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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on China

Briefing: China

05 May 2017

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 5 May 2017 

We are deeply troubled that on Wednesday 3 May, defence lawyer Chen Jiangang and his family were reportedly taken by police while they were travelling in Yunnan province in the southwest of China. This latest event takes place in the context of an ongoing crackdown against Chinese lawyers and other human rights defenders. There has reportedly been no official communication of the reasons Chen was taken away. His wife and two children were subsequently released but Chen’s whereabouts remain unclear.

Chen was the defence lawyer chosen by Xie Yang, a lawyer who has been in detention since July 2015. Xie was only officially charged in January 2016 for inciting subversion of state power and disrupting court order. The trial was due to begin last week, but did not. In March this year, Chen reported that his client and other detained lawyers, including Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong and Li Heping, were subjected to ill-treatment and torture in custody. Li Heping, who spent 21 months in incommunicado detention, was secretly sentenced on 25 April to three years in prison, with the possibility of a four-year suspension should he choose not to appeal. He remains in custody and pressure continues to be exerted on his family. Prior to being reportedly taken by police last Wednesday, Chen had, in a video message, expressed concerns that he too may "lose his freedom" and that he may be coerced into self-incrimination.

Despite numerous calls by a number of UN human rights bodies, including Special Rappporteurs, the UN Committee against Torture and by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, we are dismayed by this continuing pattern of harassment of lawyers, through continued detention, without full due process guarantees and with alleged exposure to ill-treatment and coercion into self-incrimination. We also ask the Chinese authorities to halt the harassment against their relatives. The vast majority of detained lawyers were defending the basic rights of Chinese citizens, mostly economic, social and cultural rights. We urge the Chinese government to abide by its international human rights obligations, to ensure due process and fair trials, and to release without delay those being held for exercising their fundamental human rights or for defending the exercise of such rights by others.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / [email protected]) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] ) or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466 / [email protected])

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