China: Sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of prominent Buddhist leader, Wu Zeheng, as well as some of his followers

Urgent Appeal

New information
CHN 001 / 0814 / OBS 071.2
Arbitrary detention / Judicial harassment
People’s Republic of China
November 25, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), 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 sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of prominent Buddhist leader, Mr. Wu Zeheng, as well as some of his followers. Mr. Wu Zeheng is also known as Buddhist Zen Master Shi Xingwu, and is 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, on October 30, 2015, the Zhuhai City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Mr. Wu Zeheng to life imprisonment on charges related to his religious group’s alleged activities, namely “organizing or using an illegal cult to undermine implementation of the law”, “rape”, “fraud”, and “production and sale of harmful food,” resulting in prison terms of 12 years, life, 14 years, and 6 years respectively. The Court also fined him 7.15 million yuan (approx. 1,045,000 Euros) in connection with the last two charges.

The court also sentenced three of Mr. Wu’s disciples, namely Ms. Meng Yue, Ms. Yuan Ming, and Mr. Zhao Weiping, to three to four years’ imprisonment for the alleged offenses of “fraud” and “organizing or using an illegal cult to undermine implementation of the law”. Another individual, surnamed “Liu”, was convicted of “production and sale of harmful food”, but received no criminal sentence.

The Observatory condemns the 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 overturn the life sentence issued against him.

The Observatory also 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 and drop all charges against them.

Background information  [1]:

Mr. Wu Zeheng served an 11-year prison term from 1999 to 2010, 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 younger sister and two 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 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 against him.

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 again 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 straight, denied all food and water, and consecutively questioned by four different groups of police officers.

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, 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 persecutedboth judicially [2] 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 was also 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 was not sufficient, that he was forced to undertake extra duties, and that he was 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.

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.


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:
Mr. WANG Yi, 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:
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
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:;
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:

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

Geneva-Paris, November 25, 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.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
·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
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