End Violence Against Human Rights Lawyers
October 13, 2015 Comments Off on End Violence Against Human Rights Lawyers
Updated: October 13, 2016
Since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013, there has been a new surge in incidents of violent assaults against human rights lawyers in retaliation for their professional work defending clients in politically “sensitive” cases involving persecuted activists and religious or ethnic minorities. Physical violence by police or state-hired thugs is a continuous strategy against human rights lawyers, in violation of international law, including the Convention against Torture, which China ratified in 1988, and Chinese domestic laws.
In the latest wave of violent assaults, common types of torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment that rights lawyers have suffered include: shackling during arbitrary detention, punching, kicking, choking, scratching, ripping off of clothes, and verbal abuse and threats. In some of the most violent incidents, attackers have wielded weapons, including knives and batons. Many lawyers have been left with serious physical injuries from assaults, including broken bones, concussions, and soft-tissue damage, not to mention psychological suffering. These violent tactics run completely counter to Xi Jinping’s so-called commitment to “rule of law,” with perpetrators acting with impunity.
In nearly all of the incidents CHRD has documented, there has been no known criminal accountability for alleged perpetrators of violence. In most cases, police did not respond to the scene of the assaults, much less file reports or investigate the abusive acts. Complaints filed to relevant authorities have been ignored. In only one case did authorities respond to the assault, but only after the case gained prominent media attention. Several lawyers who have been attacked also have been accused of committing “crimes,” pointing to another disturbing trend that has emerged under Xi Jinping—the criminalization of human rights lawyers for defending their clients and challenging unlawful conduct by police and judicial officials.
Previously, a wave of violence against human rights lawyers occurred in the mid-2000s under then-President Hu Jintao. Several egregious cases include: beginning in 2006, lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智生) was subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance, and is currently in poor health following years in prison. Later in 2006, unidentified thugs dragged off a bus lawyer Li Fangping (李方平), acting as counsel to Chen Guangcheng, and hit him in the head with a metal pipe. Li had to receive emergency treatment. Beijing police abducted lawyer Li Heping (李和平) from the car park of his law firm in late 2007, and drove him to an unknown location where they beat him with an electric prod for several hours. He was then dumped in woods outside Beijing. In 2011, police abducted lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪) and held him for 70 days incommunicado, during which he was subjected to torture.
Violence against human rights lawyers is a measure of the lawyers’ strength and authorities’ desperation. Lately, a growing number of young lawyers have increasingly taken on cases representing activists, members of officially banded religious groups, or ethnic minorities. They boldly challenge widespread violations of Chinese law by authorities at detention facilities and in the courtroom. Many of these lawyers have become increasingly organized to push back against state harassment in solidarity, under the name “China Human Rights Lawyers Group” (中国人权律师团), which grew from about 20 lawyers in 2013 to more than 200 by the end of 2014.
The lawyers’ solidarity and emboldened actions appear to have led to a nationwide police crackdown on rights lawyers, which, beginning on July 9, has involved abductions, secret detentions, police interrogations, and raids on offices of law firms. Approximately 300 attorneys and activists have been summoned for questioning, and to date, and more than 20 remain in secret locations. Many of the detainees face charges related to “national security,” which authorities used to deny access to their own lawyers, putting the detainees at great risk of torture and mistreatment. There has never been this many human rights lawyers in custody at any given point since 1989.
The below list of cases of violence against Chinese lawyers begins with the most recent events first, and details more than 29 incidents involving 38 lawyers since March 2013. Some lawyers have been targeted multiple times, and a number are currently under detention. The list is not exhaustive of all incidents of violence against human rights lawyers in China since March 2013, and will be updated when we have more verified information.
- Bailiffs at a Hebei courthouse assaulted lawyer Dong Qianyong (董前勇) on October 11, 2016 after he attempted to bring case files into the courtroom. Dong was attending a hearing at the Feixiang Country People’s Court in Handan City with lawyer Zhang Zanning (张赞宁) when the bailiff prevented him from bringing in a pack of files. Dong appealed to the head judge, Liu Yanfeng (柳延峰), who inspected the documents in a side room but also refused to allow the files be brought into the courtroom. After Dong asked about the identity of a plainclothes man who was also in the side room, a bailiff came up to the lawyer and slapped him twice in the face, breaking his glasses. A startled Dong reportedly asked the bailiff why he had hit him, and the man responded, “Hitting is one type of enforcement method.” Judge Liu ignored Dong’s request to report the bailiff to the procuratorate office, and told Dong to go there and report the assault himself. The bailiff then seized Dong’s two cellphones after he took them out of his pocket to handle some case matters. Looking into the room from the hallway, other judges and bailiffs saw Dong get assaulted, and another bailiff reportedly recorded the entire incident on a hand-held device. Dong later filed a complaint about his mistreatment with the Feixiang County People’s Procuratorate.
- The director of a Beijing law firm was attacked in Shandong Province on August 31, one day after arriving with a colleague to work on a case related to housing redevelopment in the central business district in Jin’an City. Yang Zaiming (杨在明), director of Beijing Zaiming Law Firm, and lawyer Yuan Manman (袁曼曼) were questioning individuals about the case at a teahouse in Lixia District when more than a dozen unidentified men and women showed up. Reportedly, several were from the local housing demolition office and households whose homes had been demolished. Members of the group began to shout insults and shove Yang before dragging him outside, where they began to beat him. One man stabbed Yang in the arm with a paring knife, and a woman struck him with a flower pot and a glass. The group then dragged Yang into a building. Yuan called the police, who arrived and took two individuals into custody, a man surnamed Liu (刘) and a woman surnamed (徐).Yang was left with a 2cm knife wound to his arm which was so deep it cut to the bone. He also has possible nerve damage in one leg which has lost functionality since the attack. Police officers have opened an investigation into the incident. According to a state media interview with Yang Zaiming, he specializes in housing demolition cases, and this is the 8th time he has been physically attacked in reprisal for his work.
- Bailiffs at a court in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region assaulted lawyer Wu Liangshu (吴良述) on June 3, 2016, after he refused to hand over his cellphone for an unlawful inspection. The bailiffs at the Qingxiu District People’s Court in Nanning City claimed Wu had recorded proceedings on his phone, after he had unsuccessfully attempted to file a case. The bailiffs forcibly seized and smashed Wu’s cellphone, and also punched him and ripped his clothes. A photo showing Wu in torn clothing outside the courthouse went viral and received considerable attention from social and news media both inside China and internationally. Following this exposure, the head of the Qingxiu court issued an apology to Wu but denied that the lawyer had been “beaten,” instead claiming the officers had “misused force.” The court offered Wu 2,000 RMB (approx. 300 USD) in compensation, which the lawyer refused to accept, on the grounds that the court had not admitted responsibility. Of the cases that CHRD has documented, Wu’s case is the only known instance of an investigation and offer of compensation following an act of violence against a Chinese lawyer in the course of conducting their work.
- Unidentified men believed to be Shanghai national security officers kidnapped, assaulted, and detained in a “black jail” lawyer Liu Shihui (刘士辉) on April 29-30, 2016 after he arrived in Shanghai. The group of 7-8 officers seized Liu from a friend’s home in the morning of the 29th after cutting the power and refusing to show any kind of warrant. They punched and slapped Liu in the head repeatedly in the stairwell of the building. They then forced Liu into a car and struck him again, after which Liu Shihui became dizzy and began to vomit. Liu was taken to a guesthouse near Pudong International Airport, and the officers later took him to the nearby Pudong District People’s Hospital. Doctors performed a CT scan while under watch by the police officers, and later claimed Liu’s injuries were “not serious” and did not prescribe any medication. The officers then forcibly put Liu on a plane to Shenzhen on April 30, but he shouted slogans in an attempt to protest his treatment and was taken to Jiangzhen Police Station and accused of “threatening aviation security.” After being briefly interrogated, officers returned Liu to the airport and put him on China Southern flight CZ6752 to Shenzhen. Following the attack, Liu has reported he continues to suffer from vomiting and dizziness, and an independent doctor believes he is suffering from a cerebral concussion.
- On March 28, 2016, Beijing lawyer Zhang Xinsheng (张心升) was attacked by a mob of approximately two dozen unidentified thugs outside a courthouse in Hubei Province. Zhang, who works with the Ming Law Firm in Beijing, was assaulted just after a hearing at Xiangyang City Intermediate People’s Court on an administrative lawsuit on forced eviction against the Xiangyang government. The assailants repeatedly punched and kicked Zhang, bruising him, tearing his clothes, and breaking his eyeglasses. Several bystanders and individuals in the eviction case were also attacked, including one seriously hurt person who was hospitalized. Several court bailiffs went to help Zhang, but thugs continued to try to assault Zhang as the bailiffs took him into the court building, where they called the police while hiding inside. Later that day, Zhang filed a police report at the Tanxi Police Station. Local police detained 17 individuals over the incident on suspicion of “provoking trouble and picking quarrels.”
- A presiding judge and several court bailiffs attacked lawyer Wang Zichen (王子臣) in Heilongjiang Province on March 24. Wang, a lawyer with Ming Zheng Law Firm, had attempted to register a case at the Liang County People’s Court in Tieli City when the assault occurred. Judge Zhu Qiang (朱强) refused to docket the case or accept any case materials, in violation of a 2015 Supreme People’s Court regulation. When lawyer Wang stated that refusing to docket the case was a clear violation of the law, Judge Zhu assaulted him and reportedly said, “In Liang County, Zhu Qiang has the final say.” Wang went on to file a report with the Liang County Police Station. Four days after the attack, 85 Chinese lawyers signed a statement in support of lawyer Wang.
- Police outside a Guangzhou courthouse physically attacked Guangdong lawyers Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Li Guisheng (李贵生), and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) as they prepared to attend a trial meeting on June 19 for their clients—Wang Qingying (王清营), Yuan Xinting (袁新亭), and Tang Jingling (唐荆陵). The lawyers realized unidentified persons were taking their photographs, and when the lawyers asked them to stop, they were attacked. Lawyers Sui and Liu were dragged into a police car by uniformed officers, who said they had been “criminally summoned.” In the car, Sui and Liu were aggressively searched and hit repeatedly. Liu was left with an injury to his neck, and Sui Muqing had scratches all over his arms. A plainclothes police officer arrived later and allowed them to enter the courthouse.
- Bailiffs at a Shandong courthouse beat lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全章) and briefly detained two of his colleagues—Chen Zhiyong (陈智勇) and Shi Fulong (石伏龙)—on orders from the judge. On June 18, the three lawyers attended a court hearing for their client at Dongchengfu District People’s Court in Liaocheng City. During the defense statements, Wang was repeatedly interrupted before the presiding judge expelled him from the courtroom. Several bailiffs then dragged Wang (pictured below) to a separate room and assaulted him, hitting him in the face and head and tearing off his clothes. Wang reportedly suffered a slight fracture to his nose. At the same time, other bailiffs barred Chen and Shi from leaving the courtroom and subjected them to full body searches. Chen was released from custody around 11 pm that evening. Police took Wang and Shi to Huxi Police Station in Dongchengfu District, where the lawyers were questioned and had their computers and storage devices confiscated. Police released them around 2 am the next morning.
- Heilongjiang authorities detained and tortured lawyer You Feizhu (游飞翥) after he travelled to the province to work on a case. You, and lawyers Ma Wei (马卫) and Li Weida (李威达), arrived in Qing’an County to meet with a client, who had been detained for raising questions about a case of a petitioner who was shot dead in a train station by police. Police issued You Feizhu a 15-day administrative detention for “creating a disturbance” on May 28, during which he reported he was shackled to an interrogation chair, beaten, and verbally insulted. He was released on June 14.
- More than 20 unidentified individuals armed with batons and knives attacked Xie Yang (谢阳), an attorney with the Hunan Gangwei Law Firm, while he was providing legal service to clients in Nanning City, Guangxi Province on May 17. Xie’s right leg was fractured and he sustained many bruises. Police did not respond to repeated emergency calls for help during the assault. Moreover, Xie and some of his clients have been criminally investigated for “gathering a crowd to engage in a brawl” in connection with the violence, but none of the alleged attackers are believed to be under investigation. (See CHRD’s submission to the UN.)
- Police officers in Beijing kidnapped and physically assaulted Li Yuhan (李昱函) in early May. Li, a lawyer with Beijing Dunxin Law Firm, had reported to authorities illegal behavior of local officials in obstructing justice in a case involving a civil lawsuit. While Li was in custody on May 9, one officer shoved her head against a toilet and she lost consciousness. After her release, Li was diagnosed with a concussion and injuries to her back, head, limbs, and abdomen. She still requires medical treatment, and has been unable to practice law since the abusive incident. (See CHRD’s submission to the UN.)
- During a trial of Falun Gong practitioners in Liaoning Province on April 22, bailiffs forcibly expelled defense lawyers Lawyers Dong Qiangyong (董前勇) and Wang Yu (王宇). On the orders of the presiding judge, Dong and Wang were removed from the courtroom at Shenhe District Court in Shenyang after they protested the treatment of their client. One of the defendants started crying during her trial, after which several bailiffs kicked over her chair and hit her. When Lawyer Dong protested, he was violently removed, with bailiffs putting him in a chokehold. Lawyer Wang Yu then protested the treatment of her client and colleague and was dragged out of the courtroom.
- A group of around 10 unidentified thugs attacked defense lawyers in a criminal gang cases outside the Hengyang City Intermediate People’s Court in Hunan Province on April 21. Two lawyers from Beijing—Wang Fu (王甫) and Zhang Lei (张磊)—and one from Shandong, Liu Jinbin (刘金滨), were grabbed, pushed, and beaten (see images below; Liu Jinbin is at right). The attackers tore off the lawyers’ clothes, and the three men suffered minor injuries. The incident temporarily halted the trial proceedings. Police and court bailiffs were slow to arrive at the scene and reportedly did nothing to stop the attack. The assault was believed to have been related to an open letter released on April 12 by nine defense attorneys working on the criminal gang case, which made public the accusations of police torture and tainted evidence against their clients.
- Two judges and several bailiffs attacked Cui Hui (崔慧) an attorney with Hengqing Law Firm, at the Tongzhou District People’s Court in Beijing after she requested an overdue execution of a court order on April 2. She was treated at Beijing Tongren Hospital after the attack, and doctors found injuries to her scalp and eye sockets, and soft tissue damage over 40 percent of her body (see CHRD’s detailed report). Four weeks later, the government body that was appointed to conduct an investigation claimed that no beating had taken place, and offered as proof video footage, which Cui and other lawyers believe was heavily doctored.
- Beijing police took lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) into custody from the offices of the Dao Heng Law Firm on October 13, after he had taken on a case of an individual who had been detained for expressing support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Police held Yu in detention incommunicado and repeatedly tortured him. He described being shackled tightly to a chair so he couldn’t move for several days, with guards tightening the manacles, causing extreme pain. When he was released from the chair, his arms had swollen to three times their regular size. The guards reportedly told him, “We won’t let you die, but you’ll wish you were dead.” Released on January 20, Yu has filed numerous complaints and lawsuits to have authorities investigate the torture allegations, but they have been rejected or ignored.
- A large group of unidentified thugs attacked lawyers Li Jinxing (李金星) and Liu Hao (刘浩) outside Jiaozuo City Detention Center on July 30. The lawyers had been trying to meet their clients, who were being held on suspicion of murder. The lawyers had first called the police for help after a large group confronted them outside a shop. Two officers arrived in a car and drove them only halfway to the detention center, saying they were acting on orders not to take them all the way to the center. After reaching the facility on their own, Li and Liu were attacked upon arrival by unknown individuals, who choked them and struck them on the head. The lawyers then hid in a car before being able to leave the scene of the assault.
- Shanghai police criminally detained and injured Guangzhou-based lawyer Liu Shihui (刘士辉) in May 2014 after he tried to represent a client in a lawsuit. Taken into custody on May 14 in Shanghai, he was released into the custody of national security officers from Inner Mongolia on May 26 and suffered a hand injury while being violently taken to the airport. Police had blocked Liu from entering the courtroom in activist Chen Jianfang (陈建芳)’s open government information lawsuit.
- In March and April of 2014, four human rights lawyers—Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Wang Cheng (王成), and Zhang Junjie (张俊杰)—were seized, tortured, and administratively detained in Heilongjiang Province after trying to expose a “legal education center,” a black jail in Jiansanjiang City that was mostly holding Falun Gong practitioners. (See CHRD’s statement.)Zhang was released on March 27, after five days in detention. He recounted his experience in detail, including torture while being interrogated; he was struck on the head, knocked to the floor, and beaten and kicked for several minutes, leaving him with excruciating pain in his back (see Zhang’s account in English translation). Zhang suffered three broken ribs along with other injuries all over his body. On April 6, police released the three others following a 15-day administrative detention. Tang and Wang disclosed that they were handcuffed, hooded, strung up with rope by their hands, and beaten while held at Daxing Public Security Sub-bureau. Tang, who was tortured after refusing to sign a police report, had a tooth knocked out and also suffered several fractured ribs. Wang was hit in the chest, legs, and back with a police baton. Jiang Tianyong suffered bruises and soft tissue injuries, according to records from a medical examination. The four men filed complaints over the torture, but authorities did not respond.
- Plainclothes police attacked several lawyers defending Zhang Shaojie (张少杰), a church pastor in Henan Province, on December 12 and 13. In the first attack, a large group of unidentified thugs blocked the lawyers outside Nanle County Detention Center on December 12 while they tried to enter the facility. The lawyers were then assaulted at their guesthouse later that day. After both incidents, the lawyers called the emergency number for help, but the operator dispatched no police assistance, reportedly saying it was not their responsibility to find the perpetrators. The next day, thugs assaulted the lawyers outside the Nanle County People’s Procuratorate when the lawyers tried to lodge a protest against the police harassment and denial of their clients’ right to legal counsel. Lawyer Liu Weiguo (刘卫国) was hit on the head and suffered bleeding; lawyer Yang Xingquan (杨兴权) had his glasses knocked off; and several other lawyers sustained injuries from the attack. Thugs tore a jacket off of lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) and seized several cellphones and tablet computers from the lawyers. During this particularly violent episode, the lawyers had to barricade themselves inside the procuratorate building with a British television crew in order to protect themselves.
- On the start of the second day of the long-delayed and suspended trial of Jiangxi activists Liu Ping (刘萍), Wei Zhongping (魏忠平), and Li Sihua (李思华) on December 4, a chaotic scene erupted outside Yushui District People’s Court in Xinyu City. A large number of plainclothes police officers and thugs attacked lawyers Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), Wu Lei (伍雷), Yang Junzhu (杨金柱), and Zhang Peihong (张培鸿) as well as family members and supporters of the defendants, as they tried to enter the courthouse (see images below; Pu Zhiqiang is at center of image on right). Yang, representing Liu Ping, resigned in protest over the brazen assault.
- On December 3, 2013, two unidentified men physically assaulted defense lawyer Li Changqing (李长青) at the entrance to the Jining Intermediate People’s Court in Shandong. Li requested assistance from a policeman in a patrol van, but the officer refused and left the scene. He asked security guards at the courthouse to extract video images from surveillance cameras, but the guards refused to take any action, saying that no staff was on duty. Li had been trying to enter the courthouse to attend the trial of his client Li Erfa (李尔法), in an administrative lawsuit against the Yutai County Government over an alleged illegal eviction.
- Police at Beijing No. 3 Detention Center attacked lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) on November 26 while he was visiting his client, detained human rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜). Cheng had Ding’s consent to take a photo of Ding, an action permitted by Criminal Procedure Law, but police intercepted and assaulted Cheng. Then a scuffle broke out when police officers forcibly took Cheng away. Police held Cheng at the detention facility for five hours. Ding Jiaxi had been detained for his role in an anti-corruption campaign coordinated by the New Citizens’ Movement. (See below for details on four other incidents of violence against Cheng Hai, all involving his defense of Falun Gong practitioners.)
- A Shandong police officer beat Beijing-based attorney Li Fangping (李方平) on September 4 when he tried to get access to meet his client Yang Hailong (杨海龙), who was being held in Linyi City. When police refused to let Li and another lawyer, Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), see Yang, the lawyers went to the Lanshan Branch of the Linyi City Public Security Bureau to submit a request. However, a police officer, Jiang Yu (江雨), refused to accept the request, and instead grabbed lawyer Li’s arm and kneed Li in the crotch, severely hurting Li and wounding the lawyer’s arm.
- Lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) was beaten for a fourth time in Dalian over his representation of a group of Falun Gong practitioners (see below for the previous related incidents). Cheng and lawyer Tang Tianhao (唐天昊) tried to meet their clients at Dalian Detention Center on August 15. Officers at the detention facility said the court had issued an order refusing them access to their clients. When Cheng objected, police rushed him, put his neck in a chokehold, then twisted his wrist and snatched away his phone. They then threw the two lawyers out of the center. Cheng reported he had submitted over 200 complaints to the Dalian procuratorate, public security bureau, courts, and Supreme People’s Procuratorate about four acts of violence while he was discharging his professional duties in this case, however, they either refused to accept the complaint, or did not reply.
- Dalian police attacked Beijing lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) during the trial of 13 Falun Gong practitioners. On August 2, during the resumed trial, Cheng protested against a procedural violation and promised to file a complaint. When he stepped outside the Xigang District People’s Court during a recess, two court officers grabbed him and took him into a separate room, where they held him while plainclothes officers attacked him. (For details of three other related incidents, see above and below.)
- Dalian police attacked Beijing lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) (see image below) over his representation of Falun Gong clients on June 21 outside the Xigang District People’s Court. He was subjected to a physical beating and body search. (For details of three other related incidents, see above and below.)
- Sichuan police took a dozen lawyers into custody in Ziyang County on May 13 and 14, subjecting them to torture while holding some for as long as 24 hours. Police detained eight lawyers—including Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Liang Xiaojun (梁晓军), Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Tang Tianhao (唐天昊), and Lin Qilei (蔺其磊)—for “obstructing official business.” The lawyers had gone to investigate a black jail that Yingjie Township authorities were running as a so-called “legal education center,” where more than 200 people were being illegally detained. While holding the lawyers, police violently assaulted them, causing numerous injuries; Jiang Tianyong was left with pain in one leg, and Tang Tianhao was bloodied after being beaten on his head. Four more lawyers, including Li Heping (李和平) and Wen Haibo (温海波), rushed to Ziyang to seek the others’ release, but they were also detained and questioned for several hours on suspicion of “fabricating information and disrupting social order” before being let go. Around noon on May 14, police escorted all 12 lawyers out of town.
- Shandong lawyer Liu Jinbin (刘金斌) was severely beaten by national security police after he had made a request at a police station in Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province to meet his client Wei Zhongping (魏忠平), an activist who was criminally detained the previous month. On May 10, Liu went to the Yuanhe Branch of the Xinyu City Public Security Bureau to file an application to meet with Wei. Police asked Liu to wait for a reply, but more than 10 police officers subsequently attacked him in the street, smashing his cellphone and warning him to drop his legal representation of Wei. Police detained Wei after he joined other activists in calling for public disclosure of top officials’ financial assets.
- Dalian City public security forces beat Beijing lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) on April 12, 2013 outside the Zhongshan District People’s Court in Shenyang Province. Cheng had been waiting outside the courthouse with several other defense attorneys to hear news about why the trial of their clients, 13 Falun Gong practitioners, had been unexpectedly suspended. Around 10 officers kicked Cheng, punched him in the face, and tore his clothes. (For details of three other related incidents, see above.)