Prominent Chinese lawyer and human rights defender Jiang Tianyong. PHOTO/COURTESY
By PATRICK MAYOYO
A group of United Nations human rights experts has called on the Government of China to immediately release prominent lawyer and human rights defender Jiang Tianyong, who is on trial for inciting subversion of the State’s power.
The experts’ appeal comes as Mr. Jiang awaits the Court’s verdict after his televised “confession” on 22 August, to seeking to overthrow China’s political system, which the experts described as “a worrying sign of China’s disregard for due process and the rule of law”.
“We urge the Chinese authorities to uphold the rule of law by respecting Mr. Jiang’s rights to a fair trial and to carry out his work as a professional lawyer and human rights defender,” they said.
The UN experts are: Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right freedom of opinion and expression; and Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rappourteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Mr. Jiang, who was allegedly disappeared on 21 November 2016, has been detained and under surveillance at an unknown location for more than nine months, without access to his family or a lawyer of his own choosing. There are concerns that he, along with other lawyers and human rights defenders in detention, may have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
“Given the reported conditions of his detention and earlier cases of a similar nature highlighting an ongoing worrying trend, we are gravely concerned that his confession may have been coerced by the use of torture, in contravention of the Chinese Criminal Procedures Law and international human rights standards, as reiterated by the Committee Against Torture in 2015,” the experts noted.
They also stressed the fact that the proceedings were not freely open to all interested members of the public to attend, while Mr. Jiang’s “confession” was broadcast on television and the Court’s social media; and that Mr. Jiang’s lawyer was dismissed by the authorities and had no access to him since his disappearance. “These factors clearly point to the serious shortcomings in guaranteeing a fair and impartial trial in accordance with international standards,” they said.
“The overbroad scope of the charges also seems to be a glaring breach of human rights in itself,” the experts underscored.
“Mr. Jiang’s ‘crime’ apparently included communications with foreign entities, which potentially include the UN human rights mechanisms, giving interviews to foreign media, and receiving training on the Western constitutional system, all of which have been carried out in the course of his work as a lawyer,” they said.
The rights experts noted that “the suppression and criminalization of such communications and activities constitute a serious violation of the fundamental right to freely seek, receive and impart information about human rights, and can only be characterized as an effort to root out voices that are considered to interfere with the Communist Party’s rule.”
The group of experts also expressed concern about the fact that Mr. Jiang had been charged with having fabricated allegations of torture committed against another lawyer in detention, who was arrested in the so-called 709 crackdown.
“By portraying Mr. Jiang as a lying criminal, the authorities seem to have conveniently sidestepped the serious allegations of torture, perpetuating a circle of impunity,” the experts concluded.