The Observatory has been informed by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) about the acts of torture and ill-treatment while in detention against Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, as well as about the closed-door trials against them. Mr. Zhiyong and Mr. Jiaxi are two human rights lawyers and prominent members of the New Citizens Movement, a civil society movement focused on promoting the implementation of civil and human rights embedded in China’s Constitution, Chinese laws, and regulations.
On June 22 and 24, 2022, respectively, Mr. Xu Zhiyong and Mr. Ding Jiaxi were subjected to closed-door trials at the Linshu County Court on the trump-up charge of “subversion of state power” (Article 105, Section 2 of the 1997 revision of China’s Penal Code). Relatives and diplomats were strictly prohibited from attending both trials. The two defendants’ lawyers were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements prohibiting them to share information about the trial to any source, including the media. The Court did not issue a verdict in either case, and announced verdicts would be issued at “a later date”, without providing further details. The indictments against Mr. Xu Zhiyong and Mr. Ding Jiaxi accused them of forming the “Citizens Movement”, creating a Telegram group chat, and organising a private meeting together with academics, activists, and other human rights lawyers in Xiamen, Fujian Province, to discuss the situation of the rule of law and human rights in China.
On December 26, 2019, Ding Jiaxi was taken away by police officers from Yantai City Public Security Bureau in Shandong Province as part of a large-scale crackdown targeting human rights lawyers and citizen activists – labelled the “1226 crackdown”. The authorities placed Mr. Ding Jiaxi under residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL), a form of arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance1, for six months without being able to contact his family nor access to lawyers. Mr. Ding Jiaxi was held incommunicado, without his family being unaware of his whereabouts and condition. During this period, he was subjected to various forms of torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged sleep deprivation, exposure to loud noises, and repeated interrogation while being tied to an iron “tiger-chair”2.
Furthermore, he was not allowed to have showers, brush his teeth, or change his clothes for days at a time, as well as food and water deprived.
On February 15, 2020, Xu Zhiyong was arbitrarily arrested by police officers from Beijing Municipal Police Security Bureau. Without any legal notification to his family, Mr. Xu Zhiyong was placed under RSDL, initially in Beijing and then in Yantai, Shandong Province, where Mr. Ding Jiaxi was being detained. Mr. Xu Zhiyong was denied access to his family and lawyers for four months, during which he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. On February 4, 2020, before being arrested, Xu Zhiyong wrote an open letter calling for President Xi Jinping to resign, citing his mis-handling of various crises, including the Hong Kong protests and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong have been arbitrarily detained for nearly two years, which constitutes an abuse of due process, in violation of China’s Criminal Procedural Law. They should have been tried within three months after their transfer to the court. Both human rights lawyers were formally arrested on June 19, 2020.
The Observatory expresses its grave concern over the high risk of torture and ill-treatment Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong are facing while in detention and urges the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them and to put and end to the judicial harassment and unfair trial that they are facing. The Observatory expresses further concern over the systematic use of RSDL in the country and urges China’s authorities to put an immediate end to it.
The Observatory strongly condemns the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment to which Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong were subjected while in detention and urges the authorities to carry out an immediate and thorough investigation into these allegations and to bring to justice those responsible.
The Observatory strongly condemns the closed-door trial of Mr. Xu Zhiyong and Mr. Ding Jiaxi, and urges the authorities to immediately release them, to put an end to the judicial harassment against them, and to guarantee that their right to due process will be upheld during the remainder of their trials.
The Observatory urges the Chinese authorities to stop misusing Article 105, Section 2 of the 1997 revision of China’s Penal Code to prosecute human rights defenders and silence dissent in China.
How You Can Help
Please write to China’ authorities to urge them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong, as well as that of all other human rights defenders in China;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong, as their detention is arbitrary and is merely aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent, and independent investigation into the alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment against Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong, in order to hold those responsible accountable;
iv. Put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level against Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong and all human rights defenders in China, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;
v. Guarantee the rights to due process and fair trial to Mr. Ding Jiaxi and Mr. Xu Zhiyong, including unhindered access to their lawyers and family members;
vi. Repeal or significantly amend Article 105 of China’s Penal Code to bring it into line with China’s international human rights obligations.
- Mr. Li Keqiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Guo Shengkun, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Mr. Zhaoxu Ma, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Mr. QU XING, Ambassador, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels, Belgium, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of China in your respective countries.