New Government Rules to Punish Journalists for Disclosing “State Secrets,” Detained Lawyer Repeatedly Denied Access to Lawyer

China Human Rights Briefing

 July 4-10, 2014

Content

Arbitrary Detention

  • Curtailing Church-based Rights Activism, Authorities Sentence Christian Pastor to 12 Years in Prison
  • Detained Lawyer Chang Boyang Denied Access to Lawyer, Fears of Torture Grow

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly & Association

  • Democracy Advocate Detained for “Subversion of State Power”

Law and Policy Watch

  • New Rules on “State Secrets” Step Up Government Control of Media Information

Special Notice

  • CHRD Urges UN Experts to Inquire About Allegations of Torture on Prisoner of Conscience Ren Ziyuan

Arbitrary Detention

Curtailing Church-based Rights Activism, Authorities Sentence Christian Pastor to 12 Years in Prison

A court has sent a Christian pastor to prison for 12 years, an indication of the Chinese Communist Party leadership’s uneasiness with rights activism connected to religious institutions. The pastor, Zhang Shaojie (少杰), was convicted of two crimes—“fraud” and “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order”—by the Nanle County People’s Court in Henan Province on July 4, as confirmed by Rights Defense Network.[1] The court also ordered Zhang to pay a fine of 100,000 yuan (more than US$ 16,000). Zhang, 49, has been the chairman and president of the Nanle County branch of the “Three-Self” Patriotic Protestant Church in China, which is officially sanctioned by the government, and a member of the CCP’s “Political Consultative” body in Nanle.

Pastor Zhang and more than 20 staff members from the church in Nanle were detained on November 16, 2013 (see report). The detentions were presumably in retaliation for Zhang’s efforts to help others seek redress for rights abuses (including forced demolitions of church buildings in Nanle) by petitioning authorities in Beijing. Several of Zhang’s relatives, members of his church, lawyers, and supporters were beaten or harassed after demanding the release of pastor Zhang (see report).

Zhang Shaojie (张少杰), a pastor from a government-sanctioned church in Henan Province, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after helping church members pursue grievances.

Zhang Shaojie (张少杰), a pastor from a government-sanctioned church in Henan Province, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after helping church members pursue grievances.

The circumstances of Zhang’s detention and indictment raise concerns about abuses of his due process rights. Zhang was initially detained on November 17, 2013, on suspicion of “disrupting official business,” and subsequently arrested on November 23 with the additional crime of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” After police from the Nanle County Public Security Bureau completed an investigation in December, prosecutors in January requested the court put Zhang on trial for “fraud” and “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” Police did not appear to have a probable cause for Zhang’s initial detention, as evidenced by the differences in the nature of the original and newer charges, and the fact that the government failed to produce records of any earlier investigations. Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang Xinyun (张新云), argued this in his defense at trial, questioning the legality of the pastor’s being taken into custody first and the home search conducted afterward to collect evidence.[2]

It has also been reported that petitioner Li Cairen (李彩忍), who sought Zhang’s help to seek compensation for her son’s death due to a workplace accident, and who was named by the prosecution as the “victim” of the fraud charge, has been missing since December 2013 after she was abducted from Zhang’s home, and was thus unable to testify to Zhang’s innocence.[3]

The harsh sentence reflects that Chinese authorities are expanding harassment and persecution usually aimed at underground house churches by going after officially sanctioned religious institutions. However, in this case, pastor Zhang’s original house church was pressured to register as an officially sanctioned church a few years ago. Since April 2013, in Zhejiang Province alone, churches in several cities have been demolished, under an administrative order issued by provincial authorities to take down symbols of the Christian cross from any church buildings.[4]

Detained Lawyer Chang Boyang Denied Access to Lawyer, Fears of Torture Grow

Human rights lawyer Chang Boyang (常伯) was formally arrested on July 3 on the new charge of “illegal business activity,” reports Rights Defense Network, as Zhengzhou police have held him under incommunicado detention since late May (see CHRD’s ongoing update). The charge of “illegal business activity” is apparently related to Chang’s role as a board director of the anti-discrimination and health rights NGO, Zhengzhou Yirenping. Authorities have denied repeated requests by Chang’s lawyers to meet him at Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center, where he and some of his clients are detained. Chang’s family fears he has been subjected to torture, as Chinese police routinely deny access to detainees in order to prevent family members and lawyers from disclosing their mistreatment at detention facilities. A group of lawyers has held a hunger strike and protested the denial of Chang and the other detainees’ access to legal counsel. The lawyers were told on June 7 by authorities that they were denied access to their clients because the detainees were being held on suspicion of “endangering state security,” despite none of them having been charged with such a crime. [1]

Chang was taken into custody on May 27 for representing and demanding to meet, among others, Chen Wei (陈卫) and Yu Siwen (于世文), an activist couple who had been detained days earlier for organizing a June Fourth commemoration event in February (see report). Chang was later criminally detained on a charge of “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place,” but his July 3 arrest notice listed a different charge. The change raises doubts as to whether the Zhengzhou police had a probable cause for initially detaining Chang. Chang’s defense counsel Liu Weiguo () challenged the arrest of Chang on the charge of “illegal business activity” (Article 225 of China’s Criminal Law) as a possible abuse of prosecutorial discretion. Article 225 relates strictly to profit-making business activities, which have the potential effect of disrupting marker order, and the selling of financial products. Therefore, Liu believes neither Chang’s law practice nor his nonprofit NGO activities could justifiably be called “illegal business activity.” The lawyer had indicated that police may have apprehended Chang for the sake of detaining him, and then went about looking for some crimes to charge him with to justify his detention.

In mid-June, plainclothes police officers in Henan sought to pressure the staff of Zhengzhou Yirenping to cooperate with the investigation of Chang, and also froze the group’s bank account (see report). The new charge against Chang is yet another signal that authorities are taking aim at the NGO itself.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly & Association

Democracy Advocate Detained for “Subversion of State Power”

Hangzhou rights defender and member of the China Democratic Party, Lü Gengsong (耿松), was criminally detained on July 8 on suspicion of “subversion of state power,” reports RDN. The previous day, police searched his home. Over the years, police have searched Lü’s home many times and confiscated at least eight computers. He is currently detained at Hangzhou City Detention Center.[2]

Lü’s detention was preceded by a police summons and frequent visits by Hangzhou authorities. Several other members of the banned opposition party have been summoned or detained in Hangzhou since April this year, including Xu Guang (徐光), Tan Hai (谭凯), Lai Jinbiao (来金彪), Hu Chen (胡臣), Wu Yuanming (吴远明), Lou Baosheng (楼保生), and Chen Shuqing (陈树庆). They have been taken away by police on suspicion of various charges, among them “inciting subversion of state power.” Xu, one of the founders of the China Democracy Party, was arrested on the charge of “inciting subversion” on May 9, and Tan is currently under residential surveillance, while the others were released.[3]

Law and Policy Watch

New Rules on “State Secrets” Step Up Government Control of Media Information

On June 30, Chinese media regulators published a new set of rules to govern the use of information, barring media workers from obtaining and disseminating information deemed “states secrets” (see full text). The new rules, from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, are titled “Information Management Measures on the Professional Conduct of Media Employees,” and tighten restrictions on media workers in terms of how they access, use, disseminate, and manage information that is regarded as “state secrets.”The regulations require training for each media worker on how to handle “state secrets” before they begin employment, and a signed pledge for workers not to obtain, disseminate, use, copy, store, or destroy such information. They also authorize local regulatory offices to suspend or revoke work permits of media employees if they are found to violate these rules. The regulations came approximately two weeks after the same authorities issued rules requiring news to be signed-off by supervisors before it is reported.[4]

“State secrets” has long been an ill-defined concept under Chinese law. Article 9 of the Law on the Protection of State Secrets (amended in 2010) laid out seven types of information that the Law considered a “state secret,” among them information related to “state security,” a vaguely defined concept. The classification provides as a “state secret” “any other items recognized by the State Secretary Bureau as a state secret,” a catch-all provision that allows authorities to arbitrarily and retroactively apply state secret laws.

One of the most recent victims of the ill-defined state secret laws is the 70-year old Beijing-based dissident journalist, Gao Yu (高瑜). Ms. Gao was arrested on May 30 on a charge of “illegally disseminating state secrets overseas,” reportedly for having posted a “top secret document” to an overseas website in August 2013. Her arrest came after she was criminally detained on April 24.

Special Notice

CHRD Urges UN Experts to Inquire About Allegations of Torture on Prisoner of Conscience Ren Ziyuan

In mid-June, CHRD submitted information to UN experts on prisoner of conscience Ren Ziyuan (任自元), alleging torture and violation of freedom of expression, among other abuses. Ren was criminally detained in May of 2005 by police in Shandong Province and arrested the following month. He was subsequently tried on a charge of “subversion of state power” and was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on March 17, 2006, by the Jining City Intermediate People’s Court. In prison, Ren has been subjected to both physical and psychological torture. Severe beatings caused fractures to Ren’s vertebra and nose, along with many other injuries. He was also held in solitary confinement for long periods of time. In March 2010, his family learned that Ren had contracted tuberculosis but was being denied proper medical treatment (see CHRD’s ongoing medical watch list).

Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 240 374 8937, reneexia@chrdnet.com

David Zhao, Researcher and Media Outreach (Mandarin, English, Cantonese), +852 61252921, davidzhao@chrdnet.com

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator (English), +1 209 643 0539,

victorclemens@chrdnet.com

 

Follow us on Twitter:@CHRDnet

 

[1] “Report on the Zhengzhou Case: Authorities Swap Charges Against Public Interest Lawyer Chang Boyang; Family Fears Torture as Police Denies Access to Lawyers” (郑州案通报:公益律师常伯阳被变换罪名逮捕警方拒会见家属忧刑讯逼供), July 8, 2014, RDN

[2] “Update: Zhejiang Democracy Advocate Lü Gengsong Criminally Detained for ‘Inciting Subversion of State Power’” (快讯:浙江民主维权人士吕耿松被以“颠覆国家政权”刑拘), July 8, 2014, RDN; “Update: Police Raided the Home of Zhejiang Democracy Advocate Lü Gengsong” (快讯:浙江民主维权人士吕耿松今早被抄家), July 7, 2014, RDN; “Urgent Appeal: Hangzhou Rights Defender Lü Gengsong Summoned and Home Searched” (紧急关注:杭州维权人士吕耿松被传唤抄家), May 12, 2014, RDN.

[3] “Three Members of the Democratic Party Zhejiang Committee Criminally Summoned, Authorities Stepped Up Surveillance on Lü Gengsong”  (中国民主党浙江委员会三名成员遭刑事传唤,对吕耿松的监控升级), April 16, 2014, RDN; “Zhejiang Democratic Party Members Tan Hai, Lai Jinbiao, Chen Shuqing Summoned; Lai Home Searched, and Xu Guang went Missing” 浙江中国民主党人谭凯、来金彪、陈树庆先后被传讯,来金彪被抄家,徐光失去联系, April 16, 2014, RDN; “Chen Shuqing: Democratic Party Members Xu Guang and Tan Hai Criminally Detained for Web Chat” (陈树庆:中国民主党人徐光、谭凯因微信聊天被刑拘), April 5, 2014, RDN.

[4] “China will Strengthen Regulations on Media Workers on Information Use and Management” (中国将加强规范新闻从业人员职务行为信息使用和管理), July 8, 2014, Xinhua News; “China Denies Trying to Ban Unapproved Critical Media Coverage,” June 19, 2014, Reuters.

[5] “Report on the Zhengzhou Case: Authorities Swap Charges Against Public Interest Lawyer Chang Boyang; Family Fears Torture as Police Denies Access to Lawyers” (郑州案通报:公益律师常伯阳被变换罪名逮捕警方拒会见家属忧刑讯逼供), July 8, 2014, RDN

[6] “Update: Zhejiang Democracy Advocate Lü Gengsong Criminally Detained for ‘Inciting Subversion of State Power’” (快讯:浙江民主维权人士吕耿松被以“颠覆国家政权”刑拘), July 8, 2014, RDN; “Update: Police Raided the Home of Zhejiang Democracy Advocate Lü Gengsong” (快讯:浙江民主维权人士吕耿松今早被抄家), July 7, 2014, RDN; “Urgent Appeal: Hangzhou Rights Defender Lü Gengsong Summoned and Home Searched” (紧急关注:杭州维权人士吕耿松被传唤抄家), May 12, 2014, RDN.

[7] “Three Members of the Democratic Party Zhejiang Committee Criminally Summoned, Authorities Stepped Up Surveillance on Lü Gengsong”  (中国民主党浙江委员会三名成员遭刑事传唤,对吕耿松的监控升级), April 16, 2014, RDN; “Zhejiang Democratic Party Members Tan Hai, Lai Jinbiao, Chen Shuqing Summoned; Lai Home Searched, and Xu Guang went Missing” 浙江中国民主党人谭凯、来金彪、陈树庆先后被传讯,来金彪被抄家,徐光失去联系, April 16, 2014, RDN; “Chen Shuqing: Democratic Party Members Xu Guang and Tan Hai Criminally Detained for Web Chat” (陈树庆:中国民主党人徐光、谭凯因微信聊天被刑拘), April 5, 2014, RDN.

[8] “China will Strengthen Regulations on Media Workers on Information Use and Management” (中国将加强规范新闻从业人员职务行为信息使用和管理), July 8, 2014, Xinhua News; “China Denies Trying to Ban Unapproved Critical Media Coverage,” June 19, 2014, Reuters.

 

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