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Chinese human rights defenderMao Hengfeng is at risk of being tortured or otherwise ill-treated in policecustody. She is believed to be held incommunicado in Yangpu District policedetention centre in the port city of Shanghai. She is a prisoner of conscience,held solely for her work defending women’s reproductive rights and victimsof forced evictions, and her support of human rights defenders.  

On 24 February, police tookMao Hengfeng from a motel in China's capital, Beijing, and escortedher back to Shanghai, telling her family the next day that she had beengiven 10 days’ administrative detention for protesting in Beijing on 25December 2009, in front of a court where human rights activist Liu Xiaobowas on trial. According to police, Mao Hengfeng shouted inciting slogans,ignored police warnings and attracted the attention of surrounding publicduring the demonstration.

However, she was not releasedat the end of the 10 days and her family and lawyers have not been ableto meet with her. .  

On 8 March, the policesentMao Hengfeng’s family a notice, which said she had to serve 18 months’"Re-education Through Labour" (RTL), effective from 4 March,for "disturbing social order", again in relation to the protestin Beijing. Mao Hengfeng’s family has asked the authorities why she hadbeen punished twice for her participation in the protest, but they havenot received a response. They have now hired two lawyers to challenge herdetention.  

Since 2004, Mao Hengfeng hasbeen repeatedly detained by the authorities for her work defending women’sreproductive rights as well as victims of forced evictions. Her familyhave repeatedly been refused the right to visit her in detention in thepast and it is at those times that she has been tortured and otherwiseill-treated.  

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELYin English, Chinese or your own language:Urging the authorities torelease Mao Hengfeng immediately and unconditionally; Calling for a guarantee thatshe will not be tortured or otherwise ill-treated while she remains incustody;Urging them to ensure thatshe is allowed access to legal assistance of her choosing, her family andany medical treatment that she may require.PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE07 JUNE 2010 TO:Director of the ShanghaiBureau of Public SecurityZHANG Xuebing Juzhang       Shanghaishi Gong’anju128 Wuningnanlu       Qing’anqu, Shanghaishi 20042       People’s Republic of China       Fax: +86 21 2402 3089Email: Dear DirectorMinister of Justice ofthe People’s Republic of ChinaWU Aiying BuzhangSifabu10 Chaoyangmen NandajieChaoyangqu, Beijingshi 100020People's Republic of China       Fax: +86 10 65292345Email: Dear MinisterAnd copies to:Chief Procurator of theShanghai Municipal People's ProcuratorateWU Guangyu Jianchazhang Shanghaishi Renmin Jianchayuan648 Jianguo XiluXuhuiqu Shanghaishi 200030Salutation: Dear ProcuratorAlso send copies to diplomaticrepresentatives of China accredited to your country. Please check withyour section office if sending appeals after the above date.

Additional Information

In China, the civil societysector and in particular the weiquan ("rights defence")movement are growing. However, human rights defenders who attempt to reporton human rights violations, challenge policies which the authorities findpolitically sensitive, or try to organize or rally others to their cause,face serious risk of abuse.

Some are held under unofficialhouse arrest or in unofficial places of detention also known as “blackjails”; others are assigned to forms of punitive administrative detentionsuch as "Re-education Through Labour" (RTL) or "residentialsurveillance" (‘jianshi juzhu’ – known informally in Chineseas ruanjin or "soft detention") without a possibilityto challenge the lawfulness of their detention.  Many are jailed asprisoners of conscience after politically motivated trials.

RTL has been used since themid-1950s in China as a form of punitive administrative detention, imposedwithout charge, trial or judicial review.

The decision whether to senda person to an RTL facility or to prosecute them through the courts isbased on a subjective, unchecked assessment by police of whether an actamounts to "illegal behaviour" and is therefore liable to RTL,or a more serious "crime", liable to prosecution through thecourts. RTL was once described in an official legal newspaper as punishmentfor actions which fall “somewhere between crime and error”. The vaguelanguage used to define the types of behaviour liable to punishment byRTL allows police to detain those peacefully exercising their fundamentalhuman rights.

Despite repeated callsfromboth inside and outside China for the system to be abolished, hundredsof thousands of people are believed to be held in China’s RTL facilities.Under the current system, people can be detained in a RTL facility forup to three years, which can be extended by a further year when “necessary”.Chinese legal reformists have pointed out that these periods are much higherthan minimum penalties under the Criminal Law.

New legislation has been proposedto substantially reform or replace RTL, but this remains at draft stagewithin China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, and it isunclear whether or when it will be passed.

UA: 95/10 Index: ASA 17/109/2010Issue Date: 26 April 2010

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