China : Ongoing arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, slandering campaign and ill-treatment of Mr. Wu Zeheng

12/03/2015
Appel urgent

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, slandering campaign and ill-treatment of Mr. Wu Zeheng and more than 20 of his followers. Mr. Wu Zeheng is a prominent Buddhist leader, also known as Buddhist Zen Master Shi Xingwu, committed to promoting greater respect for human rights and the rule of law and to fighting against corruption. He has been detained with some of his followers since July 29, 2014.

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
New information
CHN 001 / 0814 / OBS 071.1

Arbitrary detention / Ill-treatment / Slander
People’s Republic of China
March 12, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention on the following situation in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

New information :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, slandering campaign and ill-treatment of Mr. Wu Zeheng and more than 20 of his followers. Mr. Wu Zeheng is a prominent Buddhist leader, also known as Buddhist Zen Master Shi Xingwu, committed to promoting greater respect for human rights and the rule of law and to fighting against corruption. He has been detained with some of his followers since July 29, 2014 (see background information).

According to the information received, since the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Wu Zeheng and several of his followers on July 29, 2014, Mr. Wu Zeheng has not yet been brought before a judge. On September 5, 2014, the police authority charged all the detainees with “organising and making use of evil cults to destroy the implementation of law.” On October 28, 2014, the evidence gathered by the Police Authority regarding this case was sent to the Zhuhai Procuratorate, which on December 19, 2014, determined that there was insufficient evidence and ordered the Police Authority to re-investigate the case. On January 19, 2015, the new evidence for this case was sent to the Zhuhai Procuratorate ; on March 4, 2015, the case was returned by the Procuratorate to the Zhuhai Police Authority for the second time because of insufficient evidence. The Police Authority was again ordered to re-investigate the case.

In addition, Mr. Wu’s followers are being persecuted both judicially [1]and through a slander campaign. On August 5 and 15, 2014, three major newspapers - the Southern Metropolis Daily, the Yangcheng Evening News, and the Guangzhou Daily - launched a defamatory campaign against Mr. Wu Zeheng, accusing him of raping his female students and laundering money through the Hua Zang Dharma discipline, which is considered a fraud by the Chinese authorities. From August 29, 2014 onwards, several other defamatory articles were published in the official media including by CCTV. The Zhuhai Intermediate People’s Court refused to investigate the allegations presented by Mr. Wu’s lawyers on October 19, 2014 in relation to this slander campaign. These false reports recklessly slandered Mr. Wu Zeheng and the Hua Zang Dharma discipline, seriously damaging his reputation as a human rights defender, the reputation of his followers under arrest, as well as that of all members of the Hua Zang Dharma discipline. The Observatory is seriously concerned about this defamatory campaign, which violates the principle of presumption of innocence established under the criminal law of the PRC.

Furthermore, the Observatory expresses its deep concern about the conditions in which Mr. Wu and his followers remain detained in Zhuhai No. 2 and No. 1 Detention Centres, as the detention Centre which has the capacity to accommodate 20 prisoners is currently holding 50-60 persons, depriving them of enough space to sleep, and forcing some of them to sleep on the floor or on corridors, or to take turns sleeping. In addition, the Observatory was informed by Mr. Wu’s lawyer, Mr. Lin Qilei, who went to visit his client on February 15, 2015, that the food provided to Mr. Wu is not sufficient, that he is forced to undertake extra duties and that he is deprived of communication with his family. Also, during the visit no mobile phone nor video or audio recording devices were allowed, nor were Mr. Wu and his lawyer allowed to pass written notes to each other, which violates regulations concerning prisoner visits and communication between prisoners and their lawyers. After denouncing these restrictions to the Zhuhai Procuratorate, Mr. Lin Qilei was informed that, despite the variety of regulations throughout China concerning the matter of visits with prisoners, at the very least audio recordings should be allowed.

More generally, the Observatory condemns the slander campaign and judicial harassment against Mr. Wu Zeheng and his followers, as it seems merely aimed at sanctioning Mr. Wu Zeheng’s peaceful human rights activities, and calls upon the authorities of the People’s Republic of China to put an end to all acts of harassment against him as well as against all human rights defenders in the country.

Finally, the Observatory urges the Chinese authorities to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Wu and all his followers, and to immediately and unconditionally release them.

Background information [2] :

Mr. Wu Zeheng served an 11-year prison term, based on spurious accusations of economic crimes that followed a letter he sent in 1998 to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and State Council, and in 1999 to the Chinese President Jing Zemin and then Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, denouncing human rights violations and calling for reform. During this time in prison, Mr. Wu Zeheng faced repeated and extensive torture. Since his release on February 28, 2010, Mr. Wu Zeheng has been subjected to close surveillance by the Chinese authorities as well as various forms of persecution (stalking, beatings, insults, theft, travel restrictions, etc.).

On May 9, 2011, in front of several witnesses, Mr. Wu Zeheng was beaten, threatened and forcibly arrested by officers belonging to the Zhuhai police. At 9:00 pm that day, eight policemen forcefully entered Mr. Wu’s residence and seized him, his young sister and two other students and searched all rooms, without presenting any search warrant or any other legal documentation authorising their action. Double-handcuffed, Mr. Wu was forcefully taken to the police station for questioning. Along the way and during the interrogation, which went on until 10:00 am the following morning, the police beat him and yelled offensive comments. He was told that he would not be allowed to do anything and he would not be bothered again only if he remained in his hometown. He was also warned not to participate in Buddhist ceremonies or to have his students visit him. He was held in detention for 24 hours before being released without charges and without being provided any legal document explaining or justifying the police actions.

According to the police interrogators, Mr. Wu and his followers were detained on May 9, 2011, on suspicion of intending to organise an illegal assembly. Despite complaints filed on May 16, 2011 with the Xiangzhou Public Security Bureau (PSB) of Zhuhai city, these acts of harassment have remained unpunished. According to a written notice in response to the complaints, bearing the seal of the Xiangzhou PSB of Zhuhai and dated July 4, 2011, the Bureau stated no illegal enforcement of the law had occurred during the police intervention of May 9, 2011.

On July 29, 2014, Mr. Wu Zeheng and some of his followers(including children) were taken into custody, after the police staged a coordinated raid on a number of businesses and living compounds run by his group, Hua Zang Dharma. They were arrested for “using cult activities to undermine law enforcement, to defraud, to commit sexual assaults, and to engage in other criminal activities.” The Public Security office of Guangdong Province was the investigative authority in this case while the Public Security Bureau of Zhuhai was involved in the enforcement and interrogation. No search warrant nor any official documents were presented to justify the raid and the arrests. In the first 24 hours of his detention, Mr. Wu was kept awake for 16 hours, denied all food and water, and consecutively questioned by four different groups of police officers.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities in the People’s Republic of China, urging them to :

i. Release Mr. Wu Zeheng and his followers immediately and unconditionally since their detention is arbitrary, and seems only aimed at sanctioning Mr. Wu’s human rights activities.

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Wu Zeheng and his followers, as well as of all human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China ;

iii. Put an end to the harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Wu Zeheng, his followers, as well as against all human rights defenders in the People’s Republic of China ;

iv. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the People’s Republic of China.

Addresses :

Mr. LI Keqiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China : Guojia Zongli, The State Council General Office, 2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017, People’s Republic of China ; Fax : +86 10 65961109 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Ms. WU Aiying, Minister of Justice of the People’s Republic of China : Buzhang Sifabu, 10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Chaoyangqu, Beijingshi 100020, People’s Republic of China ; Fax : +86 10 6529 2345 ; Email : minister@legalinfo.gov.cn/ pfmaster@legalinfo.gov.cn
Mr. YANG Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China : Buzhang Waijiaobu, 2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Beijingshi 100701, People’s Republic of China ; Fax : +86 10 6588 2594 ;Email : ipc@fmprc.gov.cn
Mr. GUO Shengkun, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China : Buzhang, Gong’anbu, 14 Dongchang’anjie, Dongchengqu, Beijingshi 100741, People’s Republic of China ; Fax : +86 10 63099216
Ambassador WU Hailong, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations : Chemin de Surville 11, P.O. Box 85, 1213 Petit-Lancy 2, Geneva, Switzerland ; Fax : +41 22 7937014 ; E-mail : mission.china@ties.itu.int ;
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels : Avenue de Tervuren, 1150 Woluwe Saint-Pierre, Belgium ; Tel : +32-2-7711497, +32-2-7711495 ; Fax : +32-2-7792895 ; Email : chinaemb_be@mfa.gov.cn

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the People’s Republic of China in your respective country.

***
Geneva-Paris, March 12, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

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