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CHRD Communiqué Alleging the Enforced Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention of lawyer Chang Weiping – October 30, 2020

CHRD Communiqué Alleging the Enforced Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention of lawyer Chang Weiping – October 30, 2020

November 13, 2020       Comments Off on CHRD Communiqué Alleging the Enforced Disappearance and Arbitrary Detention of lawyer Chang Weiping – October 30, 2020

Submission to:

Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association 

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers

Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Communiqué on Behalf of Chang Weiping,

Citizen of the People’s Republic of China, Alleging Arbitrary Detention, Enforced Disappearance, Deprivation of Rights to Expression and Reprisals against a Human Rights Defender

I. IDENTITIES

1. Family name: Chang (常)

2. First name: Weiping (玮平)

3. Sex: Male

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention): April 14, 1984

5. Nationality/Nationalities: People’s Republic of China

6. Identity document (if any): 

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention): Chang Weiping is a human rights lawyer who has been a vocal advocate for the rights of lawyers and rule of law in China. He has taken on a number of high-risk cases in representing human rights defenders, death penalty cases, lawsuits against companies for discrimination against persons affected by HIV/AIDs and gender discrimination. He has been unable to practice law since Baoji City Judicial Bureau suspended his law license on October 14, 2018 in retaliation for his professional work and outspokenness. After a 3-month suspension of his license, other law firms have declined to hire him due to political pressure. Being employed by a firm is a requirement for having his suspended license reinstated. On January 13, 2020, Baoji City Judicial Bureau cancelled his law license.

8. Address of usual residence: Baoji City, Shanxi Province, People’s Republic of China

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest: October 22, 2020

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible): Baoji City, Shanxi Province, People’s Republic of China

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Baoji City Public Security Bureau Gaoxin District Sub-Bureau

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? No

5. Authority who issued the warrant or decision: N/A

6. Reasons for the arrest imputed by the authorities: Unknown

7. Legal basis for the arrest including relevant legislation applied (if known): Unknown

III. Detention

(Submitter’s note: Chang Weiping has not yet been formally arrested at the time of submission but put under Residential Surveillance in Designated Location (RSDL), a de facto form of enforced disappearance (OL CHN 15/2018). He may be under this status for up to six months before being formally arrested. We have included the RSDL details under “Detention”).

1. Date of detention: Unknown (residential surveillance at a designated location).

2. Duration of detention (if not known, probable duration): Chang Weiping has been continuously detained since October 22, 2020.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention):  Unknown police-designated location

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: “Subversion of state power”

7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): Article 105 (1) of China’s Criminal Law (“subversion of state power”) stipulates fixed-term imprisonment of not more than 3 years for participants, 3 to 10 years for active participants, and not less than 10 years or life imprisonment to those who organize, plot or carry out the scheme of subverting the state power or overthrowing the socialist system, and to ringleaders and others who commit major crimes.  

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest

Officers from Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-Bureau seized Chang Weiping from his home during the day on October 22, 2020. His wife, who lives in Guangdong Province, received a phone that evening informing her that Chang Weiping was suspected of a “criminal offence” and put under “residential surveillance in a designated location” but not informed of any specific charges. She has not received a written RSDL notice. On October 26, Baoji City PSB Gaoxin Distrcit Sub-Bureau denied Chang’s lawyers’ requests to meet with them. They orally told the lawyers that Chang was suspected of “subversion of state power” and the case involved “state secrets.”

V. Indicate reasons why you consider the arrest and/or detention to be arbitrary

The enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention in “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) of Chang Weiping constitutes state retaliation for his peaceful exercise of the rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, and free association, in violation of Article 35 of China’s Constitution which guarantees these rights. The enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of Chang is likely in continued retaliation for his attendance at a private meeting held on December 2019 in Xiamen City, Fujian Province and for speaking out about torture. From January 12-21, 2020, Baiji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau forcibly disappeared Chang Weiping into RSDL on suspicion of “subversion of state power” due to his attendance of this meeting, where participants discussed politics and ideas for China’s future, and shared civil society experiences.

The police crackdown on participants of the December 2019 Fujian Province meeting has been raised by Special Procedures earlier this year. Five Special Procedures raised the case of three participants, Dai Zhenya, Ding Jiaxi, and Zhang Zhongshun, in UA CHN 6/2020 on March 9, 2020 which was followed up with a press statement on March 23, 2020.[1] Eight Special Procedures raised the case of another participant of the meeting who was later detained, Xu Zhiyong, in AL CHN 8/2020. The Chinese government’s responses to UA CHN 6/2020 and AL CHN 8/2020 failed to address the Special Procedures’ concerns about violations of international human rights law and falsely claimed the individuals had been treated “in accordance with the law” and authorities had guaranteed their “legal rights.”

Prior to his most recent detention, Chang Weiping released a video on YouTube on October 16, 2020. In the video, Chang alleged he had been tortured during the January 2020 detention, including being tied to a “tiger chair” (a torture device) for 24 hours a day for 10 days straight. Chang said he still suffers physical and psychological effects from the torture, including numbness in his fingers, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. He also said in the video that police have harassed him in the 10-months since he has been released under “bail pending further investigation.” The bail restrictions also meant he could not leave Baoji City and reunite with his family. Chang asserted in the video that, “Just in case I lose my freedom, I want to state in advance that I will not commit suicide, and I will not do anything to harm myself. Although I am disconcerted, I do not suffer from any fatal health problems. I will not accept any assigned lawyers. I have already appointed my own.”[2]

The above circumstances related to Chang Weiping’s disappearance and detention constitute violations of his rights to peacefully exercise free expression, assembly, and association, including those guaranteed under Category II of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights under Articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, and 26), and freedoms guaranteed by Articles 18, 19, and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Chang Weiping has been deprived of his due process rights since being taken into custody, including in the lack of provision of police documentation concerning his detention and denial of access to legal counsel. Chang is at high risk of torture while held at RSDL without access to his lawyers or communication with his family. Furthermore, he is being held by the same police force which he alleged had tortured him in January.

On October 26, 2020, Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau rejected Chang Weiping’s lawyers’ requests to visit with their client. Article 37 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law allows police to deprive the detainee’s right to access to a lawyer beyond 48 hours if the detainee is accused of an “endangering national security” crime, in violation of international human rights law on access to a lawyer. Denial of access to a lawyer places the detainee at high risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau also refused the lawyers’ requests to obtain information about the unit and the officers handling Chang’s case and the relevant legal documents about Chang’s case. The officers refused to disclose any information about Chang’s case, claiming that Chang was placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location” on suspicion of “subversion of state power”.  The officers also claimed that the reason of Chang’s detention involved “state secrets”, and thus they could not disclose his location of detention and other details of the investigation of his case.

At the time of submission, Chang Weiping’s family have not received any written RSDL notice. Under Article 83 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law, there are exceptions to the law on family notification for individuals charged with a crime in the category of “endangering state security,” however the law violates international human rights standards designed to protect an individuals’ right to a fair trial and protect them from torture.

RSDL is a form of detention that constitutes de facto enforced disappearance according to international standards, exposing detainee to greater risk of torture. According to Chinese law, detainees can remain under RSDL, at a secret location, for as long as six months. Requests for meetings with their lawyers must be approved by police and are routinely denied in cases involving human rights defenders. Ten UN Special Procedures called on the Chinese government to repeal the provision in August 2018 (OL CHN 15/2018). The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention stated in Opinion No. 15/2019 (China) that placement in RSDL is a violation of articles 6, 9, 10, and 11(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The above circumstances indicate that the ongoing detention of Chang Weiping constitutes violations of Mr. Chang’s right to a fair trial, guaranteed under Category III of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 9).

Though not confirmed in a written notification, the legal basis for Chang’s detention was orally cited by Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau as “subversion of state power” (Article 105(1) of the Criminal Law). The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Opinion No. 11/2020, described the provision as “vaguely and broadly worded” that “could be used to deprive individuals of their liberty without a specific legal basis and violate the due process of law upheld by the principle of legality in article 11(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (para. 43-4). The above circumstances related to Chang Weiping’s disappearance and detention constitute that the deprivation of Mr. Chang’s liberty lacks legal basis and thus is arbitrary, falling under Category I.

Chang Weiping’s political views and convictions are at the center of the police investigation against him. Authorities targeted Chang and the other participants of a private meeting in December 2019 due to the political content of the meeting, such as discussions on ideas for China’s future and Chang’s experience as a human rights lawyer. Chang said in his video address that he attended the meeting because “It was simply an occasion to discuss the difficulties of lawyers in performing their duties, as well as issues of public concerns at the time and to share our experiences working on public interest cases.”

Baoji City PSB are discriminating against Chang for his political beliefs and convictions. As such, his detention is arbitrary under Category V, when the deprivation of liberty is on the grounds of discrimination based on political or other opinion, and in violation of articles 2 and 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

VI. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken.

Chang Weiping’s lawyer applied for bail on October 26, 2020 but Baoji City PSB Gaoxin District Sub-bureau denied the request in a written notice issued on October 28.

At the time of submission, he remains disappeared into RSDL. Chang has still not been granted access to his lawyers and his exact location remains unknown.

Date of Submission: October 30, 2020


[1] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25735&LangID=E

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dvDjbHr85k&feature=youtu.be; (English transcript: https://twitter.com/chrlcg/status/1320036767257378816)

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