July 31, 2016
Four rights defenders held incommunicado for over one year may face imminent trial at the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on charges of “subversion of state power.” The trials may begin as soon as Monday, August 1, according to unconfirmed information CHRD received. Chinese authorities have failed to notify the detainees’ families nor their own lawyers. Several family members were briefly detained by police on Friday and two people disappeared on Sunday night as they tried to confirm with the court where and when the trials would take place. The right to a public trial is a human right. Chinese law requires authorities to notify lawyers and families at least three days before a trial takes place.
The secrecy surrounding the “709” detentions over the past year – from the initially unknown locations of detention, to blocked visits by lawyers, lack of information for families, to what looks now like planned secrete or abruptly announced trials – undermines any pretense of “fair” trial for these detainees.
The four—Hu Shigen, Gou Hongguo, Zhai Yanmin, and Zhou Shifeng—are being held as a part of the “709 crackdown” on human rights lawyers that began in July 2015, and over 300 human rights lawyers and activists have been interrogated and intimidated or blocked from traveling abroad, while at least 20 remain in detention. The four men, who face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of the “subversion” charges, are the only detainees known to have been indicted.
CHRD condemns the escalating persecution of human rights defenders under the pretext that they constitute a so-called “threat” to “national security.” We urge the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally release all 20 individuals still held one year after the crackdown began.