instance.

Schellenberg was apprehended on December 1, 2014, and his case was heard by the Dalian Municipal Intermediate People’s Court i (大连市中级人民法院) on March 15, 2016. On November 20, 2018, at the court of first instance, he was found him guilty of trafficking illicit drugs. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison to be followed by expulsion from China, as well as a fine of 150,000 RMB. Schellenberg appealed the sentence. 

2. The time it took for the case to be returned to the first-instance court with supplemental prosecution  was just four days.

On December 29, during the review of Schellenberg’s case, the Liaoning High People’s Court (辽宁省高级人民法院) ruled that the original sentence was overly lenient and “obviously inappropriate” [in consideration of the crime], and sent the case back to the Dalian Intermediate Court for retrial.

On January 2, 2019, the Dalian Municipal Procuratorate (大连市检察院) submitted a supplementary indictment to the Dalian Intermediate Court.

3. On January 14, 2019, the Dalian Intermediate Court began the retrial at 8 a.m., with proceedings lasting until around 7 p.m., at which time the court adjourned for one hour. After  the collegial panel deliberated and submitted its decision to the adjudication committee for discussion, at around 8 p.m. the court resumed the hearing, at which time it, it announced Schellenberg’s death sentence. This was all done in less than a day, deftly and expediently.

Lawyer Zhang Dongshuo (张冬硕), Schellenberg’s defense attorney, January 15, 2019, Chinese-language interview with Deutsche Welle

DW: Robert Lloyd Schellenberg’s case was retried and a new verdict was announced in no more than 15 days. What is your view on this?

Zhang: This is indeed a very unusual situation — though the proceeding is in accordance with the law. But it is indeed quite unusual for a case involving the death penalty to finish in just 15 days from court proceedings to delivering the sentence.

DW: In increasing the sentence from a 15-year prison term to death, do you think that this verdict was made fairly and in accordance with the evidence?

Zhang: I can’t comment on whether or not it was fair. I can only say that in my view as a defense lawyer, the evidence available is insufficient to prove that Schellenberger engaged in smuggling of more than 222 kilograms of drugs in Dalian. This is the first point. Second, there is insufficient evidence to suggest that he participated in organized international drug trafficking. Third, the prosecution provided no new facts in its supplementary indictment about the alleged crime. Therefore, even if the charges are accepted by the court, they cannot be used to increase the severity of Schellenberg’s sentence. These are my three main arguments. But it is regrettable that the court completely disregarded the arguments of the defense.

DW: What remains now is for the case to be appealed, correct?

Schellenberg has the right of appeal. Only after he files an appeal — we have two lawyers, I am the primary defense attorney, and Zhong Qiang (钟强) is the secondary defense attorney — will we continue to defend him during the appeal period. I guess that he will formally file an appeal in the middle of next week.

[Note: Zhang Dongshuo is a lawyer with the Mo Shaoping Law Firm in Beijing; Zhong Qiang is senior partner of the Beijing Yingke (Nanning) Law Firm, Director of Criminal Legal Affairs Department, and Vice Chairman of the Drug Crime Defense Alliance.]

Lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) — interview with Voice of America, January 16, 2019, Beijing time:

Mo Shaoping: As defense lawyers, we pleaded not guilty on his behalf. I believe that the evidence provided by the prosecution does not exclude all reasonable doubt, so he should be acquitted. However, the court did not accept this argument and claimed that there were so-called new criminal facts submitted. The defense attorneys believe that the so-called new criminal facts provided in the supplementary indictment are wholly nonexistent. However, if the prosecution did not supplement the indictment, the court would definitely not have issued a death sentence. Therefore, the so-called new criminal facts were meant to take advantage of the procedure of supplementary indictment and retrial to increase the severity of the crime, and warrant the death penalty.

Reporter: How did Schellenberg react to [the announcement of the verdict] in court?

Mo Shaoping: From beginning to end, Schellenberg denied the charges against him. He denied them then and denies them now. He says that his purpose for travelling to Dalian was purely for tourism, and has no knowledge of drugs. However, the witness Xu Qing (许清), who later appeared in court, may have indeed been involved in the crime. But the authorities considered him to be a witness, rather than a suspect. As attorneys we suspected that at one time this person may have been a public security agent. Later, the public security [Chinese police] produced evidence to show that he wasn’t their agent. So the facts regarding this case were unclear and inconclusive from the start. The evidence as provided could hardly substantiate the charge that Schellenberg was involved in drug smuggling activities.

Reporter: The court didn’t accept your arguments?

Mo Shaoping: It didn’t, the court issued the death penalty. We have never seen any precedent for this case, in which the death penalty was announced at the hearing. Usually, death sentences are announced on a later date after court has been adjourned and the adjudication committee has deliberated. I’ve never seen a case where the death penalty was announced right after the conclusion of the trial. It’s unprecedented. 

Reporter:Many people have linked this matter to the case of Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟). Do you think there was a political motivation in Schellenberg’s sentencing?

Mo Shaoping: I will leave the analysis to journalists. Schellenberg was held for more than four years, and the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court made a first-instance judgment and sentenced him to 15 years. Why did it take four years to sentence him? Because the court thought that the evidence was insufficient and sought instructions all the way up to the Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The SPC said Schellenberg could be convicted and the sentence should be 15 years. So Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison according to the SPC’s instructions, and he was also considered an accomplice.

As a general rule, after an appeal is filed, the court of second instance will not hold a court hearing; instead, the court rules just based on the written documents in the case. It’s very unusual that a second-instance court would suddenly hold a hearing, and then suddenly remand the case for retrial. It took the Dalian Procuratorate only one day to produce and submit the so-called supplementary indictment to the court after the retrial order had been made. Just 16 days later the court tried Schellenberg again and announced the death penalty right after the trial. Everything about the proceeding was unusual.

Chen Youxi’s comment on Weibo

Lawyer Chen Youxi (陈有西), January 15, 2019, Beijing time, Sina Weibo:

It is clearly stipulated in law that there is to be no increase in punishment when a case is sent back for retrial. Without new facts or new evidence, there cannot be an additional penalty. If a new crime is discovered, after the original sentence has taken effect and the case remanded, then the new criminal facts should be re-indicted in accordance with the adjudication supervision procedures. Increasing the penalty on remand is not permitted, so as not to deter the defendant from appealing.

Article 237 of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) stipulates that second instance people’s courts handling appeals submitted by the defendant, his legal representative, defender, or close relatives, must not increase the defendant’s punishment. Cases that second instance courts remand to first instance courts for retrial, except when there are the new criminal facts and the people’s procuratorate provides a supplemental indictment, the original people’s court must also not increase the defendant’s penalty. In instances in which the people’s procuratorate lodges an appeal or where there is a private prosecution appeal, the aforementioned restrictions do not apply. 

Per the Interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on the Application of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law, Article 327:  After the defendant, or his legal representative or defender, or a close relative, files an appeal, and the second instance people’s court remands the case for retrial, except in cases where there are new criminal facts and the people’s procuratorate files a supplementary indictment, the original people’s court must not increase the defendant’s penalty.

Article 257 (5) of the Supreme People’s Court’s Interpretation of Several Issues Concerning the Implementation of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law provides: “… in the case where a change in the original sentence must be done according to law, the case shall be retried according to the adjudication supervision procedures after the second instance judgment or ruling becomes effective.”

When courts of second instance send various cases back for retrial on the grounds of unclear facts and insufficient evidence, purporting they have a new understanding of circumstances that were already discovered during the original trial, and result in supplemental prosecutions and an additional penalty for the defendant through retrial by the court of first instance, it is a disguised violation of the principle of “appeal without increased penalty.” The result is that the appeal system will inevitably be damaged the defendant’s right of appeal will be impaired and constrained; the second-instance final appeal review and correction mechanism will be forfeited.

There’s no way around this. Regardless of the case, it is very easy to find a few pages of new evidence, and have a new understanding of the details of the case. As long as a judge is allowed to remand a case with supplemental charges, a reason could be found in any case to support a sentence increase. Accordingly, defendants would not dare to appeal. The system of China’s second-instance final review would be fundamentally destroyed.

He Weifang (贺卫方), law professor at Peking University, January 15, 2019,Beijing time, WeChat: 

The Canadian named Schellenberg was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court on November 20, 2018 after being detained for more than four years. In addition, the court confiscated 150,000 yuan of his assets and ordered his deportation. He insisted that he was not guilty, and filed an appeal.

It really was a strange coincidence that just at this point in time, in early December, the Canadian police arrested a high level Chinese business executive named Meng [Wanzhou] based on the extradition treaty between the United States and Canada. This move triggered an angry protest from China, which threatened Canada, telling Canada it would pay for what it had done.

Soon after, on December 29, the Schellenberg appeal was heard in the Liaoning High People’s Court.  It is worth noting that the procuratorate did not file a protest after the trial in the court of first instance, but this did not prevent the High Court from remanding the case to the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court for retrial. Meanwhile, the New Year’s holiday intervened, and so it was on January 14, 2019, in less than ten work days, the Dalian Intermediate People’s Court unexpectedly and, in lightning speed, tried the case, and in a shocking move, changed the defendant’s sentence to the death penalty, and confiscated all his assets.

Some people have asked: Doesn’t China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulate the norm of  “appeal without an increase in penalty”? A local scholar who attended the retrial responded that the rule prohibiting an increase in penalty does not include cases in which the procuratorate discovers and raises new criminal facts after the defendant appealed, or cases in which the procuratorate did not lodge a protest.

However, as a result, as long as the defendant files an appeal, the procuratorate can counter-appeal on the grounds of having discovered certain new criminal facts or just communicate with the court to exert some pressure (which is very easy for the procuratorate to do in China), which will inevitably lead to the complete failure of the principle

“appeal without an increase in penalty.”  As long as the defendant refuses to accept the original judgment and appeals, all that awaits the defendant is the procuratorate’s protest (even a protest is not actually necessary) and a subsequent increase in punishment. So who would dare to appeal?

Furthermore, now that the procuratorate produced new facts so quickly in such a short period of time  after the first instance trial, one wonders why they didn’t discover these facts during the four years of Schellenberg’s detention, facts that have caused the outcome of the case to change so drastically? Even though the PRC’s Criminal Procedure Law does not have the “double jeopardy” clause that prohibits anyone from being prosecuted twice for substantially the same crime, we have reasons to expect that the procuratorate had learned all the facts and made all the preparation before the first trial, given that the investigation had gone on for four years and had been through all sorts of pretrial procedures. How could it be that as soon as the defendant appealed, the procuratorate “discovered new facts” and that the defendant changed from being an accomplice to the principal culprit? Isn’t that just bizarre?

In this country, administrative officials can make wrong decisions and diplomats can blatantly lie, but if judicial organs also take part in such a farce, succumbing to external interference and treating the law like a toy, that’s really a despairing and perilous situation.

He Weifang and Zhang Jianwei’s comments on WeChat.

Zhang Jianwei (张建伟), law professor at Tsinghua University, January 15, 2019, Beijing time, WeChat:

In the case of supplementary indictment, the court could alter the sentence and increase the penalty. Here, supplementary indictment should be understood to mean that the supplemental crimes are crimes in addition to what has already been tried; if the prosecutors supplemented certain facts that fall within the criminal facts that have already been tried in the first instance but may affect the penalty decision, it is still a violation of the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal.

The thinking behind the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal is to allay the defendant’s fear of a worse outcome on appeal. In Schellenberg’s case it was the defendant who appealed, and increasing the penalty through spurious reasons is a violation of the principle of no increase of sentence on appeal.

At the moment when China and Canada is locked in a diplomatic row, such a judicial re-sentencing rouses the suspicion that the judiciary in China is merely a servant of politics, and it hurts the international perception of China being a country governed according to the law. As such, there is more to be lost than gained. You may think you are doing good for the country, but you are in fact ruining it.

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At China Change, a few dedicated staff bring you information about human rights, rule of law, and civil society in China. We want to help you understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax-deductible. For offline donation, or donor receipt policy, check our “Become a Benefactor” page. Thank you.

Who Is Huang Qi?

Tan Zuoren, January 13, 2019

Huang Qi’s trial opens today (January 14, Beijing time) in Mianyang Intermediary Court, Sichuan Province. – The Editors

Huang Qi, second from left, in April, 2016. Photo: RFA

Huang Qi (黄琦), 55, is from Neijiang City in Sichuan Province (四川内江市), southwestern China. He holds a bachelor’s degree and is the founder of 64 Tianwang (六四天网) as well as the China Tianwang Human Rights Affairs Center (中国天网人权事务中心). He has for years devoted himself to public interest work, and he is also a dissident. Huang Qi’s late father was a soldier. His mother is a retired cardiologist Ms. Pu Wenqing (蒲文清), 85 years old this year.

Huang Qi graduated from the Radio Department of Sichuan University in 1984. Following his graduation, he worked for years as a businessman. In 1998, Huang Qi and his wife Zeng Li (曾丽) pooled the resources of their family and founded the “Tianwang Center for Missing Persons” (天网寻人网站)—the first such Chinese public welfare organization—in Chengdu. On October 23 of the same year, he founded China’s first private office for locating lost persons. Through this organization, Huang Qi and his wife helped the police crack down on kidnapping and assist the relatives of abducted women and children in finding and rescuing their loved ones. 

Tianwang’s work was acknowledged and praised by major Chinese media. The People’s Daily published a special report called “The Many Exploits of Tianwang’s Searches for the Missing” (《天网寻人故事多》). Feature reports by other media include, among others, “My Dream Is to Reunite Ten Thousand Families” (《万家团圆是我的心愿》), “The Missing Persons Center Handles Every Case With Love and Tears” (《寻人事务所一一用爱和泪水来经营》), and “She Founded China’s First Missing Persons Center” (《她创办了中国首家寻人事务所》).

On June 3, 2000, Huang Qi was arrested and imprisoned for posting “sensitive rights defense information on the website of Tianwang Missing Persons Center. It was his first. After two and a half years of detention, he was sentenced to five years in prison for the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” During his five-year sentence, Huang Qi was repeatedly beaten by police officers, prison guards, and other inmates, leading to serious ailments such as hydrocephalus, brain atrophy, bilateral ventricle enlargement, and narrowing of the urethra.

The core mission of 64 Tianwang is to “stand in solidarity with those who have no power, no money, and no influence.”

On June 2, 2005, after Huang Qi was released from prison, the Tianwang Missing Persons Center, still running when he served out his sentence, was officially renamed 64 Tianwang. The core mission of 64 Tianwang is to “stand in solidarity with those who have no power, no money, and no influence” (与无权无钱无势的弱势人群站在一起). It has served as a comprehensive, peaceful, and effective service to protect the rights of petitioners throughout the country who have no other recourse available to them. The volunteers who run 64 Tianwang adhere to the facts in their reports, exposing public corruption scandals and information about civil rights activism. It is the first private media organization in China to provide a wide range of information services for petitioners.

During the May 12 Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008, Huang Qi actively participated in disaster relief efforts, and was first to report the shoddily-built tofu-dreg classrooms (校园豆腐渣工程) scandal via 64 Tianwang, incurring the anger of the Sichuan provincial authorities who were under the factional patronage of Zhou Yongkang (周永康). Charged with “Illegal possession of state secrets,” Huang Qi was sentenced again, this time to three years in prison.

By 2011, when Huang Qi was released from his second sentence, he was suffering from a terminal kidney illness. Despite his condition, he continued his public interest activities with 64 Tianwang, and founded the China Tianwang Human Rights Center (中国天网人权事务中心). Huang Qi’s determination did not waver even as his family broke up. Together with other Tianwang volunteers, he established a nationwide information network for petitioners and civil rights, providing first-line, first-hand information from all levels of government about human rights and “stability maintenance” for the public.

On November 28, 2016, Huang Qi was accused of illegally providing state secrets to foreign agencies. This third time, he was arrested and imprisoned for disclosing the contents of a supposedly secret internal document.

On July 28, 2017, after six long-distance trips made in as many months, Huang Qi’s defense lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青)[1] was finally able to meet with the ailing Huang Qi at the Mianyang City Detention Center. By this time, Huang Qi’s condition was very serious, and the investigation associated with his criminal case had been concluded several days prior and had been transferred to the prosecution for review.

Despite the obvious deterioration of his health, Huang Qi was in good spirits during the meeting with Sui Muqing. He expressed full confidence that China would move toward constitutional governance, democracy, and social justice.

While Huang Qi remained unyielding throughout his 18-year campaign for civil rights, he has always been willing to provide constructive support for government work in specific issues. In helping a large number of petitioners resolve matters of practical urgency, he won their broad respect and support around the country. Internationally, Huang Qi has earned an honorable reputation for his contributions to the cause of human rights, and has received multiple international awards for his work.

Huang Qi’s rights-protection cause has inevitably hindered the authority and interests of many local governments. Naturally, he has become a crackdown target, spending half of the 18 years of his public interest work in jail! It is indeed very regrettable!

In fact, if we abandon the old ideological prejudice and the unilateral political/rule interest calculation, the human rights cause that Huang Qi supports is indisputably a force that is both in line with fundamental moral values and universal consensus. It is a cause that benefits the fundamental, long-term interests of all society, and as such ought to receive encouragement and support at all levels of government. Especially when China’s political system remains imperfect and society is rife with serious upheaval, Huang Qi is a humanitarian who strives both to protect disadvantaged groups, and as such, he helps maintain social stability. His is perhaps the greatest contribution a citizen can make to the nation!

In view of the uniquely arduous conditions that Chinese political prisoners must cope with, and in view of the painful experience of dissidents such as Li Hong (力虹), Cao Shunli (曹顺利), Peng Ming (彭明), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), and Yang Tianshui (杨天水), we hope that the authorities will, in keeping with the humanitarian spirit, grant the terminally ill Huang Qi medical leave as soon as possible, so that he can access timely and effective treatment, as well as living conditions suitable for his medical state.

Political issues are complex and perilous, while the humanitarian spirit is humble and simple, and forever. Huang Qi’s release would also mean release for his aging mother, and it would not do the least harm to the authorities. The matter is just this simple: I hope that the relevant authorities will consider this matter and make the decision to release Huang Qi in time and avoid yet another human tragedy!

August 20, 2017

[1] Over the period of this article’s writing to now, both lawyer Sui Muqing and lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), who succeeded Sui to defend Huang Qi, have been disbarred.

Tan Zuoren (谭作人), born on 15 May 1954, is an environmentalist, writer and former editor of Literati magazine based in Chengdu, Sichuan province. He was imprisoned for five years from 2009-2014 for investigating student deaths during the Wenchuan earthquakes in 2008. [Wikipedia entry]

Translated from Chinese 《民间维权十八年,换来牢狱祸连连》


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At China Change, a few dedicated staff bring you information about human rights, rule of law, and civil society in China. We want to help you understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax-deductible. For offline donation, or donor receipt policy, check our “Become a Benefactor” page. Thank you.

Weather the Dark Storm, Persevere for Rule of Law in China — A 2019 New Year’s Message From the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2019            

2018, the year of Wuxu (戊戌), is slipping into history. Over the past 120 years, Wuxu has always been an eventful year. In 1898, four years after China had lost the First Sino-Japanese War, the Hundred Days’ Reform failed, and six of its chief advocates, among them Tan Sitong (谭嗣同), paid the price in blood at their public beheading. In 1958, another year of Wuxu, the Great Leap Forward and the people’s communes was to bring on the world’s greatest famine that would result in tens of millions of deaths. 

Indeed, China in the year 2018 bears little resemblance to the China of 1958 and 1898. Four decades of economic reform have seen China’s GDP rise to second place among the world’s nations. At the same time, there are many deeper issues and structural challenges to face. The Sino-U.S. trade war, coming as an onslaught from without, represents the conflict of universal values in China’s troubled integration with international society. Internally, China has been plagued by serious and chronic social ills — forced demolition, widespread petitioning, “stability maintenance,” wrongful charges, and judicial corruption — at the heart of which lie the inescapable questions concerning rule of law, constitutional government, freedom, and democracy.

Though the circumstances differ, the three years of Wuxu in the last 120 years share one common trait: societal change. And the underlying change is one of transition, from the closed society and “rule by man” (人治, as opposed to rule of law) to an open society, governed by law, that respects the rights of its citizens.

The process of taming power with rights is a long and painful one. Indeed, China has yet to complete its “great shift unseen over the past 3,000 years” (三千年来未有之大变局) described by the late-Qing minister Li Hongzhang (李鸿章) in his desperate attempts to right the ship of state.

2018 saw the outbreak of the Changsheng vaccine scandal, which once again tested the deteriorating moral of Chinese society. We loathe unscrupulous corporations that sacrifice everything for profit, even at the cost of endangering public safety; we abhor even more the authorities, who take taxpayers’ money but fail to perform their duties. The vaccine scandal is the latest of many chilling reminders that we are still far, far away from efficient and uncorrupt administration; and that a comprehensive market economy governed by law has continued to elude us.

This year, we have witnessed a number of laws drafted or amended, including the Constitution, Supervision Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Police Law, Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs, Regulation on Religious Affairs, and the like. Put together, they evidence an alarming trend: the government continues to expand its power and suppressing individual rights. 

This year, human rights lawyers have suffered another wave of crackdown following the 709 mass arrests of 2015. This time, the crackdown has been more deceptive and underhanded, making use of administrative channels to restrain practitioners of law. Lawyers saw their licenses suspended or revoked. Some were forced to temporarily discontinue their legal practices, submit to investigation, experienced troubles in their annual administrative inspections, or met with interference from the judicial and administrative authorities that prevented their re-employment by other law firms.

From the brazen arrest of lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) earlier in the year, to the court hearing at year’s end that saw the revocation of Liu Zhengqing’s practicing license, 2018 has seen a long list of human rights lawyers being disbarred or soon to be disbarred, or otherwise suspended, including Yu Wensheng , Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Wen Donghai (文东海), Ma Lianshun (马连顺), Qin Yongpei (覃永沛), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Chen Keyun (陈科云), Li Heping (李和平), Wang Yu (王宇), Zhang Kai (张凯), Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), Zhou Lixin (周立新), Cheng Hai (程海), Hu Linzheng (胡林政), Zeng Wu (曾武), Chang Weiping (常玮平), He Wei (何伟), Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿), Li Jinxing (李金星), Yu Pinjian (玉品健), Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), and more. 

In 2018, we have seen increases in willful use of police summons and arbitrary disappearances.

Dong Yaoqiong (董瑶琼), a woman from Hunan, disappeared without a trace and later ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Another three young women — Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), a master’s graduate at Zhongshan University who participated in the Jasic labor rights protest; Yue Xin (岳昕), a graduating senior at the Peking University who also voiced her support for Jasic workers, and Yang Shuhan (杨舒涵), a current student at the Renmin University — have been either disappeared or silenced. These young women have stood out with their kindheartedness, determination, independence and courage.

The “re-education centers” in Xinjiang have attracted international condemnation. Without any doubt, these mass violations of personal freedom fly in the face of the human rights guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. They must be ended.

We have observed more and more incidents of police checking identification or phones at will, or engaging in other so called “law enforcement” activities that are in fact gross violations of human rights. We have also seen police carry out illegal acts, such as breaking into residents’ homes for inspection, summoning individuals on an arbitrary basis, or violently dispersing migrant workers. These acts have left us feeling fearful and apprehensive.

Renowned dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) was given yet another severe sentence, and Ms. Xu Qin (徐秦) was unlawfully detained for months. We have also seen a deluge of farcical trials in the cities of Suzhou and Fuzhou against citizens who sought to defend their rights, and reprisals or abuse against civil rights activists who refused to plead guilty, such as Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Wu Qihe (吴其和), and Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志).

Following the terror of 709 crackdown, Mr. Xu Lin (徐琳) in Guangzhou wrote songs to rally morale and has been imprisoned since; Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Zhen Jianghua (甄江华), and Sun Lin (孙林) were punished for citizen journalism. We saw how the 85-year-old mother of another citizen journalist Huang Qi (黄琦) desperately sought support far and near after her son was framed and charged with “provoking quarrels,” and how Zhang Pancheng (张盼成), a security guard at Peking University who came from a humble family, began to speak of an awareness of rights that few students seem to care about or dare to voice.  

We have borne witness to the abhorrent behavior of a policeman surnamed Chen working at the Hualin Police Station in Guangzhou, who stripped the clothes off female lawyer Sun Shihua (孙世华) under the pretext of “law enforcement.” We have seen the incident treated with the cover-ups typical of bureaucracies such as the procuratorate, supervision commission, disciplinary inspection, judicial administration, and lawyers’ association, as well as the arrogance of the Liwan police, who instead of going after the culprit, issued administrative penalties to Sun Shihua the victim. We feel pain and helplessness at her plight, yet deep in our hearts is the firm belief that Chen and the officials shielding him will eventually have their shameful acts recorded in the annals of China’s legal history.

At year’s end, WeChat accounts were deleted en masse, Twitter users were forced to delete their feeds and accounts, and freedom of speech in general is coming under more vicious attacks in China. Religious freedom has also suffered, as most recently evidenced by the sudden arrests of Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chengdu, Sichuan, among many other incidents.  

The day after Christmas, Tianjin No.2 Intermediate People’s Court held a closed trial of lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) citing state secrets, eschewing all pretenses of law. This forms a sharp contrast to the creative protest of the 709 wives—Li Wenzu (李文足), Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), and Xu Yan (许艳). Their slogan “We can be hairless, but you can’t be lawless” will become a legal maxim for the ages. [发, hair, has a similar sound to 法, law]

2018, this year of Wuxu, was a year filled with extreme challenges.

What’s to be done? Shall we cower the corner and find solace in temporary efforts, or shall we confront the reality and pursue the rule of law regardless how the storm of tyranny rages? We are faulted and accused at every turn, thwarted before even taking a single step. Yet as pioneers of our time, we must march on, making the best of the situation. Like the sun and moon moving on their celestial courses, like rivers flowing to the ocean, we stand firm in our conviction that constitutional government, democracy and human rights will become reality in the face of adversity. The ideal of rule of law is our motivation and what keeps us from despair.

Because of our ideals, human rights lawyers didn’t shy away from pressure and continued to defend Qin Yongmin,Tashi Wangchuk (扎西文色), Huang Qi, Jin Zhehong (金哲宏) and other cases deemed politically sensitive. For us human rights lawyers, there are only legal cases, and there are no such thing as “sensitive cases.”

In 2019, four years after the 709 crackdown, we will welcome the release from prison of two human rights lawyers, Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇).

In 2019, we hope to see the freedom of another four human rights lawyers: Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan (李昱函), and Chen Wuquan (陈武权). Whether in terms of Chinese law or international conventions, there’s no legal ground for the accusations they face.

We hope that the laws on the books can be followed, and not manipulated by those in power. 

We hope that no more human rights lawyers find their practicing licenses revoked for any excuse.

We hope to put an end to the arbitrary summons, detentions, forcible disappearances, and other gangster tactics employed by the authorities. We hope that police can exercise self-control and refrain from acting on their whims. We request that police officer Chen at Hualin Police Station turn himself in, that the Guangzhou police remove him from his post, and that he face a penalty appropriate to his misdeed.

Going into 2019, we look forward to the vindication of moe, and hopefully all wrongful charges. We hope that an effective mechanism can be established to eliminate and correct unjust rulings. We hope that “picking quarrels” and “extorting government” will no longer be used as grounds for prosecuting petitioners and human rights activists. These charges are absurd, unreasonable, and an assault on the rule of law. While these actions of the authorities may have some immediate suppressive effect, in the long run it will serve only to intensify conflicts between the government and the governed. The consequences will be disastrous. 

The life mission of any lawyers is to uphold justice in their cases. We as human rights lawyers will continue to practice, representing all kinds of clients, including those deemed politically sensitive. We will use our work to promote the causes of constitutional government and rule of law. We face many storms ahead and the path is fraught with peril and uncertainty. Yet we forge on, duty-bound to the mission of justice. There is no going back! Our determination in the face of impossible odds will drive us forward, persevere through the storm for the sake of a better China. This is the choice we made, our predestination and mission. 

Hello, 2019!

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group

December 31, 2018


The China Human Rights Lawyers Group 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.

Contacts:

Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266

Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598

Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755

Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584

Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911

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At China Change, a few dedicated staff bring you information about human rights, rule of law, and civil society in China. We want to help you understand aspects of China’s political landscape that are the most censored and least understood. We are a 501(c)(3) organization, and your contribution is tax-deductible. For offline donation, or donor receipt policy, check our “Become a Benefactor” page. Thank you.

Make Sacrifices to Illuminate the Future: Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

September 13, 2018

 

IMG_3640

 

On September 13, 2013, lawyers Wang Cheng (王成), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) announced the establishment of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团). All three had been disbarred by the Chinese authorities because of their commitment to defending the rights of the Chinese people. In just one year, more than 300 Chinese lawyers joined the Group. Many seasons later, the Human Rights Lawyers Group now marks the fifth anniversary of its founding. On this otherwise ordinary day, we will take inventory of what we have done over the last five years, reiterate the basic principles of the group, and plan our steps for the future.

In the past five years, we have gone through hardships and sadness; we have seen our hopes dashed. We struggle to improve the human rights situation in our country, only to see it worsen progressively.

In the past five years, Chinese human rights lawyers have been demonized by the authorities and smeared by people who harbor ulterior motives. Our members have endured persecution of a severity seldom seen, stunning the international community.

In the past five years, many Chinese human rights lawyers have been imprisoned or disappeared. Since the “709” crackdown of July 2015 that shocked people in China and abroad, human rights lawyers have sustained heavy blows to the point of near destruction.

But even in the face of these cruel realities, members of the Human Rights Lawyers Group have continued their fruitful work. They issued joint statements to express their solidarity and expose human rights violations. It is an endeavor fraught with hardship that is difficult to imagine. They defended political dissidents until they themselves were labeled as dissidents; they defended people of faith until they themselves became the target of the authorities’ “stability maintenance;” they defended the petitioners and the victims of forced demolition, until the day they were disbarred by the judicial establishment under orders from the Party. They defended the ethnic minorities until the day they themselves were denounced as traitors; they defended the workers until they themselves were deprived of their right to practice. Their sacrifices are too numerous to list.

We cannot help but ask why the human rights lawyers, passionate for justice, should be targeted for political persecution. Why do the judicial authorities restrict human rights lawyers from working on their cases? Why does the judiciary use sly tricks to revoke or suspend their right to practice?

The answer is simple: it is because human rights lawyers pursue justice, and their persecutors represent darkness and evil.

Today, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Human Rights Lawyers Group, we reaffirm our mission to advance human rights in China. We shall continue to uphold the values we cherish through the practice of law.

We yearn for freedom, but we know the importance of order; we pursue justice, but we do not subscribe to self-righteousness; we emphasize basic human rights, but we will honor the principle of gradual progress through proper procedures; as human rights lawyers, we insist on the right of independent judgment, but respect the different perspectives and views held by others.

Once again, we announce to the world that we are not this country’s enemy. We are a group of true patriots. We know that we must transcend class, nationality, and faith in order to work for the dignity and basic human rights of all Chinese. Regardless of how others perceive and label us and attempt to discredit our work, we will stand by our principles as we strive to improve human rights in China.

At the same time, we look forward to healthy cooperation and dialogue with the authorities to find a feasible path to furthering and improving human rights. We want everyone to know that human rights lawyers regaining their own rights is a victory for everyone, regardless of occupation, social status, economic background, or ethnicity.

We are aware that the effort of human rights lawyers alone cannot change the human rights situation in this country. We are ready to work with all people and groups that pursue freedom, justice, and the rule of law, and to take a stand for the beautiful goals to which we all aspire.

In the next five years, we must first and foremost fight for the freedom of every citizen to be free from fear. We demand the repeal of the provision in the Supervision Act that affords law enforcement officials the power of wanton detention, as well as the provisions in the Criminal Procedure Law that allow for secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated place.”

We vow to fight for victims who have been forcefully disappeared and tortured by the authorities, and we will not tolerate the illegal detention and disappearance, in the name of the state, of anyone living on this land, be they officials or ordinary citizens. Everyone has basic rights, including the right to litigation.

We will advocate to establish open records of human rights violations committed by public officials. This lists will record the deeds of all, from leaders at the highest levels down to infractions committed by local level of guobao, or political security police. If they do not rein themselves in, they will one day stand trial to face justice in court.

We will offer strong and unconditional support for citizens’ freedom of speech. We will never tolerate the administrative detention or legal punishment of a citizen simply for criticizing the government or the party. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of all other freedoms. If no one dares speak out against abuse, all of society will taste the bitter consequences.

We love blue skies and green hills, and we will not turn a blind eye to the environmental pollution or tainted food and drugs. We will urge governments at all levels to take effective measures to reduce pollution, improve the environment, and enforce regulations over the food and drug industry so that everyone can have safe food, medicine, air, and water. We want to tell citizens who have suffered persecution for their efforts to improve the environment or expose the safety hazards posed by tainted food and medicine: you have our full support.

We are extremely concerned about the friction between police and civilians. We call on law enforcement throughout the country to act in strict accordance with the law, to explain the law in good faith, exercise restraint, respect and protect human rights, and not act as accomplices to brutal “stability maintenance.”

It’s been more than three years since the 709 crackdown, we exhort the authorities to carefully review their attitude and policy towards human rights lawyers, and to treat properly these conscientious and responsible professionals. We ask the authorities to immediately release Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Yu Wensheng (余文生), Li Yuhan (李昱函), and other lawyers. It is important for everyone to enjoy a more civilized society that upholds reason and the rule of law.

Five years have gone by in a flash, but it’s been five years with historic import. We the human rights lawyers are ordinary human beings, but we are not cowards. If for the sake of China’s human rights we must lose our licenses or even our freedom, then we are willing to make these sacrifices for our country and our people.

Only through sacrifice can we forge ahead to the future! That’s our solemn proclamation on the 5th anniversary of China Human Rights Lawyers Group. Thank you all!

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group

September 13, 2018

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group 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.

Contacts:

Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266
Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598
Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755
Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584
Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911

 


牺牲自我,点亮未来  — 人权律师团成立五周年献辞

 

2013年9月13日,王成、唐吉田、江天勇三位被吊销执业证书的律师基于对中国人权事业的美好愿景,发起成立中国人权律师团,公告之日,应者云集,短短一年,有三百多名中国执业律师声明加入人权律师团。春去秋来,人权律师团已不知不觉地迎来了自己的五周年纪念日,在这个普通的日子里,我们认为,对过去五年的历程做个总结,阐明人权律师团的基本态度,规划人权律师团未来的工作方向显得尤为必要。

我们必须承认,过去的五年,是困难的五年,是悲伤的五年,也是看不到希望的五年,我们试图改善这个国家的人权状况,却发现人权状况越来越糟糕。

过去的五年,中国人权律师被当局妖魔化,被别有用心之人污蔑,其遭受的打压和迫害全世界罕见,国际社会亦对此目瞪口呆。

过去的五年,多名中国人权律师被判刑,被吊证,被失踪,尤其是在2015年7月发生了震惊中外的“709”大抓捕之后,人权律师被冲击得七零八落,几乎遭遇了灭顶之灾。

但即使面对这些残酷的现实危险,人权律师团律师在过去五年依然开展了卓有成效的工作。人权律师通过发起联署声明、签名声援等方式,介入人权事件,探寻事实真相,从而揭露罪恶,保护人权,其过程之艰辛,绝非常人可以想象!他们为政治异议人士辩护,直到自己被贴上异议分子的标签;他们为信仰群体辩护,直到自己成为当局维稳的对象;他们为访民和被拆迁者辩护,直到有一天自己也变成司法的弃儿;他们为少数民族的良心人士辩护,直到有一天被冠上叛国者的帽子;他们为劳工群体辩护,直到自己被剥夺工作的权利。凡此种种,举不胜举!

面对打压和迫害,我们不禁要问,为什么一腔热血的人权律师会成为整肃的对象?为什么司法当局在个案中要排除人权律师介入?为什么司法部门要使用鬼蜮伎俩吊销或者注销人权律师的执业证?答案其实非常简单,因为人权律师追求光明和正义,而迫害者代表着黑暗和邪恶。

今天,值此人权律师团成立五周年之际,我们再次重申,我们将继续推进中国人权事业的发展,我们将毫不动摇地致力于改善中国的人权状况,我们将在世俗的法律和道德的天空中寻找价值的平衡。

我们向往自由,但我们知道秩序的重要性;我们追求正义,但不会以正义者自居;我们强调人的基本权利,但我们将遵循循序渐进的原则;我们坚持自己作为人权律师的独立判断,但尊重其他人的不同观点。

我们再次光明正大地向世人宣布,我们不是这个国家的敌人,我们是一群真正的爱国者,我们说服自己超越阶层、民族和信仰,为所有中国人的尊严和基本人权而努力。不管别人如何定位人权律师,如何抹黑人权律师,我们将坚持自己的原则,那就是为改善中国的人权状况而努力拼搏。

与此同时,我们期待与官方的健康力量互动对话,共济时艰,相向而行,一起找到改善中国人权状况的可行之道。大家应该明白,不管你的职业、社会地位、财产状况和种族性别如何,人权律师争取到的每一项权利都为你所有。

我们深知,仅凭人权律师的微薄之力无法改变这个国家的人权状况,我们愿意与所有追求自由、公义、法治的民众和群体一道,为共同向往的美好目标而奋斗。

在未来的五年里,我们首先要争取的是每个公民免于恐惧的自由,我们强烈要求废除《监察法》中对公职人员采取留置措施的条款以及《刑事诉讼法》中对公民采取指定监视居住措施的条款。我们发誓将向强迫失踪和酷刑开战,我们绝不容忍以国家的名义对生活在这片土地上的任何人进行非法拘禁和强迫失踪,不管这个人是官员还是平民,他们享有最起码的诉讼权利和基本人权。

我们将推动建立公职人员侵犯人权的负面清单,这些清单将记录上至高级官员,下至普通“国保”侵犯人权的恶劣事件,如果他们不悬崖勒马,继续怙恶不悛的话,那么终究有一天,正义的法庭将对他们进行彻底地审判。

我们将毫无保留地为公民的言论自由提供强有力的保护和支持,我们绝不允许一个公民仅仅因为批评政府或者政党就受到行政拘留甚至刑事处罚。众所周知,言论自由是一切自由权利的基石,如果整个社会万马齐喑,那么我们将很快品尝到它結出的恶果。

我们渴望蓝天白云、青山绿水,我们对国家的环境污染和食品药品安全问题不会熟视无睹,我们将敦促各级政府切实采取措施消除污染,改善环境质量,加强食品药品督查和监管力度,为每个民众提供最安全的食品、药品、空气和饮水。我们要告诉那些为了改善环境质量或者揭露食品药品安全问题而遭受迫害的公民们,人权律师是你们的坚强后盾。

我们呼吁全国各地的警察当局严格依法办事,善意解释法律,约束警权,尊重和保障人权,切勿成为暴力维稳的帮凶,我们对当下的警民对立情绪感到极大的担忧。

在“709”大抓捕过去三年多之际,我们呼吁当局能认真检讨对人权律师的态度和政策,善待这群有良知和担当的专业人士并立即释放唐荆陵、江天勇、王全璋、余文生、李昱函等律师,我们需要一个更加文明的社会,我们需要一个理性和法治的社会,而这样的社会对每一个人来讲都显得尤为重要。

短短五年,如白驹过隙,但它记录的历史却犹如镌刻在青铜器上的铭文,传之后世。人权律师均是血肉之躯,但也绝非贪生怕死之辈,如果说中国的人权进步需要牺牲掉人权律师的执业证甚至自由作为代价的话,那么我们愿意将自己的一切奉献给这片滚烫的热土。

牺牲自我,点亮未来!这就是中国人权律师团在成立五周年之际带给全世界的庄重宣言!谢谢大家。

 

中国人权律师团律师
2018年9月13日

 

中国人权律师团是一个开放性的律师协作平台。中国人权律师团成立以来,通过发起联合声明,介入人权案件或事件等方式为保障人权、推进法治进行了诸多努力。认同人权理念,愿意维护公民基本权利的中国律师均可通过人权律师团任一成员声明加入。

联系人:

何伟, 18523069266
蔺其磊, 13366227598
施平, 15515694755
王清鹏, +1 (425)7329584
谢阳, 18673190911

 


Related – Analyses and Reports

709 Crackdown Three Years on: The Many Methods by Which the Chinese Communist Party Cracks Down on Human Rights Lawyers, Lü Shijie, July 4, 2018

War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018

Communist Party’s Suppression of Lawyers Is a Preemptive Attack Against an Imaginary Threat, Liu Shuqing, May 16, 2018

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu, July 23, 2015.

14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, August 19, 2015.

 


Related – Personal Accounts

The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.

A Record of 709, Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017.

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.

 


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China’s Little-Noticed ‘New Police Law’ Gives Vastly Expanded Legal Powers to Public Security Apparatus

China Change, September 6, 2018

 

 

Police law

A recent video clip showing police officers inspecting cell phones of subway passengers in an unidentified Chinese city. https://twitter.com/Sarah_chinaBJ/status/1026301663085117441

On August 17, 2018 at about 3:30 p.m., He Guangwei (何光伟) strode out of the A Exit at the Zhujiang Xincheng subway stop in Guangzhou, carrying a bag of drumstick leaves, a rare vegetable, on his way to meet a friend. In the years prior, when he worked as a journalist at the prominent newspaper Southern Weekend (《南方周末》), he got on and off everyday at the very same stop. A short walk from the subway, a member of China’s auxiliary police (that is, a non-official police officer) intercepted him and demanded in a voluble tone that he produce his identification card for inspection. He glanced around and noticed that not far off another police officer was rebuking a young man for not having his ID with him. He Guangwei had worked in Guangzhou for eight years and had never once been stopped on the street and subjected to an ID inspection. He asked the officer why — “Are you enforcing the law?” The officer said he was. He then enquired as to which law was being enforced. The officer couldn’t answer, but simply stared at him and roared: “Are you going to produce your ID? Are you going to cooperate or not?!” He was then taken to the local police station where he was informed that, according to Article 15 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards (《中华人民共和国居民身份证法》) he was being submitted to an ID inspection. It just so happened that He was quite familiar with Article 15 of the ID Law. He Guangwei knew that he was neither a criminal suspect, nor at a controlled site, nor suspected of involvement in any incidents seriously harming social order, nor present at any of the designated locations during large-scale public activities during which ID inspections may be freely conducted by police. He was merely a pedestrian walking on the street, no different to any other person on any other day walking on any other road. And so he began to argue. The officers grabbed him and shoved him into an interrogation room, pushed him up against the wall, and patted him down. They checked his phone and notebook, and rifled through the bag of vegetables. To conclude the ordeal the officers demanded that he write a self-criticism and dictated its content: “Having been educated by the People’s Police, I have come to recognize my error. I promise that in future when police ask for my identification, I will produce it for inspection.” He Guangwei later wrote about the encounter on his WeChat account, titling it “A Trip Through the Xian Village Police Station” (《过冼村派出所》); the post appears to have attracted over one million readers.

He Weiguang, reporter

He Guangwei, left, interviewing a villager (unclear which year).

In the essay, he wrote: “If the enforcers of the law actually followed the law, would anyone dare to violate the law while enforcing it? If there is something a citizen doesn’t know and the police give you the answers, who would reject an ID inspection?”

He’s mistaken. The Ministry of Public Security on December 1, 2016 published the Draft Amendment  of People’s Police Law of the People’s Republic of China  (《中华人民共和国人民警察法》修订草案稿, referred to throughout as the ‘New Police Law’), which significantly increases police powers. The amendments have essentially written China’s police a blank check allowing them to inspect any IDs they wish, to collect personal information, and intrude on citizens’ privacy at will.

Affirming Police Loyalty to the Communist Party

Article 5 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police must be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, loyal to the country, loyal to the people, and loyal to the constitution and the law.”

The first version of the Police Law came out in February 1995, with the full title the People’s Police Law of the People’s Republic of China (《中华人民共和国警察法》) (it was revised in October 2012). Neither the original or the 2012 revision mentioned the CCP (which does not mean that the police don’t belong to the Party), and nor were the constitution and the law placed at the bottom of the hierarchy of allegiance.

In late March of this year, Xi Jinping held the first meeting of the Party Central Committee for the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform (中央全面深化改革委员会), which oversaw the passage of several new police documents — including “the Pilot Plans for Reforming the Rank of Law Enforcement Officers at Public Security Organs” (《公安机关执法勤务警员职务序列改革方案(试行)》) and “the Pilot Plans for Reforming the Rank of Police Technicians” (《公安机关警务技术职务序列改革方案(试行)》) — among others. According to follow-up reports in the official and semi-official media, China may in the future establish two police corps, in the form of a Public Security Administration (公安行政部门) and a Police Corps (警察总署). The responsibilities of the former would be focused on the administration and management of the household registration and entry-exit system and other administrative affairs; the latter would be the coercive power of the state apparatus, organized as a semi-militarized force that must maintain absolute loyalty to the Communist Party. It’s possible that the items about “loyalty” in the New Police Law were in order to pave the way for the Police Corps — but whatever the case, these articles without any doubt reflect the increasing weight being given to police powers in the current stability maintenance regime.

Summaries of the salient items in these two public security reform documents are available online, though the original posts have been purged from WeChat and iFeng.

Special Clause for ‘Social Entities Participating in Public Security’

Article 6 of the New Police Law introduces “the principle of integrating police forces with the masses.” The precise language says:

“Public security organs must persist in linking their specialized work with the Mass Line; [they must] improve the mechanism for mobilizing social entities to take part in public security; [they must have a public security system in which] public security is maintained by the masses guarding against and handling problems; [they must] promote the socialized management of public security.”

Just what is “the socialized management of public security”? According to an exposition on “the comprehensive management mechanism for public security” in the Party journal Qiushi (《求是》) three years ago, socialized management of public security refers to “relying on grassroots organizations, cultivating a wide network of informants, and working hard to extend the antannae of public security work into every corner [of society].” Currently, the public security and police departments already make widespread use of mass organizations, such as neighborhood committees, property management companies, neighborhood security guards and private security companies, to engage in surveillance, reporting, and assistance for their work. This has become the norm in China. The New Police Law would codify all these activities, giving them a basis in the law itself, and allow the police to legally and effortlessly demand and obtain the cooperation of more social entities.

Authorizing the Police to Inspect IDs on Demand

Article 16 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police may, in the performance of their duties, lawfully inspect the identification cards or other forms of proof of identification of residents.”

Shi Ping (施平), a former journalist and currently a lawyer (who goes by the moniker Shi Yu [石玉] online), points out: “If this draft law is passed, one can imagine a circumstance like this in the future: Few police officers citizens encounter in public space are not there ‘in the performance of their duties’; they are at least ‘in the performance of the duty’ to prevent illegal activity. Thus, a police officer will, without any other requirement or restriction, be empowered to inspect the identification of any citizen on demand.”

In comparison to the stipulations about the inspection of identification in Article 15 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Resident Identity Cards (《中华人民共和国身份证法》) , the New Police Law without any doubt expands to an arbitrary degree the power of police to inspect ID cards. Even when conducting their duties now — as seen in the He Guangwei incident and countless others — it is a common occurrence for police to arbitrarily demand to see citizens’ IDs. What the New Police Law does is codify this practice in legislation.

Summons on Demand

The current Police Law makes no mention of the power of summons (传唤), and the word does not appear anywhere in the text.

The New Police Law however adds the following clauses about summons powers:

“The People’s Police, where they need to summon and investigate individuals who have violated public security administrative management laws or regulations, shall use a summons authorized by a responsible officer in the public security department handling [such] cases. In cases where violations of public security administrative management laws or regulations are taking place on site, police may show their ID and deliver the summons verbally, but this should be noted in the interrogation transcript. When a summons is delivered, the reason, basis, and location of the summons should be told to the individual being summoned. Coercive measures may be taken to enforce appearance at a summons for individuals who, without legitimate reason, refuse to accept or attempt to escape a summons.”

What does “violating public security administrative management laws or regulations” refer to? On December 27, 2010, the Ministry of Public Security formulated and published “Notice Regarding the Promulgation of ‘Opinion on the Reference Terms and Applicability of Illegal Behaviors in Violation of Public Security Administrative Management Regulations’” (关于印发《违反公安行政管理违法行为的名称及其适用意见》的通知》), which comes up with 682 violative behaviors described and regulated in 67 different pieces of legislation, administrative statutes, or regulations that would be considered violations of public security administrative management laws and regulations. They then break down the offenses into the following areas: public security  (1-401), exit-entry and border defense (402-508), fire control management (509-554), computer and internet security (555-613), traffic management (614-662), and drug prohibition (663-682).

These 682 offenses are so encompassing that, in other words, there will always be a reason to summon you.

 

Not long ago a short piece of footage went viral online showing six police officers forcing their way into the home of a young woman late at night, saying they were “summoning” her, because she had written “something” online. She demanded that the police produce a warrant or formal reason for the summons. This form of arbitrary summons is common in China today — though a vivid recording of it is extremely rare to see. China Change made English-language subtitles for the video in order to give readers a better understanding of the deep terror and menace that Chinese police instill in ordinary citizens. Part of the exchange includes the following, for instance:

[Woman] Why are you coming to my home this late? What’s going on?
[Police] You come with us and we’ll discuss it.
[Woman] Why should I?
[Police] Because we’re the police.
[Woman] So just like that you can take people away for no reason?
[Police] Yeah — so what?

When the New Police Law is passed, it will be completely legal for six police officers to summon a young woman from her home in the middle of the night to the police station where she has to give an account of her social media posts. She’ll have no grounds to ask ‘Why?’ and will simply have to obey.

Expanding the Scope of Police Power to Conduct Searches

Article 22 of the New Police Law, on inspections and searches, says the following:

“In performance of their duties, the People’s Police, having produced identification and a search warrant, may conduct an inspection and search of individuals — including their residences, personal effects, and persons — suspected of violations of the law; in cases where there is a genuine need for immediate inspection and search, police may, after producing their identification, carry out the inspection and search on site forthwith; if the individual subject to search and inspection refuses to cooperate, they may be forcibly inspected and searched.”

The New Police Law expands the power of police to search and inspect with reference to the vague phrases “in performance of their duties,” and “in cases where there is a genuine need for immediate inspection and search.” This effectively means that whenever any individual police officer personally decides that it’s necessary, he may simply engage in the inspection and search of any citizen right then and there. This gives far greater scope to police powers than Article 12 of the current Police Law, which says: “In order to investigate criminal activities, the People’s Police of the public security organs may, according to the law, detain, search, arrest or employ other compulsory measures.”

Article 37 of the Constitution stipulates: “The freedom of person of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable,” and “Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens’ freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited.” Article 39 of the Constitution says: “The home of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. Unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a citizen’s home is prohibited.”

And yet the amendments in the New Police Law will empower any police officer to invade at will the personal residence of any citizen, and the action need not require any evidence or due process.

Does the new clause about ‘searches’ include the extraction and inspection of data on the cell phones of Chinese citizens? Though the language is not clear on this point, the current practice shows that the answer is almost certainly ‘yes.’

Authorizing Police to Physically Inspect Citizens and Collect Biometrics

Article 24 of the New Police Law says:

“The People’s Police may search the persons of criminal suspects, obtain a mugshot, fingerprints, voice signature, an image of the iris and other individually identifying information, including blood, saliva, urine, hair or other biological samples. If criminal suspects refuse to be searched or have these items collected, the search and collection can be undertaken by force.”

This is new, and the current Police Law contains no article of this type. Nevertheless, for a very long time now police around China have already begun collecting mugshots, fingerprints, DNA samples and more from Chinese citizens of all sorts — not only criminal suspects, but non-suspects too, including activists, human rights defenders, dissidents, and others. Moreover, these individuals report having their biometrics collected by multiple police departments in different jurisdictions.

Some have feared that such biometrics could be used to plant evidence and frame people up, while others have worried about yet other motives.

Article 38 of the Constitution says: “The personal dignity of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable. Insult, libel, false charge or frame-up directed against citizens by any means is prohibited.” Yet the criteria for judgment as to who is a “criminal suspect” and who is a citizen suspected of no crime but still targeted for “mugshots, fingerprints, voice signature, an image of the iris and other individually identifying information, including blood, saliva, urine, hair or other biological samples” contains a great deal of flexibility for the authorities. The process of collecting biometrics of citizens not only limits the personal freedom of the individual, but is an infringement on basic human dignity.

On March 3, 2018, during the ‘Two Meetings’ in Beijing, the Beijing resident Li Wei (李蔚), responding to the demands of Beijing public security forces, left the capital and went to “travel” in Hangzhou. That evening Li was accosted by police at his hotel and his ID demanded for inspection. In the process of Li requesting a summons to verify that he indeed had to produce his ID, five or six individuals broke into his room and beat him, causing injuries. After he produced his ID, the police told him to go to the police station so that his fingerprints, DNA, and cell phone data could all be collected. The police told him explicitly that he had not been suspected of any crime, but that his ID was being checked and his biometrics collected merely because he had a “prior record” (Li Wei was imprisoned during the Chinese government’s crackdown on the New Citizens’ Movement, and has since been designated as a ‘key person’ in the eyes of the guobao, or political police). Li lodged a series of complaints against the Hangzhou police for illegally restricting his personal freedom as well as a variety of other rights violations, including the police failure to provide written acknowledgement of the complaints as required by law. His case has gone nowhere as the courts and the police departments refuse to file the case for him.

Police Can Search People or Organizations at Will and Surveil Public Spaces

Article 25 of the New Police Law stipulates:

“The People’s Police, as required to perform their duties and in accordance with relevant national regulations, may look up and extract relevant information about citizens, legal persons, and other organizations, and they may collect information from public spaces, roads, and cyberspace using surveillance technologies. The information so obtained shall be stored and used prudently, and may not be used for matters unrelated to the fulfillment of official duties.”

This article, again, is not in the current Police Law. One recent phenomenon is the appearance on social media of short videos showing police at subway stations in urban areas inspecting the phones of commuters. A twitter user recently described what he personally witnessed, and noted that he was extremely scared and didn’t dare to take photos of the incident. He wrote:

Date and time: August 23, 2018, 3:55 p.m.;
Location: Safety check at the entrance of the No. 1 Line subway at the Fengqi Road station, Hangzhou (杭州地铁1号线凤起路站); [the police were] checking the phone of every passenger waiting in line to enter the station;
Apparatus: They were using handheld scanning equipment;
The number of police: 6 to 7.

Despite the fact that the current Police Law does not in fact authorize the police to do this, evidently the regime has commanded that they do so anyway. Just as with the other changes, the New Police Law simply codifies in a statute what has already become practice. As for the surveillance of public places roads, and cyberspace, one can already see cameras every 50 meters on the streets of Beijing for a taste of what that feels like. So much has already been reported about the shocking extent of China’s surveillance state.

Severing the Internet When Called for

The New Police Law bestows expanded powers of internet management on the public security organs. Article 29 says:

“Public security organs of the People’s Governments at the county-level and above may, when encountering natural disasters, accidents, public health incidents, or social safety incidents, or if there is the urgent danger of any such disaster, catastrophe, or incident taking place, set up roadblocks and delimit controlled zones over a certain area and time period in order to limit or prohibit personnel and vehicular travel, lingering, or entry and exit, among other traffic management or site management measures. When necessary they may, with the consent of public security organs of the People’s Governments of the provincial-level and above, implement controls over the internet.

“On the occasion of large-scale public events, mass activities, or when providing security for state-designated individuals or targets, [authorities] may adopt the above mentioned measures, and may at the same time institute safety inspections, personnel inspections, electronic jamming, and other measures.”

Though it’s not yet a common occurrence for the authorities to sever internet access, there are already many precedents. On July 5, 2009, following ethnic conflicts in Urumqi, the Xinjiang authorities cut off the internet for one month. On the scene of mass incidents and protests, people often report being unable to access the internet or operate other electronic equipment. In April 2014, tens of thousands of residents of Maoming, Guangdong Province, marched in protest of a paraxylene plant set to be built there. The authorities blockaded the city and cut off the internet, thus suppressing the news. In April 2017, after the suspicious death (said to be due to falling from a building) of a 14-year-old middle school student in Luzhou, Sichuan, the police engaged in a coverup of the case, triggering protests from over 1,000 residents and leading to clashes. For the next 12 days, electricity and internet services were cut off in much of the city. In the recent protests by parents in Leiyang, Hunan, over the authorities assigning students in public schools to privately-operated schools with high tuitions, no news has been heard for the last few days, leading many to suspect that Leiyang has also had its internet cut off.

At first blush, according to the language in the New Police Law, it may appear that the circumstances under which the internet can be cut off, as well as the threshold required to get approval for such an action, are set very high. But judging by the actual cases over the last few years, the requirements for severing internet access appear to be quite small, and the decisions seem to be mostly triggered by mass protests.

———-

Some predict that the New Police Law will be granted passage and become law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress during the ‘Two Meetings’ in Beijing in March 2019, after  a package of public security/police institutional reform measures are approved.

It’s been 20 months since the Ministry of Public Security put the draft of the New Police Law out for public comment, but the document has attracted little public notice, except for a handful of lawyers and interested citizens who have expressed concern about some of its clauses. This sort of indifference is not in the least surprising: In China, the question of which laws are decided, who decides on them, and how they decide them, is all based simply on the Party’s will. Citizens do not have the right to elect their own representatives, the media are owned and run by the Party-state, and the people simply have no say in the affairs of state. The so-called “solicitation of opinion” is merely about the authorities going through the motions. Everyone understands that the National People’s Congress is the Party’s rubber stamp; the police forces are the Party’s ‘knife handle’; legislation and law enforcement are merely tools for the Party to maintain its rule. It is increasingly dangerous for citizens to express their dissent. Police would arrive at their door in no time, just as they did that night to the young woman in Shenzhen for her social media posts.

 

 

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