Politics & Int'l Affairs

Will China’s New Law Make Legal Detentions And ‘Disappearances’ Of Human Rights Activists? The Case Of Ni Yulan

Ni Yulan

China may be about to pass a law that legalizes what has heretofore been many illegal detentionst and ‘disappearances’ of human rights activists and others. One group that seems especially targets are Chinese human rights lawyers.

Human rights lawyers give counsel to those in China who are particularly unable to defend themselves–farmers and the poor–from government misdeeds, such as having their homes and land taken through extrajudicial procedures. Silence the lawyers, and the government cuts the means of seeking formal redress.

Of the many egregious persecutions of these lawyers, the plight of Ni Yulan is among the most. Here’s a bit from The New York Times:

First the police crippled Ni Yulan’s legs. Then the authorities took away her license to practice law. Later, while she was serving time in jail, demolition crews tore down the courtyard house that had been in her family for two generations.

Freed from prison in 2010 but unable to walk, she ended up living in a Beijing park with her husband for nearly two months, until unflattering publicity led local officials to move them into a cheap hotel.

Their predicament will most likely take a turn for the worse in the coming weeks, when a court in the capital’s Xicheng district is expected to sentence the couple on charges that include “picking quarrels” and disturbing public order. “I’m afraid the sentence this time will be especially heavy,” their lawyer, Cheng Hai, said…

Here’s more about the new law as well as videos about Ni Yulan and other human rights lawyers.

China’s new draft amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, to be submitted for final review and voting by Fifth Session of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC), is raising concerns. This from World by The Washington Post with Foreign Policy:

China is preparing to overhaul a key criminal law amid public confusion — and some dread — over whether the government is about to give police the legal authority to disappear people.

At issue is an amendment to the criminal procedure law that would allow police to secretly detain suspects for months without informing their families. The effect would be to legalize the secret detentions police have increasingly been using against political critics, activist lawyers and other dissidents.

And, from the The New York Times:

Prognosticating in China is always a risky endeavor, but there are signs that the Communist Party is seeking to sharpen the tools it uses to quash dissent. A proposed revision to the criminal code would allow the police to secretly detain for six months those accused of “endangering national security,” a catchall designation often wielded against political offenders.

Jerome A. Cohen, a professor at New York University School of Law and an expert on Chinese law, called the revision “sinister” and said it would unduly strengthen the hand of the police. “It legalizes repressive and abusive state tactics,” Professor Cohen said.

About this issue, the Beijing Review reported:

In terms of compulsive measures, the criteria for detention and the procedure for procuratorates to approve arrest and detention have been improved.

Regardless of the final version that is approved, the test of which point of view is correct will be, as in most matters whether of Chinese criminal, business or other law, will be in the actual implementation. And that, of course, is not yet possible to determine.

But another point made in the Beijing Review caused to riff beyond the draft law:

In the chapter on defense, legislators have made it clear that the suspect may intrust defense lawyers at the investigation stage, and they have also improved the procedure for lawyers to meet with suspects and consult documents.

My riff took me to the spate of actions against human rights lawyers, some of whom have illegally detained, tortured, and been made to illegally ‘disappear.’ And, this brought to me to consider again the case of Ni Yulan and other such lawyers. Read more about her in  The New York Times.

More dramatic than any newspaper account are the videos.

Begin with:

‘Growing Concern Over China’s “Disappeared”‘ from Al Jazeera

‘China Steps Up Silencing Of Human Rights Lawyers’ from Amnesty International

‘Geng He: Release My Husband, Human Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, From Chinese Jail’ from Human Rights UN:

Then, about Ni Yulan:

‘Foreign Diplomats Visit Homeless, Disabled Beijing Lawyer’ from NTDTV (the decidedly anti-CCP network is fair and accurate here based on other research)

‘Chinese Lawyer Receives Human Rights Award’ from NTDTV:

‘Human-rights Lawyer Goes On Trial In China’ from Al Jazeera

No verdict has been handed down as of this writing.

I could go on with many more print stories and videos. Unbelievable courage. But depending on the draft Criminal Procedure Law and its implementation, they may need even greater courage going forward.

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