China: Free Shu Xiangxin, rights defence lawyer tortured in custody

Press release

Paris-New York-Hong Kong-Geneva, January 6, 2016– Prominent rights defence lawyer Shu Xiangxin was tortured just weeks after a scathing review of China by the UN Committee Against Torture. The Chinese authorities must immediately ensure that Shu Xiangxin’s personal safety and rights are protected, and stop the harassment and torture of human rights lawyers and defenders, said the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights defenders (joint FIDH-OMCT programme) along with FIDH member organisations, China Labour Bulletin (CLB) and Human Rights in China (HRIC).

On January 2, 2016, the Jinan police in Shandong province issued a notice of arrest for Mr. Shu Xiangxin, Director of the Shandong Xuzhou Law Firm. Mr. Shu was taken to the Hongjialou police liaison office at Lixia Police Department before being transferred to Jinan No. 2 Detention Centre.

“The human rights situation in China continues to deteriorate. The arrest and treatment of Mr. Shu Xiangxin is the latest example of the risks faced by human rights activists and lawyers in China; the authorities are trying to intimidate all those who speak out for human rights and against government abuses”
Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

When Mr. Shu’s defence lawyers were finally allowed access to him on January 4, after he had spent two days in police custody, they observed that he had several injuries. Mr. Shu informed them that while in detention, police officers demanded he engage forced labour. When he refused, he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment by the police, including being punched and dragged, left out in the cold, and humiliated. Mr. Shu also described being hanged from an iron bar of a second floor staircase with only one leg reaching the floor, and being left in that position for about eight hours without access to food, water or a bathroom. Despite crying out in pain, he stated that no police officer came to his aid and he finally lost consciousness.

“Torture and ill-treatment are strictly prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which China is a party. The Chinese authorities must ensure the physical and phycological integrity of Mr. Shu Xiangxin and all detainees, and must fully investigate these allegations of mistreatment by the police”
Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT).

Mr. Shu is scheduled to appear before the Licheng District First Instance Criminal Court, Licheng District Court House, in Ji’nan at 2:00 p.m. local time on January 8, on charges of defamation. However, his lawyers believe that the authorities are targeting Mr. Shu as retaliation for his successful work in defending petitioners whose property rights had been violated in several rural provinces.

In addition to the arrest and torture of Mr. Shu, the authorities continue to harass and threaten other lawyers engaged in representing human rights defence cases. More than 30 human rights lawyers and defenders are reportedly still detained pending trial or in undisclosed locations since the mass crackdown that began in July 2015.

Our organisations strongly denounce the continued use of torture and harassment against human rights defenders and lawyers in China. We urge the Chinese authorities to respect their domestic and international human rights obligations and ensure that lawyers and defenders can safely carry out their legitimate and peaceful activities, without which the future of rule of law in China is grim. We call on the international community to continue to speak out in support of these lawyers and defenders and not give China a free pass for these violations of international human rights standards.

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