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Human rights lawyer Chang Weiping in secret detention, denied access to lawyers

Status: 
Detained
About the situation

 

On 16 April 2021, detained human rights lawyer Chang Weiping's family received a written notice from the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau to say that the human rights defender was formally arrested on 7 April 2021 on the charge of "subversion of State power". Prior to the formal arrest, Chang Weiping was detained under "residential surveillance in a designated location" (RSDL) for the lesser charge of "inciting subversion of State power". Under China's Criminal Law, those convicted of "subverting State power" may face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

On the morning of 11 March 2021, Chang Weiping's lawyers went to the Gaoxin branch of the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau in Shaanxi province to submit a request to meet the human rights defender and an application to end the "residential surveillance at a designated location" (RSDL), under which the defender has been detained since October 2020.

In late February 2021, a lawyer submitted a request to the authorities of Baoji city to meet Chang Weiping in detention. Soon after the lawyer returned to the city where she resides, she was made aware that the Baoji authorities had lodged complaints against her with the Judicial Bureau in her city.

On 25 November 2020, Chang Shuanming was allowed to meet his son Chang Weiping at a police station in the Gaoxin District in Baoji, Shaanxi province.

In a decision dated 28 October 2020, the Baoji Gaoxin District sub-branch of the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau rejected Chang Weiping's bail application, submitted by his lawyer.

Since 22 October 2020, human rights lawyer Chang Weiping (常玮平) has been held in an undisclosed location and denied access to lawyers, after police took him into custody in the city of Baoji in the northwestern province of Shaanxi. This comes only six days after he spoke publicly about torture he suffered at the hands of local police.

About Chang Weiping (常玮平)

Chang WeipingChang Weiping is a human rights lawyer known for his public interest litigation in defence of the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. He has provided legal counsel to human rights defenders, victims of defective vaccines, as well as women, LGBT persons, and persons living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B who face discrimination in the workplace.

22 April 2021
Chang Weiping formally arrested on a more serious charge

On 16 April 2021, detained human rights lawyer Chang Weiping's family received a written notice from the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau to say that the human rights defender was formally arrested on 7 April 2021 on the charge of "subversion of State power". Prior to the formal arrest, Chang Weiping was detained under "residential surveillance in a designated location" (RSDL) for the lesser charge of "inciting subversion of State power". Under China's Criminal Law, those convicted of "subverting State power" may face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Under the Criminal Procedure Law, the Baoji public security authorities must complete their investigation within two months and then make a decision whether to recommend prosecution or drop the case. With the approval of a higher-level procuratorate, this investigative period is extendable by up to five months if certain broadly defined conditions are met, such as if the case is deemed to be "particularly serious and complicated". 

22 March 2021
Police refuse to end secret detention or grant access to lawyers

On the morning of 11 March 2021, Chang Weiping's lawyers went to the Gaoxin branch of the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau in Shaanxi province to submit a request to meet the human rights defender and an application to end the "residential surveillance at a designated location" (RSDL), under which the defender has been detained since October 2020. The lawyers also requested to see Xiang Xianhong, the deputy chief of the Gaoxin branch, to discuss details of the case. Xiang Xianhong was away at the time however, and spoke to the lawyers by phone.

That afternoon, Chang Weiping's lawyers went to the Baoji Municipal Procuratorate and submitted a complaint against the Gaoxin branch of the Public Security Bureau for allegedly torturing Chang Weiping whilst detained under RSDL. The lawyers also requested that the procuratorate exercise its supervisory powers over the local public security bureau's investigations into Chang Weiping. The procuratorate confirmed that it is yet to receive the case for prosecution review.

On 12 March 2021, Chang Weiping's lawyers went to the Gaoxin branch again in a second attempt to meet Xiang Xianhong, however he was not present this time either. The lawyers spoke to him by phone again, but he refused to disclose any details in relation to the case. The lawyers then went back to the Baoji Municipal Procuratorate to follow up on their complaint the previous day, but were told that following "verification" with the police, the Procuratorate had concluded that Chang Weiping has not been subjected to torture by the public security bureau.

The Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau subsequently rejected the request to end Chang Weiping's RSDL, indicating that due to the "requirements in processing the case", keeping Chang Weiping under RSDL is "more appropriate". No further reasons were provided. The Bureau also rejected the lawyers' request to meet the human rights defender as it would allegedly "impede the investigation or result in leaking of State secrets".

3 March 2021
Chang Weiping's legal counsel withdraws under pressure from authorities

In late February 2021, a lawyer submitted a request to the authorities of Baoji city to meet Chang Weiping in detention. Soon after the lawyer returned to the city where she resides, she was made aware that the Baoji authorities had lodged complaints against her with the Judicial Bureau in her city. As a result of this pressure, the lawyer decided to withdraw from the case.

This is the fourth lawyer who has withdrawn from Chang Weiping's case due to official pressure since the human rights defender was detained in October 2020.

13 January 2021
Chang Weiping's family and lawyers face immense pressure and harassment

On 14 December 2020, Chang Weiping's parents held a protest in front of the Gaoxin branch of the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau, seeking his release and raising concerns about the risk of torture in detention. After the protest, both parents were summoned for interrogation several times. A CCTV camera was installed outside their home in Fengxiang county to monitor their movement and any visitors. Their mobile phones have since been confiscated and they are under de facto incommunicado house arrest.

One of Chang Weiping's brothers-in-law and his father-in-law also had their mobile phones confiscated. Chang Weiping's older sister was prohibited from visiting her father. Chen Zijuan, Chang Weiping's wife, has not been able to contact her father-in-law for over two weeks.

On 6 January 2021, Chen Zijuan submitted a complaint to the Baoji Municipal Procuratorate against local public security officials who visited her in Shenzhen eight times between 22 October 2020, the day Chang Weiping was detained, and 23 December 2020. The officials warned her not to conduct public advocacy for her husband. They also pressured her to delete her social media posts on Weibo about her husband's situation. The officials said she would lose her job if she defied their demands.

The two human rights lawyers who were initially hired to assist Chang Weiping had to withdraw from the case due to intense pressure from the authorities. Two new lawyers who took over the case said they could not give any media interviews due to official pressure. The new lawyers' first attempt to meet Chang Weiping was not successful. In a statement issued on 16 December 2020, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders said the withdrawal of Chang Weiping's first lawyers was "telling of the gravity and scale of the situation faced by human rights defenders and lawyers in China.”

2 December 2020
Father of human rights defender Chang Weiping granted visitation

On 25 November 2020, Chang Shuanming was allowed to meet his son Chang Weiping at a police station in the Gaoxin District in Baoji, Shaanxi province. The meeting lasted ten minutes and took place in a room in the presence of several security officers. The father said his son looked thinner and tired, and that his eyes were bloodshot and he spoke much slower than usual.

10 November 2020
Chang Weiping denied bail

In a decision dated 28 October 2020, the Baoji Gaoxin District sub-branch of the Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau rejected Chang Weiping's bail application, submitted by his lawyer. The police indicated in the written decision that due to "requirements in processing this case, it is more appropriate to subject the suspect to residential surveillance at a designated location." The police did not further specify what the "requirements" are.

27 October 2020
Human rights lawyer Chang Weiping in secret detention, denied access to lawyers

Since 22 October 2020, human rights lawyer Chang Weiping (常玮平) has been held in an undisclosed location and denied access to lawyers, after police took him into custody in the city of Baoji in the northwestern province of Shaanxi. This comes only six days after he spoke publicly about torture he suffered at the hands of local police.

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Chang Weiping is a human rights lawyer known for his public interest litigation in defence of the rights of people facing discrimination based on their health status, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. He has provided legal counsel to human rights defenders, victims of defective vaccines, as well as women, LGBT persons, and persons living with HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B who face discrimination in the workplace.

On the evening of 22 October 2020, after Chang Weiping was taken into custody, the Baoji police telephoned his wife, who lives in Guangdong province in southern China, and informed her that the defender had been placed under “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) for unspecified “violations of legal regulations”. The police did not inform her of the exact charges he faces, the location in which he is being held nor did they provide the family with an official RSDL notice.

On 26 October 2020, accompanied by two lawyers, Chang Weiping’s father went to the Gaoxin District Branch of the Baoji Public Security Bureau to seek additional information, request a meeting with Chang Weiping, present paperwork for legal representation, and submit an application for bail. The police did not allow the lawyers to meet Chang Weiping and refused to disclose the identity of the police officers or unit responsible for investigating him, the exact location of his detention, and the basis for placing him under RSDL. They justified these actions on the grounds that the human rights defender is suspected of “inciting subversion of national security” and that his case involves “state secrets”.

Chang Weiping’s detention came six days after he published online a video clip, in which he shared details of his torture during a ten-day RSDL detention in a hotel room in Baoji in January 2020. He was placed under RSDL then in connection with his participation in a private gathering of lawyers, academics and activists in Xiamen city, Fujian province in early December 2019. Police launched a cross-provincial operation to detain, question and harass a number of human rights defenders who attended or were otherwise connected to the meeting. During his January 2020 RSDL, local authorities officially announced the suspension of Chang Weiping’s lawyer’s license.

In the video clip, Chang Weiping said that police interrogators tied him to a restraining device known as a “tiger chair” for “24 hours a day for ten days” and interrogated him 16 times during that period. In the ten months since his provisional release from RSDL, he said the local police kept him under strict surveillance at his family home in Fengxiang county in Baoji, telephoned him daily, and visited him at least once a week. He explained in the video clip that his work as a lawyer and his attendance at the December 2019 meeting in Xiamen were completely lawful examples of his exercise and defence of human rights.

In August 2018, UN human rights experts wrote to the Chinese Government raising concern that the conditions of detention under RSDL “are analogous to incommunicado and secret detention and tantamount to enforced disappearance”, exposing “those subjected to RSDL to the risk of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment and other human rights violations.” The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has repeatedly warned China that “widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.”

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the detention of Chang Weiping in an undisclosed location, without access to legal counsel which significantly raises the risks of torture and ill-treatment in detention. Front Line Defenders believes that his detention is solely motivated by his peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights.