Tag Archives: China

Verdict delayed as ailing Chinese rights lawyer refuses to ‘confess’, plead guilty

08/09/22

Li Yuhan is thought to have been targeted for defending prominent rights lawyer Wang Yu during a 2015 crackdown.

Since Chinese human rights lawyer Li Yuhan stood trial in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning in October 2021 for “fraud” and “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge often used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), there has been scant news of her fate.

There were concerns over Li’s worsening health at the time of Li’s trial at the Heping District People’s Court in Shenyang, provincial capital of Liaoning, while diplomats were denied permission to attend the trial.

But since the trial concluded, nearly a year has passed with no verdict or sentence being made public, her lawyer told RFA in a recent interview.

“They haven’t issued a verdict,” the lawyer said. “Her family and I have contacted the presiding judge many times, and the response we got is ‘we have to wait for the higher-ups [to decide]’.”

“They didn’t give a clear opinion, so they clearly didn’t dare to convict, so they have just kept on dragging their feet,” he said, adding that he has no reason to disbelieve this explanation.

“I don’t think the judge lied … because they will always want to close a case as soon as possible,” he said.

Li is widely believed to have been targeted for her defense of prominent rights lawyer Wang Yu, who was among the first people to be detained in a nationwide operation targeting rights lawyers and activists in July 2015.

Wang said the delay is likely because the authorities are trying to elicit a “confession” from Li.

“The reason why she can’t be sentenced is that the public prosecutor is still trying to force her to confess, and plead guilty,” Wang told RFA.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/li-yuhan-09082022102635.html

https://ipkmedia.com/159748/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/woman-human-rights-defender-and-lawyer-li-yuhans-health-deteriorates-under-prolonged-detention

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/lawyer-trial-10202021132238.html

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-house-arrest-xi-jingping-china/

Joint statement on Civil society call to end enforced disappearances in China

30/08/22

On the International Day of the Disappeared, Lawyers for Lawyers co-signed a statement, with a large coalition of organisations, which expresses concerns about enforced disappearances in the People’s Republic of China. Amongst the disappeared are several lawyers from China.

Just over five years ago, on 13 August 2017, human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng vanished for the third time. Gao, praised as the ‘Conscience of China’, had long fought for the rights of those who dared to speak out, who belonged to religious minorities, who were evicted from their homes when their land was seized, or who protested against exploitation. For that, he was in and out of prison and separated from his family for nearly a decade. For more than five years, his wife and children have had no idea of his whereabouts, nor even if he is alive.

Gao Zhisheng’s case is severe, and yet represents only the tip of the iceberg: many other activists and lawyers face a similar fate, such as Tang Jitian, disappeared in 2021, tortured, and detained in a secret location. UN experts, including the Working Group on enforced disappearance, have sounded the alarm from as early as 2011 about the use of enforced disappearances against those taking part in China’s human rights movement. It is used to silence those promoting rights and freedoms, to enable acts of torture and ill-treatment without any oversight, and to send a chilling message to any person who may dare to criticize the government.

[…]

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/civil-society-call-end-enforced-disappearances-china

https://www.ntd.com/wife-supporters-call-for-lawyers-release_825380.html

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/family-appointed-lawyer-huang-xueqin-dismissed

Chinese rights lawyer Chang Weiping tried in secret as family members held by police

26/07/22

Detained rights lawyer Chang Weiping — whose lawyers say he has suffered torture in incommunicado detention — stood trial for subversion on Tuesday behind closed doors, as his wife was prevented from traveling to the court in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi.

Chang’s trial on charges of “subversion of state power” began at 9.00 a.m. local time at the Feng County People’s Court, as his wife Chen Zijuan tweeted that she had been pulled over at a highway exit and prevented from taking the exit for the court.

The sentence carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a minimum jail term of 10 years.

The trial lasted around 90 minutes, with sentencing to be announced at a later date, Chen said via her Twitter account.

“Chang Weiping, I stand here today at the highway exit for Feng county,” Chen, clad in a green suit and holding a large bouquet of flowers, says in a short video recorded as police and COVID-19 enforcement officials mill around her.

“I want to present these flowers to you. Today is your Good Friday; but also I think your day of glory,” she said. “I’m so sorry that I was unable to be there for you in person despite traveling more than 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) in the hope of seeing you with my own eyes.”

“But they have been holding me here on this highway for more than 10 hours now,” Chen says. “I just heard from the lawyer that the trial is over already.”

“But whatever the outcome, this has not been a fair trial. This trial wasn’t yours; instead it was the scene of their crime.”

Global response

German ambassador to China Patricia Flor hit out at the treatment of Chen.

“#ChangWeiping’s wife @zijuan_chen was held up at a roadblock when trying to enter Feng [county], where she wanted to attend the trial,” Flor said via her official Twitter account.

“It is unacceptable that relatives are obstructed from supporting a defendant. #Justice needs #transparency.”

The French embassy in Beijing also tweeted on Tuesday: “The French Embassy in Beijing stands with human rights lawyer CHANG Weiping and his family ahead of his closed trial on 26 July … and reiterates its support for human rights lawyers working for the rule of law in China.”

The British government account @UKinChina called for the release of Chang and all prisoners of conscience in China.

[…]

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/trial-07262022125525.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3186681/chinese-human-rights-lawyer-chang-weiping-closed-door-trial

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/china-acts-of-torture-against-detained-hrd-chang-weiping

https://safeguarddefenders.com/en/blog/3-ways-china-blocks-access-lawyers

https://monitor.civicus.org/updates/2022/07/26/arrests-jailing-activists-and-silencing-dissent-hong-kong-persists-despite-un-review/

https://www.rnd.de/politik/chang-weiping-in-china-scheinprozess-hinter-verschlossenen-tueren-DSJPKAM7D5C6TM3UTIKXLJGH2I.html (DEUTSCH)

Chinese Lawyers’ ‘Original Sin’ — Speech by Lawyer Li Fangping on 6th China Human Rights Lawyers Day

09/07/22

Li Fangping started practicing law in China in the mid-1990s, first in Jiangxi and then in Beijing. Over the years since the onset of the rights defense movement in the early 2000s, he has been one of the leading human rights lawyers and has defensed clients in nearly all types of human rights and public interest cases, including political prisoners, activists, rights defenders, victims of food contamination, victims of workplace discrimination, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, and Tibetan Buddha Buramna Rimpoche. I was in a messaging group with Mr. Li a few years ago and remembered to this day what he once said there: “The police have visited my parents in Jiangxi more times than I have.” He and his family recently arrived in the U.S. via Hong Kong. — Yaxue Cao

Ladies and gentlemen, guests and viewers, it is an honor to take part in this year’s Human Rights Lawyers Day. As a Chinese lawyer of nearly 30 years, I am pleased to share with you the evolution of the legal scene in contemporary China, and discuss the future of China’s human rights lawyers.

By nature, the bar is a system designed to respect rule of law, limit government power, and protect civil rights. Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the new regime was antagonistically disposed to lawyers who continued to practice as they had during the republican era. In December 1950, the Ministry of Justice announced the termination of the old lawyer system. The 1954 Constitution stipulated the right of defendants to legal defense, setting up the new regime’s own lawyer system.

However, less than three years later, the “Anti-Rightist Movement” of 1957 once again threatened China’s lawyers with full-scale crackdown.

According to a dataset published by the All China Lawyers Association, in 1957, at least 30 percent of lawyers were classified as “rightists,” perhaps the highest percentage of any profession.

The reasons for so many lawyers being criticized as rightists can be broadly summarized as follows:

First, they were accused of attacking the judicial system and judicial organs of the “people’s regime”; second, their ideas that lawyers are supra-class and independent was a refusal to recognize that lawyers are part of the apparatus of the “people’s dictatorship”; third, they insisted on presumption of innocence; and fourth, they confronted and opposed the people’s procuratorate.

So it’s clear that, from the beginning of the PRC’s establishment, the authorities regarded lawyers with hostility, whether lawyers from the republican era or those who began practicing under the new regime.

[…]

British lawyers defending Hong Kong tycoon say they receive threats

07/07/22

Barristers from a British law firm who are representing jailed Hong Kong tycoon and democracy campaigner Jimmy Lai said on Thursday they had received anonymous emails warning them against travelling to the city to defend him.

Lai is among the most prominent people to be charged under a national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020 to punish terrorism, collusion with foreign forces, subversion and secession with possible life imprisonment.

Critics of the law say authorities are using it to stifle dissent, a charge officials in Hong Kong and Beijing reject.

The barristers – Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Jonathan Price and Jennifer Robinson from Doughty Street Chambers – told Reuters the messages came from a generic Gmail address.

“A person that refuses to abide by the laws of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region could be extradited…from other jurisdictions. Foreign nationals will be charged with the offences of subversion,” one of the emails said. “You have been warned not to attempt entry or land in Chinese territory.”

The barristers declined to say if they would be travelling to the former British colony for the trial.

Gallagher has previously been targeted by state-backed media, with an article on March 2 in the Wen Wei Po newspaper describing her as “anti-China” and opposed to the national security law.

[…]

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/british-lawyers-defending-hong-kong-tycoon-say-they-receive-threats-2022-07-07/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hong-kong-email-threat-sent-to-jimmy-lais-london-legal-team-wtxssrmv5

https://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/news/jimmy-lais-international-legal-team-calls-united-nations-expert-group-take-action-end-his

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Lai

https://thediplomat.com/2022/07/the-hong-kong-government-and-the-rule-of-law/

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Lai (FRANCAIS)

Some 35 lawyers linked to protester relief fund being probed by Hong Kong Bar Association

05/07/22

Letters sent by the group, which represents barristers, reportedly accused them of bypassing defendants’ instructing firms and collecting remuneration directly from the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

The Hong Kong Bar Association has asked barristers who received remuneration from a now-defunct protester relief fund to submit written explanations over suspected professional misconduct, Oriental Daily and Sing Tao reported.

According to its report on Tuesday, the association has sent letters to some 35 barristers since June 27.

The letters reportedly list court cases related to the 2019 protests which were handled by the lawyers in question. The barristers stand accused of violating the profession’s Code of Conduct by bypassing solicitors representing defendants and collecting remuneration directly from the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.

Sing Tao quoted sources as saying all the barristers concerned had practised for less than five years. Some had allegedly received HK$3,000 to HK$6,000 per day spent in court from the fund, while claiming they worked pro bono – without charge.

The association told HKFP a probe was underway: “We are not in a position to respond or comment on the updates or details in the investigation before it is concluded,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.

National security arrests

The city’s national security police unit said in May it had uncovered misconduct by some lawyers linked to the 612 fund and had filed complaints to the Law Society of Hong Kong, which represents solicitors, and to the Hong Kong Bar Association. It did not describe the alleged misconduct.

[…]

https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2022-0360_EN.html

https://samuelbickett.substack.com/p/whats-going-on-with-the-hong-kong?s=r

https://www.economist.com/interactive/essay/2022/07/01/how-hong-kong-became-a-police-state

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/reports-publications/5899-hong-kong-submission-to-the-un-human-rights-committee-on-the-deterioration-of-civic-space

Submission by Human Rights Watch to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Advance of its review of China (Hong Kong)

29/06/22

This memorandum provides an overview of Human Rights Watch’s central concerns with respect to the Chinese government’s human rights practices, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the “Committee”) in advance of its review of China (Hong Kong) at its 135th session in June/July 2022. This submission, which draws on years of research and documentation by Human Rights Watch, covers the authorities’ misuse of national security legislation, severe restrictions on freedom of the media, and pressure on a once-independent judiciary, among other issues. We hope it will inform the Committee’s assessment of the Chinese government’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

[…]

Access to justice, independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial (arts. 2 and 14)

The Chinese government has stepped up pressure on Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, expressing anger at judges’ performance, especially in handling cases related to the 2019 protests. Beijing-controlled newspapers Wen Wei Po and Ta Kung Pao have run articles and opinion pieces that repeatedly named and attacked judges whom they accused of being biased towards the pro-democracy movement, criticizing them when they question police or prosecution evidence, or when they hand down sentences Beijing considers too lenient. These media outlets have called for such judges to be punished for “encouraging chaos on the streets.”

In November 2020, the Hong Kong Bar Association wrote to Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, calling on her to “defend the judiciary and individual judges against these pernicious accusations,” which it says, “hover on the margins of a contempt of court.” Cheng is not known to have taken any actions to protect judges.

Beijing’s newspapers and pro-Beijing politicians have also attacked the bar association’s then chairperson, Paul Harris, who had called on the government to revise the NSL so that it is consistent with the Basic Law. The papers called Harris “an anti-China politician,” and baselessly linked the organization he co-founded, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, with US intelligence agencies. Beijing’s representative office directly called for Harris’ resignation in April 2021??. They have also threatened to take away the bar association’s statutory powers, including those to certify barristers, which would have serious consequences for lawyers’ independence. Harris did not seek re-election, and after the NSL police summoned him, he left Hong Kong abruptly in March 2022.

In April 2022, another prominent human rights lawyer, Michael Vidler, also closed his law firm of 19 years and left Hong Kong, though without giving an explanation.

[…]

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/06/29/submission-human-rights-watch-united-nations-human-rights-committee-advance-its

https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/china-torture-and-ill-treatment-while-in-detention-of-xu-zhiyong-and

https://www.rfi.fr/fr/asie-pacifique/20220622-xu-zhiyong-et-ding-jiaxi-avocats-du-mouvement-des-nouveaux-citoyens-jug%C3%A9s-en-chine (FRANCAIS)

https://www.zonebourse.com/actualite-bourse/Deux-avocats-chinois-specialises-dans-la-defense-des-droits-sont-juges-pour-subversion-de-l-Etat–40783407/

Second Chinese rights activist Ding Jiaxi stands trial on state subversion charges in secret proceeding

24/06/22

  • No family or supporters were in court as prominent civil rights leader went on trial in Shandong province on Friday
  • A decade ago Ding, an engineer turned lawyer, joined Xu Zhiyong’s cause to promote the New Citizens’ Movement

Ding Jiaxi, one of China’s most prominent civil rights leaders, went on trial behind closed doors on Friday on charges of state subversion.

His trial was held without any of his family or supporters present, at the Linshu County People’s Court in Shandong province, eastern China.

Ding’s lawyers could not be reached for comment. The legal representatives had been ordered to sign confidentiality agreements forbidding them from speaking to the media or risk severe consequences, according to Luo Shengchun, Ding’s wife.

“[Ding’s] relatives in the mainland are being closely watched and guarded, [they] cannot leave their homes,” said Luo, who lives in the United States.

Ding, 54 – who was rounded up with other activists including 49-year-old Xu Zhiyong – was part of the New Citizens’ Movement pushing for political change such as constitutionalism while keeping existing political structures.

Ding has long been a civil rights activist, making him a frequent target of the authorities. China has in recent years focused on suppressing organised political activism in all forms, including moderate dissidents.

Ding and Xu have been held behind bars for more than two years. They were arrested months apart after attending an activist gathering in Xiamen, in southeastern Fujian province, in December 2019.

According to an indictment issued by the municipal prosecutor’s office in Linyi last year, Ding was charged with subverting state power for leading a “citizens’ movement” together with Xu. Under the Chinese criminal code, the charge of subverting state power can carry a sentence of up to life in prison.

The two are charged with organising “secret meetings” with the aim of overthrowing the state, gathering a community of individuals to make an “illegal” documentary, establishing websites and publishing subversive content.

By 2012, Ding, an engineer turned lawyer who was successful in both careers, had joined Xu’s cause to promote the New Citizens’ Movement. They campaigned against corruption and the death penalty while also advocating for the education rights of migrant workers’ children and encouraging Chinese people to exercise their rights as enshrined in the constitution.

[…]

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/3182920/second-chinese-rights-activist-ding-jiaxi-stands-trial-state-subversion

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/24/china-rule-of-law-activists-trial/

https://www.9news.com.au/world/xi-jinping-not-smart-enough-activist-secret-trial-xu-zhiyong-communist-party/c84717bf-2df3-4279-b881-6b7adaca4465

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/two-chinese-rights-lawyers-face-trial-state-subversion-2022-06-22/

https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/world/china-human-rights-lawyers-trial-subversion-b2107054.html

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/xuzhiyong-trial-06222022144357.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/22/two-chinese-activists-on-trial-this-week-for-civil-society-summit

https://www.voanews.com/a/hong-kong-nears-bottom-in-new-human-rights-survey-/6631158.html

(ESPANOL)

China: Unfair trials of prominent activists an attack of freedom of association

21/06/22

Two Chinese human rights activists are set to face grossly unfair trials behind closed doors this week after being targeted and tortured due to their peaceful work, Amnesty International said today.

Legal scholar Xu Zhiyong and human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi will be in court this Wednesday and Thursday respectively, facing spurious charges of “subverting state power”.

“The Chinese authorities have targeted Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi not because they committed any internationally recognized crime, but simply because they hold views the government does not like. These unfair trials are an egregious attack on their human rights,” said Amnesty International’s China Campaigner Gwen Lee.

“Having faced torture and other ill-treatment during their arbitrary detention, Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi now face being sentenced to years behind bars in secretive trials that have been rigged from the start.”

Xu and Ding are both prominent members of the New Citizens’ Movement, a loose network of activists founded by Xu in 2012 to promote government transparency and expose corruption.

They were among dozens of lawyers and activists targeted after attending an informal gathering held in Xiamen, a city on China’s southeast coast, in December 2019, in which they discussed the civil society situation and current affairs in China.

Later that month, police across the country began summoning or detaining participants in the Xiamen gathering.

Tortured in a “tiger chair”

Ding was held incommunicado in “residential surveillance at a designated location” for more than a year after being taken away on 26 December 2019.

Friends of Xu Zhiyong say he went into hiding after the meeting in December 2019. In early February 2020, Xu criticized President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests and called on him to resign.

[…]

https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/thematic-reports/ahrc5036-protection-lawyers-against-undue-interference-free-and

https://independence-judges-lawyers.org/reports/protection-of-lawyers-against-undue-interference-in-the-free-and-independent-exercise-of-the-legal-profession/ (FRANCAIS/ARABIC/CHINESE/RUSSIAN)

China: Hong Kong Lawyers Are The Next Target of Xi’s National Security Law

19/06/22

Veteran human rights lawyer Michael Vidler decided it was too dangerous to work in Hong Kong the moment a judge designated to handle national security law cases implied offering legal support to democracy activists could be a crime.

Judge Stanley Chan cited a contact card naming two law firms, including Vidler’s, as evidence of how organized the 2019 anti-government camp was in his judgment for an unlawful assembly conviction earlier this year. As to whether the lawyers named were “accomplices” to that crime, Chan said he couldn’t comment. 

“It was deeply disturbing for me as a lawyer to be, in essence, accused of inciting a crime because a potential client had a piece of paper on him which listed my firm as a source of legal advice and assistance,” said Vidler, who previously defended now-jailed democracy activist Joshua Wong and won a landmark appeal that recognized spousal visas for same sex couples.  

“There was no longer space for my firm to continue its public interest litigation work,” he added, “without an increasing risk of serious adverse consequences for my team and myself.”

Vidler left Hong Kong in May after almost two decades working in the former British colony, and closed his law firm shortly after. His experience reflects growing concern that Hong Kong’s rule of law, for decades a foundational pillar of its standing as an international financial center, is becoming more influenced by the mainland where the Communist Party controls the courts. 

A government spokesperson said Hong Kong’s rule of law remained “solid and robust” after the security legislation Beijing imposed on the city in June 2020, crediting it for restoring a “peaceful and stable environment.” The spokesman said Chan made his comments outside the context of a national security law case, and denied that he suggested a lawyer could be criminally liable for simply providing legal services.

Authorities have ramped up pressure on lawyers who’ve defended some of the 10,000 protesters arrested during the 2019 unrest. Prominent barrister Margaret Ng was arrested over her work with a fund providing financial aid to activists, with police reporting other lawyers to their professional bodies for misconduct unearthed in that investigation. She has denied the charges and a court hearing is set for Sept. 19.  

Former Hong Kong Bar Association chief and human rights lawyer Paul Harris left the city in March after being questioned by national security police. 

[…]

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-19/hong-kong-lawyers-are-the-next-target-of-xi-s-national-security-law

https://thebl.com/china/two-chinese-human-rights-activists-held-for-two-years-to-stand-trial-separately.html

https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/chinese-activists-indicted-for-discussing-human-rights-to-be-tried-separately20220617023808/

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Asia-Insight/Hong-Kong-judicial-independence-fears-threaten-city-s-business-case

https://asia.nikkei.com/Editor-s-Picks/Interview/Hong-Kong-security-law-not-harsh-says-lawyers-group-chief