Chinese authorities have admitted that they previously detained missing activist Jiang Tianyong, his lawyer said.

Family and friends have not heard from Jiang since November 21. A former lawyer who was disbarred in 2009, Jiang was recently working as an advocate for families affected by China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists. He was on a trip to Changsha to visit the family of a lawyer detained in the crackdown when he disappeared. He was due to board a train to Beijing.

Jiang Tianyong with the son of Wang Quanzhang, a lawyer detained in China’s crackdown on lawyers and activists. Photo: Supplied by activist.

Police at the Changsha South train station told Lawyer Qin Chenshou that Jiang was detained for using another person’s identity card to buy train tickets. They said Jiang was held in administrative detention starting on November 22 for nine days, and has now been released, according to information posted online by Qin.

The police said that they notified Jiang’s family by sending them a notice at Jiang’s residence in Zhengzhou by mail, but it was returned because nobody was home.

Tan asked for documents concerning Jiang’s detention and his alleged use of another person’s ID, but the police refused on the grounds that the case had not reached the stage of litigation.

Jin Bianling with a picture of herself and her husband. Photo: Twitter.

Jiang’s wife Jin Bianling – who is based in the US – said in a message that she learned from sources in China that police broke down the doors of two of Jiang’s temporary residences in Beijing. They inspected some of his personal possessions and took away a tenant for questioning at one of those residences which happens to be his brother’s home. She said the tenant can’t be contacted.

A prominent rights defence figure in China, Jiang previously worked on numerous high-profile cases, including those of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters, victims of the 2008 contaminated milk powder scandal and those of fellow lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng. His disappearance prompted responses from rights groups and other countries.

“We fear that Mr Jiang’s disappearance may be directly linked to his advocacy and he may be at risk of torture,” a group of three UN experts said in a statement last week, adding that they could not “rule out the possibility” that state agents were to blame for his disappearance.

On Human Rights Day on Saturday, the US Ambassador to China, the EU delegation, and the government of Canada expressed concern about Jiang’s disappearance in separate statements.

Correction 17/12: A previous version of this article incorrectly translated lawyer Qin Chenshou’s surname. 


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.