(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, April 14, 2009) – In the early morning hours of April 13, Beijing lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) was attacked and beaten while on his way to meet with a client in Chengdu. According to Cheng, those responsible for the attack were officials from the Jinyang General Management Office, Wuhou District, Chengdu. It is believed that Cheng was beaten for representing an individual imprisoned for practicing Falun Gong.”On the same day the ‘National Human Rights Action Plan of China’ was launched, Cheng was assaulted by a group of government officials in broad daylight for representing his clients! If China is indeed serious about ‘improving the rule of law’, it should make protecting human rights lawyers like Cheng and holding those who beat him accountable a priority”, said Wang Songlian, CHRD’s Research Coordinator.

Cheng is in Chengdu representing Tao Yuan (陶渊), a former Beijing Normal University graduate student and Falun Gong practitioner imprisoned for “publicizing an evil cult”. Yao, an inmate at Chengdu’s Hanyuan Prison, is now applying for release for medical treatment. Cheng was on his way to meet Tao’s mother, Zhang Chengrong (张盛荣), who lives in Wuhou District, when four or five men who had been monitoring and following Cheng encircled him and began striking him, pushing him onto the floor and kicking him. Cheng called the local police but when the attackers, who identified themselves as members of the Jinyang General Management Office, said it was merely a “misunderstanding” and members of the local Neighborhood Committee, who by then have arrived at the scene, said they would help Cheng to “solve the problems”, the police left without registering Cheng’s beating.

Injured but resolute, Cheng continued his work on the case and indicated that he would seek a medical examination once he had completed the necessary preparations for the case. Cheng, who said he was injured but not seriously, said he was unwilling to speak more since members from the local neighborhood committee are currently closely following him.

The General Management Office (综合治理办公室) is a government agency established to coordinate the various law enforcement and judicial authorities, such as the Public Security Bureau, the Judiciary, the Procuratorate and the Urban Inspection Office (chengguan). The General Management Office’s main responsibility is to coordinate these agencies to maintain “social stability”.

“The persecution of rights activists in Chengdu City and Sichuan Province seems to have increased as a number of them have been beaten, criminally detained and imprisoned in the past year”, said Wang.

Background

Cheng Hai is a veteran lawyer and was a member of Beijing’s Yitong Law Firm until late last fall, when he and a number of colleagues were dismissed under pressure from authorities after expressing their support for direct elections to the Beijing Lawyer’s Association. Undeterred by this intimidation, Cheng has remained active and continues to handle “sensitive” cases, such as defending Falun Gong practitioners.

While prison officials and police are notorious in their use of various means to prevent lawyers from meeting with their clients, violence against lawyers is a rare, but highly troubling, phenomenon. CHRD recently documented the case of Yang Zaixin (杨再新), a Guangxi lawyer who was attacked and beaten by five men after being lured into a trap by a person posing as a defendant asking for his assistance in a case. While the identities of Yang’s attackers are unknown, Yang believes he was targeted as retaliation for his work representing farmers from Hepu County, Guangxi, in a recent land dispute that went to court.

For More Information, Please See

“Another Case of A Lawyer Being Beaten in Guangxi; Suspected to Be Work of Collusion Between Officials, Business Leaders, and Organized Criminals (广西再次发生维权律师被殴事件 疑为官商黑三股势力幕后指使)”. April 11, 2009. http://crd-net.org/Article/Class53/200904/20090411155458_14865.html

“Sichuan Activist Detained before Earthquake Anniversary”. April 11, 2009. http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200904/20090401142033_14615.html

“Sichuan Authorities Strike Hard on Rights Activists to Maintain ‘Stability’”. March 24, 2008. http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200903/20090324112919_14466.html

Press contact

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937
Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator and English Editor (English, Mandarin and Cantonese): +852 8191 1660