This post was originally published as part of Dui Hua’s This Month in History series in its November 2014 Digest.
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 deincentivize 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.