Photo: Human rights lawyer Li Yuhan (ChinaAid source)
(Liaoning province—May 16, 2023) Lawyer Li Yuhan has been detained since October 2017. Recently, authorities disclosed her indictment letter accusing her of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “fraud.” Although the court held a hearing a year and a half ago, the judge deliberately withheld a verdict.
On October 9, 2017, police lured Li to the police station and then illegally detained her. She has been imprisoned ever since. Her health deteriorated after more than five years in prison. Guards tortured her, denied medical treatment, and gave her inadequate nutrition. However, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of the public and her lawyers, authorities allowed her to have a medical examination. According to a recent report from Li’s lawyer, her physical condition is not optimistic.
Since the first secret hearing on October 20, 2021, there has been no verdict. Li’s family repeatedly contacted the presiding judge Xue Silin many times. Xu claimed he was “unable to communicate properly” and subjected Li Yuhan’s case to a deliberate delay.
A son’s appeal
On May 4, Li Yuhan’s son posted on social media, questioning Judge Xue. “My mother,” he wrote, “is seriously ill. According to the latest revision of the law related to medical parole, my mother fully qualifies for the conditions. Why are you all not responding directly to the repeated requests of the family and lawyers for medical parole?” Li’s son appealed to compassionate people from all walks of life to continue to pay attention to his mother’s case.
The indictment letter charged Li Yuhan with “fraud” and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” It accused lawyer Li of expressing dissatisfaction with the results of a “fraud” case from 2008 to October 2017. Also, the indictment stated that lawyer Li violated laws and regulations by traveling to Beijing to protest near Tiananmen Square, Chang’an Avenue, and Zhongnanhai. During that time, Li was admonished, warned, and administratively detained by the public security organs multiple times. She complained about this incident to the Heping Branch of the Shenyang Public Security Bureau with various rationales.
According to authorities, Li Yuhan caused disturbances in public many times. Her activism defrauded public and private property for illegal possession. The indictment letter accused her of concealing the truth and fabricating facts. The alleged amount she “defrauded” was hefty, and her behavior violated the relevant provisions and laws.
Asked to cooperate
On January 7, 2021, the judge of Heping District in Shenyang asked Li to cooperate by pleading guilty. Once again, she made it clear that her two charges (picking quarrels and provoking trouble and fraud) were not credible. From Li’s perspective, the so-called “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” was an accusation of her several visits to Beijing for petitions. The fraud was the low-income social insurance the local government applied for her son to “maintain stability.”
Abuse of power
Before the arrest, Li petitioned against the two government departments that investigate and prosecute. These same agencies now accuse her of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “fraud.” They are using their public power to retaliate.
Petitions against local government
Li Yuhan petitioned against these government organizations because the public was dissatisfied with the cases the agencies handled. Local departments mutually protected each other’s interests, and officials stuck up for one another. Cases could not be handled fairly, so Li and others petitioned about the injustice. They complied with the Chinese government’s complaint procedures. However, when these people went to Beijing to complain, they were often violently intercepted. Petitioners suffered beatings, abuse, and imprisonment. Others were forcibly committed to mental hospitals. Many of their endings were tragic.
Another motive for retaliation
Li practiced as a senior lawyer in the 1990s and handled many human rights cases, including Christian house churches. She also represented lawyer Wang Yu, one of the most prominent lawyers arrested in the “709 Crackdown” in 2015. Li’s arrest is seen as a sensitive case of retaliation for her involvement in Wang Yu’s case and other activities.
Lawyer Li’s situation has long garnered attention from across the world. In 2018, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council confirmed that Li’s deprivation of liberty constituted arbitrary detention. They urged the Chinese government to take the necessary steps to remedy her situation. In 2020, the European Union also called for her release and expressed serious concern about her dire condition.
Appeal to UN conventions
An international coalition signed a joint call to the Chinese authorities. In their statement, they asked China to respect and implement international human rights treaties and instruments. The coalition cited UN conventions, including the Convention against Torture and the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
~Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid