China: Release and transfer 400km far from home of Mr. Wang Quanzhang

07/04/2020
Urgent Appeal

New information
CHN 003 / 0917 / OBS 101.2
Release /
Obstacles to freedom of movement /
Harassment
China
April 7, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in China.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the release of Mr. Wang Quanzhang, a prominent human rights lawyer known for taking on sensitive human rights cases and representing Falung Gong members, and his subsequent transfer 400 km away from Beijing, where his family lives.

According to the information received, on April 5, 2020, Chinese authorities ordered the release of Mr. Wang upon completion of his four-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Nonetheless, Mr. Wang was immediately transferred to his hometown in Jinan, in the North-Eastern province of Shandong, to undergo a 14-day quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he was prevented from reuniting with his wife and son, who live in Beijing.

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Wang was arbitrarily detained in the context of the “709 crackdown [1]” on August 2015, subject to unfair trial proceedings and to various forms of torture while in custody. In January 2019, he was sentenced to four years and a half in prison for “inciting subversion of State power”, and to five years of deprivation of political rights (see background information).

The Observatory welcomes the release of Mr. Wang but recalls that he should never have been detained, as his detention was only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities.

The Observatory further expresses its deepest concern about Mr. Wang’s compulsory quarantine far away from his family, which amounts to de facto house arrest, which the Observatory fears may be prolonged indefinitely, under the pretext of preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Observatory condemns Mr. Wang’s ongoing harassment and urges the Chinese authorities to fully and unconditionally release him, in particular by lifting all the restrictions on his freedom of movement and allowing him to be reunited with his family.

Background information:

After he was taken into custody on August 3, 2015, Mr. Wang was held under “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) for six months, until he was formally arrested on January 8, 2016, for “subversion of State power” and transferred to Tianjin No. 2 Detention Centre. However, neither his wife nor his lawyer was able to meet him after his transfer to Tianjin. It was only in July 2018 that a lawyer informed his family that he was still detained at Tianjin No. 2 Detention Centre.
 
On February 14, 2017, Mr. Wang was indicted on charges of “inciting subversion of State power” (Article 105 of China’s Criminal Law), punishable with prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In August 2018, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion that declared Mr. Wang’s detention arbitrary [2].

On December 26, 2018, Mr. Wang Quanzhang was finally tried behind closed doors, after more than three years in pre-trial detention. On January 28, 2019, the Tianjin Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court found Mr. Wang guilty of “subversion of State power” and sentenced him to four and a half years in prison, and to five years of deprivation of political rights.

While in custody, Mr. Wang was subjected to various forms of torture, including electric shocks. Since his arrest, his relatives have also been subjected to harassment. In particular, his wife, Ms. Li Wenzu, has been constantly monitored, and was arbitrarily detained on several occasions. Their son was also forcibly removed from kindergarten by police order.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the People’s Republic of China to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Wang Quanzhang as well as that of all human rights defenders in China;

ii. Fully and unconditionally release Mr. Wang Quanzhang, in particular by lifting all the restrictions on his freedom of movement;

iii. Guarantee the access of Mr. Wang Quanzhang to his family members;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Wang Quanzhang and all human rights defenders in the country so that they are able to carry out their work without hindrance, and put an end to reprisals against family members seeking justice on behalf of detained or disappeared human rights defenders;

v. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Articles 1, 6(c) and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments signed or ratified by China.

Addresses:

◦ Mr. Li Keqiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 659 611 09 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Email: premier@mail.gov.cn
◦ Mr. Guo Shengkun, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 63099216, Email: gabzfwz@mps.gov.cn
◦ H.E. Mr. Zhaoxu Ma, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 793 70 14, E-mail: chinamission_gva@mfa.gov.cn
◦ H.E. Mr. QU XING, Ambassador, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32-2-7792895; Email: chinaemb_be@mfa.gov.cn

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of China in your respective countries.
***
Geneva-Paris, April 7, 2020

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.  

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
◦ E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
◦ Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
◦ Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

[1] The term “709” refers to the start of the crackdown on July 9, 2015. About 300 rights lawyers and ­activists were detained, interrogated or threatened in one of the harshest crackdowns on human rights and civil society in decades. For more information, see the Joint Statement issued on January 15, 2016.
[2] See https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session82/A_HRC_WGAD_2018_62_AEV.pdf

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