Communiqué on behalf of Li Hongwei, citizen of the People’s Republic of China, Alleging Arbitrary Arrest or Detention, Torture, and Violation of Right to Freedom of Expression

 

To: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention,

 

Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and

 

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

 

     via the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

I. IDENTITY

1. Family name:  LI (李)

2. First name:  Hongwei (红卫)

3. Sex:  Female

4. Birth date or age (at the time of detention):  May 25, 1959

5. Nationality/Nationalities:  People’s Republic of China (Han ethnicity)

6. Identity document (if any): (a)ID Card

(b) Issued by the Jinan Municipal Public Security Bureau

7. Profession and/or activity (if believed to be relevant to the arrest/detention):  Activity: petitioning (i.e., lodging complaints with government entities about rights abuses and/or unlawful conduct of officials or other functionaries)

 

II. Arrest

1. Date of arrest:  July 11, 2011

2. Place of arrest (as detailed as possible):  Lixia District Branch of the Jinan Municipal Public Security Bureau (“ PSB”), on Heping Road in Jinan City, Shandong Province

3. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out: Police officersfrom theLixia District Branch of the Jinan PSB (“Lixia PSB”)

4. Did they show a warrant or other decision by a public authority? Yes

 

III. Detention

Date of detention: Ms. Li was initially taken into custody on July 11, 2011. On July 11, the Lixia PSB issued a notice to Ms. Li summoning her to appear at the Dongguan Police Station that morning on suspicion of “disrupting public order.”  In the evening of July 11, the Re-education through Labor (RTL) Management Committee of the Jinan Municipal Government (“Jinan RTL Committee”) issued a Re-education through Labor Decision (“RTL Decision”), ordering Ms. Li to spend one year and nine months in an RTL facility.

2. Duration of detention: From July 11, 2011 through the present (i.e., her detention is ongoing). According to the RTL Decision, her RTL term expires on April 1, 2013.

3. Forces holding the detainee under custody: She is currently incarcerated at the Shandong Provincial No. 1 Women’s RTL Facility in Jinan City, by the authority of the Jinan RTL Committee.

4. Places of detention (indicate any transfer and present place of detention): As noted above, Ms. Li is currently detained at the Shandong Provincial No. 1 Women’s RTL Facility.

5. Authorities that ordered the detention: Jinan RTL Committee

6. Reasons for the detention imputed by the authorities: disruption of public order, inciting subversion of state power, and endangering state security. The RTL Decision alleges that Ms. Li’s speech in a public square about the abuses local government officials inflicted upon her in retaliation for her petitioning over the forced demolition of her home amounted to inciting subversion and endangering state security.

 

7. Relevant legislation applied (if known): The RTL Decision cites the Provisional Measures on Re-education through Labor, article 10 (1) and article 13.

 

IV. Describe the circumstances of the arrest and/or the detention and indicate precise reasons why you consider the arrest or detention to the arbitrary

 

On the morning of July 11, 2011, Ms. Li was summoned to appear at the Dongguan Police Station by the Lixia PSB, which had issued a notice stating that she was being called in on suspicion of “disrupting public order.”  The summons referenced incidents on January 16, 2011, and February 6, 2011, when Ms. Li spoke out publicly in Hero Mountain Square in Jinan about the forced demolition of her home—which was destroyed without proper procedures or adequate compensation—and subsequent abuses inflicted upon her by local officials in retaliation for her petitioning. On the evening of July 11, the Jinan RTL Committee issued an RTL Decision ordering Ms. Li to spend one year and nine months in an RTL facility. Referencing her speech in Hero Mountain Square, the RTL Decision claimed she openly attacked government and Communist Party leaders and the socialist system, and that she incited subversion of state power and endangered state security.

Although the one-page RTL Decision only references Ms. Li’s speech in Hero Mountain Square as the basis for its determination to incarcerate her, the decision to send her to RTL may also have been in retaliation for her petitioning activities and for the lawsuit she filed against the Lixia District Government in the fall of 2010 for unlawfully detaining her in a black jail earlier that year.  In that lawsuit, she challenged the legality of her 17-day detention in a black jail, which lasted from February 26 to March 14, 2010.  Ms. Li had been under surveillance by Lixia police and sub-district officials since February 24, 2010, who were aiming to prevent her from going to Beijing to petition around the “sensitive” period of the annual “Two Meetings.” (The “Two Meetings,” which take place annually in Beijing during March, refer to the meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.)

 

Li’s lawsuit was one of the first black jail-related suits to be docketed and heard by a Chinese court.  A total of three hearings (by two different courts) were held in Ms. Li’s case. The case raised questions involving the legality of Ms. Li’s detention, whether there was any legal basis for the “legal education class” the government claimed it was providing to Ms. Li during the 17-day detention period, and whether a Chinese court may, in the first instance, hear this type of a case — i.e., a challenge to the legality of detention.  (Ms. Li was later pressured by the Lixia District People’s Court, which held the first hearing, to substitute the Lixia District Letters and Visits Bureau as the defendant.) To counter Ms. Li’s claim that she was held in an illegal detention center, the defendant argued that it was providing her with “free room and board” while offering her “legal education.” On October 30, 2011, after the third hearing in her lawsuit, her case was rejected.

 

Under the Working Group’s framework for determining when a deprivation of liberty is arbitrary, the circumstances of Ms. Li’s detention satisfy both Category II (i.e., when the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 10 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and Category III (i.e., when the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to the right to a fair trial, spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character).
With respect to Category II, Ms. Li was exercising her right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) when she spoke publicly in Hero Mountain Square about her grievances and when she engaged in petitioning activities to bring her complaints to the attention of officials in Beijing.  Ms. Li’s speech and her petitioning efforts are also protected under Chinese domestic law. Article 35 of the PRC Constitution stipulates:  “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” Moreover, Article 41 of the Constitution guarantees Chinese citizens the right to make complaints to relevant state organs, “or exposures of, violation of the law or dereliction of duty by any state organ or functionary.” Article 41 also prohibits the suppression of complaints and retaliation against citizens who make such complaints. In addition, Article 3 of the 2005 Regulations on Letters and Visits stipulates that “no organization or individual may persecute or retaliate against a petitioner.”

 

With respect to Category III, as the Working Group is well aware, the Re-education through Labor system is a form of administrative detention that operates completely outside of the judicial system. Public security authorities are authorized to detain Chinese citizens for up to four years without regard for even the most basic of fair trial rights—including the right to a trial and the opportunity to challenge the lawfulness of the detention before a court. Thus, Ms. Li’s detention in an RTL facility also satisfies the criteria set forth in Category III. Ms. Li’s detention is thus arbitrary under both Category II and Category III.

 

V. Indicate internal steps, including domestic remedies, taken especially with the legal and administrative authorities, particularly for the purpose of establishing the detention and, as appropriate, their results or the reasons why such steps or remedies were ineffective or why they were not taken.

 

On July 15, 2011, Ms. Li filed an Administrative Litigation Law case in the Jinan Central District Court challenging the RTL decision. The court, without explanation, failed to docket the case.   On July 21, 2011, Ms. Li submitted a petition seeking administrative reconsideration of the RTL decision. On August 3, 2011 the Jinan RTL Management Committee issued a document upholding its original decision to incarcerate Ms. Li for one year and nine months.

 

Background and additional information relating to earlier arbitrary detention and torture/cruel treatment:

 

On August 9, 2007, Ms. Li’s home, which was located in the Daming Lake Park (大明湖公) apartment complex in Jinan City, was forcibly demolished by decision of the Jinan Municipal Government. Since then, Ms. Li has petitioned municipal and provincial authorities over the loss of her home, often expressing her grievances together with other petitioners whose homes were also forcibly demolished. Ms. Li has also traveled to Beijing to petition. Not only has Ms. Li been unable to obtain redress for her grievances, but she has also been arbitrarily detained several times and beaten in retaliation for petitioning.

 

Arbitrary Detention

 

In early 2010, Ms. Li was unlawfully detained for 17 days in a black jail set up by the Jinan Municipal Government in the Dongyi Hotel—a violation of her rights that would become the basis of her landmark lawsuit against the local government. On February 26, Zhang Chuanxiao (张传效), the secretary of the Lixia District Political and Legal Committee, requested that Ms. Li come to the Dongyi Hotel, ostensibly to discuss plans to relocate her to a new residence. When Ms. Li arrived at the hotel, however, she was forcibly taken to a room by six security officers. Authorities held her in the black jail until March 14, after the Two Meetings in Beijing had concluded. Before the officials released Ms. Li, they tried to make her to sign a guarantee stating that she would not go to Beijing to petition during “sensitive” periods, such as when the Two Meetings are in session, but she refused.

 

On June 13, 2010, the Lixia District Branch of the Jinan Public Security Bureau ordered Ms. Li to serve 10 days of administrative detention after she had petitioned in Beijing on June 12 in front of the UNDP office in Beijing.

 

Torture/Cruel Treatment

 

On February 26, 2010, when Ms. Li was taken to the black jail housed in the Dongyi Hotel (discussed above), she was forcibly taken to a room by six security officers who hit her on the head when she tried to escape. The resulting head wound required three stitches.

 

On the morning of March 20, 2011, 16 domestic security and public security officers went to Ms. Li’s residence and workplace and conducted a search of the premises. Three cell phones, a camera, a computer, and other items were confiscated. Ms. Li was subsequently taken to the Dongguan Police Station, where she was interrogated and threatened. During this time, police officers locked Ms. Li to a chair for over 13 hours resulting in leg swelling that rendered her unable to stand. The officers released Ms. Li after midnight on March 21, 2011.