Updated resource: To help activists and supporters of the ‘Changsha Three’ better understand the findings of the UN experts, ISHR has prepared a bilingual explainer, with a detailed timeline, of the actions taken by UN experts since their arrest. The experts clearly indicate that the defenders’ detention is arbitrary under international law and that the UN’s response, as well as that of governments such as the European Union and the United Kingdom, is critical to ongoing efforts to seek justice and hold authorities accountable.
Update: On July 21, 2022, Wu Gejianxiong left Chishan prison upon completion of his sentence, and was able to reunite with his father in Hangzhou.
Cheng Yuan and Wu Gejianxiong are the founders of anti-discrimination NGO ‘Changsha Funeng’ (长沙富能), and fierce advocates for socio-economic rights in China. They worked to promote the right to health and fight against discrimination on grounds of disability and health status, including through impact litigation. Despite China’s claims to champion the protection of socio-economic rights, the three anti-discrimination activists were arrested on 22 July 2019 on grounds of ‘subversion of State power.’ Liu Dazhi was released upon serving his sentence in July 2021.
In December 2019, six UN human rights experts raised ‘serious concerns’ at their ‘short-term disappearance,’ the ‘serious charges brought against them’ and their ‘preclusion from contact with their families and their legal representation,’ in a letter to the Chinese government. Soon after, in April 2020, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention determined in a legal opinion their detention to be arbitrary and in contravention of international human rights law, and called for their release ‘immediately.’
Cheng Yuan, Wu Gejianxiong and Liu Dazhi were sentenced during a secret trial in July 2021 to five years, three years, and two years respectively. Liu Dazhi was released in July based on time served since his arrest in July 2019.
Cheng Yuan and Wu Gejianxiong remain in prison, arbitrarily detained for over 1000 days. Wu Gejianxiong is expected to complete his sentence and be released on 21 July, whereas Cheng Yuan will enter his last two years of arbitrary detention on 22 July.
ISHR and eight other human rights groups urge the Chinese authorities to bring their practice in line with international human rights standards and ensure that:
- Cheng Yuan is able to communicate regularly with his wife, his daughter, and other close relatives, including through online or in-person visits, as well as letters and phone calls, without undue restrictions;
- Cheng Yuan is not subjected to any further torture or ill-treatment anymore, and that prison officials ensure that his conditions of detention comply with the Nelson Mandela Rules;
- Wu Gejianxiong is unconditionally released from prison and not subjected to any form of restriction or subsequent surveillance.
The full statement can be accessed here (and in Chinese here).