Posts Tagged ‘Gao Zhisheng’

Enforced disappearances in China

August 31, 2022

On 30 August, 2022, the International Day of the Disappeared, the international community must recognize and respond to the widespread use of enforced disappearances in the People’s Republic of China, say an impressive group of NGOs (see list a the end):  

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. [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/33C77656-F58B-454E-B4C7-E1775C954F14]

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. 

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed this when he reminded the international community that enforced disappearance is a ‘method of repression, terror, and stifling dissent’. Relatives – themselves also victims of this crime– are deprived of their right to justice, and to know the truth, constituting a form of cruel and inhumane treatment for the immediate family. 

But no matter how powerful a country is, no matter what security challenges (real or perceived) they may face, the experts rightfully emphasize: ‘There can never be an excuse to disappear people.’ Enforced disappearances are strictly prohibited under international law under any circumstances, and may constitute a crime against humanity when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population. 

The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for it to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It has disregarded requests for over nine years by the UN’s Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit the country, including its most recent on 7 January 2022. In the meantime, the number of cases of individuals disappeared presented before the Working Group soared, reaching 214 by 2021, out of which 98 remain outstanding. 

It is urgent that the UN, governments, and civil society worldwide press China to end, unequivocally, all forms of enforced disappearance. 

UN experts and civil society actors have documented many practices used by the Chinese authorities amounting to enforced disappearance. Some are written into Chinese law, or Chinese Communist Party guidance; others happen outside the scope of China’s own laws.  Some target individuals for their actions or speech; others are wielded with the intent to terrorize a particular ethnic or religious community. 

Residential Surveillance at a Designated Locations (RSDL)

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’  is allowed for in China’s Criminal Procedure Law, and authorizes holding someone in custody – prior to arrest – for up to six months in an undisclosed location. This ‘location’ is unofficial, selected at the discretion of the police, and the individual is isolated in solitary confinement without access to family, counsel or options to appeal the measure. This is especially true for those activists and dissidents accused of ‘national security crimes’. Incomplete government data admits to use of RSDL in some 23,700 instances, but civil society estimates that for the period 2013 to 2021, the real figure is closer to 85,000, with increased use over time. The practice continues despite having been condemned by UN experts as ‘a form of enforced disappearance’ that ‘may per se amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, or even torture.’ The experts’ assessment is clear: RSDL must be repealed. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2022/02/05/chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-location-needs-to-disappear/]

Liuzhi system 

The liuzhi (留置) extralegal detention system mimics the practice of RSDL, but is used to specifically punish any public servant or Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member who allegedly ‘violates duties’ or commits ‘economic crimes,’ potentially reaching nearly 300 million victims.  As with RSDL, liuzhi detentions can last up to six months, holding victims incommunicado and in solitary confinement at undisclosed locations. Yet, detentions are outside the scope of China’s laws, including the Criminal Procedure Law, as liuzhi is not part of the criminal justice system. Instead, it is run by China’s powerful extra-judicial anti-graft watchdog, the National Supervision Commission (NSC), a quasi-state body answerable only to the CCP. Legal safeguards, including the right to legal counsel, do not apply to individuals investigated under liuzhi, until and unless their case is sent for criminal prosecution. Incomplete official data acknowledges 11,000 individuals held under liuzhicivil society estimates actual figures to surpass 57,000 disappeared victims. UN experts addressed a general allegation on this issue to China in September 2019.

Psychiatric incarceration (ankang)

Since the 1980s, China’s Ministry of Public Security has locked up individuals targeted for their political and religious beliefs in psychiatric hospitals for the criminally insane, known as ankang (安康) (‘peace and health’). Despite legal reforms, police continue to send human rights defenders for compulsory treatment without medical justification in both ankang facilities, and psychiatric hospitals for the general public. Civil society data indicates this is a regular, large-scale practice, where victims are denied contact with the outside world and often subjected to torture and ill-treatment, while families are not informed about their relatives’ forced hospitalization.

Enforced disappearance in Tibet

The Chinese authorities continue to disappear Tibetans, including religious leaders, critics and influential thinkers, subjecting them to torture and ill-treatment, and employing the threat of disappearance to instill widespread fear across Tibet.  In February 2022, six UN experts raised concern over the physical well-being of Tibetan musician Lhundrup Drakpa, writer Lobsang Lhundrub, and school teacher Rinchen Kyi, arrested and disappeared ‘in connection with their cultural activities in favour of the Tibetan minority language and culture.’ In July 2021, four UN experts expressed similar concern over the enforced disappearance of Rinchen Tsultrim and Go Sherab Gyatso, pointing to a ‘worrying pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detentions (…) against the Tibetan religious minority, some of them amounting to enforced disappearances.’ 

The 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist leaders, was disappeared in 1995 at the age of six. The Chinese government continues to ignore calls for his release, UN experts’ concerns, or the UN child rights committee’s request for access to establish his whereabouts and health.

Enforced disappearance in the Uyghur region 

Beginning in 2017 in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR, or Uyghur Region), Uyghurs and Turkic Muslims have been detained incommunicado by Chinese government officials in internment camps, forced labor facilities, official prisons where they serve lengthy sentences, and other facilities where they are at risk of being subject to forced labor. Reports to the UN Working Group on enforced disappearances escalated dramatically, indicating a widespread and systematic practice. While the Chinese government refers to these camps as ‘vocational education and training centers’, administrative detention in the camps has no basis in Chinese, or international law. 

Journalists and NGOs have reported countless testimonies of people whose family members are or were missing and believed to be detained in the XUAR, and yet who have no way to establish their family members’ whereabouts.  They almost never receive official confirmation regarding their family member’s status from the Chinese authorities; efforts to gather information from Chinese consulates or embassies abroad have been largely unsuccessful. Very few detainees are allowed contact with the outside world. Even nominally ‘free’ Uyghurs living in XUAR have been effectively forbidden to speak with their family or friends abroad. Uyghurs in the country and overseas are wholly deprived of their right to truth. 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the international community as a whole to ensure sustained attention and take meaningful action to put an end to all forms of enforced disappearance in China. The authorities must release all those disappeared, ensure their relatives’ right to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence. 

We stand in solidarity with all those missing, and with their loved ones, left longing for them to return alive. 

Signatories

            Amnesty International

            China Against the Death Penalty

            China Aid Association

            Chinese Human Rights Defenders

            Freedom House

            Front Line Defenders

            Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

            Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete Portugal

            Hong Kong Democracy Council

            Hongkongers in Britain

            Hong Kong Watch

            International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) 

International Campaign for Tibet

            International Commission of Jurists

            International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

            International Society for Human Rights

            International Tibet Network

            Lawyers for Lawyers

            Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

Northern California Hong Kong Club

            Objectif Tibet, Sciez, France

            PEN America

Safeguard Defenders

The Rights Practice

The 29 Principles

Tibet Initiative Deutschland

Tibet Justice Center

Tibet Support Group Ireland

Students for a Free Tibet

Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association

Uyghur Human Rights Project

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

World Uyghur Congress

China in the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council: Uyghurs and jailed human rights defenders

July 6, 2021

In a statement 22 June 2021, the ISHR on behalf of over 20 civil society organisations called for unequivocal action by the High Commissioner to monitor and report on the human rights situation in China. The violations targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, the groups underlined, have been determined by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to constitute crimes against humanity.

‘The Special Procedures and treaty bodies have repeatedly, for the last five years, raised serious concerns about the human rights situation in China,’ said Sarah M Brooks, ISHR programme director. ‘But despite these efforts, little has changed. More is needed.’

The gravity of the situation was underlined also by a joint statement delivered by Canada, on behalf of more than 40 states, earlier today. Listing a range of concerns about treatment of Uyghurs, those governments pressed China to allow ‘immediate, meaningful and unfettered’ access to the region for the High Commissioner.

The weight of evidence and the gravity of allegations of crimes against humanity against Uyghurs demands that the High Commissioner commence remote monitoring and public reporting immediately. The full statement can be accessed here

Anadolu on 29 June 2021 reported that Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, says she has countless reports about mistreatment of activists in China.

The UN’s independent expert on human rights defenders said that she feared activists in China were arbitrarily sentenced to long prison terms, house arrest and tortured and also denied access to medical treatment, their lawyers and families.

Condemning human rights defenders…to long terms in prison for their peaceful human rights work, abusing them in custody and failing to provide them with adequate medical care…cannot continue,” Mary Lawlor, the UN special rapporteur on human rights defenders, said in a statement.

She said she had “countless reports” pointing to the mistreatment of human rights defenders in Chinese custody, which is “endemic.”

Geneva’s Chinese mission spokesman Liu Yuyin later refuted Lawlor’s criticism, accusing the UN expert of having “deliberately smeared China, spread disinformation and interfered in China’s judicial sovereignty under the pretext of human rights.”

“The individuals that Ms. Lawlor and other special procedure mandate holders mentioned have committed a series of crimes such as inciting subversion of state power and splitting the state. The facts are clear and the evidence is solid,” he added.

Lawlor said the treatment meted out to those jailed may amount to torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, despite a plethora of recommendations from the UN mechanisms over the years, including from the Committee Against Torture.

Some defenders, such as Gao Zhisheng, have been “forcibly disappeared,” while others such as Guo Hongwei have died in prison, she said. Lawlor said she knew of at least 13 human rights defenders sentenced on “spurious charges” such as “picking quarrels” or “provoking trouble” to 10 years or more in prison for peacefully defending the rights of others. Among them is Qin Yongmin, sentenced to 35 years in prison for work that included promoting engagement with the UN, and Ilham Tohti, a “moderate scholar” serving a life sentence.

“Tohti was arbitrarily arrested, allegedly tortured and sentenced to life after a closed-door trial. He was not allowed any family visits and no information has been provided by Chinese authorities since,” said Lawlor. He is a much-recognised defender: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491

Human rights defender Chen Xi, serving 10 years in prison, has chronic enteritis, which causes dehydration and fever. In winter, he contracts severe frostbite on his hands, ears and abdomen, and in his lifetime, he has been sentenced to 23 years in prison, said the expert.

https://www.ishr.ch/news/hrc47-governments-ngos-call-high-commissioner-step-work-protect-uyghurs

https://www.globalvillagespace.com/un-expert-raises-concern-on-jailed-activist-in-china/

What kind of lawyers will attend the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou on Human Rights Day?

December 5, 2019
Lawyer Wang Yu is taken to a studio for TV denunciation of the ABA award. Pictorial rendition is based on Wang Yu’s account. Source: Safeguard Defenders.

The government has invited, according to its official website,more than 600 important international guests from governments, judicial departments, financial circles, international lawyers’ associations, other bar associations and well-known law firms, etc.”………to uphold the rule of law spirit of building a community of shared future for humanity, create an international platform for lawyers from all countries for exchange and cooperation, further consolidate the consensus of the international legal profession, etc…

We know that since July 2015, Chinese human rights lawyers have been suppressed on a large scale [ see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/07/29/the-remarkable-crackdown-on-lawyers-in-china-in-july-2015/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/26/lawyers-key-to-the-rule-of-law-even-china-agrees-but-only-lip-service/]. To this day, many lawyers, including Wang Quanzhang [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/12/05/li-wenzu-wife-of-wang-quanzhang-wins-2018-edelstam-award/], Zhou Shifeng, Yu Wensheng, Chen Wuquan, Chen Jiahong, Qin Yongpei, and others are in prison. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng disappeared on August 13, 2017, and his whereabouts still are unknown. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was released from prison earlier this year, has since been under illegal house arrest [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/11/21/jiang-tianyong-chinese-defender-of-defenders-sentenced-to-2-years-jail/].

China Change asked a number of Chinese human rights lawyers to express their views on this “Global Lawyers Forum”. Here a selection:

“…..If the purpose of the conference, as the government claims, is to “consolidate the international consensus of the lawyers’ profession,” what then is the consensus of the legal profession? It is the UN’s “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.” Domestic law should be amended on the basis of these principles.  (Liu Shuqing, Jinan, deprived of his lawyer’s license in 2016)

This rhetoric can be deceptive domestically and internationally, giving those who don’t know the true nature of the CCP and the reality on the ground the wrong impression that China has rule of law, so much so that it is a world leader in the area.” (Jiang Tianyong, Beijing, 709 detainee, and still under house arrest since his release at the end of February 2019.)

Lawyer Jiang Tianyong

“I think it is a ridiculous thing for China to host such an event. As everyone knows, the Chinese government has always opposed constitutional democracy and the rule of law. It disregards human rights and blatantly infringes upon every right of the people. Such a conference is only a cover-up for the CCP.”   (A lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous)

“The All China Lawyers’ Association (ACLA) is the same as the Chinese government; it is a part of the government. ACLA contributes little to defending human rights in China, and more often than not it is an accomplice in suppressing human rights. Such a country holding such a conference and urging lawyers from all over the world ‘to jointly promote the rule of law around the world’ –– how could anyone believe this? How could anyone attend and support such a meeting? Are the participants burying their heads in the sand or just being ignorant?” (Liang Xiaojun, Beijing)

“Nearly without exception, any Chinese lawyer who has participated in any international exchange meeting, including meetings with Hong Kong and Taiwanese lawyers, has been interrogated and threatened by China’s national security agents or domestic security police after they returned home to the mainland. In such a ‘police state,’ how can there be normal international exchanges?” (Chen Jiangang, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow 2019, who fled China in the summer after being threatened with “disappearance” by a director of Beijing’s Judicial Bureau)

“The choice to hold the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ in Guangzhou is ironic in light of the purpose of the gathering. The retrogression of the legal system in China over the past decade, and the persecution of lawyers who dare to speak out, has reached a shocking point. And the crackdown and persecution of lawyers in Guangzhou is the most severe in the country. Therefore, the selection of Guangzhou for the ‘Global Lawyers Forum’ is an affront to the spirit of rule of law.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou, license revoked in 2019)

“I really am not inclined to criticize any lawyers or officials who will attend the conference. I just want them to be clear-headed when they are in China. What they will see is definitely not all of China, or even the most important part. If they aren’t hoodwinked and if they observe the Chinese legal profession with clear eyes, a greater number of ordinary Chinese lawyers may have heartfelt admiration for them.” (Wen Donghai, Changsha)

“I hope attendees from foreign bar associations won’t just listen to the officials’ big empty words and propaganda but pay more attention to the actual human rights situation in China. I hope they learn more about religious groups, ethnic minorities, dissidents and human rights activists. These groups have suffered cruel persecution in China; I hope the foreign attendees will speak on their behalf at the conference and raise questions.” (An anonymous Beijing lawyer)

“I hope the participants can hear the voices of lawyers not sanctioned by the CCP government, and especially look into the real reasons for the revocation of so many lawyers’ licenses.” (Liu Zhengqing, Guangzhou)

…….

 

 

China Has Invited 600 International Lawyers and Judicial Officials to its ‘Global Lawyers Forum,’ But These Chinese Lawyers Won’t Be Welcome

Even China makes sometimes a small gesture towards HRDs – family visit Gao Zhisheng

January 22, 2013

On 12 January 2013 the family of imprisoned human rights defender Gao Zhisheng were permitted a visit to see him ten months after an initial visit on 24 March 2012. A report of this second visit reached Front Line only on 18 January 2013. Gao Zhisheng’s wife, Ms Geng He who is US-based, told Radio Free Asia that her father and brother-in-law saw Gao Zhisheng for 30 minutes on 12 January but were forbidden from asking any “sensitive” questions, including what conditions in prison were like.  Gao Zhisheng is being held in China’s remote northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Previous attempts by his family for a second visit had been denied by the authorities. According to Geng He, Gao Zhisheng appeared to be ‘relatively well’ and did not need assistance walking. Gao Zhisheng is a human rights defender and self-taught lawyer, and was named one of China’s top ten lawyers by the Ministry of Justice in 2001. He regularly took on cases involving persecution of religious minorities, including Falun Gong practitioners and those associated with the unofficial ‘house church’ movement.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped

While Front Line Defenders welcomes this recent visit by the family of Gao Zhisheng, it reiterates its continued call on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Gao Zhisheng as it believes he is being detained solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

For more information on Gao Zhisheng’s case, see http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17876