Case History: Tang Jitian
On 4 April 2011, Tang Jitian was released from a detention centre in Heilongjiang province having served a 15 day administrative detention sentence. He was given this punishment following his and other lawyers' attempts to investigate an unofficial detention centre, also known as a 'black jail'.
Tang Jitian is a Chinese human rights lawyer who has taken on 'sensitive' clients across a range of areas, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association.
On 27 March 2014 human rights defender and lawyer Mr Zhang Junjie was released, with serious injuries, from a detention centre in Qixing Administrative Detention Centre in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang Province. Zhang Junjie had been detained on 21 March along with three other human rights lawyers, Messrs Jiang Tianyong, Wang Chen and Tang Jitian, all of whom are serving out 15 day administrative detention sentences.
All four human rights lawyers were detained on 21 March 2014 as they investigated reports of a person being held illegally in a so-called 'black jail' (an unofficial detention centre) at Qinglongshan Farm.
On his release, Zhang Junjie published an account of his time in custody, where he detailed the severe beating he endured at the hands of men who refused to identify themselves. He recounted how, after being kicked and beaten by three men in the detention centre, he was unable to sit up and that his lower back was causing him extreme pain. On 28 March Zhang Junjie went for a medical examination where it was revealed that he had three broken ribs as a result of the beating.
It has further been reported that Tang Jitian, Wang Chen and Jiang Tianyong have also suffered injuries as a result of abuse in custody, although the extent of these injuries is unknown. A number of lawyers and human rights defenders who had travelled from around the country to Jiansanjiang to offer support and legal assistance to the detained lawyers were themselves taken in for questioning by police on 26 March, before being released. Supporters have gathered outside Qixing Administrative Detention Centre where they are holding a vigil for the detained lawyers.
Zhang Junjie, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Chen and Tang Jitian had travelled to Heilongjiang province on 20 March 2014 to investigate reports of a person being held illegally in a black jail. The following day, the four were detained after visiting Qinglongshan farm, which is believed to be operating as a black jail. On the same date, at a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Chinese officials stated that the Chinese government does not engage in extra-judicial detention.
Front Line Defenders reiterates it grave concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Jiang Tianyong, Wang Chen and Tang Jitian, especially in light of the serious injuries sustained by Zhang Junjie during his time in custody. Front Line Defenders reiterates its call for the Chinese government to immediately release the three lawyers still in detention and investigate the very serious allegations of torture as recounted by Zhang Junjie.
On 23 March 2014, it was confirmed that two human rights lawyers, Messers Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, have been given a 15 day administrative detention sentence following their attempts to investigate an unofficial detention centre, also known as a black jail, in China's north eastern Heilongjiang province. Their two colleagues, Messers Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie, with whom they travelled to Heilongjiang, are also believed to be in detention, although their status is currently unclear.
All four human rights defenders have a record of taking on politically sensitive cases and for the past number of years have been extremely active in defending the rights of others. As a result of their work, they have been subjected to harassment, detention, beatings and disappearances. In 2011 Jiang Tiangyong and Tang Jitian were forcibly disappeared and tortured for a number of months during a widespread crackdown on human rights defenders in the country. In February 2014, Wang Cheng was detained following his involvement in the launch of an online petition calling on China to ratify to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
On 20 March 2014 the four lawyers travelled to Heilongjiang province at the request of relatives of people who had been illegally detained in a so-called black jail. At around 8.30am on 21 March, the human rights defenders were detained following their visit to a 'Legal Education Centre' at Qinglongshan state farm, where a number of people were being illegally held. Family members of those being held in the black jail who had travelled with the lawyers to the site were also detained.
On 23 March it emerged that lawyers Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong had been given sentences of 15 days administrative detention for “using cult activities to endanger society”. It is believed the charge relates to the fact that people who have been illegally detained in the black jail are Falun Gong practitioners. Such a sentence can be handed down at the sole discretion of the police in China without the need for any judicial review. There is currently no information regarding the whereabouts or status of Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Wang Cheng, Zhang Junjie, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, particularly given the precedent for torture in Chinese detention centres and against the human rights defenders in the past.