(Midland, Texas—Dec. 27, 2016) A group of international organizations issued a letter on Friday inviting institutions and individuals to join a group dedicated to monitoring human rights in China.
The “709 Case International Observation Group,” which named itself after the “709 event”—the mass roundup of human rights lawyers on July 9-10, 2015—was established in order to protect the rights of lawyers and activists who oppose China’s human rights violations. In its message, it denounces the arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and asks that the recipients observe whether or not China upholds its commitment to rights protection and rule of law, as sanctioned by the Chinese Constitution, China’s Criminal Procedure Law and the International Convention on Human Rights.
A full translation of the document can be read below.
As a signatory to this letter, China Aid reports China’s human rights abuses in order to protect those who are unjustly prosecuted and promote rule of law.
[Subject]: Regarding the Invitation to the “709 Case International Observation Group”
[To]: International institutions and individuals concerned with human rights and rule of law in China
[Date]: December 23, 2016
Distinguished friends and institutions,
We are a group of international organizations and experts who have long been concerned with rule of law and human rights in China. Since July 2015, the Chinese government has engaged in a large number of interviews and arrests of civil rights activists and human rights lawyers (the 709 arrests) [Editor’s note: The “709 arrests” refer to the mass roundup of human rights lawyers that occurred across China on July 9-10, 2015]. Among them were Li Heping and Xie Yang, who have currently been detained for 17 months and were prosecuted by the court for “subversion of state power,” “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting the order of the court.” On the occasion of these trials, we solemnly write this letter and sincerely invite you to join the “709 Case International Observation Group” in order to supervise the Chinese authorities and protect [the activists’] rights to a fair and open trial.
We believe that China, as a Member State of the United Nations and a party to a number of international conventions, is obliged to respect and protect the fundamental human rights of Chinese citizens, especially “In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law”(Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). We also believe that it is the duty of the international community to monitor the Chinese government’s implementation of this obligation.
Right before the trials [of the 709 cases], the official media again stigmatized it by calling the case a “color revolution” [Editor’s note: “Color revolution” is a term for a popular uprising in China]. This behavior made us more concerned; this will be a serious violation of international human rights treaties, a violation of Chinese laws, and a violation of rule of law in trials.
On one hand, the Chinese authorities tried Zhou Shifeng and four other [detainees from the] “709 arrests” in August of this year (the court ruled that they “subverted state power” and gave them three-year to seven-and-a-half year prison or probation sentences). The Chinese authorities have harshly declared that these were open, fair and impartial trials. The truth is, however, that these [trials] were serious violations of the law, humanity and human rights, and were full of lies and became laughingstock, “performance-based trials.”
On the other hand, the “709 mass arrests” can be described as the most serious anti-rule of law and anti-human rights event in China in recent decades. The Chinese authorities have arbitrarily detained lawyers and human rights defenders in the name of “national security” and have conducted forced disappearances, torture, media defamation, and implicated family members by association. At least 319 people have been affected. 14 people are still in jail. Furthermore, this pressure is not over. Just a month ago, lawyer Jiang Tianyong went to Changsha to visit lawyer Xie Yang’s family and was forcibly disappeared. There is no way to know the extent of the coercive measures the public security department takes. This is a completely unknown situation.
However, fortunately, over the past 17 months, we have received strong support from different governments, groups, organizations, and individuals in various parts of the world, including more than 100 statements, protests, appeals, awards, and other methods. These sustained global concerns have proved to be a tremendous pressure on the Chinese government and can effectively improve the situation of those arrested.
In view of this, on the occasion of the trial of Li Heping and Xie Yang’s cases, we sincerely invite you to join the “709 Case International Observation Group” before and after the trials, in order to oversee the Chinese authorities’ compliance with international conventions, the Chinese Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Law. [Additionally, the group will] protect all arrested lawyers and human rights defenders, including our loved ones, [make certain they are tried] in a fair and public court and ensure that no individual is punished for exercising, protecting, or promoting the rights of others. Observations include, but are not limited to:
1. Whether or not the parties were tortured or inhumanly treated;
2. Whether or not the parties have been tried by the media [Editor’s note: “Tried by the media” means to undergo defamation by China’s state-run media];
3. Whether or not the parties have considerable time and facilities to prepare their defense and meet with counsel of their own or selected by their family;
4. Whether or not the parties are present and are defending themselves or [defended] by counsel selected by themselves or their dependents;
5. Whether or not the tribunal allows witnesses favorable to the parties to appear and that they are examined under the same conditions as witnesses against them;
6. Whether or not the parties have been compelled to testify against their own testimony or forced [to confess] to committing a crime;
7. Whether or not the lawyer selected by the party or the family member is able to perform his duties properly and is not subject to or threatened with prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions.
The concern from each of you is the strength that keeps Chinese human rights lawyers going. Thank you!
Initiating organizations and individuals:
[Editor’s note: The original document did not list the organizations, but they are as follows:
- China Aid
- China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group
- Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network
- Human Rights Committee of Taipei Bar Association
- Taiwan Association for Human Rights
- Taiwan Association for China Human Rights]