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Right to information defenders detained in undisclosed location

Status: 
Detained
About the situation

On the evening of 13 May 2020, Ms Tang, Cai Wei's partner was released on bail pending investigation. She returned to her hometown in Anhui province. Chen Mei and Cai Wei remain under residential surveillance in an undisclosed location. On 14 May 2020, Chen Mei's family received a formal notice from the Chaoyang branch of the Beijing Public Security Bureau confirming his detention under "residential surveillance in a designated location" since the evening of 19 April 2020, on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

On 19 April 2020, right to information defenders Cai Wei (蔡伟) and Chen Mei (陈玫), as well as Cai Wei’s partner, a woman surnamed Tang, went missing.

About Cai Wei (蔡伟)

Cai WeiCai Wei (蔡伟) is a right to information defender based in Beijing. He is a volunteer contributor for Terminus2049 (端点星计划), an online crowd-sourced repository hosted on the open-source platform Github, which archives content removed from Chinese websites and social media platforms by government censors.

14 May 2020
Cai Wei's partner released; Chen Mei receives formal confirmation of charges

On the evening of 13 May 2020, Ms Tang, Cai Wei's partner was released on bail pending investigation. She returned to her hometown in Anhui province. Chen Mei and Cai Wei remain under residential surveillance in an undisclosed location.

On 14 May 2020, Chen Mei's family received a formal notice from the Chaoyang branch of the Beijing Public Security Bureau confirming his detention under "residential surveillance in a designated location" since the evening of 19 April 2020, on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

Lawyers appointed by Cai Wei and Chen Mei's families have made repeated attempts, without success, to obtain information from the police on the whereabouts of the two defenders, the responsible officers, and details about the case against them.

 

28 April 2020
Right to information defenders detained in undisclosed location

On 19 April 2020, right to information defenders Cai Wei (蔡伟) and Chen Mei (陈玫), as well as Cai Wei’s partner, a woman surnamed Tang, went missing.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Cai Wei and Chen Mei are Beijing-based volunteer contributors for Terminus2049 (端点星计划), an online crowd-sourced repository hosted on the open-source platform Github, which archives content removed from Chinese websites and social media platforms by government censors. The repository was set up in January 2018 and has now archived hundreds of articles, many of the most recent ones on the topic of COVID-19. Since the coronavirus outbreak began in China in December 2019, government monitors have censored media reports, personal blog entries, and social media posts that criticise or discuss the government’s responses to the pandemic, such as the harassment of whistleblower doctors in Wuhan and pleas from frontline healthcare workers for international assistance.

On 23 and 24 April 2020, the families of Cai Wei and Ms Tang received an official document from the Chaoyang District Branch of the Beijing Public Security Bureau informing them that the two have been placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location” (RSDL) on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. Chen Mei’s family believe he was taken away by Chaoyang public security officers but they are yet to receive any official detention notice and his whereabouts are unknown.

Under Chinese law, public security officers are authorised to place suspects or defendants under residential surveillance in a designated location for up to six months. RSDL detainees who are being investigated for “crimes endangering State security, involving terrorist activities or involving significant amount of bribes” may be detained in a venue other than a detention centre or a special venue for investigation and require permission from the investigators to meet with lawyers. Under the Criminal Law of China, “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is classified as a public order rather than a national security or economic offence. While Chinese law requires the police to notify a RSDL detainee’s family about the detention within 24 hours, it does not explicitly require the police to reveal the exact location of detention.

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.” Many human rights defenders have been subjected to RSDL in recent years and are often denied access to their lawyers during the detention.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the detention of Cai Wei and Ms Tang and the unknown location of their detention and the on-going disappearance of Chen Mei.