A network of Chinese lawyers have signed a statement calling for the release of human rights lawyer Chen Jiangang, who was reportedly detained by police while he was vacationing with his family in Yunnan.

According to a message posted on WeChat on Thursday by Chen and re-posted online by US-based rights website Canyu, he is due to drive back to Beijing on Friday under police supervision.

More than 100 lawyers have signed the statement. It said that Chen was detained along with his wife and two young children, and their friends Zhang Baocheng and his wife, as they were on a tourist trip in Jinghong, Yunnan.

chen jiangang
Chen Jiangang. Photo: China Change.

A message sent by Zhang and circulated by activists said that Chen’s wife and children flew back to Beijing under the supervision of Beijing police on Thursday, but Chen was still being held in a guesthouse by police.

“We are acutely aware that lawyer Chen Jiangang has riled the authorities by revealing the torture of his client, the Hunan-based lawyer Xie Yang, and we hope that his detention in Yunnan is not intentional retaliation against lawyer Chen Jiangang by the relevant organs,” the statement said.

The group called on the authorities to immediately release Chen and others travelling with him, based on the international standard that lawyers should not be punished for practicing their profession, and based on Chinese citizens’ right to travel freely within the country.

A photo of a handwritten note sent out by Chen said that police did not present any legal warrants or IDs, and that his family’s belongings were confiscated.

“I will not forget the grievances suffered by my wife and two sons in the police station,” Chen said in his WeChat post.

Chen released a detailed transcript of an interview with his client Xie in which Xie accused police of using sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliations on him while in custody, risking his safety and career to do so.

YouTube video

The claims were mentioned by 11 countries which wrote a letter to the Chinese government calling on it to investigate torture allegations, and Xie’s case was also specifically raised by the EU. Xie’s account met with condemnation from Chinese state media, which said it was fake news fabricated to cater to western media.

Despite attempts from authorities to silence him reported by Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, Chen remained outspoken, speaking to foreign media  and posting a series of videos on his Twitter account questioning the authorities’ version of events.

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.