June 12, 2017
Xie Yang (谢阳) is one of China’s “709 lawyers”, taken into custody in 2015 during an extensive government crackdown on human rights defenders, lawyers and activists. Xie Yang’s continued incarceration almost two years after his detention, makes his case one of the flagship cases of the 709 event. The 709 crackdown refers to a government offensive against human rights defenders, in particular human rights lawyers, which began on 9 July 2015 with the arrest of several high-profile lawyers and continued for months. On 8 May 2017, Xie Yang was finally granted a trial hearing. One month later, the court has yet to release a verdict on Xie Yang’s case and the defender’s current whereabouts remains unknown.
In communications with his lawyers in August 2016 and January 2017, Xie Yang reported having been tortured by officers in the Changsha detention centre where he was being held: acts of verbal harassment, threats, beating by guards and other inmates under guards’ orders, and hanging from the ceiling. Xie Yang’s January 2017 testimony, disseminated by his lawyer at the time, Chen Jiangang, drew the attention of international media as well as national governments. In late February 2017, the governments of eleven countries co-signed a letter to the Chinese government requesting a prompt investigation into allegations of torture against Xie Yang and other 709 detainees. Chinese authorities responded with a smear campaign against another detained lawyer, Jiang Tiangyong, currently under arrest in Changsha. Chinese media claimed that Jiang Tianyong had colluded with Xie Yang’s wife to fabricate the torture claims; in a televised interview, Jiang Tianyong confirmed this narrative. Jiang Tianyong’s family and colleagues believe that Jiang Tianyong’s statements were made under duress.