Back to top

Right to information defenders detained in undisclosed location

Status: 
Indicted
About the situation

On 22 September 2020, a lawyer assigned by the Chinese Government to represent human rights defender Chen Mei informed Chen's mother that he and fellow human rights defender Cai Wei have been indicted and their case has been sent for trial to the Chaoyang District Court in Beijing.

On 6 August 2020, the state-appointed lawyer for human rights defender Chen Mei informed his family that the Beijing police have sent the case against him and Cai Wei to the procuratorate for prosecution review.

On 12 June 2020, Beijing police informed the families of Cai Wei and Chen Mei that the two defenders have been formally arrested on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". They are currently detained at the Beijing Chaoyang District Detention Centre.

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 Chen Mei (陈玫)

Chen MeiChen Mei (陈玫) 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.

 

22 September 2020
Chen Mei and Cai Wei indicted

On 22 September 2020, a lawyer assigned by the Chinese Government to represent human rights defender Chen Mei informed Chen's mother that he and fellow human rights defender Cai Wei have been indicted and their case has been sent for trial to the Chaoyang District Court in Beijing.

Since their detention in April 2020, Chen Mei and Cai Wei have not been allowed access to the legal counsel chosen by their families. Instead, the Government claimed that both defenders have "voluntarily" sought and received legal representation through the State legal aid programme.

Chen Mei's family have submitted a complaint to the Chaoyang District Judicial Bureau against the law firm to which Chen Mei's two Government-assigned lawyers belong, contending that they have violated laws and regulations governing the conduct of lawyers by representing clients who do not need legal aid and whose families have expressly rejected their representation.

7 August 2020
Case of Chen Mei and Cai Wei sent for prosecution review

On 6 August 2020, the state-appointed lawyer for human rights defender Chen Mei informed his family that the Beijing police have sent the case against him and Cai Wei to the procuratorate for prosecution review.  Under Chinese law, the procuratorate must make a decision whether to prosecute the case within a month. However, this deadline may be extended for a further 15 days if the case is deemed “major” or “complicated”. It may also refer the case back to the police for supplementary investigation.

Chen Wei and Cai Wei have now been detained for more than 110 days on the charge of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

16 June 2020
Families of Cai Wei and Chen Mei made aware of their location

On 12 June 2020, Beijing police informed the families of Cai Wei and Chen Mei that the two defenders have been formally arrested on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble". They are currently detained at the Beijing Chaoyang District Detention Centre.

The families were also told that the two defenders "voluntarily applied for free legal assistance" and are now represented by lawyers identified by the government, despite the fact that the families have already appointed lawyers to assist them since their detention in April 2020.

Before their formal arrests, Cai Wei and Chen Mei were placed under residential surveillance in a designated location, a form of secret incommunicado detention provided for under China's Criminal Procedure Law. The family-appointed lawyers have not been able to meet the two defenders or obtain any information from the police, including their exact detention location and the details of the charges against them.

28 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.