Tag Archives: China

China: Hard Choices, Hard Lives

June 21, 2017

When people under dictatorship decide to go dissident, they make a choice with huge consequences. (Almost invariably, they will tell you they did not “decide” to go dissident; they could simply do no other.) They set off a chain of events for themselves, and for their family.

Gao Zhisheng did this. A human-rights lawyer, he is one of the greatest men in all of China. What he has endured is almost unimaginable. And his family has had to endure a great deal too. About this, he is wracked with guilt.

I met his daughter, Grace, and wrote a piece. It is on the homepage today, here.

It is a vicious period for human-rights lawyers in China. The boss of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, has cracked down on them, hard. Two years ago, the Party rounded up some 250 of them, in what has become known as the “709 Crackdown.” (The arrests started on July 9.) These lawyers have been tortured, some of them into insanity.





China: A Lawyer is Not Acceptable- At Least Not in China

June 20, 2017

A world superpower equipped with one of the largest economies in the world, China has indisputably become a dominant power on the international stage. However, the largest nation in the world can hardly be seen as an equal to its Western counterparts when it comes to “fundamental rights” such as political rights, freedom of speech and right to a fair trial, just to name a few. Despite its power and respect on the international stage, China boasts some of the strictest laws related to freedoms to report or criticise politics, thus leaving doubts as to how much respect it should deserve as a leading power so blatantly willing to violate a number of rights put forth by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 2015, the world was appalled upon hearing the news that the Chinese government had detained over 200 human rights lawyers and legal workers. It became known as the “709 crackdown,” named after the date which it began: July 9th, 2015. At the time, the reason for these disappearances was incredibly unclear and showed a stagnation in the Chinese government’s improvements on policies of fundamental rights.

Now well into 2017, there remain a multitude of unanswered questions in regards to the actions the Chinese authorities took when holding these lawyers. Victims have consistently reported cases of abuse, misconduct and torture by Chinese authorities during the detainment. Some victims had been released while others were held without trial for an indefinite period. More recently in 2017, however, the government has been holding a series of trials, although many of which have seemed planned, coerced and reminiscent of sham trials.

Earlier in May, a prominent lawyer, Xie Yang, was convicted of subversion charges. Subversion, an offence describing an individual’s attempt to “subvert state power” or disrupt the governmental system in some way, is a serious offense in the Chinese legal system. However, its sentencing can vary greatly, depending on if accompanying charges are found. Xie Yang was not alone, as a handful of lawyers had also been tried and convicted on the same crime.

What’s more is that Xie Yang had pleaded guilty of the charges. This was unprecedented as Yang had given detailed descriptions to his lawyer of torture by Chinese authorities during his time of detention, in which he had been held for nearly two years. The situation was even more perplexing, as in January, Yang had written a letter stating that he was not guilty and any admission of guilt would be because of prolonged torture or endangerment to his family. Nevertheless, in May the trial was finally held and advertised as an open trial; yet when journalists and diplomats attempted to enter the facility, they were denied. Furthermore, Yang was denied his family-hired lawyer and was provided with a state attorney instead. In the trial, revealed through a transcript by the court, Yang had retracted all of his previous statements on torture and had warned others not to be “exploited by Western anti-China forces.” Yang’s wife stands by the claims that Yang was tortured, yet with the unfolding of the trial, it is doubtful whether she will ever receive a definitive answer.



China: Chinese Police Warn Father of Jailed Rights Lawyer After Family’s Angry Statement

June 16, 2017

Rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who went missing on Nov. 21, 2016 and is believed to have been tortured in custody, in an undated photo.

The father of jailed Chinese human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong has been called in and issued with a warning by the country’s state security police after the family issued a statement slamming the government’s forced “appointment” of defense lawyers in the case.

“The state security police took Jiang Tianyong’s father down to the police station [on Friday] for a chat, and they told him not to … have anything to do with anyone outside [the case], because it is still under investigation,” Jiang’s U.S.-based wife Jin Bianling told RFA on Friday.

The warning came after the family issued a joint statement on Thursday hitting out at the authorities for refusing to recognize defense lawyers they appointed by refusing their requests to meet with Jiang, who has had no contact with family or lawyers since his incarceration.

“It seems the authorities are up to their old tricks and are forcing Jiang Tianyong to accept government-appointed lawyers,” the statement, posted on the website of the U.S.-based Human Rights in China, said.

“Hearing this news, we are beside ourselves with anger,” said the statement, signed by Jiang’s mother, father and wife.

It said the authorities appear to be taking the same approach with all lawyers detained in a nationwide operation since July 2015, including Wang Quanzhang, Li Heping, and Xie Yang.







China: Chinese Authorities ‘Appoint’ Government Lawyer For Detained Attorney Wang Quanzhang

June 14, 2017

Lawyers Yu Wensheng (L) and Cheng Hai (R) after a failed attempt to meet their detained client, human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, at Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center, May 15, 2017.

Authorities in the Chinese capital have warned off a lawyer hired by the family of detained human rights attorney Wang Quanzhang, saying that he will be represented by a government-appointed lawyer instead.

Wang has been held at an unknown location without trial or access to a lawyer or family visits for nearly two years after being detained in a nationwide July 2015 police operation targeting rights lawyers and associated activists.

Recently, the Beijing branch of the China Law Association contacted his defense attorney Yu Wensheng to inform him that he is no longer instructed to act for his client.

“The Tianjin branch of the Law Association has appointed a lawyer, but we don’t yet know who the lawyer is,” Yu said in a recent interview. “But I and [fellow defense attorney] Cheng Hai want to stand up for our right to represent him.”

“We plan to go to Tianjin, because according to the rules, I and Cheng Hai are his lawyers, and we can only have our instructions terminated by Wang Quanzhang himself,” he said.

Yu said the authorities are likely making it as hard as possible for detained lawyers like Wang to defend themselves.

“If there’s any point to it at all, then it’s to do with stability maintenance,” he said.

Cheng said the Law Association is working with the judicial affairs bureau to control Wang’s choice of lawyer.






China: Xie Yang’s whereabouts remains unknown one month after trial

June 12, 2017

Xie Yang

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.


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China: Young Chinese Female Lawyer Bares Torture After Arbitrary Detention for Her Defense of Persecuted Christians

June 13, 2017

A young female Chinese human rights lawyer has revealed the suffering she underwent in jail after she and other human rights lawyers were arbitrarily arrested in China for their defense of persecuted Christians.

On a social media post she made last month after she finally regained her freedom, Li Shiyun said she was “brutalized” in prison by Chinese jail authorities, China Aid reported.

Li said she was kidnapped and arrested by Chinese authorities on July 10, 2015 as part of a nationwide crackdown on human rights attorneys.

For six months, she was locked up and isolated in a dark cell. She was then transferred to another detention facility.

Li said she was drugged during her time in jail. China Aid says this is a method of torture commonly used against arrested human rights lawyers.

She was also forced to stand still for 16 hours and chained to a chair designed as a torture device for a week, with the guards not allowing her to move.

Moreover, she was made to sleep “head-to-head” with a criminal who had been sentenced to death.


China/OHCHR: HRC35 | UN expert to China: ‘Release Jiang Tianyong’

June 9, 2017

UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

On Wednesday, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston praised China’s political will to alleviate poverty and took the government to task for limiting his access and intimidating and, in one case, imprisoning civil society actors with whom he met. ISHR’s statement asked for answers.

UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty presented his country report on China this week, in addition to reports on visits to Mauritania and Saudi Arabia and a discussion of universal basic income. Unsurprisingly, despite Alston’s balanced tone, the Chinese delegation chose to attack the Rapporteur’s credibility, deny the practices he described, and hide behind tired claims that China is a ‘rule of law country’ and that the Rapporteur’s inquiry into the case of detained human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong constituted ‘meddling in judicial sovereignty

The report itself raised serious concerns about the commitment to human rights in poverty alleviation, and focused particularly on the lack of effective accountability mechanisms across the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. ISHR has previously highlighted key findings in the report.

ISHR advocate Sarah M Brooks noted that the Special Rapporteur clearly viewed civil society as key to making his work, and indeed the work of the UN, meaningful. And civil society groups in the room supported him, echoing his message for an end to the crackdown and the release of lawyer Jiang. ISHR’s statement is copied below.

‘The Special Rapporteur took a courageous and principled stand to call out China’s failures to protect human rights’, says Brooks. ‘It is downright shameful that no other country in the room could do the same.’