Press Conference, London, on CCTV and their international operations

On November 23, a press conference will be held in London, the United Kingdom, co-hosted by Peter Humphrey and Peter Dahlin, related to operations by China’s state media broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), and its international arm China Global Television (CGTN).

To avoid disturbances, the event is closed, and attendance is by RSVP only.  A small number of seats remain for interested parties. Contact Info -at- safeguarddefenders -dot- com for more information.

 

The press conference will focus on CCTV’s operations in the UK, and its multiple breaches of the UK Broadcasting code, especially in the broadcast of the two forced TV confessions by the British citizen and former journalist Peter Humphrey. Broadcast of such a “confession” in the UK by Iranian state media previously led to the broadcaster, Press TV, being stripped of its broadcasting license in the United Kingdom.

Peter Dahlin, director of Safeguard Defenders, the parent organization of RSDLmonitor.com, will likewise present information on the systematic nature of these forced TV confessions, and reveal further information on the active collaboration with police by CCTV and individual journalists. The press conference coincides with the release by Safeguard Defenders of a new book, Trial By Media: China’s new show trials, and the global expansion of Chinese media, focused on Forced TV Confessions, but also the role played by CCTV and state/party media in China’s mounting influencing operations globally.

 

 

 

First death reported in new Liuzhi system

Screenshot from aboluowang.com.

The first death under liuzhi (留置), a new custodial system in China over Communist Party members and government workers that is completely outside judicial control was reported on 8 May by Caixin. [The story has since been removed]. A cached version can be read here.

  RSDLmonitor press release on first death in Liuzhi

 

The brief article described how Chen Yong (陈勇), 45, from Nanping city in Fujian province had been detained for 26 days under liuzhi on a bribery case when the family received notification that he was dead. They said his torso was covered in bruises. They have requested an investigation into the death. Liuzhi was legalized along with the new National Supervision Commission (NSC) this March.

Caixin reported that Mr. Chen was formerly a driver to a local leader. The family told the news site that Mr. Chen was taken from his home on 9 April by officers from the Jianyang district’s Supervision Commission (the local branch of the NSC). That evening the family received an official notice from the Supervision Commission that he had been taken into liuzhi.

A US-based Chinese language website – aboluowang – reported that he died on the 5 April and that the story had been widely reported on Chinese media but later scrubbed. The website also says his wife had requested recordings of the interrogations but was refused. Mr. Chen was said to be in good health and ex-military. Until 2016, he was the driver for Lin Qiang (林强), the deputy district chief of Jianyang, who is also being investigated by the Supervision Commission.

Liuzhi replaces the much feared and extremely secretive shuanggui system for CCP party members, but has expanded its reach to include all party and government workers. Theoretically, even teachers, nurses and doctors could be detained under Liuzhi. The legal framework for the system is very similar to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), a system for secret, prolonged, incommunicado detention that has so far mostly been used on lawyers, journalists and rights defenders.

The news of this first death under liuzhi is extremely concerning. Like RSDL, the new liuzhi system will likely significantly expand cases of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and maltreatment.

Data on use of RSDL, shuanggui and the new Liuzhi system is most often kept secret, and reporting on victims of the system has been very limited. The book The People’s Republic of the Disappeared contains extensive first person reporting on RSDL experiences.

 

Enforced disappearances and torture: our submission on RSDL to the UN

China has said it will take action to stop enforced disappearances and torture yet both are still endemic largely because of the 2013 introduction of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) – a custodial system that lends itself to both rights violations.

At the end of last month, Safeguard Defenders made a submission on RSDL to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on China saying that the state has not only failed to take legislative action to stop enforced disappearances, but that the legalisation of RSDL has enabled its expanded used and that of torture.  What is the UPR?

 

Download the full Safeguard Defenders NGO stakeholders report

 

The evidence carefully presented in this report is drawn from our ongoing and long-term project to build up a detailed database on the use of RSDL.

Some of the key evidence we provided was:

  • Use of torture is prevalent inside RSDL.
  • China has not yet made torture itself a punishable offence.
  • RSDL’s legal framework allows the state to deny knowledge of a suspect’s whereabouts, to conceal the judicial process from public view, deny the detainee access to legal representation, to keep them in solitary confinement, and without mandatory supervision by the prosecutor.
  • Between the previous cycle’s review of China (October 2014), up until this submission (March 2018), 87 cases of the use of RSDL were recorded.
  • The maximum time limit for placement in RSDL is 6 months. Data on 92 cases of known RSDL victims since 2013 shows the average time to be 128 days, and more than one-third is placed in RSDL the full 180 days/6 months.
  • Examples of torture in RSDL include: prolonged solitary confinement (2 weeks to 6 months), forced medication, stress positions, the painful ‘dangling chair’, prolonged sleep and/or food deprivation, beatings, and threats to the physical wellbeing of the victim, threats to family members, relatives and loved ones.

Our submission, in the jargon called an NGO stakeholder report, is in direct response to a number of UN reports and recommendations on China and the country’s own legal commitments. The most important in the context of this submission is China’s own report presented for the UPR review cycle in October 2013 (previous cycle) when it said that it would work to improve and perfect laws to prevent using torture to extract confessions or self-incrimination.

However, since then, the use of torture in China remains prevalent, and  measures to protect against the use of torture are regularly ignored. Another report by Safeguard Defenders, on the lack of protections against torture, will be released soon.

Since that UPR 2013 review, the legal framework concerning enforced disappearances has been significantly weakened, and the state’s use of mechanisms that qualify as leading to enforced disappearances has expanded significantly.

Our list of recommendations includes urging China to abolish RSDL in all its forms, to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and revise the language in domestic law to explicitly make torture illegal.

 

What is the UPR?

The UPR, the Universal Periodic Review, is a UN mechanism for reviewing a country’s full commitments under the United Nations and International Law. Every country is reviewed every four years. The country in question submits its own report on how it views its progress, the UN compiles its own report from various UN organs, and civil society can submit their reports, often on a specific subject. These stand as the basis for a full review of that country, and all other UN member states can ask questions and make recommendations for how that country needs to improve any aspect of their commitment under international obligations. China was last reviewed in 2013, and will be reviewed again this year.

 

Foreigners, torture, and televised confessions: RSDLmonitor launches RSDL prisoner database

In the first ever database on the use of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), initial data shows that many victims were not from mainland China, were forced to appear in a televised confession and reported being subjected to torture.

These results come from RSDLmonitor’s long-term project to build up a detailed database on the use of RSDL. It will be used to explore how widely RSDL is being employed and what human rights violations – such as torture and lack of prosecutorial oversight – are being systematically abused. The database has 91 cases so far.

For more on how the database is being built and to contribute please click here.

 

Some initial results

Where?

  • About one third (or 29) of the 91 cases were handled in Beijing or Tianjin.
  • There were three grouped cases: Guangdong (a group of petitioners); Jiangsu (activists caught up during the 2016 G20 meeting); and Zhejiang (members of a house church).
  • So far, 20 confirmed cases were overseen by the Ministry of State Security (particularly those cases involving foreigners).

 

Why?

  • More than one third were investigated for Endangering State Security crimes; another 10 cases were connected to state or military secrets.
  • Another quarter were investigated for public order crimes. Although illegal under Chinese law, these RSDL cases had lawyer and family access and prosecutor oversight denied to the detainee.

 

Who?

  • Most victims of RSDL are men; just 15 women have been identified so far.
  • 10 of the 91 cases are not from mainland China (Sweden, UK, Canada, US, Taiwan and Hong Kong).

 

What?

  • All except one of the 25 victims of RSDL that we have information on their treatment, were subjected to various degrees of mental or physical torture. Examples of tortures endured were: sleep deprivation, forced into stress positions, prolonged solitary confinement, and threats to loved ones. Less frequent but still common were: beatings, being shackled into painful positions, and threats to the victim, including death threats.
  • In 19 cases – that’s more than one in five, the victim was made to record a televised confession.
  • Another 26 victims reported that they were forced to fire their own choice of lawyer.
  • Of the 20 cases that provided information on prosecutor oversight, not a single one said they had received a visit.
  • Of the 50 cases that provided information on RSDL notification, 30 said their family had been given written notification – although often delayed – while another 11 said notification had only been verbal (in violation of the law). In another 10 cases, the family had not been notified at all.

 

The database

The database asks wide-ranging questions that cover basic data on the case (suspected crime, location, duration); treatment inside RSDL (forms of torture, lawyer and family access, forced confessions); the ministry responsible and outcomes; and post-RSDL (continued surveillance, physical and mental issues).  This is an ongoing project and will generate rich data on this grave human rights violation. For more details see below.

The database (which is not being made public because of security concerns for the participants) is compiled by soliciting victims or their families to complete a questionnaire and/or online research.

This research is important because neither the Chinese Supreme Court’s nor the Supreme Procurator’s official databases include more than the occasional entry for cases where RSDL has been employed. Furthermore, there is a tendency for human rights groups to only report on cases which involve human rights defenders. The state’s use of RSDL goes much wider than that.

 

Can you help?

Have you or someone you know been a victim of RSDL since it was legalized (1 January 2013)? If so, please contact RSDLmonitor at contact@RSDLmonitor.com with any information, even if it’s just a name. All information will be kept strictly confidential. If it’s possible to fill in the questionnaire, you may download it here: (RSDL Questionnaire form (EN)).

The Chinese version of this questionnaire can be found on this page.


Details on the database

There are four data areas:

  • Dataset 1: Basic data on the victim: alleged crime, location of RSDL, date in, release date, duration and what form notification was given if any.
  • Dataset 2: Treatment inside RSDL: forms of maltreatment and torture, lawyer access, family notification of whereabouts, forced to relinquish rights to see own lawyer, and forced to record a TV confession.
  • Dataset 3: Data on law enforcement side: entry and exit points, ministry responsible (state security or domestic security), whether sent to trial, form of sentencing, form of release.
  • Dataset 4: Data on post-RSDL: house arrest, surveillance, and mental/physical consequences and treatment.

Submission to UN group on Enforced Disappearances on Yu Wensheng

On 1 February 2018, RSDLMonitor submitted a communication to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生). An edited version of this communication can be found below.

 

On Yu Wensheng: Yu (male) was born in Beijing, China. He passed the bar exam in 1999, and has been practicing law in Beijing since 2002. Yu rose to prominence within the rights defense community for representing politically sensitive cases, assisting other persecuted lawyers, and for his high-profile advocacy for political reform.

On his disappearance: Yu was detained by Beijing police on 19 January 2018. By 24 January, Beijing police claimed his case had been transferred to another branch, but refused to say which. On 27 January, his wife was shown a document stating that Yu had been placed under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ under Tongshan PSB, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

On current situation: Yu stands accused of ‘inciting subversion of state power’, a crime under the category of ‘endangering state security’. This means the police have the right to conceal his whereabouts, deny access to family and legal counsel, and to keep him  incommunicado. He can legally be kept in RSDL for six months, and will likely be held in solitary confinement. No court approval is needed for RSDL.

Of concern. Based on information from prior victims of RSDL, especially within the rights defense community, and those accused of ‘endangering state security’, it is very likely that Yu will be kept in prolonged solitary confinement, be kept incommunicado, be denied oversight and supervision by the prosecutors office, and that he will face physical and mental torture.


WORKING GROUP ON ENFORCED OR INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES

Edited for brevity and clarity for general readership

 

COMMUNICATION FORM

INFORMATION CONCERNING THE DISAPPEARED PERSON

 

(a) * Family name(s): Yu (余)

(b) Given names(s): Wensheng (文生)

(d) Sex: male

(e) Occupation/profession: Lawyer

ID information removed.

(g) Date of birth: 1967-11-11

(h) Place and country of birth: Beijing, China

(k) Nationality or nationalities: Chinese

 

INFORMATION CONCERNING THE FACTS

(a) * Date of arrest, abduction or disappearance 

  •  Detention January 19 (2018), 06.30am.
  • Disappearance Jan 24-28 (2018), exact date, time unknown.

 

(b) * Place of arrest, abduction or where the disappearance occurred

 

Detention. Yu was detained by Beijing City, Shijingshan District, Public Security Bureau, i.e., Police (PSB) along with a SWAT team on the parking lot next to Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing at roughly 06.30am, January 19 (2018). At the time, he was walking his 13-year-old son to school. Yu was taken to Shijingshan District Police Station and charged with “disrupting public service”.

 

Disappearance. Police at Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) holding Yu told lawyers on January 24, and again on January 25 and 26, that his case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control. They refused to provide any other information.

 

On the evening of January 27, Beijing PSB accompanied by the Tongshan District PSB, Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province, searched Yu’s home between 9pm and 1am the next morning. Xu Yan (许艳), Yu’s wife, was present. During the search on the house, Tongshan District PSB gave Xu a document stating Yu had been placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) under their authority, and his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” (Article 105 of China’s Criminal Code), which is categorized as a crime of endangering national security. This document did not indicate where Yu was being held and neither was Xu told, then or since.

 

— Note on RSDL

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ is a compulsory measure police can take against a suspect that does not require court approval (Article 72 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law or CPL) and takes place outside of a detention center or case-handling area. The suspect can be kept under RSDL for up to six months.

 

The police may refuse the person access to legal counsel (Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the CPL) and they may also refuse to notify the family of the whereabouts of the person (Article 83 of the CPL) if the charges against them fall under the category of endangering national security.

 

The legal requirement on RSDL oversight stipulated in the Provisions on People’s Procuratorates’ Oversight of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location, only states (Article 17) that the procuratorate may conduct visits to supervise the use of RSDL on the suspect and speak with the suspect and that such supervision should not impede the investigation (Article 19). Police have the authority to determine whether such supervision would impede the investigation.

 

If these exceptions of endangering national security are invoked, the family of someone being held under RSDL will not be notified of their location nor will the suspect have access to a lawyer for the entire duration of RSDL. Furthermore, there will be no oversight from the procuratorate. Based on the prior use of RSDL, this means the detainee will be held in solitary confinement and may also be subjected to physical and mental torture during this period.

Further actions relevant to the case.

 

The same day as Yu’s detention (January 19), Shijingshan District PSB searched both Yu’s home and his office where they confiscated computers, documents, and cell phones.

 

On January 27, police again raided Yu’s family home. At around 9pm that day, the electricity to the house was cut. When Xu Yan (Yu’s wife) and their son went outside to check, the police (officers from both Shijingshan and Tongshan Districts PSBs) stormed the apartment. They confiscated their mobile phones and spent the next four hours searching the house and confiscating other materials until 1am the next morning (January 28). In violation of Article 138 of the CPL, they did not ask Xu to sign a record of the search. Furthermore, they did not provide Xu with a list of all materials confiscated for inspection and signature, nor give her a copy of such a list, in violation of Article 140 of the CPL.

 

During the search, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) officers gave Xu a notice stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL. The notice also said his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” and that he was now under the jurisdiction of Tongshan District PSB.

 

At the end of the search, Shijingshan District PSB also summoned Xu related to charges of “inciting subversion of state power”.  She was taken to Guang Ning Police Station, Shijingshan District, Beijing, where she was interrogated overnight and again in the morning the next day.

 

Around 2pm that day, January 28, police took Xu home and again searched the house. This time they collected a number of Yu’s files related to religious cases as well official United Nations materials. At that point, Xu was released, but in violation of Article 84 of the CPL, Xu was neither shown nor given a release notice.

 

Note: Although the document stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL was dated January 27, 2018, police at the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) said on January 24, 2018 that Yu’s case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control.

 

(c) * Date  when  the  person  was  last  seen

 

Around 0630am, January 19, 2018 (his 13-year-old son, witnessed his father being detained by police on Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing City).

 

Yu’s last known whereabouts, according to the detention warrant, was Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所).

 

(d) * Place where the person was last seen

 

Same as answer to 2(c) above.

 

(e) Please, provide a full description of how the disappearance took place 

 

Around 20 police officers from Beijing Shijingshan District PSB, and members of a SWAT team, surprised and surrounded Yu and his son, at around 0630am on January 19, 2018 as he was walking his son to school.

 

A physical encounter between Yu and the police officers then ensued. Yu was placed into a vehicle and driven off. The son rushed home to their apartment to tell his mother what had happened.

 

(f) * State or State-supported forces believed to be responsible for the disappearance.

 

Official documents state that Yu Wensheng’s initial detention was carried out by the Beijing City, Shijingshan District PSB. His subsequent transfer to RSDL was under the authority of Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) in Jiangsu Province. This was likely only possible with approval and coordination by a higher-level police authority. Yu’s case has no direct connection with Xuzhou, and the reason for this transfer is also likely because the police want his case to be handled far from Beijing, where Yu was born and has been living and working, and thus has a support network. 

The disappearance of Yu Wensheng stands in violation of numerous counts of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance

 

By refusing to acknowledge the whereabouts of Yu after placement in RSDL, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) stands in violation of Article 2. By refusing to state to which organ Yu has been transferred to Beijing Shijingshan PSB also stand in violation of the same Article.

 

The denial of his whereabouts per definition makes his detention secret, in direct violation of Article 17, Paragraph 1.

 

Lawyers and his family have been denied the right to communicate with Yu in any form, in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 2, Subsections D, E and F.

 

By concealing Yu’s current whereabouts, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) are in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 3, Subsection E, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection H. Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) is also in violation of Article 18, Paragraph 1, Subsection B, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection D.

  

(g) If identification as State agents is not possible, please indicate why you believe that Government authorities, or persons linked to them, may be responsible for the incident.

 

Official documents and his son’s testimony are evidence that Yu Wensheng is under the custody of Chinese police.

  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB was the authority for Yu’s initial detention.
  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB and Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) raided Yu’s home and office.
  • The notice on Yu’s RSDL placement is from Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City).

 

(h) If there are witnesses to the incident, please provide their names and relation to the victim. If they wish to remain anonymous, indicate if they are relatives, by-standers, or others. If there is evidence, please specify.

 

Yu’s son, witnessed the initial detention on January 19, 2018. Police showed his wife, Xu Yan, her husband’s detention warrant on January 20 and later the document stating he had been transferred into RSDL on January 27.

 

 (i) Additional Information on the case. Please indicate any other relevant information that could be useful to find the person.

 

About Yu Wensheng: Yu is one of China’s most well-known lawyers. He passed the bar exam in 1999 and has been working as a lawyer since 2002. Yu was detained twice before, in 2014 and 2015. He attempted to file a lawsuit against Beijing PSB for the torture he endured during his 99-day detention in 2014.

 

In mid-2017, Yu’s application to renew his lawyer license was rejected after he tried to represent fellow lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who disappeared in July 2015. On January 12, 2018, his application to set up a new law firm was rejected, because he had publicly expressed opposition to leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

 

On January 15, 2018, his lawyer license was revoked, on the grounds that he had not been employed by a law firm for six months (note: in China, you cannot be employed as a lawyer by a law firm without a valid lawyer license).

 

On January 18, 2018, the day before his detention, he posted an open letter online calling for political reform.

 

INFORMATION CONCERNING ACTIONS TAKEN AFTER THE DISAPPEARANCE

 

* Indicate any action taken taken by the relatives or others to locate the person. You are required to state the following: when, by whom, and before which organ the actions were taken.

 

(a) Complaints

Between January 19 and January 26, seven (7) different lawyers, several of whom have written powers of attorney to represent Yu, visited the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) for a total of nine (9) times. All were denied access to Yu either because the detention center was closed or that the visit had not been given prior approval. On January 24 (and again on January 25 and January 26) the center said his case had been transferred to another organ.

 

(b) Other steps taken

Xu Yan, Yu Wensheng’s wife, visited Shijingshan District Detention Center several times, requesting permission to see her husband and to deposit funds for his use inside the detention center. Both requests were denied.

RSDL Resources

residential surveillance at a designated location

Legal name: Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (or Place); RSDL; and in Chinese, 指定居所监视居住

Well-known victims: Ai Weiwei, Gao Zhisheng, Liu Xiaobo, Wang Yu, the Hong Kong booksellers, Peter Dahlin, Lee Ming-che

Related human rights issues: Torture, threats to family, denial of access to  lawyer,  forced medication, sleep and food deprivation, delayed sentencing, forced confessions pre-trial and at trial, secret trial, delayed trial, and non-release release

 

Legal

  • RSDL in Chinese law (articles 72 to 77 are relevant): ChinaLawTranslate,: Criminal Procedure Law (2012), 8 April 2013
  • Oversight of RSDL in Chinese law: ChinaLawTranslate: Provisions on People’s Procuratorates’ Oversight of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location,  14 July 2016
  • Enforced disappearances in international law: United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner:International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances
  • Elizabeth M Lynch: China Law & PolicyCodifying Illegality? The Case of Jiang Tianyong, 20 January 2017
  • Jerome Cohen: Jerry’s Blog:Disappearance of Chinese human rights lawyer: what it means to be placed under “residential surveillance” in China, 26 December 2016
  • Margaret K. Lewis: China Law and Policy:Who Will Be Watched: Margaret K. Lewis on China’s New CPL & Residential Surveillance , 25 September 2015

General

  •  Does China’s New Detention Law Matter, China Digital Times, 13 March 2013
  • What You Need to Know About China’s ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Place’, Yaqiu Wang, Chinachange, 2 August 2015
  • New Type of Detention Marks China’s Intensifying Crackdown on Civil Society, Jojje Olsson, Taiwan Sentinel, 15 May 2017
  • Residential Surveillance at a Designated Place, Wikipedia
  • Arrested, Detained: A Guide to Navigating China’s Police Powers, Stanley Lubman, Wall Street Journal, 12 August 2014

 

Human rights reviews & reports

  • Congressional-Executive Commission on China annual reports, 2016 and 2017 include dedicated sections on RSDL under Criminal Justice chapter
  • Prevention of Torture: concerns with the use of ‘residential confinement in a designated residence’, report by the Rights Practice in relation to the fifth periodic report from China, submitted to the Committee Against Torture, 56 Session, Sep- Dec 2015

 

Victim stories

  • CHRD update on arbitrary detention and torture of Chinese lawyer Xie Yang, China Human Rights Defenders, 20 February 2017
  • China lawyer recounts torture under Xi’s ‘war on law’, John Sudworth, BBC, 26 October 2017
  • The disappeared: Accounts from inside China’s secret prisons, Chieu Luu and Matt Rivers, CNN, 27 November 2017

 

Commentary

  • Legalizing the Tools of Repression, Nicholas Bequelin, The New York Times, 29 February 2012
  • China’s secret detention of lawyers threatens the rule of law, William Nee, Hong Kong Free Press, 29 September 2015
  • The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, Michael Caster, The Diplomat, 6 December 2015

 

Books 

 

United Nations Treaties and Bodies 

A number of UN treaties and their associated bodies (with which complaints can be filed) cover the human rights violations associated with RSDL. They are:

China status: not a signatory

China status: signed, but not ratified

China status: ratified.