On 22 August 2017, the first hearing in the criminal case against 46-year-old human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong took place. The lawyer is accused of “subverting state power”. The maximum penalty: lifelong imprisonment. Jiang Tiangyong ‘confessed’ to the crime he was accused of during the hearing. In a video that was published by the court the same day, Jiang Tianyong asks the public for “forgiveness” for his “deeds”.
Jiang Tianyong is a human rights lawyer who provides legal assistance to both minority groups in Chinese society and fellow human rights lawyers. This is not the first time Jiang Tianyong has faced intimidation from the Chinese authorities in connection with his human rights work. In 2009, his license to practice as a lawyer was withdrawn after he had provided legal advice to Tibetan monks. Being disbarred has not stopped Jiang Tianyong from continuing his valuable human rights work to improve the situation in China.
On 16 February 2011, Jiang Tianyong was arrested by Chinese authorities after he provided assistance and advice to the blind Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng. After being released on 19 April 2011, Jiang Tianyong was placed under house arrest.
In May 2012, Jiang Tianyong was detained by the Chinese authorities for nine hours because he wanted to visit the detained human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. After his release, Jiang Tianyong reported that he was abused during his detention, with his left ear severely damaged.
On 21 March 2014, Jiang Tianyong was arrested together with 3 colleagues, while investigating the illegal detention of citizens in a so-called ‘black jail’ (an unofficial detention centre). He was released on April 6 after a 15-day administrative detention period. It has been reported that he had also suffered injuries as a result of abuse in custody.
During his most recent arrest in November 2016, the Chinese authorities placed him under ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, in other words, Jiang Tianyong ‘disappeared’. On 21 November 2016, Jiang Tianyong disappeared after purchasing a train ticket for his return trip from Changsha to Beijing. He had been in Changsha to assist the wife of the detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang in her attempts to visit her husband. It now appears that that very evening Jiang Tianyong was taken by the Chinese authorities to a designated but secret location. Even his wife and parents were not informed of his place of residence or situation. Shortly after his disappearance, many international organizations, including Lawyers for Lawyers, called on the Chinese authorities to disclose his whereabouts. On 31 May 2017, a formal message was sent to Jiang Tianyong’s relatives to inform them that the lawyer was formally accused of “subverting state power”.
Jiang Tianyong is currently being held in the Changsha City No. 1 Detention Center. Since his arrest – almost ten months ago – he has not been granted access to his lawyers. Every request from his lawyers has been rejected. The arrest and disappearance of Jiang Tianyong is in violation of international law, including the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.
L4L is deeply concerned about the situation of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong and will continue to closely monitor his case.
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