China: Zheng Enchong, Lawyer | Letter

Re: Zheng Enchong-Lawyer

To: President Hu Jintao

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, LRWC member

Date: 2004-11-15

LRWC is concerned about the treatment of Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong, who is presently imprisoned at Tilanqiao Prison. According to reliable information received from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the “Observatory”), LRWC concludes that Mr. Zheng is being improperly treated while in state custody.

By way of background, LRWC recalls that Mr. Zheng was charged last year with a contravention of Article 111 of the Criminal Law (illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China). The charges were based on allegations that Mr. Zheng sent statements to the non-governmental organisation Human Rights in China regarding a workers’ strike at Shanghai Yimin Food Product No. 1 factory in May 2003. Mr. Zheng pleaded not guilty. Following a closed trial in August 2003 (which certain municipal officials nonetheless attended), Mr. Zheng was convicted. On October 28, 2003, Mr. Zheng was sentenced to three years imprisonment and to the deprivation of his political rights for one year. The sentence was upheld by the Shanghai appeal court on December 18, 2003.

Mr. Zheng has a history of rendering assistance to displaced people. Prior to his arrest on the above-noted charges on June 6, 2003, Mr. Zheng assisted in more than 500 cases relating to re-development projects in Shanghai.

Those lawsuits alleged corrupt collusion between officials and a wealthy property owner, Mr. Zhou Zhengyi. The lawsuits reportedly angered the alleged wrongdoers, and a number of human rights groups have expressed concern that the 2003 proceedings against Mr. Zheng were trumped-up charges levied in retaliation for Mr. Zheng’s advocacy activities against those named in the suits. Based on the facts known to us, LRWC shares the international concern about the authenticity of the charges against Mr. Zheng, and the reasons for his three year prison sentence.

Most recently, the Observatory reports the following regarding a visit by Mr. Zheng’s wife, Mrs. Jiang Meili, and other family members, to Mr. Zheng at the Tilanqiao Prison on November 10, 2004:

  • During the visit, Mr. Zheng reported that he had received several visits from the director of Shanghai’s Judicial Bureau and Prison’s Bureau, Mr. Miao Xiaobao. Mr. Miao reportedly told Mr. Zheng that if he admitted wrongdoing, his three-year sentence would be reduced by one year. Mr. Zheng refused the proposition.
  • Mr. Zheng reportedly told his wife that (despite his relatively light sentence) he is being housed in the prison’s high security section, where he must share his 3.5 square metre cell with two other prisoners.
  • Mr. Zheng reported that his many requests to telephone his family have been denied by prison officials.
  • Mr. Zheng advised that he has not been able to see his lawyer since beginning his incarceration. The result is that he is unable to file an appeal against his sentence to the Shanghai Supreme People’s Court.
  • Finally, Mr. Zheng urged Mrs. Jiang to tell displaced residents to persevere in their legal actions. As soon as Mr. Zheng began to speak about the property redevelopment issues, five to six prison guards abruptly grabbed Mr. Zheng and carried him out of the visiting room, ending the family visit.

LRWC is concerned about the matters reported by Mr. Zheng during his family visit on November 10th, and the standards of treatment to which Mr. Zheng is being subjected in prison. Insofar as the visits to Mr. Zheng by Mr. Miao are concerned, LRWC objects to the extra-judicial pressure tactics to which Mr. Zheng is being subjected. LRWC urges the People’s Republic of China to ensure that state officials end the use of such coercive tactics, which risk the utterance of a false confession. In relation to Mr. Zheng’s right to meet with counsel, LRWC respectfully reminds the People’s Republic of China that Article 9(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides “Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful”. Article 14(5) further provides, “Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to have his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.” The People’s Republic of China, as a party to the Covenant, bears an obligation not to frustrate the exercise of these rights by denying Mr. Zheng the access to counsel he requires to file his appeal. The weight and gravity of this responsibility is reinforced by the United Nation’s statement on the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990), which provide, inter alia, that “8. All . . . imprisoned persons shall be provided with adequate opportunities, time and facilities to be visited by and to communicate and consult with a lawyer, without delay, interception or censorship and in full confidentiality.” Concerning Mr. Zheng’s living conditions in prison, his access to family via telephone, and his ability to speak freely about the legal cases of those persons displaced by urban redevelopment in Shanghai, LRWC respectfully requests that the People’s Republic of China ensure that officials forebear from such actions, which appear meant to dissuade Mr. Zheng from expressing his views on the situation of the displaced. That situation bears no relationship to the declared reason for Mr. Zheng’s conviction. Further, and in any case, Mr. Zheng does not forfeit the right to discuss such matters with his family members just by virtue of his incarceration.

In conclusion, LRWC calls on the People’s Republic of China to do the following in relation to Mr. Zheng’s case:

  • ensure in all circumstances Mr. Zheng’s physical and psychological integrity;
  • allow Mr. Zheng to meet with his legal counsel forthwith; and
  • guarantee Mr. Zheng’s right to file an application to appeal to the Shanghai Supreme People’s Court. More generally, LRWC calls upon the People’s Republic of China to:
  • put an end to all forms of harassment against lawyers and human rights defenders;
  • conform with the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, supra; and
  • conform with the principles expressed in the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998, and, in particular Article 1, which states, “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of the actions that the People’s Republic of China will take in relation to the matters discussed above. LRWC awaits your response.