China: release human rights lawyer Xie Yang

The ICJ today called on the Chinese government to release immediately Xie Yang, a prominent human rights lawyer who was arrested during the crackdown on human rights defenders in July 2015. Authorities have now canceled his scheduled trial without giving a reason.

He was charged on 16 December 2016 with inciting subversion of State power and disrupting court order. He is detained at an undisclosed location.

“Xie Yang’s arrest and prosecution seem to be in connection with his performing legitimate professional functions as a human rights lawyer,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Secretary General.

“No lawyer should ever be subject to persecution for carrying out their professional duties. Lawyers in China like Xie Yang are indispensable in ensuring human rights protection and upholding the rule of law in China,” he added.

Xie Yang had served as counsel of the family of Xu Chunhe, who was alleged to have been shot dead by police authorities in May 2015 in Heilongjiang Province.

He also acted as counsel for persons alleging religious persecution, alleged victims of unlawful land seizures, and outspoken critics of the government.

The ICJ emphasized that in the absence of evidence that he has committed a cognizable offence, the criminalization of which is consistent with international human rights law, Xie Yang should be immediately released.

In January 2017, the lawyers of Xie Yang alleged that he had been subjected to prolonged sleep deprivation, forced into stress position for more than 20 hours a day, verbally harassed and threatened, and subjected to regular beatings and other forms of torture and ill-treatment.

“The government should release Xie Yang immediately and conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation on the allegations that he has been subjected to torture,” Zarifi said.

The ICJ received information that Xie Yang has not been able to communicate with his lawyers ever since he reported to them his torture allegations by police authorities.

He has now been assigned State-appointed counsel.

The ICJ further called on the government to bring to justice any persons found to be responsible for the torture of Xie Yang.

Under no circumstances must any statement he may have made during his interrogation under torture or ill-treatment be admitted into evidence at his trial.


Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser, t: +66 840923575 ; e: emerlynne.gil(a)

Additional information

 Following his arrest, Xie Yang was detained for the first six months in an undisclosed location, but was subsequently transferred to the Changsa City No. 2nd Detention Center.

He was again transferred to an undisclosed location where he remains detained to this day.

The date and the reason for the transfer are unknown.

Xie Yang’s treatment comes amidst a much wider attack on lawyers and human rights defenders in China.

Since 9 July 2015, the government has launched an unprecedented nationwide crackdown – now commonly referred to as the “709 Crackdown” to mark the start of the crackdown – which resulted in the interrogation, detention, and/or criminal indictment of nearly 250 human rights lawyers and activists.

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