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Trial scheduled for Chen Jianfang

Status: 
Detained
About the situation

On 8 March 2021, less than a week after human rights lawyer Zhang Lei met woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang at a detention centre in Shanghai, the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court informed the lawyer that Chen Jianfang wished to dismiss him and to appoint the "real lawyer Zhang Lei".

On the morning of 19 March 2021, the Shanghai Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court will try woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang for "inciting subversion of State power". Her trial comes almost two years after she was first detained on 20 March 2019.

On 2 March 2021, woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang was allowed to meet her lawyer for the first time since being detained almost two years ago. The meeting took place at the Shanghai Municipal Detention Centre.

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.

29 March 2021
Chen Jianfang dismisses lawyer, tried in Shanghai

On 8 March 2021, less than a week after human rights lawyer Zhang Lei met woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang at a detention centre in Shanghai, the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court informed the lawyer that Chen Jianfang wished to dismiss him and to appoint the "real lawyer Zhang Lei".

On 15 March  Lei 2021, Zhang Lei went to see Chen Jianfang in the detention centre to clarify the situation. Chen Jianfang told the lawyer that he is not the Zhang Lei she had wanted to appoint. Zhang Lei then showed her the appointment letter which Chen Jianfang had left with trusted contacts prior to her arrest. The letter indicated that lawyer Zhang Lei should be retained as her defense counsel in the case of her arrest and prosecution. However, upon seeing the letter, Chen Jianfang remained doubtful and said she had not given the letter to the person whom Zhang Lei said she had. She then asked Zhang Lei to ask woman human rights lawyer Wang Yu to accompany him to the detention centre in order to authenticate his identity. Wang Yu has already been disbarred however, and is thus not permitted to represent or meet a defendant facing criminal prosecution. Zhang Lei told the defender that because her family members are not willing to communicate with others regarding her case, it would be nearly impossible to obtain their consent to appoint another lawyer to defend her. Chen Jianfang then refused to talk and ended the meeting with Zhang Lei.

On 19 March 2021, the trial began at the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People's Court. Wang Yu travelled to Shanghai ahead of the trial, but on the morning of, Zhang Lei was unable to contact her, so he went to the court by himself. Several Shanghai-based woman human rights defenders attempting to observe the trial were all intercepted and taken away by both public security and plainclothes agents.

When Chen Jianfang saw lawyer Zhang Lei in the courtroom, she became agitated and asked the court to ensure that the "real Zhang Lei" represent her. Despite the court's verification of Zhang Lei's identity, Chen Jianfang refused to recognize him. Zhang Lei then asked the court to find Wang Yu and allow her to come to the court to authenticate his identity, but the judge refused.

Zhang Lei then asked Chen Jianfang whether she wanted to dismiss him, and the defender confirmed that was her wish. As a result, the court allowed Zhang Lei to withdraw from the case. After he left the courthouse, Zhang Lei received a call from Wang Yu, informing him that police officers had taken her from her hotel room around 6:00 a.m. that morning, and took her to a local police station, and that she was being brought back to the hotel as they spoke.

It was unclear whether the trial proceeded after Chen Jianfang's lawyer withdrew or whether a verdict was delivered.

16 March 2021
Trial scheduled for Chen Jianfang

On the morning of 19 March 2021, the Shanghai Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court will try woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang for "inciting subversion of State power". Her trial comes almost two years after she was first detained on 20 March 2019.

4 March 2021
Chen Jianfang meets with lawyer for the first time

On 2 March 2021, woman human rights defender Chen Jianfang was allowed to meet her lawyer for the first time since being detained almost two years ago. The meeting took place at the Shanghai Municipal Detention Centre. On 20 March 2019, public security officers detained the woman human rights defender in Shanghai. Following this, she was placed under residential surveillance at a designated location, a form of incommunicado detention under Chinese law, until she was formally arrested on 23 May 2019. She has since been held in pre-trial detention at the Shanghai Municipal Detention Centre. 

She is currently awaiting trial by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate Court on the charge of "inciting subversion of State power". There is no available information as to when the court will schedule her trial. Chen Jianfang told her lawyer that she has consistently refused to admit guilt and continues to believe in the legitimacy of her human rights work and advocacy.

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.