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Lack of transparency in the detention of He Fangmei raises concerns about her and her children’s well-being

Status: 
Disappeared
About the situation

9 October 2022 marks two years since woman human rights defender He Fangmei disappeared after conducting a protest in front of a local government office in Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan province. She was pregnant at the time of her disappearance. There has been a severe lack of transparency over her, her children and her husband’s whereabouts and well-being since then.

Woman human rights defender He Fangmei (何方美) has been disappeared after conducting a protest in front of a local government office in Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan province on 9 October 2020.

About He Fangmei

He FangmeiHe Fangmei (何方美) is a health rights defender who advocates for vaccine safety and for access to remedies for victims of defective vaccines. She began seeking accountability and compensation after her daughter was paralysed with a neurological disease after receiving defective vaccines in March 2018 when the child was ten months old. She then co-founded "Home for Vaccine Babies" (疫苗宝宝之家), an informal network of families whose young children became seriously ill or disabled as a result of receiving defective vaccines. She and her husband Li Xin travel to Beijing frequently to seek medical care for their daughter and to petition government offices in the capital to press for State and corporate accountability for the harms suffered by individuals who received defective vaccines and their families.

7 October 2022
Lack of transparency in the detention of He Fangmei raises concerns about her and her children’s well-being

9 October 2022 marks two years since woman human rights defender He Fangmei disappeared after conducting a protest in front of a local government office in Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan province. She was pregnant at the time of her disappearance. There has been a severe lack of transparency over her, her children and her husband’s whereabouts and well-being since then.

He Fangmei is a health rights defender who advocates for vaccine safety and for access to remedies for victims of defective vaccines. She is living with auditory disabilities. She began seeking accountability and compensation after her daughter was paralysed after receiving defective vaccines in March 2018. She and her husband Li Xin travel to Beijing frequently to seek medical care for their daughter and to petition government offices in the capital to press for State and corporate accountability for the harms suffered by individuals who received defective vaccines and their families. Their daughter is seven-year-old and her son is about nine-year-old this year.

In March 2022, supporters campaigning for her freedom circulated online what appears to be a copy of a formal arrest notice issued by the Huixian Public Security Bureau (辉县市公安局), which states that the woman human rights defender was arrested on 23 March 2022 for “bigamy” and for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” and is detained at the Xinxiang Detention Centre.

Independent human rights monitors also reported that the woman human rights defender had been held under the so-called “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL) at a psychiatric hospital in Xinxiang immediately after being taken away in October 2020. She reportedly gave birth to a child at the hospital. The whereabouts and well-being of her infant and two other children are not known. The same reports also indicated that a first-instance trial has already taken place in 2022, but her lawyer was not able to meet her nor access case files, and that her family has no information about her, her husband or their three children. There is no publicly available information about the outcome of her trial.

Under China’s Criminal Procedure Law, RSDL cannot exceed six months. If He Fangmei was immediately subjected to RSDL since October 2020 and if the local public security authorities follow the law strictly, her RSDL period would have ended by early April 2021 at the latest. It is not known where she had been between the end of her RSDL and her formal arrest in March 2022.

As a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Chinese government has obligations to respect and protect He Fangmei as a woman living with disability and the best interests of her three young children, including one living with disability.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned by the lack of information about He Fangmei’s and her immediate family’s situation. It is particularly concerned by the well-being of her three young children as there is no information on whether they are in detention along with her or her husband or placed under the care of others. It calls on the relevant authorities to release He Fangmei and drop all charges against her. The authorities should also immediately clarify her husband’s and her children’s whereabouts and well-being. They should also release them or end any restrictions if they are subjected to them, and ensure they are reunited with each other immediately.

8 January 2021
Woman human rights defender He Fangmei disappeared for three months

Woman human rights defender He Fangmei (何方美) has been disappeared for three months after conducting a protest in front of a local government office in Huixian, Xinxiang, Henan province on 9 October 2020. He Fangmei’s husband, Li Xin, has been uncontactable since he was taken away in Beijing by individuals believed to be Huixian local police five days after his wife’s disappearance. He Fangmei is pregnant and a mother of two young children, one of whom is disabled and requires regular medical treatment.

Download the Urgent Appeal

He Fangmei (何方美) is a health rights defender who advocates for vaccine safety and for access to remedies for victims of defective vaccines. She began seeking accountability and compensation after her daughter was paralysed with a neurological disease after receiving defective vaccines in March 2018 when the child was ten months old. She then co-founded "Home for Vaccine Babies" (疫苗宝宝之家), an informal network of families whose young children became seriously ill or disabled as a result of receiving defective vaccines. She and her husband Li Xin travel to Beijing frequently to seek medical care for their daughter and to petition government offices in the capital to press for State and corporate accountability for the harms suffered by individuals who received defective vaccines and their families. In March 2019, she was arrested while fundraising on the streets of Beijing along with other families affected by defective vaccines. She was then taken back to Henan and detained until she was put on trial in November 2019 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. In January 2020, she was released after the local prosecutors withdrew the charges against her.

On 2 October 2020, He Fangmei went to the Huixian municipal government office and splashed black ink at the front entrance, to protest the government’s failure to provide her remedies for her daughter’s illness and compensation for her detention in 2019. She was also protesting against the close police surveillance and restrictions of movement against her and her family which obstructed their travel to Beijing, where her daughter seeks better quality medical care. The local public security office issued an order of 10-day administrative detention against her, but decided to suspend its enforcement because she is pregnant.

On 9 October 2020, He Fangmei went to the same government office and splashed black paint at the front entrance. She then became uncontactable some time between 9 and 10 October 2020. She is an active Twitter user and acquaintances took over the administration of her account after she went missing and began posting updates and concerns since 10 October about her apparent enforced disappearance.

In the subsequent weeks, acquaintances and families of victims of defective vaccines made multiple phone calls to the local public security office, but they either went unanswered or the person who answered said it was the wrong number. Information posted on her Twitter account several days after her disappearance and attributed to her husband Li Xin, who was in Beijing, suggests that He Fangmei may be under de facto house arrest in Huixian. Local officials were quoted as saying her two young children are being “taken care of.” In the late afternoon of 14 October 2020, Li Xin also became uncontactable, according to those who attempted to reach him on his mobile. To date, there has been no confirmed information about He Fangmei and her immediate family’s exact whereabouts and well-being.

On 26 October 2020, concerned individuals made phone calls to He Fangmei’s family and were told that they had no information of her whereabouts after she went missing; the family have not heard from Li Xin either since he was taken from Beijing back to Huixian; and they have not received any official notice from the police concerning He Fangmei or Li Xin.

In November 2020, families affected by defective vaccines went to local government offices in Huixian to inquire about He Fangmei’s situation but were not able to obtain any information. Around the same time, these families launched a social media and letter writing campaign to press the relevant authorities to reveal He Fangmei’s whereabouts. Some of these families have been interrogated by public security officers who warned them not to engage in the campaign.

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned by the lack of information regarding the whereabouts and well-being, and the apparent enforced disappearance of He Fangmei, her husband, and her two young children, especially in light of her pregnancy and her daughter’s medical conditions. It believes her and her family’s disappearance and the harassment they faced prior to it are reprisals for He Fangmei’s peaceful and legitimate work in promoting and defending human rights, including the right to health.