Concern mounts for detained Chinese activists

Pro-democracy demonstrators hold up portraits of Chinese disbarred lawyer Jiang Tianyong, demanding his release, during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, China December 23, 2016. (Reuters file photo)

GENEVA: Human rights activists called on China on Wednesday on stop detaining lawyers and critics, voicing concern for their health and fate in custody, after the death of jailed Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo attracted international attention in July.

They highlighted the case of Jiang Tianyong, a prominent human rights lawyer disbarred in 2009, who disappeared last November and was held incommunicado for six months.

Mr Jiang's verdict is pending on charges of subversion, to which he confessed at a trial last month, saying he had been inspired to overthrow China's political system by workshops he attended overseas.

"The trial can be reasonably called neither fair nor impartial; in just the most obvious violation of due process, Mr Jiang was shown in a televised confession on state media in March 2017," Sarah Brooks of International Service for Human Rights told the United Nations Human Rights Council.

"Jiang’s physical and psychological health are a subject of great concern, given the real risks of abuse in places of detention," she said.

China's treatment of dissidents stirred an outcry this year when Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year sentence for "citing subversion of state power", died after being denied permission to leave the country for treatment for late-stage liver cancer.

His wife, Liu Xia, has been under house arrest for six years and her whereabouts and condition since his death are unknown, Ms Brooks said.

Ilham Tohti, declared a case of arbitrary detention by a UN panel in 2014, is serving a life sentence for "separatism", she said.

There was no immediate reply by China's delegation.

Zhang Qing, the wife of activist Guo Feixiong, told an NGO event in Geneva on Monday that he has suffered after being sentenced to six years in prison in late 2015. He conducted a 101-day hunger strike in 2016 to protest conditions.

"Guo has encountered with a wide range of brutal and evil torture in jail, such as 13 days and nights of sleep deprivation, high-voltage taser to his private parts to extract a confession," she said.

Mr Guo was a "veteran political prisoner" whose voice had been silenced for demanding reforms, said Ms Zhang, who lives in the United States.

Human Rights Watch said this week that Beijing is waging a campaign of harassment against Chinese activists who seek to testify at the UN about repression, which it called the worst since the Tiananmen Square democracy movement was crushed. China's foreign ministry dismissed the accusations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, addressing the Geneva forum on Monday, said that China was drafting its first national law on detention centres, with the aim of improving treatment, oversight and accountability.

Mr Zeid urged the government "to ensure that the law grants access to independent legal counsel and family members, as well as addressing the ill-treatment in detention and deaths in custody". 

Back to top