Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Admits To Being “Brainwashed”

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

BEIJING, China – Chinese human rights lawyer, Xie Yang was brought up on charges of subversion in 2015. Initially, Xie maintained his innocence.

In recent court proceedings, Xie then altered his statement and plead guilty to charges of subversion and disrupting a court order. Xie stated he was “brainwashed” in Hong Kong and South Korea to promote western constitutionalism in China. Xie appeared in a video where he stated he had not been mistreated in custody by Chinese officials.

Xie’s trial was said to be open by the Chinese government. However, Western journalists and diplomats were denied entry. Many friends and supporters of Xie Yang reported that his confessions during trial appeared rehearsed.

Xie Yang and his wife, Chen Guiqui. Photo courtesy of New York Times.

Since President Xi Jinping took office, his government warns against Western ideals and the threat these ideals can have on national security.  Cases dealing with “land grab victims” and proponents of democratic reform are considered highly sensitive to government authorities in China. Recently, Xie Yang and several human rights lawyers were put on trial dealing with these issues.

Amnesty International has stated that the Chinese government wanted to use Xie Yang’s trial “to discredit his lawyers and the Western media.” The United Nations requested that Chinese authorities release all activists and attorneys being held in custody who have been accused of defending basic rights of Chinese citizens.

Xie Yang’s attorney, Chen Jiangang, who represented him throughout trial was also taken into custody, according to sources close to Xie Yang.

For more information, please see: 

BBC – China human rights lawyer Xie Yang ‘admits being brainwashed’ – 8 May, 2017

NYT – In Reversal, Chinese Lawyer Confesses, and Rights Groups Denounce His Trial – 8, May 2017

Reuters – China begins trial of rights lawyer for ‘subversion of state power’ – 8 May, 2017


China Takes Control of Two More Newspapers

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

 BEIJING, China – Two Beijing newspapers, Beijing Times and Beijing News, have been placed under the control of the Chinese Communist Party’s local propaganda department.

Two newspapers, Beijing News and Beijing Times, have come under control of the Beijing propaganda bureau (Photo Courtesy of China Media Watch).
Two newspapers, Beijing News and Beijing Times, have come under control of the Beijing propaganda bureau (Photo Courtesy of China Media Watch).

According to Qianlong, a website controlled and operated by the Chinese government, the newspapers were taken over in an attempt to control in an advertising war waged between them and to increase the influence and competitiveness of The Beijing News.

Critics; however, view the move as retribution for the outspoken and critical articles that both newpapers have become notorious for producing. One of the affected newspaper employees expressed concern at the affect the takeover will have by stating that “it means there will be so much we can’t do. Before there was news that other papers couldn’t do but we could.”

Prior to coming under the control of the Chinese government, Beijing News and Beijing Times were both overseen by the state-level Central Publicity Department which left them essentially untouched by the directives given by Beijing city authorities and thus more capable of candid reporting.

As a result both papers became well-known for consistently publishing stories, many of which other media outlets were prohibited from covering, that were critical of  local government’s around China.

Many journalists are alleging that this candid reporting is what led to the takeover. One example of the critical reporting done by the two newly censored papers was the high-speed train crash that occurred in Wenzhou in July and in which the papers harshly criticized the government’s response and poor safety standards.

In addition, Beijing News and Beijing Times both covered the controversial topic of school closures for the children of migrant workers in Beijing which has angered many human rights groups. According to a reporter at Beijing News, Beijing’s propaganda authorities had contacted the central publicity department several times to complain about what it perceived to be negative coverage.

Media analyst Wen Yunchao stated that “it’s been a headache for the Beijing propaganda authorities that they didn’t directly control the two newspapers.” According to Wen , prior to the takeover the Beijing propaganda authorities could only influence the content of the papers if they were assisted by the central publicity department but the new takeover will allow content to be controlled with greater ease.

Media experts, including Wen Yunchao, expect that the takeover will cause news content to rapidly change to alter coverage on sensitive and controversial topics in a way that will portray the Chinese government more favorably. 

Fear of increased government crackdown on dissent is further fueled by the recent discovery that Chinese authorities are considering a law that would allow individuals to be detained for up to six months without notification being given to family members.

Chinese authorities have denied allegations of a crackdown and have said that the editorial policies and senior staff would remain the same.

For more information, please see:

NDT – Propaganda Bureau Takes Over Two Beijing Newspapers – 6 September 2011

The Guardian – Propaganda Bureau Takes Control of Two Beijing Newspapers – 3 September 2011

The Diplomat – Beijing Papers Taken Over – 4 September 2011

Radio Free Asia – Newspapers Face New Controls – 4 September 2011

Chinese activist released from prison amidst suspicion of unlawful detention

By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch, Asia

BEIJING, China – Chinese artist and critic Ai Weiwei, who is well-known for his frequent condemnation of the Chinese Communist Party, was detained on April 3 after being seized by police at the Beijing airport while attempting to board a plane to Hong Kong. After his arrest, he was taken to a Beijing police “safehouse” on allegations of committing “economic crimes”. Four of his associates were also detained.

Ai Weiwei was detained for 80 days despite never being formally charged with a crime (Photo Courtesy of New York Times).
Ai Weiwei was detained for 80 days despite never being formally charged with a crime (Photo Courtesy of The New York Times).

Following his arrest, information began to surface that Mr. Ai had been arrested for tax evasion after a company controlled by him, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd., was believed to have evaded taxes and destroyed accounting documents. Reportedly, Mr. Ai was released only after he confessed to the crimes and repeatedly assured officials that he would repay the back taxes.

The Wall Street Journal described this case as “…no ordinary tax case but a politically motivated investigation designed to silence an increasingly popular critic”. Mr. Ai was not formally arrested, indicted, charged, convicted or sentenced for any crime before being detained for 80 days.

Prior to his detention, Mr. Ai was known for frequently utilizing Twitter and other public mediums to express his views on the Chinese government. After arriving home; however, Ai Weiwei gave a brief statement to reporters outside of his home explaining that he could not talk about the incident and to understand his inability to comment due to the conditions of his parole. As another requirement of his parole, Mr. Ai is required to remain in Beijing for one year unless he is given special permission from the government to leave and must report to police whenever he is asked.

The release of Mr. Ai has prompted increased internet censorship in an attempt to conceal any information about the popular critics arrest and detention. For example, a strictly censored Chinese blog, Sina Weibo, has banned words with any relation to Mr. Ai such as “release”, “the fat guy” and “AWW”.

While Mr. Ai’s cousin was released on Thursday, the other three associates remain unaccounted for. Mr. Ai is just a single activist in over 130 that have been detained in a government crackdown on dissent that began in February as a reaction to the government’s fear that uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would influence revolution in China. Amnesty International is asking that the Chinese government’s decision to release Ai Weiwei not “diminish the international outcry about other activists detained…”

For more information, please see:

China Digital Times – Ai Weiwei Released on Bail; Xu Zhiyong Reportedly Detained – 24 June 2011

The Independent – Ai Weiwei Cousin Freed but Associates Still Missing – 24 June 2011

CNN – Ai Weiwei’s Release Accentuated by Web Censorship, Terse State-Media – 23 June 2011

NY Times – Now Free, a Chinese Dissident Muzzles Himself –  23 June 2011

Wall Street Journal –   China’s Shame Over Ai Weiwei – 23 June 2011

Amnesty International – Chinese Government Attempts to Deflect Criticism With Ai Weiwei Release – 22 June 2011

Renowned Chinese Dissident Dies

Dissident Li Hong, healthy prior to incarceration in 2007, suddenly fell ill and died last week at the age of 52. (Photo Courtesy of The Epoch Times)

By Joseph Juhn
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Chinese dissident writer Li Hong passed away on December 31, 2010 at the age of 52. Mr. Li Hong was the founding editor of the popular Zhejiang News and also former chief-editor of the Chinese literary and news website Aegean Sea. At the time of his death, he was in his hospital bed, surrounded by a number of domestic security police.

Following Li’s death, Chinese authorities prevented other dissidents and human rights activists from attending his funeral, and also censored news of his death. This is due to Li’s long history of activism, which the communist government regarded to be “dangerous.”

Another dissident writer Chen Shuqing reported to The Epoch Times that police contacted Chen on the evening of Li’s death and told him not to leave Hangzhou for Ningbo. Chen, fearing if something had happened to Li in Ningbo, asked the police if anything was wrong with Li, but did not hear anything back.

“Quite a few others in Hangzhou have also received such warnings not to go to Ningbo,” Chen said.

Li Hong, born in Zhang Jianhong, was renowned for his writing career, which included poetry and plays. Li was charged in January 2007 with “inciting subversion against the state” and tried off the record in the Ningbo Municipal Intermediate Court. Li refused to plead guilty on any of his charge throughout the trial.

According Li Jiangiang, Li Hong’s lawyer, the charges were based on 62 articles he had written, most of which were regarding reports about live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, and his support for human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng’s hunger strike.

“Li Hong, a freelance scholar who does not practice Falun Gong, stood up at the first moment to condemn these crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is believed that as a scholar in China Li Hong touched the CCP’s sensitive spot: the CCP fears the public’s awareness and condemnation of its live organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners,” the New Epoch Weekly editorialized in January 2007.

Although healthy and hale prior to incarceration, Li’s health rapidly deteriorated and was soon diagnosed in August 2007 with muscular dystrophy. The Chinese authorities denied Li’s family’s repeated requests for medical parole, until June 2010, when his body was completely paralyzed and was not able to speak.

Li was then released for medical treatment on June 5 and was taken directly to the Ningbo Number Two People’s Hospital for intensive care, where he stayed until he died last week.

Zhu Yufu, Li’s colleague and one of the founders of Chinese Democratic Party formed in 1998, said with anger, “The authorities have killed Li Hong! It is yet another crime of theirs. Now they are frightened and are trying very hard to cover up the truth. They are keeping us from attending his funeral and expressing our condolences.

“Because Li Hong persisted and refused to compromise, they hated him and wanted him to die.”

For more information, please see:

The Epoch Times – Renowned Dissident Writer Li Hong Dies, Authorities Prevent Funeral – 4 Jan 2011

Human Rights in China – Human Rights in China Mourns the Passing of Dissident-Writer Li Hong – 7 
January 2011

Chinese Human Rights Defenders – Dissident Writer Li Hong Passes Away – 3 Jan 2011

Chinese Lawyers Fight Disbarment

By Hyo-Jin Paik
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – Two Chinese human rights lawyers are fighting moves to disbar them from practicing law for defending human rights activists.  Their case has drawn protests from others in the legal profession as well as activists groups.

The two lawyers, Tang Jitian and Liu Wei, could be disbarred because the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice has accused them of “disrupting order in court and interfering with proper litigation procedure.” 

Tang and Liu also stood a disbarment hearing last year in southwest China for defending members of the Falun Gong, a group that has been banned in China in 1999 after Falun Gong members protested around the Chinese Communist Party’s headquarters.  However, the two left the courtroom in protest.

Another hearing was held this week to decide whether the two should be permanently disbarred.  Amnesty International called the hearing “absurd” as the goal of the hearing is to revoke the two lawyers’ licenses for defending Falun Gong members.

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi said, “The notion that lawyers can be punished for presenting evidence and arguing their case in court is absurd.”

Zarifi added, “The Chinese Ministry of Justice must send a signal that it will protect lawyers from political intimidation and uphold their right and duty to defend their clients appropriately, in line with Chinese law and international legal standards.”

Teng Biao, who represented Tang and Liu at the administrative hearing before the Beijing Bureau of Justice, said, “This case is getting so much attention because it’s really about the basic ability of rights defen[s]e lawyers to represent people in court.”

In his defense, Tang also said, “In recent years, China’s gone into reverse.  The judiciary is paying more attention to politics, less to rule of law, and we felt we had to speak out.”

In the recent years, Chinese lawyers have used a combination of litigation and publicity to challenge the Chinese authorities’ laws and policies that restrict citizens’ rights.

Around 500 supporters of Tang and Liu gathered outside the hearing venue where they were met by 200 police officers.  Some 20 protesters were detained but most were released by end of the day.

“Escalating harassment of Chinese lawyers is seriously undermining the rule of law, and risks further lowering public trust in the Chinese legal system,” said Zarifi.

Tang and Liu are still awaiting the verdict.
For more information, please see:


Reuters – China rights lawyers fight disbarment threat – 22 April 2010

Spero News – China: Lawyers for Human Rights demonstrate in Beijing against injustice – 22 April 2010

Arrest of the China Democracy Party Founder

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

– Guo Quan, a former associate professor at Nanjing Normal University and the acting chairman of the newly established China New Democracy Party, was arrested by police near his Nanjing home.  “He tried to set up an opposition party, they accused him of ‘subversion of state power,’ ” Mrs. Guo’s wife said.  “They told me that he had been formally arrested, but they didn’t give me any details,” Li said. “They gave a bunch of documents to his mother.”

Nanjing Police Department agents sent Mr. Guo’s mother a letter denying her request to hire a lawyer because her son’s case involved “state secrets.”  She says, “(They) arrested my son and forbade us to visit him and hire a lawyer. Does that mean they are going to try him secretly? I am upset! My son was arrested for being a human rights activist; now who is going to protect his human rights? I love my son, so I hired a lawyer, but the regime would not let the lawyer accept the case. How could his only act, writing an open letter to Hu Jintao, be deemed subversion?”  The authorities denied Guo’s family attorney’s request to visit him.

Mr. Guo’s defense attorney Guo Lianhui commented that Guo made his differing political views public, and the authorities mobilized the state machinery to suppress him.  “My client published a series of articles called ‘Democratic Voice’ and pointed out that there is no democracy and observance of human rights in China.” attorney Guo Lianhui added.

Mr. Guo founded China New Democracy Party to represent anyone petitioning the government and the ruling Communist Party for social justice in land disputes, forced evictions, and allegations of official wrongdoing.  He wrote 347 articles and offered constructive suggestions to the Chinese Communist Party.  However, Mr. Guo was fired from Nanjing Normal University for allegedly violating its constitution and rules on the conduct of faculty.  Then, Mr. Guo was expelled from the Communist-approved token opposition group Democratic Parties and Factions.

For more information, please see:

The Epoch Times – Beijing Arrests Acting Chairman of the China New Democracy Party – 24 December 2008

The Epoch Times – China Democracy Party Founder’s Mother Talks About His Arrest – 15 December 2008

Radio Free Asia – Blogger Charged with Subversion – 22 December 2008