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Case History: Hu Shigen

Status: 
Sentenced to Prison
About the situation

On 3 August 2016, human rights defender Mr Hu Shigen was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on charges of 'subversion of state power' by a court in Tianjin province. Hu Shigen has been in custody since 9 July 2015 when scores of people were detained by police in a nationwide sweep targeting human rights defenders.

About Hu Shigen

Hu ShigenHu Shigen is a writer who spent 16 years in prison on account of his pro-democracy activities

3 August 2016
Human rights defender Hu Shigen sentenced to 7.5 years in prison

On 3 August 2016, human rights defender Mr Hu Shigen was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison on charges of 'subversion of state power' by a court in Tianjin province. Hu Shigen has been in custody since 9 July 2015 when scores of people were detained by police in a nationwide sweep targeting human rights defenders.

Hu Shigen is a writer and former academic who has already spent 17 years in prison on account of his pro-democracy activities. He is a leading figure of the 'house church' movement in Beijing, an underground network of churches independent of the state-sanctioned church. In 1992, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ‘leading a counter-revolutionary organisation’ and ‘counter-revolutionary propaganda’  due to his labour activism and work promoting democracy.

Following a number of sentence reductions, he was released in 2008 and immediately returned to working to defend the rights of others. In 2014 he was detained for a month after attending a private commemoration ceremony for the people who were killed by the army during the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. In July 2015 he was taken into custody once again for his work campaigning for greater freedom of speech and his role in organising the house church movement in Beijing.

During the course of his two hour trial on 3 August, prosecutors alleged that Hu Shigen sought to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party through his involvement in recruiting lawyers and others to oppose the government and threaten social stability. He was also alleged to have sent other human rights defenders abroad to participate in trainings and conferences with the purpose of inciting a 'colour revolution' in China. He pleaded guilty to the charges. The human rights defender had been held incommunicado since his detention on 9 July.

Hu Shigen's trial follows the televised confession of human rights laywer, Ms Wang Yu, on 1 August in which she states she has been released on bail, and blames 'foreign forces' for stirring up social instability in China. Wang Yu, too, had been held incommunicado for over a year. Her husband remains in detention and her 16 year old is under house arrest.

On 2 August another human rights defender detained since June 2015 was given a three year suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to ‘subverting state power’. Mr Zhai Yanmin was also subjected to a televised confession and during his trial reportedly blamed 'hostile foreign forces' for manipulating people in China. It is widely believed that these confessions were coerced.

Front Line Defenders utterly condemns the sentencing of Hu Shigen to 7.5 years in prison and the continued and repeated use of televised confessions of human rights defenders who have been arrested for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights. Front Line Defenders calls on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally quash the sentence against the human rights defender, as it is believed it is an attempt to prevent him from carrying out his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights.

14 September 2015
Whereabouts of at least 18 human rights defenders remain unknown two months after their detentions

9 September 2015 marked two months to the day since a nationwide crackdown on human rights defenders began in China.

The whereabouts of at least 18 defenders remain unknown following their detention by police in July. It is thought that at least nine others are also detained. Many of those missing or detained are lawyers who have been at the forefront of the human rights movement in China over the past number of years.

Beginning on 9 July 2015, scores of human rights defenders, mostly involved in legal activism, were taken in for questioning by police in a number of cities across China. While many were released shortly after, it is reported that at least 27 remain in police custody. The families and lawyers of at least 18 of those detained have not been informed of where they are being held, nor have their lawyers been permitted to meet with them. No information has been received about their physical or mental well-being. All but one of those detained have been refused access to their lawyers, with some legal representatives informed that this is because their clients' cases involve 'national security'.

On 9 July 2015, human rights lawyer Ms Wang Yu and her husband Mr Bao Longjun, a legal activist, were detained and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' in an unknown location. They are being held on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power' and Bao Longjun also faces the charge of 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles'. The following day, a number of lawyers and legal assistants Messrs Wang Quangzhang, Xie Yuandong, Li Heping, Liu Sixin, Zhou Shifeng, Huang Liqun and Ms Li Shuyun were seized by police in Beijing. Their whereabouts are currently unknown, as are the whereabouts of Ms Wang Fang, an accountant at a law firm where some of the detained lawyers work, and Mr Hu Shigen, a human rights defender and writer who previously spent 16 years in prison as a result of his human rights activities. Three further human rights defenders, namely Messrs Gou Hongguo, Liu Yongping and Lin Bin, were also detained on 10 July and remain under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location.

That same day, lawyer Mr Sui Muqing was detained in Guangzhou and has also been placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 12 July lawyer Mr Xie Yanyi was also detained in Beijing and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'disrupting court order' and 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 20 July Ms Gao Yue, an assistant to lawyer Li Heping, was detained and subsequently placed under 'residential surveillance' at an unknown location on charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles' and 'inciting subversion of state power'. On 1 August, Mr Li Chunfu, the younger brother of Li Heping was disappeared following a raid on his home by police in Beijing. He has not been heard from since. In addition to the defenders named above, at least nine others reportedly remain in detention.

5 June 2014
Release on bail of human rights defenders Messrs Hu Shigen and Xu Youyu and Ms Liu Di

On 5 June 2014 human rights defenders Messrs Hu Shigen and Xu Youyu and Ms Liu Di were released on bail. The three had been detained, along with human rights defenders Messrs Pu Zhiqiang and Hao Jian, on 4 and 5 May 2014 following their attendance of a private commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent violent crackdown.

The three human rights defenders had been held on charges of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". Pu Zhiqiang and Hao Jian remain in custody, along with many other human rights defenders who were detained in advance of the 25th anniversary of the protests. Ms Liang Xiaoyan, a participant in the 1989 protests who was also detained, was released after questioning.

6 May 2014
Detention of human rights defenders following commemoration of 1989 Tiananmen Square protests

On 4 and 5 May 2014 a number of human rights defenders in Beijing were taken in for questioning by police following their participation in a commemoration of the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Human rights lawyer Mr Pu Zhiqiang, detained on charges of “causing a disturbance,” and Mr Hu Shigen are being held in at Beijing No.1 Detention Centre, while Messrs Xu Youyu and Hao Jian, and Ms Liang Xiaoyan and Ms Liu Di remain out of contact.

On 3 May 2014 the aforementioned human rights defenders, in addition to a number of others, gathered at a private residence in Beijing to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square. In a statement released after the meeting, participants, who included relatives of those killed during the protests, called on the Chinese government to launch an official investigation into the events in 1989 and to compensate the victims. They also released a photograph of themselves standing behind a banner saying, “2014 Beijing June 4 Anniversary Seminar.”

On 4 May 2014, at around 11pm, Pu Zhiqiang was summoned for questioning about the event by police. At around 4pm on 5 May, his home was searched and a mobile phone, a computer and books were reportedly seized. Police in Beijing subsequently released a statement saying that he had been detained on charges of “causing a disturbance.” Pu Zhiqiang is a well-known human rights lawyer who has taken on a number of freedom of speech cases and who himself participated in protests in 1989.