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Seven months incommunicado detention of woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang

Status: 
Detained
About the situation

As of 20 October 2019, woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) has been detained incommunicado for seven months. On 20 March 2019, Shanghai Public Security Bureau officers arbitrarily arrested the human rights defender from her home in Shanghai. The legal basis for the arrest was unknown until 2 July 2019, when Shanghai authorities informed her lawyer Zhang Lei that she had been formally arrested in the month of June on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”. In early October 2019, Zhang Lei was informed that the Shanghai No.1 Procuratorate (Prosecutor General’s office) had indicted her on 3 September 2019 on the more serious charge of “subverting state power”, which carries a potential life sentence.

About Chen Jianfang

Chen JianfangFormerly a farmer, Chen Jianfang began her human rights work after local authorities and developers seized her and her family’s land without adequate compensation. In the last decade, she has been working at grassroots level to defend land and housing rights, promote the rights of vulnerable social groups and expose root causes of systemic rights abuses. She pushes for civil society participation in international human rights mechanisms as well as advocating for its involvement in the monitoring of the government’s implementation of its human rights obligations. As a result of her human rights work, she has faced reprisals at the hands of police and other state agents, including previous episodes of arbitrary detention, surveillance, and a travel ban.

21 October 2019
Seven months incommunicado detention of woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang

As of 20 October 2019, woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang (陈建芳) has been detained incommunicado for seven months. On 20 March 2019, Shanghai Public Security Bureau officers arbitrarily arrested the human rights defender from her home in Shanghai. The legal basis for the arrest was unknown until 2 July 2019, when Shanghai authorities informed her lawyer Zhang Lei that she had been formally arrested in the month of June on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”. In early October 2019, Zhang Lei was informed that the Shanghai No.1 Procuratorate (Prosecutor General’s office) had indicted her on 3 September 2019 on the more serious charge of “subverting state power”, which carries a potential life sentence.

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Formerly a farmer, Chen Jianfang began her human rights work after local authorities and developers seized her and her family’s land without adequate compensation. In the last decade, she has been working at grassroots level to defend land and housing rights, promote the rights of vulnerable social groups and expose root causes of systemic rights abuses. She pushes for civil society participation in international human rights mechanisms as well as advocating for its involvement in the monitoring of the government’s implementation of its human rights obligations. As a result of her human rights work, she has faced reprisals at the hands of police and other state agents, including previous episodes of arbitrary detention, surveillance, and a travel ban.

In October 2019, the Shanghai authorities informed Zhang Lei, Chen Jianfang’s lawyer, that she had been indicted on 3 September 2019, under Article 105 of the Chinese Criminal Law. The article states that whoever instigates the subversion of State power or threatens its existing socialist system could face imprisonment for three years to life. The case has now been transferred to the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate Court, pending trial. Chen Jianfang is now reportedly being held at the Shanghai Detention Centre. Neither her family nor her lawyer has been given access to her since her detention.

Shortly before her detention on 20 March 2019, Chen Jianfang posted an online tribute to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of her colleague, Cao Shunli. Cao Shunli was a prominent human rights defender who, along with Chen Jianfang, campaigned for the participation of civil society in the drafting of China’s national report for the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2013. Cao Shunli was detained while on her way to Geneva for a human rights training, and died from organ failure after six months in detention on 14 March 2014. The online post denounced the government’s failure to set up an impartial and independent investigation into Cao Shunli’s death. Chen Jianfang’s case has been taken up by UN Special Procedures in a recent communication to the Chinese government as well as by the UN Secretary-General in his recent report on reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with UN human rights mechanisms.

Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the prolonged incommunicado detention of Chen Jianfang and her indictment on a “national security” offence, which allows the authorities broad discretion to deny her access to legal counsel. It believes that her detention is solely motivated by her peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of human rights.