A group of United Nations human rights experts have urged China to unconditionally release jailed human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong.

Jiang, 46, who had taken on many high-profile cases, was sentenced to two years in prison for “inciting subversion” on Tuesday.

“Mr. Jiang’s trial clearly fell short of international standards and his conviction represents an unfair and arbitrary punishment of a human rights lawyer and defender, whose only crime was to exercise his rights to free speech and to defend human rights,” the experts said.

Jiang Tianyong appears in court. Photo: Screenshot.

“Domestic judicial procedures should be in compliance with China’s international human rights obligations,” they said. “We condemn the verdict and urge the Chinese Government to release Mr. Jiang immediately and unconditionally.”

The UN experts included:

  • Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights;
  • Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;
  • David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Jiang’s wife and daughter remain in exile in the United States. They have been unable to contact him since his sudden disappearance in November last year en route from Beijing to Changsha. He was intending to enquire about detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang.

Xie was detained in the “709 crackdown” of July 2015, and his claims of being tortured in custody – which Jiang helped to publicise – prompted international concern.

Jiang Tianyong appears in court. Photo: Screenshot.

After Jiang disappeared, he was held in secret detention for more than nine months. According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Alston met with Jiang during his visit to China in August last year.

“[Alston] had expressed concern that his enforced disappearance may have occurred, at least in part, in reprisal for his cooperation with the UN during his visit to China,” the UN press release said.

The experts had previously expressed concern that his confession “may have been coerced by the use of torture,” in contravention of the Chinese Criminal Procedures Law and international human rights standards. UN Human Rights said the experts have been in contact with the Chinese government on several occasions to raise their concerns.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis, independent from any government or organisation.

The Special Procedures is the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system. It is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.