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Chen Yunfei Sentenced & Imprisoned

Status: 
Sentenced & Imprisoned
About the situation

The Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court of China’s Sichuan Province announced on 20 June 2017 that it was rejecting the motion to appeal for human rights activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞). Chen Yunfei received a guilty verdict from the Wuhou People’s Court on 31 March 2017 and appealed this decision shortly after; the Chengdu City Court’s decision to deny this appeal follows no session or hearing as required under Chinese law.

Chen Yunfei, has been incarcerated since 25 March 2015 and repeatedly subject to torture in the Chengdu detention centre where he is being held.

About Chen Yunfei

Chen YunfeiChen Yunfei is a human rights defender and blogger from Sichuan province who has campaigned against environmental degradation, highlighted human rights abuses and spoken out on behalf of the families seeking justice for those killed in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. He has been subjected to threats, harassment, physical attack, illegal detention and house arrest as a result of his work.

27 June 2017
Chen Yunfei’s appeals denied

The Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court of China’s Sichuan Province announced on 20 June 2017 that it was rejecting the motion to appeal for human rights activist Chen Yunfei (陈云飞). Chen Yunfei received a guilty verdict from the Wuhou People’s Court on 31 March 2017 and appealed this decision shortly after; the Chengdu City Court’s decision to deny this appeal follows no session or hearing as required under Chinese law.

Chen Yunfei is a human rights defender and political activist from the city of Chengdu. He has conducted numerous support campaigns for families of victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, campaigns which the defender has marked with his unique, outspoken sense of humor. Chen Yunfei was detained during a Tiananmen memorial event he organized in March 2015; he was tried on 31 March 2017 after two delays of his trial date. The court announced the same day that the defender had been found guilty of “making quarrels and provoking troubles”, primarily on the basis of content posted by the defender on social media and human rights advocacy websites.

Chen Yunfei’s case has been marked by repeated abuse of the defender’s rights and physical person: he has been subject to unlawfully prolonged detention, repeatedly denied access to legal counsel, and was a victim of torture on at least two occasions for his refusal to greet detention officers.

The Chengdu Court has upheld Chen Yunfei’s original sentence of four years’ imprisonment, which will likely conclude in March 2019.

31 March 2017
Prison sentences announced for three human rights defenders

On 31 March 2017 Chinese courts handed down verdicts in the cases of three human rights defenders - Su Changlan (苏昌兰) and Chen Qitang (陈启棠) were found guilty of inciting subversion of state power, and Chen Yunfei (陈云费) was convicted of picking quarrels and causing trouble. The three human rights defenders have all been illegally detained for at least two years, and all were given prison sentences of three years or longer.

Download the Urgent Appeal

In two very brief hearings—in the case of Chen Qitang, the session lasted less than three minutes—the Foshan Intermediate People’s Court found both Su Changlan and Chen Qitang guilty of inciting subversion of state power, a common charge against human rights defenders. Su Changlan was given a sentence of three years’ imprisonment; Chen Qitang was sentenced to four years and six months incarceration, with a three-year subsequent deprivation of political rights.

Chen Yunfei appeared in court on the morning of 31 March 2017 in long pyjamas and conducted an act of protest by ignoring all comments from court officers and communicating only with his lawyers. When the court announced a sentence of four years’ imprisonment, the human rights defender threw his hands up in a victory sign. Before leaving the courtroom, Chen Yunfei threatened to sue the court for its verdict, claiming that his sentence was “too light”.

Su Changlan has worked for over a decade to defend the rights of rural landholders, particularly female landholders, and other vulnerable groups in China’s Guangdong Province. The human rights defender was fired from her position as an elementary school teacher in retaliation for her human rights activism in the early 2000s, but she continued to use her self-taught legal knowledge to support female land rights victims to file suits in local courts. She also helped document cases of trafficked  women and girls. Su Changlan was detained in October 2014 after expressing support online for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. Her detention was unlawfully extended on numerous occasions, until a trial finally took place in April 2016. The verdict of that trial was not announced until 31 March 2017, during which time Su Changlan was held in detention with limited access to her family. In 2017, while still in detention, Su Changlan was awarded the China Human Rights Defenders 2017 Cao Shunli Memorial Award.

Chen Qitang is a Guangdong blogger and human rights defender targeted for his work supporting victims of land rights violations. He supports Guangdong villagers in filing lawsuits against local authorities for unlawful confiscation of property. The human rights defender was sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment for these activities in 2008. Chen Qitang was detained in November 2014 for his association with Su Changlan and their work documenting cases of domestic violence. They were both accused of “attacking the government” of Guangdong’s Huilai County. Chen Qitang’s hearing was also held in April 2016.

Chen Yunfei is a human rights defender and political activist from the city of Chengdu, Sichuan Province. He has been detained since his arrest in March 2015, when he organized a memorial event for victims of China’s 1989 Tiananmen killings. Chen Yunfei has been subject to unlawful prolonged detention, repeatedly denied access to legal counsel, and was a victim of torture on at least two occasions for his refusal to greet detention officers while detained in the Xinjin County Detention Center.

Front Line Defenders believes that the charges against Su Changlan, Chen Qitang, and Chen Yunfei are spurious and intended solely to stop these human rights defenders from their peaceful work protecting and upholding human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in China to:

1. Immediately drop all charges against Su Changlan, Chen Qitang, and Chen Yunfei as it is believed that they are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;

2. Immediately and unconditionally release Su Changlan, Chen Qitang, and Chen Yunfei;

3. Barring such action, ensure that the treatment of Chen Yunfei, Su Changlan, and Chen Qitang, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

4. Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the allegation of torture of Chen Yunfei, in the Xinjin County Detention Centre, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in China are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

23 January 2017
Chen Yunfei Tortured

Human rights defender, Mr Chen Yunfei, has been incarcerated since 25 March 2015 and repeatedly subject to torture in the Chengdu detention centre where he is being held. On 13 January 2017 Chen Yunfei informed his lawyer that because he refused to extend standard greetings to detention officers, his hands and feet were cuffed and shackled on two separate occasions. Chen Yunfei’s lawyer was forbidden from collecting photographic evidence of the human rights defender’s injuries during this visit to the prison.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

Chen Yunfei was in his second year at the Agricultural University in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. For years, he has been engaged in campaigning for the rights of children. He has also campaigned against environmental degradation, highlighted human rights abuses and spoken out on behalf of the families seeking justice for those killed in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. As a result of his work, he frequently drew the ire of the Chinese government and became a victim of physical assault from interrogators. He was placed under house arrest for six months in 2007 for publishing an advertisement in a Chengdu newspaper expressing solidarity to the mothers of victims of Tiananmen. In 2008, he was regularly targeted and harassed by government officials for his investigations into the collapse of school buildings during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Chen Yunfei has now been held in detention without trial for 22 months. No warrant was produced at the time of Chen Yunfei’s arrest and the human rights defender’s family were not given notification of Chen Yunfei’s detention or whereabouts for days following his arrest. During his detention, Chen Yunfei was denied access to a lawyer for six months, and his current lawyer, Sui Muqing, has been detained twice for visiting his client. During Sui Muqing’s most recent visit, the lawyer was detained for twelve hours and documents, including a letter from Chen Yunfei to his wife, were confiscated by staff of the detention centre.

In March 2015, Chen Yunfei organized a memorial ceremony to commemorate victims of the Tiananmen Massacre. After visiting the grave of Tiananmen victim Wu Guofeng, Chen Yunfei and 20 other activist participants were arrested by a squadron of over 100 armed police. Chen Yunfei  was arrested on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “incitement to subvert state power”, charges typically used by the government against dissidents to silence or remove them from public view.

Chen Yunfei’s trial at Chengdu’s Wuhou District People’s Court has been postponed twice, in June 2016 and December 2016.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about Chen Yunfei’s prolonged detention and limited access to legal counsel as it violates his right to due process under Chinese law. The torture he has suffered while detained at the Xinjin County Detention Center is illegal, and Chen Yunfei should be provided with all necessary medical treatment and protection.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in China to:

1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical security and psychological integrity of Chen Yunfei;

2. Ensure that the treatment of Chen Yunfei, while in detention, adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

3. End the harassment and obstruction of Chen Yunfei’s lawyers;

4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in China are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

1 July 2016
Start of Trial Delayed by Local Authorities

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan have delayed the planned trial on public order charges of Mr Chen Yunfei; the trial had been expected start on 30 June 2016, according to his lawyer.

Defense lawyers spoke to Radio Free Asia and explained both that the defense team had done significant preparations for the trial and would thus incur a financial loss, and that the trial had attracted a great deal of attention both among Chinese supporters and foreign diplomats, many of whom had requested authorization to attend the hearing.

READ THE RADIO FREE ASIA ARTICLE

8 April 2016
Formal charges brought against human rights defender Mr Chen Yunfei

On 6 April 2015, the family of human rights defender Mr Chen Yunfei received formal notification from the authorities in Sichuan province that the defender has been charged with 'picking quarrels and provoking troubles' and 'inciting subversion of state power'. He is currently detained in Xinjin County Detention Centre in Sichuan Province, where he has not yet been permitted access to a lawyer.

On 25 March 2015, Chen Yunfei and a group of approximately 20 others gathered in Sichuan Province to visit the grave of a student who was shot dead during the government crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. After visiting the grave, the group was intercepted by police officers in Xinjin County and detained. With the exception of Chen Yunfei, who was singled out by name when the group was stopped, all the other members of the group were released from police custody later that day.

In the days that followed, no formal notification was provided to the family of Chen Yunfei regarding his detention or his whereabouts. On 30 March 2015, a lawyer, Mr Ran Tong, went to Xinjin County Detention Centre to investigate whether Chen Yunfei was being held there, but was informed by the authorities that they had no information about the human rights defender. On 7 April, Ran Tong once again went to Xinjin County Detention Centre to try to meet with the human rights defender. On this occasion, authorities at the centre told him that State Security officials would not permit him to meet with his client and he was only allowed to leave some money and clothing for Chen Yunfei.

Before his latest arrest, on 6 March 2015, Chen Yunfei was briefly detained by police following his organisation of an anti-pollution protest targetting a petrochemical plant in Pengzhou, Sichuan province. In 2013, Chen Yunfei was detained in an illegal holding centre for five days in response to his work as a human rights defender.