Case History: Wang Yu
On 1 August 2016 a videotaped confession of human rights defender Ms Wang Yu was circulated on Chinese state media websites in which she states that she has been released on bail. The conditions surrounding Wang Yu's bail and the extent of her freedom are unknown, furthermore doubts exist as to the veracity of her confession.
On 8 January 2016, the familiy of Wang Yu received official notice dated 8 January 2016 that she had been charged with 'subversion of state power'. Her husband, Mr Bao Longjun has been charged with 'inciting subversion of state power'.
Wang Yu is a commercial lawyer who began taking on human rights cases in 2011. In and out of the courtroom, Wang built a reputation as a fearless champion of the downtrodden and a perpetual thorn in the government’s side.
She defended feminist activists, members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong and Ilham Tothi, the respected Uighur academic who was last year jailed for life for inciting separatism.
In 2013, Wang travelled to the southern island of Hainan to help the families of six schoolgirls who had allegedly been sexually assaulted by their headmaster.
On 1 August 2016 a videotaped confession of human rights defender Ms Wang Yu was circulated on Chinese state media websites in which she states that she has been released on bail. Wang Yu had been in detention since 9 July 2015 and in January 2016 was charged with 'subversion of state power'. She was one of scores of human rights lawyers who were rounded up in a nationwide crackdown and of whom around 20 still remain in detention. The conditions surrounding Wang Yu's bail and the extent of her freedom are unknown, furthermore doubts exist as to the veracity of her confession.
Wang Yu is a human rights lawyer who has taken on a number of so-called 'sensitive' cases since beginning her human rights work in 2011. Among those she has defended is Uyghur academic Ilham Tohti, who in September 2014 was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of 'separatism'. She also provided legal assistance to the families of six schoolgirls who were sexually abused by their teachers in Hainan province and to practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement banned in China as it is deemed to be a cult.
In her confession released on 1 August, Wang Yu criticised fellow human rights lawyers, saying that they were motivated by money and fame and blamed overseas activists for using human rights defenders as tools to tarnish the reputation of the Chinese government. Wang Yu's confession is the most recent in a series of televised confessions of human rights defenders which have been broadcast in an attempt to undermine human rights work in the country. At least two of those who had previously appeared in such videos later said that their confessions were scripted and that they were pressured to participate. A legal assistant, Zhao Wei, who was detained at the same time as Wang Yu, was reportedly released on bail on 7 July, although her husband has since been unable to contact her.
Wang Yu had been held incommunicado since 9 July 2015 and her husband, Bao Longjun, remains in detention, having been seized on the same day. Their 16 year old son, Bao Zhuoxuan, is under tight surveillance at the home of his grandparents following an unsuccessful attempt to flee China last year with the help of two human rights defender friends of his parents.
On 13 January 2016, it emerged that two more human rights lawyers, Ms Wang Yu and Mr Bao Longjun, have been charged by the Chinese authorities in relation to their activities in defence of human rights.
The familiy of Ms Wang Yu received official notice dated 8 January 2016 that she has been charged with 'subversion of state power'. Her husband, Mr Bao Longjun has been charged with 'inciting subversion of state power'.
This follows the charging of five other human rights lawyers and a legal assistant in recent days on similar grounds. The maximum penalty for the crime of 'subversion of state power' is life imprisonment. There is a 15 year maximum penalty for the crime of 'inciting subversion of state power'. It is believed that Wang Yu and Bao Longjun are being respectively detained in Tianjin No.1 and No.2 Detention Centres.
Wang Yu and Bao Longjun have been held incommunicado since their detentions on 9 July 2015. Until their formal arrest on 8 January 2016, the two human rights defenders had been under 'residential surveillance at a designated location'. They were not permitted access to lawyers nor were their whereabouts confirmed by police. Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law allows for the detention of suspects in state security, terrorism and serious bribery cases for up to six months in undisclosed locations, under the guise of 'residential surveillance'. The authorities are not obliged to specify the place of detention or notify the suspect's relatives or legal representative of the reasons for the residential surveillance in cases relating to the three charges, if doing so may “interfere with the investigation”.
Burmese police reportedly took two human rights defenders, Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian, along with Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of detained human rights defender Ms Wang Yu, from their Myanmar hotel on 6 October. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
At around midday on 6 October 2015, ten Burmese police officers reportedly arrived at the Huadu Guest House in Mongla, Myanmar, searched the room in which Tang Zhishun, Xing Qingxian and Bao Zhuoxuan were staying, and then proceeded to take the three of them away. The three were travelling in Myanmar during a period of national holidays in China. On 7 October friends of the three went to the local police station to make inquiries but police denied any knowledge of the three's whereabouts and also denied that they had detained them the previous day. On 8 October at around 11pm the home of Xing Qingxian was searched by national security police in Chengdu, China.
On July 2015 Bao Zhuoxuan and his father, Bao Longjun, were detained by police at Beijing Capital Airport as Bao Zhuoxuan prepared to board a flight to Australia where he was intending to continue his studies. That same day, Wang Yu was taken from her home in Beijing on charges of 'inciting subversion of state power'. Her current whereabouts are unknown and her lawyers have been denied permission to meet with her. Bao Longjun also remains in detention at an unknown location and his lawyers have similarly been denied access to him. After being detained briefly, Bao Zhuoxuan was released but in the following weeks was called in for questioning a number of times by police.
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.
Since 9 July 2015, the Chinese police have detained or questioned more than 100 human rights defenders and their family members.
While many of them have been released, at least six human rights lawyers, namely Ms Wang Yu and Messrs Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang, Huang Liqun, Sui Muqing and Xie Yang, remain imprisoned or under house arrest.
The human rights defenders were arrested and detained by police at different times between 9 and 11 July. Sui Muqing and Xie Yang are accused of inciting subversion of state power and have been placed under house arrest. Four lawyers from Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang andHuang Liqun, were taken from their homes or offices by police during this period and remain in detention. Wang Yu's husband and fellow human rights defender, Mr Bao Longjun, has also been detained by police in Beijing.
This most recent crackdown started on 9 July, when Wang Yu was kidnapped in the early morning after sending her friends a text message saying that the internet connection and electricity had been cut off at her home and that people were trying to break in. Shortly after her detention, more than 100 Chinese lawyers joined an open letter protesting her disappearance. Later some of those lawyers who signed the letter, as well as her colleagues from Beijing Fengrui Law Firm were detained.
Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Quanzhang and Huang Liqun are human rights lawyers working for Fengrui Law Firm, based in Beijing. The Law Firm has handled a number of high-profile human rights cases including that of the Uighur human rights defenderMr Ilham Tohti, who is currently serving a life sentence on separatism charges. The firm’s director, Zhou Shifeng, represented Zhang Miao, a Chinese journalist who had worked with a German magazine reporting on the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests in 2014 and who was recently released after nine months in detention. Clients of Wang Yu include practitioners of Falun Gong, the religious group banned in China. Guangzhou-based human rights lawyer Sui Muqing, who has been under a travel ban since May 2015, is known for representing clients in so-called politically sensitive cases. Xie Yang is a Hunan-based human rights lawyer who has represented the family of Xu Chunhe, a man shot dead by policeHeilongjiang Province in May 2015.