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Joint allegation letter sent to the Government of China on the sentencing of human rights defender and lawyer Yu Wensheng

A response by the Government to the communication is yet to be received

On 13 August 2020, along with four other UN Special Rapporteurs and two UN working groups, I sent an allegation letter to the Government of China concerning information received about the behind-closed-doors trial and sentencing of human rights defender Mr Yu Wensheng. This communication can now be made public.

Yu Wensheng is a human rights lawyer. He has represented other Chinese human rights defenders and lawyers in several prominent cases in the country and joined in legal advocacy against air pollution in China.

He was detained on 20 January 2018 on suspicion of obstructing State personnel from discharging their duties and placed under house arrest a week later. His detention came two days after he had published an open letter recommending amendments to the Chinese constitution, calling for fair elections, among other measures. 

His detention, which was deemed arbitrary in an opinion issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, was the subject of a previous communication sent by UN Special Rapporteurs. This opinion and the communication are both available below.

According to the information received:

On 19 April 2018, Yu was formally arrested and the authorities revealed that he was being detained at Xuzhou City Detention Centre. On the same day, he was allowed to speak to his family via video link. This was the last occasion on which he was able to communicate with his family.

On 19 November 2018, the human rights defender's period of pre-trial detention was prolonged when his case was sent back to the Xuzhou City Municipal Public Security Bureau for further investigation.

In February 2019, Yu was indicted on the charge of “inciting subversion of State power”. The original charge against him - “obstructing State personnel from discharging their duties” - was dropped.

On 9 May 2019, Yu's trial took place behind closed doors at the Xuzhou Municipal Intermediary Court. His family were not notified of the trial in advance of its taking place.

On 17 June 2020, 13 months after the human rights defender's trial, Yu was sentenced to four years in prison for “inciting subversion of State power”.

The complete communication, including our specific concerns and questions to the Government as to how Yu's detention, trial and sentencing complied with China's obligations under international human rights law, is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25480

To date, no response has been received to the communication.


The communication sent to the Government concerning Yu's original detention is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=23655

The response by the Government to this communication is available here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadFile?gId=33962

The opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on the arbitrariness of Yu's detention is available here: https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session84/A_HRC_WGAD_2019_15.pdf

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