From October 6 to November 6, 2014, Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm circled the globe, visiting Hong Kong, Beijing, Geneva, Berne, The Hague, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Bergen, and Oslo. This issue of Digest will cover the China portion of the trip. Information on the European tour will be included in the December Digest.
Participants of the 4th US-China Juvenile Justice Exchange gather in front of the Supreme People’s Court.
Kamm arrived in Hong Kong 10 days after the Occupy Central protests began. Vast crowds of demonstrators demanding “genuine elections” defied the police and the Hong Kong government in one of the largest and longest lasting civil disobedience movements ever seen in a Chinese city. Kamm discussed the crisis with both supporters and opponents.
The protests polarized the city, pitting students against the establishment, haves against have-nots, and pro-Beijing constituencies against local, mostly Cantonese people. One thing is certain. However the crisis is resolved—and it won’t be easy—Hong Kong will never be the same. Beijing is perilously close to calling the special administrative region a base of subversion against the mainland with the black hands of foreign countries, led by the United States, fomenting the protests.
Juvenile Justice, Women in Prison
In Beijing, Kamm joined Dui Hua Research & Programs Associate Lincey Qi and Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.) and his wife Margaret for Dui Hua’s fourth juvenile justice exchange with China’s Supreme People’s Court (SPC). The Dui Hua team was joined by Ms. Melodee Hanes, former Director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and wife of American Ambassador to China Max Baucus.
Unlike Dui Hua’s previous exchanges, which delved into many subjects, this exchange focused on the sealing of juvenile records. The program consisted of a visit to the Haidian District Juvenile Court and a full-day seminar on juvenile record sealing held in an SPC courtroom.
On October 15, the Dui Hua team was received in the Jiangsu Room of the Great Hall of the People by Vice Chairman Wang Shengming of the National People’s Congress Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs. Prior to the meeting, Kamm submitted a question on China’s attitude to the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), which was the focus of an international symposium organized by Dui Hua in February. Wang stated that the adoption of the rules by the UN General Assembly was a matter of “profound significance” and that women should receive different treatment from men, including, under certain circumstances, different treatment regarding non-custodial measures. The vice chairman advised that China was studying the rules and opined that China would enact legislation to implement them.
Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Li Baodong welcomes Executive Director Kamm to discuss human rights in Beijing. Image credit: MFA China
For the third time in less than a year, Kamm was received at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Vice Minister Li Baodong for a wide-ranging exchange on human rights. Later in the week, the ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights Liu Hua hosted Kamm to a working lunch where they discussed several sensitive cases.
In addition to a dinner with American Ambassador Max Baucus, Kamm held private meetings with the ambassadors of Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland and with the French charge d’affaires.
Falun Gong leader Wang Zhiwen (王治文) was released one year early on October 18, 2014, after serving 15 years in prison for “cult” and state secrets charges. Wang was accused of using secret documents to “organize and incite” hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners to “besiege” state organs in Beijing and Tianjin and to encourage more than ten thousand practitioners to protest Zhongnanhai on April 25, 1999. An article published in a state-run magazine condemning Falun Gong as an “evil cult” triggered the mass protests. Wang was sentenced along side Li Chang (李昌), Ji Liewu (纪烈武), and Yao Jie (姚洁), who were sentenced to 7-18 years’ imprisonment. All four defendants were Chinese Communist Party (CCP) members holding key positions in government or business.
Thousands of members of the Falun Gong religious group sit in silent protest along Chang’an Avenue in 1999. Image credit: AP
The harsh sentences led to an international outcry, and Dui Hua named Wang on 14 prisoner lists submitted to Chinese and foreign governments between 2001 and October 2014. Li Chang is the only one of the four to remain in prison. He is scheduled for release from Beijing’s Qianjin Prison in October 2017 at the age of 78.
Immediately after Wang’s release from prison, he was reportedly held in legal education, a form of arbitrary detention commonly used to restrict the freedom of petitioners and Falun Gong practitioners, for about a week. Wang is now set to serve his four-year sentence of deprivation of political rights.
Tibetan prisoner Sangye Kyab (桑吉克) was released on August 3, 2014, after receiving a nine-month sentence reduction in April. He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for inciting splittism on April 27, 2012. The publication of Sangye Kyab’s verdict by a Gansu court was a rare occurrence, as officials sources do not typically make public early releases of ethnic minorities convicted of endangering state security crimes. Sangye Kyab was detained in November 2011. Case specifics were not disclosed but may relate to the self-immolation protests that began making headlines in Tibetan regions in that year.
Earlier this year Dui Hua inquired with the Chinese government about several individuals convicted of subversion. In November, government sources confirmed that Mao Yan (毛雁) was released on October 15, 2014. Based on court documents stating that Mao was detained in Jiangsu in 2011 and Chinese sources stating that he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, Dui Hua believes Mao was released early.
The particulars of Mao’s case are uncertain but Chinese subversion cases typically involve the establishment of political parties to rival the CCP. Sentences are often lengthy, although Dui Hua has yet to document an instance in which a defendant received the maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Dui Hua knows of nine political organizers serving subversion sentences of 10 years or more who have yet to receive any sentence reductions (see table).
|Ren Ziyuan (任自元)||Mainland Democratic Front
|Shandong||10 years||May 2015|
|Yang Tongyan (杨同彦)||China Democracy Party, Jiangsu Branch
|Jiangsu||12 years||December 2017|
|Guo Quan (郭泉)||New People’s Party
|Jiangsu||10 years||November 2018|
|Li Nanhang (李南航)||China Democratic Republican Party
|Yunnan||10 years||April 2020|
|Li Tie (李铁)||Chinese Social Democracy Party
|Hubei||10 years||December 2020|
|Liu Xingrong (刘兴荣)||China Workers Party
|Hubei||11 years||September 2016|
|Ma Houzhi (马厚芝),
Wei Jinxiang (蔚晋湘)
|Mao Zedong Thought Communist Party of China
|Chongqing||10 years||October 2019|
|Xie Changfa (谢长发)||China Democracy Party
|Hunan||13 years||June 2021|
In a press statement issued on October 2014, Dui Hua states that an estimated 2,400 people were executed in China in 2013, down by 20 percent from the previous year. More than 20 news outlets around the world, including The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Telegraph, reported Dui Hua’s estimate in the days following the release.
A week later, a proposal to remove the death penalty from nine crimes reached the National People’s Congress for consideration. News agencies including Reuters and Associated Press cited Dui Hua’s estimate in their coverage of the story.
Featured Article: China Executed 2,400 People in 2013, Dui Hua (October 2014)
Dui Hua estimates that China executed approximately 2,400 people in 2013 and will execute roughly the same number of people in 2014, based on data points published in Southern Weekly and information provided to Dui Hua by a judicial official earlier this year. In 2013, 39 percent of all death penalty cases reviewed by the Supreme People’s Court were sent back to provincial courts for more evidence and fewer than 10 percent of verdicts were overturned.
Torture in Harbin Drug Cases Met with Little Punishment (October 2)
Dui Hua, China’s Supreme Court Hold 4th Juvenile Justice Exchange (October 23)
Last month’s Digest: October 2014
To celebrate 15 years of human rights advocacy, we’ll be highlighting a key moment from this month in Dui Hua history.
Kamm testified before House Committee. Image credit: C-SPAN
On November 2011, Executive Director Kamm testified before the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the hearing on the annual report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Titled “Separate and Unequal: State Security Detainees in China,” the testimony highlights how detained individuals who are viewed as a threat to one-party rule receive harsher punishments than other detainees in what Kamm called a dual-track justice system.
At particular risk of receiving discriminatory treatment are people accused of crimes of endangering state security (ESS). It is commonplace for their families not to be notified of the reasons for their detention, for their cases to be classified as state secrets, and for their trials to be closed. Those convicted of ESS are designated “important prisoners” and held under closer watch. Sentence reduction and parole are stifled. The rate of clemency for ESS prisoners is far lower than that of the general population, as discrimination pervades every step of the lengthy process. Once ESS prisoners are released they are subject to a supplemental sentence of one to five years’ deprivation of political rights (DPR). People serving DPR cannot publish their writing or give interviews. They cannot vote, stand for office, or work at a state-owned company. Many are subjected to house arrest and enforced disappearance.
Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law, drafted prior to Kamm’s testimony and effective January 1, 2013, placed even greater restrictions on ESS suspects. Lawyers now have to apply for permission to hold meetings with these clients and ESS suspects can be disappeared through the use of “non-residential residential surveillance” (NRRS). Under this form of so-called residential surveillance, suspects can be detained in a place that is not their residence or a prison or detention center for up to six months without their families being notified of their whereabouts.
Although legal, the practice does not appear to be widely used. Dui Hua is aware of only two cases of NRRS, both of which occurred in 2013. Yang Guixiang (杨桂香) was placed under NRRS for petitioning for compensation for a land development project, while Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志) was held for raising questions about the circumstances of the death of labor activist Li Wangyang (李旺阳).
Shortly after Kamm gave his testimony, the United Nations also issued a statement criticizing the use of NRRS. While implementation difficulties like finding appropriate sites may have made NRRS impractical, international criticism stemming from the work of Dui Hua and other organizations also served to disincentivize the its use. As part of our mission to advocate for the rights of at-risk detainees, Dui Hua continues to raise awareness of human rights abuses through publications and outreach.