Prominent human rights activist and former lawyer Jiang Tianyong has been missing for over 48 hours, according to his wife.

Jiang has not been heard from since Monday, after he travelled to Changsha, a city in central China, to visit the wife of Xie Yang, a lawyer detained in China’s sweeping crackdown on lawyers and activists in 2015. His wife Jin Bianling told HKFP that he was due to board a train to return to Beijing from Changsha on Monday night.

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Jiang Tianyong. Photo: RFA.

On his trip to Changsha, Jiang went with two other lawyers, Xie’s wife Chen Guiqiu and others to the Changsha number 2 detention centre to meet with Xie, but were not permitted to see him by the authorities. According to Jin, who is based in the US, the last time he was heard from was in a message he sent to a friend at 10:22pm on Monday saying that his train to Beijing will depart at 10:53pm and arrive at 6:30am. She has been unable to reach him by mobile phone and other messaging apps since then. Other friends have also been unable to contact Jiang, she said.

Constant harassment and surveillance 

A former lawyer who was disbarred in 2009, Jiang previously defended politically sensitive figures such as dissident Gao Zhisheng and blind activist Chen Guangcheng. He recently worked to publicise China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists in 2015.

Jin said that Jiang faces constant harassment and surveillance from the authorities. About three years ago, they decided that she should take their child and leave the country to escape the psychological stress it put her family under. Since then, Jiang has been moving around frequently, staying with friends for short periods of time to elude Internal Security Bureau personnel. “They’re always looking for him,” she said.

Jiang previously disappeared in 2011, around the time of the Jasmine revolution, and was secretly held by authorities for two months and abused. In 2012, he was beaten by police on his way to see Chen Guangcheng in the hospital in Beijing. In 2014, Jiang was again detained and beaten when he went to visit a black jail in Heilongjiang.

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Jiang Tianyong with Chen Guiqiu and two lawyers at the Changsha detention centre. Photo: Twitter.

Jin said she will ask friends and lawyers for help to find out what happened to her husband. “Was he taken by internal security or other security organs? Or did he have an accident?”

“After experiencing so many incidents,” she said, “his health is not what it used to be. He still has high blood pressure, and needs to take medication for it every day.”

Kit Chan, director of Hong Kong-based NGO the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, told HKFP: “One thing is clear: this is yet another case in pursuit of a prominent and well respected rights lawyer, just a continuation of the persecution. We thought the crackdown has calmed down a bit and in fact, it has not.”

“In view of the many instances of abduction and brutal torture by secret police that Jiang has experienced over the past years, the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group does not exclude the possibility that Jiang’s disappearance this time is related to his work on rights protection and is done by the Chinese authorities. We urge the Chinese authorities to come forth and clarify,” the Hong Kong-based NGO said in a statement.

HKFP’s calls to local police stations in Changsha and Beijing went unanswered.

catherine lai

Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.