Calls for Torture Investigation After Death of Activist

Following the death of activist Wang Meiyu this week, human rights advocates are calling for an investigation into his treatment while in detention. At The Guardian, Lily Kuo reports on Wang’s detention in July after publicly calling for universal suffrage in China and for the resignation of Xi Jinping:

Wang Meiyu, 38, was detained in July after he stood outside the Hunan provincial police department holding a sign that called on Xi and Chinese premier Li Keqiang to resign and implement universal suffrage in China. He was later charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague offence often given to dissidents.

According to Wang’s mother and lawyer, he died on Monday. Wang’s wife Cao Shuxia received a call from police notifying her that her husband had died at a military hospital in the city of Hengyang where he had been held. The police officer on the phone did not offer any explanation of the cause of death.

[…] According to Radio Free Asia, Cao said police pressured her to accept their statement that Wang’s death had been an accident but she refused. An officer at the Hengyang police station said he could not comment on the case. Wang’s mother told the Guardian the family has been offered compensation of more than 2 million yuan (about $220,000).

[…] Wang’s death follows after those of other activists including grassroots lawyer Ji Sizun, who died in police custody in July, Uighur scholar Muhammad Salih Hajim who died last year. Nobel laureate winner Liu Xiaobo who was denied cancer treatment died in 2017 while serving an 11-year-prison sentence and activist Cao Shunli died in 2014, detained after attempting to attend a UN session on human rights in China. [Source]

The Chinese Human Rights Defenders network has called for the Chinese government to investigate allegations of torture leading to Wang’s death in custody. Background in CHRD’s call notes his initial detention for publicly calling for the resignations of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang occurred in 2018, and that he was again detained this past July, apparently part of a “crackdown to prevent citizens from petitioning in Beijing and provincial capitals during the ‘sensitive’ period ahead of China’s National Day on October 1.” Ahead of the 70th anniversary of the PRC next week, authorities have launched a security crackdown in Beijing.

The Chinese government must investigate allegations of torture and the death in detention of human rights activist Wang Meiyu (王美余) and hold the perpetrators of torture and extrajudicial killing criminally accountable. Authorities must remove physical restrictions on Wang Meiyu’s family members and they should be free to speak and pursue justice for Mr. Wang.

[…] The Chinese government has failed to abide by China’s own criminal code sanctioning acts of torture and providing access to families for legal redress and state compensation. As a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Chinese government is obligated under international law to take effective action to prevent torture, allow a prompt and impartial investigation of allegations of torture, hold the perpetrators accountable, and ensure the victim’s family receives fair and adequate compensation. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, China has the responsibility to promote and protect human rights and should be transparent about acts of torture within its borders and measures taken to end torture. [Source]

In March, marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Cao Shunli, who died after being denied medical treatment while  for participating in a sit-in to call for public participation in a human rights review, CHRD warned that similar patterns of abuse continued to affect detained activists.

Radio Free Asia’s Wong Siu-san, Sing Man, Gao Feng, and Gu Jirou relay comments from Wang’s wife on his time and treatment in detention:

“When I saw his body, it was like another person; he was totally unrecognizable,” Cao said. “They wouldn’t let me take my cell phone in with me, and there were a lot of police officers there with us, and they stopped me from getting too close.”

[…] Cao said Wang had received two visits from a lawyer after being detained. During these meetings, the lawyer heard that he was initially held in a large cell along with dozens of other inmates.

But by the time the lawyer visited again at the end of August, Wang had been transferred to solitary confinement, she said.

She said Wang’s death was a huge blow to his family, especially to his two children, the older of whom is just 11. The couple had already lost their jobs as a result of Wang’s activism, she said. […] [Source]


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