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Tang Jitian, January 30, 2019
On December 10, 2018, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the French National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (La Commission nationale consultative des droits de l’homme) has awarded the annual French Republic Human Rights Prize to six personalities or organizations that have distinguished themselves in their country for the defense and promotion of human rights, and Chinese human rights lawyer Tang Jitian (唐吉田) is one of them. He was unable to travel to France to receive the prize. On January 14, 2019, the French Ambassador to China, Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert, presented him the award in Beijing. –– The Editors
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very grateful to the French government for awarding me the 2018 French Republic Human Rights Prize (Le Prix des droits de l’Homme de la République Française). I think this is not only an affirmation of my own work on behalf of human rights, but also an affirmation of all Chinese human rights defenders, including lawyers. While expressing thanks to those who conferred this award, I also want to say thank you to friends from all walks of life at home and abroad who have expressed concern and given me support and help for more than 10 years. My life became more meaningful because of you!
Since entering the legal profession, especially after coming to Beijing in 2007, I was determined to use the law to help those who had suffered injustices. In addition to handling human rights cases, I also participated extensively in social actions, one of which was an effort in 2008-09, together with a cohort of lawyers to promote direct elections of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association. This action infuriated the Chinese government, and in April 2010, my license to practice law was revoked. Even though I suffered this blow of losing my normal legal practitioner’s identity, it didn’t stop me from engaging in rights defense work. On the contrary, I threw myself into the work even more actively, including the struggle for lawyers’ own rights and interests. And despite having suffered numerous rounds of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention, accompanied by torture, I nonetheless still had the same intention as before –– to continue to be active in the field of rights defense in China.
Although I’ve been restricted from exiting the country for nearly 10 years, making it impossible for me to fully communicate and work together with the outside world, my view was not completely limited. I still have friends from certain countries who have facilitated my work to varying degrees.
As everyone knows, France has a notable tradition of defending human rights. The 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen still has a unique guiding value for today. After the Second World War, and especially in recent years, the French government and civil organizations have made great efforts to promote the improvement of human rights in mainland China. Among the democratic countries, France plays a role that is appropriate for a major country. As a major democracy, France still has considerable room for expansion in promoting world development, especially in China’s human rights cause. I hope it can be even more proactive than in the past in getting involved in China’s human rights matters, and provide practical and effective support and assistance to human rights defenders on the frontline.
Contemporary mainland China has reached a critical juncture: whether to embrace civilization or choose barbarism; whether to practice universal values or push the rules of the jungle; whether to preserve and strengthen the outdated totalitarianism or move toward a new democratic politics –– there is not much time left to waver.
As a member of civil society, I look forward to China getting on the right track as soon as possible, but those selfish and greedy officials in the government are trying to pull the people back into barbarism. It is difficult to imagine what things would be like to have a China with 1.3 billion people suspended alone for a long period of time outside the civilized world: the deteriorating human rights situation in mainland China is not only a nightmare for the Chinese, but will also be a misfortune for all of humanity.
In the face of this grim situation, groups upon groups of Chinese people eager to live with dignity have fought for their rights and interests in various ways, so that future generations can live in a normal environment, and the Chinese nation will not become a burden to the world. Human rights defenders, including human rights lawyers, are to some extent shouldering a historical responsibility. As one of them, I hope they will receive more understanding, attention, support, and assistance from the international community.
This award serves as both motivation and pressure. In the past, I only did my job as a human rights lawyer, therefore going forward I can’t stop doing what I am called upon to do. Instead, I should always remind myself not to be complacent, and do more work to the best of my ability using available means. Defending human rights has long been an integral part of my life. I will work together with other human rights defenders, from a new starting point, to make a due contribution to the protection of human rights and the advancement of the rule of law.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the guests at the awards ceremony!
Make Sacrifices to Illuminate the Future: Commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group
September 13, 2018
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.
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
王清鹏, +1 (425)7329584
Related – Analyses and Reports
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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On the morning of May 13, while visiting a black jail in Ziyang, Sichuan province (四川资阳), seven rights lawyers from Beijing and Chengdu were intercepted, beaten and kidnapped by unidentified men. After that their cellphones ceased to answer.
Upon learning the news of their colleagues’ encounter, four more lawyers went to Ziyang to help. They were first followed by men in plain clothes, and then they too were snatched.
The eleven lawyers are: Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), Tang Tianhao (唐天昊), Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Li Heping (李和平), Zhang Keke (张科科), Guo Haiyue (郭海跃), Wang Cheng (王成), Yang Huiwen (杨慧文) and Wen Haibo (温海波).
Rights lawyer, legal scholar Teng Biao tweeted Monday evening, Beijing time, that several lawyers were hurt. Jiang Tianyong’s legs were hurt by rocks, and Tang Tianhao was bleeding from his head.
By Beijing time Tuesday morning, three lawyers were released and have since returned to Chengdu, the provincial capital, while the whereabouts of the other eight are still unknown. They were taken away around 2 am Tuesday from the police station where they had been held.
According to several other rights lawyers following and reporting the incident online, the black jail has the improbable name of the “Rule of Law Education Center of Ziyang Municipality” (资阳市法制教育中心). From outside, it looks like a resort, but it houses what the authorities called the “rule of law classes” (法制学习班). Some have been jailed there for five or six years, and some were tortured to death. During the last Chinese New Year season, there were as many as 260 people illegally jailed there. (See below for address and telephone numbers of the facility.)
Teng Biao (@滕_彪_) posted on Weibo that “the so-call Rule of Law Education Centers can be found all over China, and they are also known as brainwashing camps, or study class, but they are really concentration camps where torture is used routinely. There are a shocking number of Falungong practitioners, petitioners and others who have been detained in these facilities across China. Lawyers said that more prisoners had been tortured to death in these illegal detention centers than in jails or re-education-through-labor camps. In this particular Center in Ziyang, at least three are known to have died of torture.”
Rule of Law Education Center of Ziyang Municipality 资阳市法制教育中心
Tel: 28-26741799, 28-26332128, 28-2674103
Director Xu Hongyan 徐红艳 Tel: 28-26741031 Cell: 13547291868
Twitter accounts: @tengbiao, @lvshi798; Weibo accounts: @滕_彪_, @李方平律师
Wang Dengchao (王登朝), a police officer at Luohu Sub-bureau of Shenzhen Public Security Bureau (police ID 054985), was arrested on March 8, 2012 on charges of embezzlement and disruption of public services. After being detained for 8 months, he was tried and sentenced to 14 years in prison on December 4th, 2012.
But he is believed to be arrested and harshly sentenced for attempting to organize a large-scale assembly to commemorate the 87th anniversary of Sun Yat-sen’s death, to be held in Lianhua Hill Park in Shenzhen on March 10th, 2012. Friends and family said Wang Dengchao had taken out a 500,000 loan from bank for the event. He made T-shirts and banners, and hired people to distribute flies and other promotional materials. He also asked friends to give speeches during the assembly. He had foreseen the possibility of being arrested, but he believed that if the event was held as planned, it would be worth it.
Turning People’s Republic of China back to the Republic of China (民国), or the pre-1949 era, has been a strain in China’s democratic thinking and activism.
Charges against Wang Dengchao have to do his involvement in the security of Universiade (World University Games) held in Shenzhen in 2011. At the time he was the manager of the 7th Company of Shenzhen Security Service Company (深圳保安公司).
During the first trial Wang Dengchao’s lawyers argued that the prosecutors’ charges were unfounded, and there were no evidence to prove Wang Dengchao was guilty of either charge.
Wang Dengchao’s case has not received enough media attention so far, partially because charges against him were non-political. But the Chinese government seems to be using a new strategy lately to punish dissidents without making them “political prisoners” by trumping up other charges against them. Li Bifeng’s case is one of the latest examples.
According to friends, Wang Dengchao is 38 years old and a graduate of Northwest University of Politics and Law (西北政法大学). Friends said he often expressed disapproval of China’s political system and how it was the root of China’s social ills. He had made and distributed fliers and brochures before to promote democratic ideas.
His friends said that, as a mid-level police officer, Wang lived a comfortable life, but, unlike most of his colleagues who used their power for personal gains, Wang was a conscionable man who wanted to take actions to advocate for change of system.
Originally, the second trial was scheduled on February 1, but defense lawyers had not been informed of the trial date at least three days prior to the trial according to the law. The trial is now rescheduled for February 7 following protests by the defense lawyers.
Meanwhile, local activists were summoned and interrogated by police. The guesthouse where Wang Dengchao’s lawyers stayed was “inspected” and their visitors were questioned. Faraway in Guangxi, Wang Dengchao’s mother-in-law was warned not to communicate with others about Wang’s case.
The second trial will be held at 10am, February 7, 2013, in criminal trial area of Shenzhen Intermediary People’s Court (深圳市中级人民法院), located at深圳市罗湖区红岭中路1036号. Postal code 518008 and telephone 0755—83535000.
The defense lawyers can be reached at: 李静林律师 13693283418, 唐吉田律师 13161302848. Wang Dengchao’s wife can be reached at 18898738510.