Chairs Ask Chinese Ambassador for Information on Detained Rights Advocates and American Citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis
Chairs Ask Chinese Ambassador for Information on Detained Rights Advocates & American Citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis
Seek information on the disappearances of Jiang Tianyong, Liu Feiyue, and Huang Qi
December 7, 2016
(Washington DC)—The Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a letter to Chinese Ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, seeking information on the recent disappearance of three rights advocates, saying their detentions “appear to be arbitrary.” The Chairs added that their disappearances, along with the continued detention of human rights lawyers and American citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis, “stand out as part of a larger pattern that needlessly complicates bilateral relations.”
The full text of the letter can be found below.
December 5, 2016
His Excellency Cui Tiankai
Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States
3505 International Place, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Ambassador Cui:
We write to express our deep concern regarding the recent disappearances of three Chinese citizens—Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Huang Qi (黄琦)—and ask that you provide us with information about their whereabouts and any charges that they face. We urgently seek information regarding their detentions, which appear to be arbitrary, and therefore in violation of international human rights standards.
Jiang Tianyong, a former lawyer disbarred in 2009 for his representation of members of various religious groups and rights advocates including Chen Guangcheng, disappeared on November 21, 2016, when he was returning to Beijing from Changsha, Hunan, where he visited the wife of lawyer Xie Yang, one of many legal professionals detained during a nationwide crackdown that began around July 2015. Police in Hunan and Beijing respectively declined to open an investigation into Jiang’s disappearance, and denied the family’s request to release surveillance video recordings of the train station where Jiang was believed to have disappeared.
On November 17, 2016, police from Suizhou, Hubei, detained Liu Feiyue, founder and editor of a human rights website known as Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch (民生观察), and raided his home. A source close to Liu reported that police told his family that he may be charged with “subversion of state power” for allegedly receiving foreign funding. Police have not provided the family with a detention notice and have refused to disclose the location of Liu’s detention.
In the evening of November 28, 2016, Huang Qi, founder and editor of a human rights website known as 64 Tianwang (64 天网), was taken away from his home in Chengdu, Sichuan, by authorities. Huang Qi’s detention is particularly troubling in light of Reporters Without Borders’ announcement in early November that it selected 64 Tianwang as one of the recipients of its 2016 Press Freedom prize. In addition, Huang’s 83 year-old mother Pu Wenqing is also reported missing after she told reporters that police had forcibly entered her home and detained her in a guesthouse. Radio Free Asia reported on December 5, 2016, that a local source in China alleges that Ms. Pu has been incommunicado for more than 100 hours.
As of the date of this letter, there is no public information available detailing the whereabouts of Liu, Jiang, and Huang, and their families have not been provided with a written notice about their detentions or charges being lodged against them. The immediate disclosure of information concerning detention is consistent with the National Human Rights Action Plan recently published by your government’s State Council.
The fact that the three individuals were taken into custody by authorities from different provinces during a short time period makes it seem that such efforts were coordinated, not unlike the crackdown that began around July 2015 in which over 300 legal professionals and rights advocates were detained or disappeared.
The continued detentions without trial of lawyers and rights defenders including Li Heping, Xie Yanyi, Wang Quanzhang, and Wu Gan, are a grave concern, as is the case of American citizen Sandy Phan-Gillis, who has been arbitrarily detained now for the last 21 months.
The need for stronger and better bilateral relations is something we, as Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and senior members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee respectively, are committed to pursuing but not at the expense of basic human rights protections and rule of law advances. As the U.S. Government transitions to a new Administration in the coming weeks, these glaring violations stand out as part of a larger pattern that needlessly complicates bilateral relations. We look forward to your response and ongoing interaction moving forward.