The crackdown by the Chinese government against human rights defenders and civil society activists continues.
The family of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong was notified that he has been officially charged with “subversion of state power.” Mr. Jiang, who defended other human rights lawyers, as well as members of religious and ethnic minorities, was taken away by security agents last November and held incommunicado for six months.
UN Special Rapporteur for poverty and human rights Philip Alston said in a recent report that he believed Jiang and other activists who spoke with him during a visit to China last year have been subjected to reprisals by the authorities.
Such behavior is not new: in July 2015 Chinese authorities began a nationwide campaign against the legal community: over 300 people were arrested. Although most detained at that time have been released, many have been placed under residential surveillance or forbidden from leaving the country.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said at a press briefing that the charge of “subversion of state power” leveled at Jiang Tianyong is “another troubling sign of China’s crackdown on lawyers and human rights activists in general,” and urged the Chinese authorities to allow him to return to his family.
We urge the Chinese Government to respect universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.”
Ms. Nauert also spoke about the plight of three labor rights activists who were investigating conditions at Chinese factories that produce shoes for Western companies. Hua Haifeng, Su Heng and Lei Zhao, who were working with the New York-based human rights group China Labor Watch, went missing in late May. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the three have been detained on suspicion of interfering with a company's so-called “normal operation and production activities", as well as illegal use of "professional surveillance equipment.”
The United States urges China to afford them the judicial and fair trial protections to which they are entitled. Spokesperson Nauert said labor activists “have been instrumental in helping not just American companies understand the conditions involving their supply chains - [which] can be essential to fulfilling companies’ own responsibilities -- but also holding Chinese manufacturers responsible and accountable under Chinese labor laws.”
She noted that as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said, “The United States views the protection of human rights as a fundamental duty of all countries, and we urge the Chinese Government to respect universal rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.”