Urgent Interventions

Conviction and ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng

CHN 001 / 0620 / OBS 067

Sentencing /

Arbitrary detention


June 18, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in China.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) about the conviction, prison sentence, and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Yu Wensheng, a prominent human rights lawyer who brought legal actions against the Chinese government in relation to air pollution in the country in 2016 and who represented several victims of human rights violations, including fellow human rights lawyers, such as Mr. Wang Quanzhang[1].

According to the information received, on June 17, 2020, the Xuzhou City Intermediate People’s Court in Jiangsu Province found Mr. Yu Wensheng guilty of “inciting subversion of State power” and sentenced him to four years in prison and to three years of deprivation of his political rights. The sentence was imposed during proceedings held behind closed doors without notification to his lawyer, in violations of international standards of fair trial. His wife, Ms. Xu Yan, was informed of Mr. Yu Wensheng’s conviction by a call from the Xuzhou City Procuratorate on the same day.

Mr. Yu Wensheng was arbitrarily arrested on January 19, 2018, outside his home in Beijing while he was taking his son to school for “obstructing official duties” and for “inciting subversion of State power”. The day before his arrest, Mr. Yu had published an open letter calling for institutional and political reforms, including the amendment of the Constitution of China, the holding of fair election, and the creation of an oversight system for the Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Yu was held incommunicado for two years in the Xuzhou City Detention Centre in Jiangsu Province and was denied access to his lawyer and to his family. It is feared that he was subjected to ill-treatment and torture during his detention.

On May 9, 2019, Mr. Yu Wensheng was secretly tried before the Xuzhou City Intermediate Court in clear violation of his right to a fair trial, as his lawyer was not notified and no information about the trial was made public.

In April 2019, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion that declared Mr. Yu Wensheng’s detention arbitrary and called for his immediate release and compensation[2].

The Observatory strongly condemns the conviction, prison sentence, and arbitrary detention of Mr. Yu Wensheng, which seem to be merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

The Observatory urges Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yu Wensheng and to ensure his psychological well-being and physical integrity.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the People’s Republic of China to urge them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Yu Wensheng as well as that of all human rights defenders in China;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Yu Wensheng as his detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing him for his human rights activities.

iii. Guarantee the access of Mr. Wang Quanzhang to his family members and to a lawyer of his own or his family’s choosing;

iv. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Mr. Yu Wensheng and all human rights defenders in China, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular with its Articles 1 and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international human rights instruments signed or ratified by China.


· Mr. Li Keqiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China, Email:

· Mr. Guo Shengkun, Minister of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, Email:

· H.E. Mr. Zhaoxu Ma, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, E-mail:

· H.E. Mr. QU XING, Ambassador, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Brussels, Belgium, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of China in your respective countries.


Geneva-Paris, June 18, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] See Observatory Urgent Appeal CHN 003 / 0917 / OBS 101.2, published on April 7, 2020.

[2] See

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