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New York Times: China Lets Rights Lawyer Flee to U.S. After Release

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The New York Times
By Edward Wong
March 7, 2016

■ Beijing — A Chinese lawyer and professor who was detained last summer during a crackdown on human rights lawyers has fled to the United States after being released from surveillance, according to an international human rights group and a statement from the lawyer.

The lawyer, Chen Taihe, 45, joined his wife and children in San Leandro, Calif., on March 1, according to John Kamm, the founder of the Dui Hua Foundation, a group based in San Francisco that works to free political prisoners in China.

Mr. Chen was detained last July in Guilin, in the southern Chinese province of Guangxi, as part of a crackdown that month in which more than 200 rights lawyers and their associates were held. Mr. Chen’s pregnant wife and son, now 8, fled to the United States soon after. The second child, a son now 6 weeks old, was born in the United States.

Mr. Chen’s case was rare in that the authorities released a political prisoner after a lengthy detention and allowed him to leave the country. In recent years, during a broad crackdown on civil society, Chinese officials have detained many rights advocates, sometimes pressing criminal charges.Photo
Chen Taihe in Beijing. After he was released from
surveillance in Guilin, in southern China, he left to join his
family in the United States.

“I am grateful to the Guilin police for dropping the charges against me and allowing me to be reunited with my family in the United States,” Mr. Chen said in a statement released Sunday through the Dui Hua Foundation. “I would also like to thank my American friends who helped make this possible.

“I sincerely hope that the Chinese government will also show clemency to those lawyers and citizens who have been arrested for subversion and inciting subversion,” he added.

Mr. Chen has been an advocate for adopting the jury system in China, and he said he planned to continue his efforts.

Mr. Chen, an associate professor at the Guilin University of Electronic Technology law school, was detained by the police on July 12 on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power, provoking a serious disturbance and embezzlement. On Aug. 12, he was moved to a location outside the formal detention center and placed under surveillance. Then on Aug. 22 he was allowed to go home but was kept under surveillance. In the past six months, he has been allowed to travel around Guilin.

The police told him this year that they would not pursue charges. Mr. Chen then applied for a new Chinese passport and quickly got a visa from the American government.

Mr. Chen studied the jury system in Britain and wrote a book based on that research, “The Most Common Right.” Mr. Chen took part in judicial exchange programs in Washington and Hawaii in 2012 and 2013. After Mr. Chen was detained, a retired chief judge of the Second Circuit Court in Hawaii, Shackley F. Raffetto, brought the case to the attention of the Dui Hua Foundation.

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, based in Hong Kong, said that as of March 4, 28 lawyers or human rights advocates were under detention or in an “incommunicado situation.” Of those, 19 had been officially arrested. Thirty-six others have been barred from leaving China.

The crackdown that began in July was focused mostly on the Beijing Fengrui law firm, but it widened to encompass many people. By November, more than 300 people had been rounded up. Many were released the next month. An article published last month by the journal of the American Bar Association called the crackdown “unprecedented.”

In November, Amnesty International released a report that said lawyers who raised questions of abuse in China’s judicial system were often threatened, harassed, questioned, detained and beaten or tortured themselves. The report said torture by the police in pretrial detention was rampant. It also said that over the past two years, the police had increasingly adopted a form of detention called resident surveillance in a designated location, which is what Mr. Chen was subjected to in mid-August before being sent back home.

Under that statute, which was formalized in law in 2013, a person can be held for up to six months in an undisclosed location, “leaving the detainee at grave risk of torture and other ill treatment,” Amnesty International said.


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