The Chinese human rights lawyers group bid farewell to 2016 and greeted 2017 by slamming China’s human rights violations and the “hidden poverty that lies behind the bright and orderly image of the nation.”
The main incidents are reported below.
Because of a forced demolition, a young man named Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙)
killed the village official responsible with a nail gun. Jia was
executed this year. Before he died, he declared to his lawyer and family
that he was willing to donate his organs after death, and left behind a
heartfelt poem bidding farewell to the world. He had a kind heart. If
his case wasn’t treated as a question of social stability and political
security, he would have been spared the death penalty, given that he had
repeatedly sought resolution of the dispute, and gave himself up after
We’ve seen more environmental pollution and a ceaseless smog that
suffocates the cities; we’ve seen contaminated food and poisoned
vaccines; we’ve seen how the downtrodden in society hurt each other, and
an increase in violent crimes.
We’ve seen the death of Lei Yang (雷洋), the outrage in public opinion
that followed, the trivial punishments given to police officers, and the
increasing abuses of police power. We’ve seen an economic decline and a
devaluation of the currency. We’ve seen the deep sense of insecurity
that grips the middle class.
For human rights lawyers, the year 2016 is a year of anxiety, dread, and perseverance.
As in 2015, human rights defenders in China continued to suffer
enormously in 2016. Civil society was savaged, citizen activists and
dissident intellectuals were taken into captivity one by one, some
vanished for weeks before news of their detention was released, and
others are now still being held incommunicado. In an uninterrupted
succession, relatives and friends posted notices of “missing persons” —
those who have been forcibly disappeared.
They include: the couple Ge
Jueping (戈觉平) and Luo Guoying (陆国英), Gu Yimin (顾义民), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang
Wanping (王婉平), Chen Zongyao (陈宗瑶), Sun Cun (孙林), Deng Hongcheng (邓洪成),
Xiao Bing (肖兵), Wang Jianhua (王建华), Li Nanhai (李南海), Ding Yan (丁岩), Wang
Jun (王军), Deng Jianfeng (邓剑峰, released just recently), Ma Zhiquan
(马志权), Wang Wei (王威), Dong Lingpeng (董凌鹏), Song Liqian (宋立前), Huang
Anyang (黄安阳), Huang Qi (黄琦), Pu Fei (蒲飞, recently released), Liu Feiyue
(刘飞跃), Xiong Feiling (熊飞骏), Wang Fei (王飞, a.k.a. Hai Di [海底]), and a
long list of others. Whether or not these human rights defenders were
charged with national security crimes, almost all were placed under
residential surveillance at a designated location and denied access to
lawyers and any other communication. They were forced into isolation and
helplessness, as a way of trying to make them submit. The model of
punishment used against “709 incident” rights lawyers was replicated
again and again against them.
After a year of detention incommunicado, and after much preparation
by the authorities, Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) and two others
were hauled before a court for show trials. Every one of them confessed
guilt, expressed repentance, and vowed not to appeal. Instead of
remonstration and urgent defense, the defense lawyers who were appointed
to defend them behaved in lockstep with the prosecutors that one could
hardly separate them.
The court hearing was composed like a concerto,
performed to perfection. Just what took place behind closed doors to
bring this about will only be known in time.
As for the sentencing to ten years imprisonment of Zhejiang Democracy
Party figures Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) and Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) — it has once
again become manifestly clear that independent organization and assembly
is absolutely forbidden, and that those who venture into this forbidden
realm can be charged over and over again for the same “offense.”
The sentencing of dissident Zhang Haitao (张海涛) to 19 years was
unprecedented. Such madness and hysteria is a tragic sight to behold.
The secret detention of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇)
towards the end of the year was both a continuation and expansion of the
709 arrests. Everyone knows the reason he was arrested: It was to cut
off support for the families of the 709 detained lawyers and their
rescue efforts, so that they’ll be forced to face the system alone, and,
the authorities hope, give up their rights and hope, and cease to
protest on behalf of their loved ones. Jiang Tianyong’s case is a clear
warning of the severity and urgency that Chinese rights lawyers face.
Of course, through the year we’ve also witnessed the continued
awakening and growth of rights awareness in China. These ordinary men
and women have taken to the streets to defend their homes, they’ve
signed petitions, speaking out for Lei Yang and Jia Jinglong online and
After 17 months of persevering, lawyers were finally able to meet
their clients Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wu Gan (吴淦) respectively. The two had
not surrendered or been silenced by the cruelty of prison, and they
showed again the strength of their commitments even from inside the
cell. Perhaps, in the eyes of the cultural elite, these are the
uncultivated grassroots members of China’s society, but at this moment,
they are models of tenacity and courage and a source of inspiration.
The wives of the persecuted lawyers, meanwhile, have been courageous,
wise, broad-minded, tenacious, and united in helping one another. This
includes Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Wenzu (李文足), Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), Yuan
Shanshan (原珊珊), Liu Ermin (刘二敏), Fan Lili (樊丽丽), and others. They’ve
been threatened, intimidated, beaten, detained, and yet not stopped.
Their efforts have led their husband’s cases to be more widely known,
and their public profile more complete. They’re tender, but not weak.
They shed tears before the camera when discussing their husband’s
captivity, but they’ve never made a display of weakness to the
authorities to plead for false leniency, for they are convinced that
their loved one are heroes, not criminals. They’re a group of
extraordinary women who have defended rights in their own way in the
face of immense adversity.
It’s no exaggeration to say that wherever there are human rights
abuses in China, there they are defending against them: in Suzhou, Wuxi,
Chengdu, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen…
Because we’ve borne witness, we’ve reason to believe that in this new
year, China’s human rights lawyers, determined and idealistic, will do
whatever is called for to bring light and hope as the regime’s iron
curtain continues to descend.
Because we’ve born witness, we believe that human nature yearns for
liberty, and that the freedom so hoped for won’t be stopped by the will
of a few tyrants. The time will come when human rights will be valued
and respected and rights lawyers will have a free, vast platform on
which to pursue their vocation.
With the continued advancement of the internet, and the increasing
impact that China’s severe social problems are having on each and every
person, the ideology and doctrines preached by the Party will have
increasingly less purchase. Everyone who has had their interests or
rights harmed is a latent ally. Like seeds planted and buds sprouting,
is there any question about their strength as they grow by the
In 2017, let us look up the starry sky above and obey the calls from
our hearts. Let us continue to fight through thorns and brambles to do
our job. In this era of great change, let us set down more milestones
toward the betterment of human rights in China.