This is a monthly round-up of all news related to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) in China. It includes updates on victims, legal developments and commentary on China’s legalized practice of “Enforced Disappearances.”
Following news in February that imprisoned human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was suffering from memory loss and raising fears the authorities might be forcibly medicating him, six United Nations human rights experts on March 23 issued a joint appeal calling on China to give him proper medical care, in what Reuters calls a “rare joint statement.” Lawyer Jiang is serving a two-year sentence for inciting state subversion.
Online activist Zhen Jianghua’s (甄江华) six-month RSDL detention came to an end on March 30, when authorities formally charged him with inciting state subversion. His lawyer said he has not been given access to him based on a national security clause. The six-month deadline for RSDL prompted two press freedom NGO’s the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders to call for his release.
Chinese authorities are continuing to deny the lawyers and family of human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) access to see him or even to know where he is being held. Since Lawyer Yu was transferred into RSDL on January 27 by Xuzhou security, the other side of the country to Beijing where he lives, no news of his whereabouts or condition have been released. In mid-March his wife, Xu Yan, his lawyer and some friends travelled to Tongshan District police in Xuzhou to request access, but were turned away.
After being barred in January from visiting her husband, Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲), Lee Ching-yu, was allowed to visit him in Hunan at the end of March. She told reporters that Lee, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for state subversion looks physically well but is forced to work in a hat factory every day from 7am to 5pm. Ms. Lee plans to apply to see him again next month.
Charges against human rights activist Xu Qin (徐秦) have been changed to inciting subversion of state power. RFA reported that her lawyer Peng Jian was denied access to his client on the grounds that the charges were now more serious. A week earlier, Frontline Defenders reported that she was being held under RSDL. Xu worked with the China Human Rights Observer group, founded by detained veteran dissident Qin Yongmin, and had recently spoken out in support of Yu Wensheng.
Human rights groups greeted with dismay the news that former Beijing police chief and deputy minister of public security, Fu Zhenghua (傅政华), has been elected as Minister of Justice. “Fu Zhenghua has presided over a number of serious human rights violations throughout his career,” Chinese Human Rights Defenders Frances Eve’s told Reuters. “Fu’s appointment is a sign that the Xi Jinping regime is not going to back down on its suppression of human rights.” Human rights lawyer Cao Shunli died in police custody under Fu’s watch. Others argue that China’s new Supervision Commission means that the Fu’s new position is essentially powerless. “[Justice minister Fu Zhenghua] has no real power any more,” democracy activist Xiang Lin told RFA.”All the justice ministry does now is administer lawyers and the court system. He’s nowhere near as powerful as the public security minister.”
As expected, China’s NPC passed the National Supervision Commission (NSC) into law in March. This controversial all-powerful agency will have the power to investigate, detain and punish any Party members and civil servants (including the staff of hospitals and schools) on charges linked with corruption. “The agency ranks higher than the supreme court and will be in charge of supervision, investigation and also punishment,” wrote the BBC. It will essentially provide for an RSDL system – called liuzhi. Amnesty International condemned the move, saying, “It places tens of millions of people at the mercy of a secretive and virtually unaccountable system that is above the law. It by-passes judicial institutions by establishing a parallel system solely run by the Chinese Communist Party with no outside checks and balances.”
Asia Times profiled the new head of the NSC, Yang Xiaodu, a hardliner who has warned “that failure to root out corruption could result in a ‘change of color for the red country.’” But with no oversight, there are fears that the NSC could simply be used to snuff out any critics of Party Secretary Xi Jinping.
The latest from Xinjiang on the mass internment of Uighurs into political re-education camps is that the authorities in some parts of the region are reportedly targeting anyone under 40 years old, reports RFA. “Those born after 1980 are considered ‘violent’ and ‘untrustworthy,’” it quoted anonymous officials as saying. Previously people were being round up and sent to these camps on suspicions of being connected with radicalism – now it appears, just being under 40 years old is grounds enough. Scholar Jerome Cohen wrote on his blog that: “This is a horrendous situation that makes a mockery of the Party’s claim that it is pursuing the ‘rule of law.’ It invites comparisons with the early years of Hitler’s attack on the Jews.”
It was with great sadness that we reported the untimely death of renowned human rights lawyer Li Baiguang (李柏光) in February. Yaxue Cao wrote a detailed two-part obituary to Lawyer Li for the China Change website, in which his life’s dedication to human rights is documented. “All I want to do now is actually see implemented the laws that they themselves wrote, and win for victims the rights and freedoms that they should enjoy,” Lawyer Li said back in 2010. He would also give legal trainings to barefoot lawyers and others – the last one in Henan this January where he taught his students lying down because he had injured his leg. This long tribute ends with: “The night is long; the worst is yet to come. Li Baiguang has died, like Liu Xiaobo, like Yang Tianshui, like Cao Shunli and all those who have fallen in the dark, but they live on; they are sparks of fire in the journey through the night.”