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CHINA: ARBITRARY DETENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST WANG JIANBING

The International League Against Arbitrary Detention urges the Government of China to take all the necessary actions to implement the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Opinion No. 9/2022 concerning Wang Jianbing (China) starting for the Government of China to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Wang Jianbing and to accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations in accordance with international law.


Read the full WGAD Opinion concerning Wang Jianbing (China) : Opinion No. 9/2022


SUBJECTED TO ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE AND HELD INCOMMUNICADO


Mr. Wang is an independent labour and disability rights activist providing legal and community support for former construction workers who have contracted chronic illnesses, such as pneumoconiosis, as a result of being exposed to poor working conditions. On 19 September 2021 at around 3 p.m., Mr. Wang was apprehended by officers from the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau from his rented residence located in Guangzhou, and forcibly disappeared and detained.


The Working Group The Working Group noted that Mr. Wang was subjected to the imposition of the so-called residential surveillance at a designated location, which it considers a misnomer, as the authorities, in effect, have the power to make a person disappear, without judicial oversight. Therefore, the Working Group found that Mr. Wang was subjected to de facto enforced disappearance following his arrest until the authorities acknowledged his arrest, a practice prohibited by international law which constitutes a particularly aggravated form of arbitrary detention since such deprivation of liberty, entailing a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or to acknowledge their detention lacks any valid legal basis under any circumstance and is inherently arbitrary, as it places the person outside the protection of the law, in violation of article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Moreover, the Working Group found that Mr. Wang was held incommunicado in violation of his right to an effective remedy under article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights since he was unable to contact anyone and especially his lawyer, which is an essential safeguard to ensure the ability of any detainee to personally challenge his or her detention.


CHARGED UNDER VAGUE AND IMPRECISE OFFENCE OF INCITING SUBVERSION OF THE STATE AUTHORITY


Mr. Wang was charged under a vague and imprecise offence of inciting subversion of State authority, under article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code, which states that whoever incites others by spreading rumours, committing slander or using any other means to subvert the State authority or overthrow the socialist system is to be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment.


Following its visits to China in 1997 and 2004, the Working Group had already emphasized in its reports that charges involving vague and imprecise offences jeopardized the ability of individuals to exercise their fundamental rights and were likely to result in arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Moreover, the Working Group recalled that it has been called upon to examine article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code previously on a number of occasions and that it had already called upon the Government to repeal article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code or bring it into line with its obligations under international human rights law since the provision does not define which conduct amounts to subversion and overthrowing the socialist system through rumours, slander or other means and leaves the determination of whether an offence has been committed entirely to the discretion of the authorities.


Hence, the Working Group concluded once again that article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code fails to meet the principle of legality and called once again upon the Government to repeal article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code or bring it into line with its obligations under international human rights law, before concluding that the detention of Mr. Wang is arbitrary and falls under category I as lacking a legal basis.


ARRESTED AND DETAINED FOR ORGANIZING SOCIAL GATHERINGS AT HIS APARTMENT


The Working Group found that while the Government has provided no specific reason for the arrest and detention of Mr. Wang, it appears that Mr. Wang was detained solely for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of peaceful assembly and association encapsulated in articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by organizing casual social gatherings at his apartment.


Hence, the Working Group concluded that Mr. Wang’s arrest and detention resulted from the exercise of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by articles 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and therefore falls under category II.


PROSECUTED IN VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHT TO LEGAL ASSISTANCE AND TO A FAIR TRIAL


The Working Group noted that Mr. Wang has been denied legal assistance from the time of his arrest, that he was unaware of the charges until months after his detention and that other individuals are being coerced to testify against him, in violation of Mr. Wang’s right to legal assistance and a  to a fair trial under articles 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Given this, the Working Group concluded that the arrest and detention of Mr. Wang is arbitrary and falls under category III.


CONCLUSIONS OF THE UN WORKING GROUP AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTION


In light of the foregoing, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considered that the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Wang Jianbing, being in contravention of articles 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 18, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II and III.


The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention recommended that the Government of China take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Wang Jianbing without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, starting with his immediate release and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations. Moreover, the Working Group requested the Government of China to repeal article 105 (2) of the Criminal Code or bring it into line with its obligations under international human rights law.


Last but not least, the Working Group expressed its concerns related to the existence of a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in China, which amounts to a serious violation of international law, and recalled that recalls that, under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law may constitute crimes against humanity.

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