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An Open Letter to the People’s Republic of China Ministry of Public Security and Minister Zhao Kezhi

Chang Weiping is the recipient of 2021 China Human Rights Lawyer Award - Credit: Human rights Award
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Chen Zijuan | China Change

This article was first published on China Change website on August 3, 2021

Dear Ministry of Public Security and Public Security Minister Zhao Kezhi,

My name is Chen Zijuan (陈紫娟). I graduated from a certain institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and hold a PhD in microbiology. I am the wife of Chang Weiping (常玮平), who is currently incarcerated. My personal information is as follows:
ID number: 61032219[Redacted].
Mailing address:  Shenzhen, Guangdong Province [Redacted]cccc.
Phone #: 18565718426.

A wife in despair.

A brief description of the case

From January 12 to January 22, 2020, Chang Weiping was placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) by the Baoji High-Tech Development Zone Public Security Bureau branch. He was suspected of “inciting subversion of state power” due to having participated in the “December 26 Xiamen gathering” (hereafter the 1226 Xiamen gathering). On January 22, 2020, he was released on bail pending trial due to insufficient evidence. On October 16, he published details about how he had been forced to give a confession during interrogation, and six days later on October 22 was again arrested by the Baoji Public Security Bureau on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power. On April 7, 2021, he was formally arrested by the Baoji police for inciting subversion of state power, and has been held incommunicado since then. Lawyers’ repeated requests to meet with him have been denied. 

Opinions of Chang’s family members

Chang Weiping, 37, graduated from Chongqing University in 2007, and has been practicing as a lawyer since 2013. In addition to representing general criminal cases, he has filed several public interest lawsuits, including against the public security authorities of Xianyang Airport in Shaanxi Province (陕西咸阳机场) for charging 40 yuan for a temporary identification certificate while the train station did not charge for the certificate (the fee was abolished after he sued); Chang’an University (长安大学) for illegally building a large shopping mall on its educational site (the site is located in Xi’an’s busy and lucrative Xiaozhai business district); Xi’an’s Chengxi Bus Station (西安城西客运站) for forcing passengers to buy insurance; as well as Didi Shunfeng taxi (滴滴顺风车) for abusing its dominant market position. 

In November 2018, the law firm Chang belonged to was shut down. Though colleagues set up a new firm the next day, he spent the next year or so approaching more than a dozen law firms around the country. But every time he submitted transferal procedures to the Shaanxi Provincial Justice Department, the process would stop inexplicably. As a result, he has not been unable to practice law normally since.

For a long time, we, Chang’s relatives, have assumed that his arrest was a reprisal by the Shaanxi provincial authorities. But a few days ago we were shocked to learn that Chang Weiping’s case is being supervised and handled by the Ministry of Public Security.

1. Chang Weiping’s participation in the 1226 Xiamen gathering and trips abroad

The so-called “1226 Xiamen gathering” was just a get-together of some lawyers and citizens to discuss current affairs and share about their professional experiences. According to what Chang told me, he was on vacation in Zhejiang with a friend when he saw the event invite. He decided to participate with a mind to meet up with peers. At the gathering, Chang did not engage in improper speech, speaking only of how he was not able to practice law normally.

During his career as a lawyer, Chang has participated in group visits to the United States, Europe, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, all at the invitation of local bar associations to learn how the local courts hear cases and how lawyers defend clients. Other members on these group trips included law professors, prosecutors, and the like, from China. His trip to Hong Kong was to talk at a university about his involvement in anti-gender discrimination cases, and possibly to buy electronics, milk powder, cosmetics, and other goods as well. The Shaanxi public security officials attempted to link his visit to Hong Kong with the “Occupy Central” movement. Without any evidence, he was accused of going abroad to contact [anti-China] forces outside the country.

2. Jurisdictional issues in this case

This case is considered to be one revolving around the jeopardization of national security. According to the law, such cases should be handled by municipal or higher public security bureaus, but in the stage of RSDL, it was handled by Baoji High-Tech Development Zone Public Security Bureau branch (hereafter referred to as “Gaoxin Branch”). The notice of RSDL and the notice of no change of coercive measures for the family were both issued by the Gaoxin Branch (see annex). Are these not procedural violations?

3. Torture was used to to obtain confessions and illegal evidence in this case

From January 12, 2020 to January 22, 2020, for participating in the “1226 Xiamen Party”, Chang Weiping was held in RSDL by the Gaoxin branch of the Baoji PSB on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power. During this period, he was tortured to extract a confession. This included being forced to sit in an interrogation chair for 10 days, 24 hours a day, which resulted in the swelling of his legs and irreversible loss of feeling in two fingers of his right hand. He was also deprived of sleep and food. In the 10 days of torturous interrogation, the police investigators made a total of 16 interrogation transcripts with him.

According to those familiar with the matter, from late December 2020 to January 2021, the Baoji Public Security Bureau (led by a “political commissar” of the Shaanxi Provincial Public Security Department) searched for young people who knew Chang Weiping in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen, and extracted illegal evidence by intimidating and forcing witnesses to come to the police station. There they were forced to provide “testimonies” prepared by the investigators, alleging Chang Weiping’s involvement in events that Chang had had no role at all.

For example, in some demolition cases reported by overseas media, Chang had not played any role, but the witnesses were forced to testify that he was involved in planning the foreign media reports. For another example, the investigators deliberately induced misrepresentation of Chang’s words: where as when Chang said, “I can’t practice normally now, I can’t do anything,” the investigators forced a witness to say, “Chang Weiping said that although we are now experiencing some setbacks, we should not be discouraged and we should unite against the Chinese Communist Party.” When the witnesses declined to say what the police forced them to say, they were not allowed to leave the police station, or they were subjected to repeated harassment and summons. 

Why are the Shaanxi provincial public security officers able to break the law unscrupulously and unimpeded throughout the country? It is because they believe that they wield the “imperial sword” of the Ministry of Public Security, and that public security authorities across the country dare not talk back to them! Apparently the PSB in Shaanxi Province was not troubled by the adverse effects of their conduct.

4. Because it is a case supervised by the Ministry of Public Security, defense lawyers and myself have been stonewalled and denied any legal or administrative remedy 

Chang Weiping has been detained for more than 9 months since October 22, 2020. No lawyer has been allowed to see him, the Baoji PSB refused to meet with his lawyers, change the form of detention, disclose any information about the case, or even let them in the door to the Baoji PSB. They have deprived the defense lawyers of the right to communicate with their client. I have repeatedly filed complaints with the Baoji People’s Procuratorate, the Baoji municipal Communist Party Discipline Inspection Commission and Supervisory Commission, the Shaanxi Provincial People’s Procuratorate, and the Shaanxi Provincial Communist Party Discipline Inspection Commission and Supervisory Commission, but they all vaguely hinted that this case was a case supervised by the Ministry of Public Security and turned me and the defense lawyers away telling us “it is too special” for them to make any comments. As a result, the case is now in an absurd state of no supervision, while Shaanxi public security officers flagrantly violate the law at will.

General Secretary Xi Jinping has said that the masses must be able to have faith that every case is handled fairly and justly. I request the Ministry of Public Security and you to thoroughly investigate the Public Security Department of Shaanxi Province and Baoji Municipal Public Security Bureau for their unscrupulous and unlawful behavior, using the case’s Ministry of Public Security supervisory status as cover. Do not allow a law-abiding citizen to be wronged, and do not let our family despair over the rule of law in China!

Chen Zijuan (陈紫娟)

August 3, 2021

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