China: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Xu Zhiyong and closure of “Gongmeng”
CHN 004 / 0809 / OBS 122
Arbitrary detention / Threats / Closure / Judicial harassment
People's Republic of China
August 24, 2009
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the People’s Republic of China.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by Human Rights in China (HRIC) about the arbitrary detention of well-known human rights defender Mr. Xu Zhiyong and the official shut down of “Gongmeng” (also known as Open Constitution Initiative - OCI), an organisation set up to provide legal consultation and assistance to the public, which Mr. Xu Zhiyong helped found.
According to information received, on August 17, 2009, Mr. Xu Zhiyong was informed by a staff member from the Beijing Haidian District Industry and Commerce Bureau that “Gongmeng” had been shut down in July 17, 2009 for providing “false data” when registered as a company and for having public interest activities inconsistent with its commercial enterprise designation. Three days earlier, tax authorities had notified Gongmeng's members that they would be fined 1.42 million Yuan (208,000 Dollars) for tax violations. Gongmeng’s website was also shut down by the authorities.
Under Chinese regulations law, all civil society organisations must be supervised by a high-level government unit, an arrangement that effectively puts them under direct government control. The only way to operate independently is to register as a commercial company. Therefore, this judicial harassment followed the registration as a for-profit company of Gongmeng despite the public-interest nature of its work. The Observatory strongly condemns this obstacle
Moreover, since Mr. Xu Zhiyong was first detained on July 29, only one of his two lawyers was allowed to meet with him on August 14. The official notice of his arrest was issued on August 18, 2009. However, the specific contents of the arrest notice are still unknown.
Mr. Xu Zhiyong is currently detained at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Centre under tax evasion charges.
Following the tax authorities’ action against Gongmeng in July and Mr. Xu Zhiyong’s detention, the legal representative for Gongmeng’s tax case, Mr. Li Xiongbing, applied to the local tax bureau to establish a process for paying the fines on behalf of Gongmeng. Several days later, the application was turned down on the ground that Mr. Xu Zhiyong had not signed papers to officially appoint Mr. Li Xiongbing as his legal representative. However, Article 201 of China’s Criminal Law, revised on February 28, 2009, stipulates that if a tax offender pays in full the taxes owed and has received administrative punishment, then no criminal action shall be brought against him.
Furthermore, Mr. Li Xiongbing said that repeatedly the police warned him against being involved in the Gongmeng case, and on August 14, he was forced by the police to leave Beijing and go back to his hometown in Hubei Province, about 700 miles away. He returned to Beijing on August 17.The police set August 18 as the deadline for him to “sever” himself from Gongmeng.
The Observatory denounces the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment faced by Mr. Xu Zhiyong, which seems to merely aim at sanctioning his human rights activities and urges the Chinese authorities to put an end to the judicial harassment against him.
The Observatory is deeply concerned about the continuing threats faced by human rights defenders and civil society in general, as well as the restrictions on their work and the exercise of freedom of association in China.
Please write to the authorities of the People’s Republic of China asking them to:
- Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Xu Zhiyong and Li Xiongbing as well as all human rights defenders in China;
- Release Mr. Xu Zhiyong immediately and unconditionally since his detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning his human rights activities;
- Guarantee immediate and unconditional access to Mr. Xu Zhiyong for his lawyers and family members;
- Put an end to any kind of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Xu Zhiyong, all Gongmeng members as well as against all human rights defenders in China;
- Repeal the decision to close Gongmeng down and re-register it, and ensure in all circumstances that its members are able to carry out their work freely without any hindrances;
- Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;
- More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by China.
- Mr. Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Guojia Zongli, The State Council General Office, 2 Fuyoujie, Xichengqu, Beijingshi 100017, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 65961109 (c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ms. Wu Aiying, Minister of Justice of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang Sifabu, 10 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Chaoyangqu, Beijingshi 100020, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 6529 2345, firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
- Mr. Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang Waijiaobu, 2 Chaoyangmen Nandajie, Beijingshi 100701, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 6588 2594, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Mr. Meng Jianzhu, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, Buzhang, Gong’anbu, 14 Dongchang’anjie, Dongchengqu, Beijingshi 100741, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 63099216
- Mr. Ma Zhenchuan, Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Juzhang, Beijingshi Gong’anju, 9 Qianmen Dongdajie, Dongchengqu, Beijingshi 100740, People’s Republic of China, Fax: +86 10 85222320, Email: wbjc2sohu.com
- Ambassador Sha Zukang, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China, Chemin de Surville 11, P.O. Box 85, 1213 Petit-Lancy 2, Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7937014, E-mail: email@example.com;
- Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels, Avenue de Tervuren, 463 1160 Auderghem, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 663 30 10 / + 32 2 663 30 17 / +32 2 771 14 97 / +32 2 779 43 33; Fax: +32 2 762 99 66 / +32 2 779 28 95; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of S the People’s Republic of China in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Sri Lanka.
Paris-Geneva, August 24, 2009
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.
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