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Woman human rights defender Liu Yanli sentenced

Status: 
Sentenced
About the situation

On the morning of 7 April 2021, the lawyer retained by Liu Yanli's family met her at the Hankou Prison. The prison guards restricted them from speaking about anything other than her appeal, prohibiting them from discussing the prison conditions. In the afternoon, the Jingmen Municipal Intermediate Court held a hearing to review Liu Yanli's second appeal of her conviction.

On 26 August 2020, the Jingmen Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province rejected woman human rights defender Liu Yanli's appeal.

On 3 August 2020, lawyer Zhang Lei was allowed to speak with woman human rights defender Liu Yanli via a video-call to discuss her appeal. The lawyer informed Liu Yanli that a judge at the Jingmen Intermediate Court in Hubei province had notified him that a physical hearing would not be held for the second-instance trial in her case, and that lawyers should submit their defense arguments in writing. Zhang Lei said that the appeal ruling is likely to be issued soon.

On 2 May 2020, lawyers representing woman human rights defender Liu Yanli (刘艳丽) received the official verdict from the Dongbao District Court in Jingmen city, Hubei province. The verdict convicted and sentenced Liu Yanli to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. The verdict is dated 24 April 2020, however her trial took place on 31 January 2019.

About Liu Yanli

Liu Yanli is an active blogger and has published numerous articles online and campaigned for issues such as anti-corruption, transparency for government officials’ personal assets, protection of the rights of elderly veteran soldiers, and democratic reforms. She is also a member of the free speech campaign group Independent Chinese PEN Centre, part of PEN International. In 2015, she participated in a campaign for China’s peaceful democratic transition and also engaged in efforts to legally register the independent organisation China Human Rights Watch. Both campaigns were initiated by fellow human rights defender Qin Yongmin, who is now serving 13 years’ imprisonment as consequence for his peaceful human rights work. Liu Yanli is also the recipient of the 14th Lin Zhao Memorial Award given by the Chinese PEN in 2018 and of the 2nd Yu Zhijian Memorial Award in 2019.

23 April 2021
Liu Yanli denied family visit, unable to attend appeal hearing

In October 2020, woman human rights defender Liu Yanli was transferred to the Hankou Prison in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province to serve her four-year sentence, since which the prison authorities have not allowed her family to visit her. Liu Yanli's requests to phone her family have also been denied since the transfer.

In March 2021, a prison security official delivered a letter to Liu Yanli's family from her. In the letter, the woman human rights defender wrote that following the transfers to the prison, she had spent a month in quarantine, after which she spent a further month undergoing vocational training. Subsequently, she became a labourer at a prison factory and has been assigned to work as a porter. She wrote that she is exhausted from the physical exertion, and that her hair has gone grey. Her family are concerned for her physical and psychological health and well being.

On the morning of 7 April 2021, the lawyer retained by Liu Yanli's family met her at the Hankou Prison. The prison guards restricted them from speaking about anything other than her appeal, prohibiting them from discussing the prison conditions. In the afternoon, the Jingmen Municipal Intermediate Court held a hearing to review Liu Yanli's second appeal of her conviction. The defender's older sister, older brother and the family lawyer attended, but the court did not allow Liu Yanli to be present. No other observers were allowed to attend the hearing, which lasted 1.5 hours. The court is yet to announce its decision in the case.

10 September 2020
Liu Yanli's sentence upheld

On 26 August 2020, the Jingmen Intermediate People's Court in Hubei province rejected woman human rights defender Liu Yanli's appeal, and upheld the verdict sentencing her to four years' imprisonment for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

6 August 2020
Liu Yanli denied physical hearing for her trial

On 3 August 2020, lawyer Zhang Lei was allowed to speak with woman human rights defender Liu Yanli via a video-call to discuss her appeal.

The lawyer informed Liu Yanli that a judge at the Jingmen Intermediate Court in Hubei province had notified him that a physical hearing would not be held for the second-instance trial in her case, and that lawyers should submit their defense arguments in writing. Zhang Lei said that the appeal ruling is likely to be issued soon.

Liu Yanli told the lawyer that the actions for which she was convicted were all legal under Chinese laws. She said she posted or re-posted on WeChat and Weibo criticisms of the government and its officials, but they were not insults and constituted legitimate exercise of her right to freedom of expression. The defender said she would never recant or apologise for her actions and that she does not regret exercising and defending human rights, which resulted in her imprisonment.

The woman human rights defender was informed that she had been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble" on 2 May 2020.

8 May 2020
Woman human rights defender Liu Yanli sentenced

On 2 May 2020, lawyers representing woman human rights defender Liu Yanli (刘艳丽) received the official verdict from the Dongbao District Court in Jingmen city, Hubei province. The verdict convicted and sentenced Liu Yanli to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. The verdict is dated 24 April 2020, however her trial took place on 31 January 2019.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Liu Yanli is an active blogger and has published numerous articles online and campaigned for issues such as anti-corruption, transparency for government officials’ personal assets, protection of the rights of elderly veteran soldiers, and democratic reforms. She is also a member of the free speech campaign group Independent Chinese PEN Centre, part of PEN International. In 2015, she participated in a campaign for China’s peaceful democratic transition and also engaged in efforts to legally register the independent organisation China Human Rights Watch. Both campaigns were initiated by fellow human rights defender Qin Yongmin, who is now serving 13 years’ imprisonment as consequence for his peaceful human rights work. Liu Yanli is also the recipient of the 14th Lin Zhao Memorial Award given by the Chinese PEN in 2018 and of the 2nd Yu Zhijian Memorial Award in 2019.

Liu Yanli has been subjected to police summonses, harassment and confiscation of her computers on numerous occasions in the past in reprisal for her blog posts and writings online, holding the state to account for its policies. On 26 September 2016, she was taken into cusody and detained on suspicion of libel and was then formally arrested on 3 November 2016. On 27 May 2017, Liu Yanli was released on bail pending investigation, however on 25 May 2018 she was placed back in police custody under residential surveillance. Soon after the residential surveillance ended, she was re-arrested on 22 November 2018 and had been in detention until her trial took place on 31 January 2019.

In the official verdict, the court cited 28 published articles or social media postings by Liu Yanli that contained “false information about major domestic events”, “insulted and attacked leaders of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese State”, “maliciously sensationalised popular social events”, and “created disturbances that damaged public order”. In the final statement she prepared for the day of the trial, Liu Yanli insisted on her innocence and that opposition to and criticisms of the Communist Party are protected speech. She stressed that her writings represented her personal opinions on issues of public concern and she was peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed under the Chinese Constitution.

Front Line Defenders condemns the sentencing of Liu Yanli and believes it is a direct reprisal against her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.