China: Ongoing pre-trial detention of veteran human rights defender Mr Zhao Zhenjia
Human rights defender Mr Zhao Zhenjia has been detained since his arrest by police in Beijing on 9 June 2013 for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.” He was formally charged on 16 July, and is being held in Haidian District Detention Centre in Beijing.
His ongoing pre-trial detention reportedly relates to his involvement in protests on 4 June 2013, around the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. At these protests, Zhao Zhenjia called for Chinese Communist Party officials to publicly disclose their assets.
Zhao Zhenjia sentenced to death during the cultural revolution Zhao Zhenjia is a human rights defender who was sentenced to death in 1972 for articles he had written criticising the extremes of the Cultural Revolution in China. This sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in 1978 before he was exonerated and released in 1982, after twelve years in prison.
Since 2000, Zhao Zhenjia has been arrested and sent to ‘re-education through labour’ camps on three occasions for a total of six years. In 2000, Zhao Zhenjia was sent to a re-education through labour camp for attempting to intercept the car of then Premier Zhu Rongji in protest of the injustice of both his sentence during the Cultural Revolution and the execution of a number of his colleagues during that period. In 2009, he was sentenced to a further 18 months in a labour camp in Beijing for persisting with petitions to the Central Government in Beijing regarding his earlier sentence. In 2012, he was sentenced a third time to re-education through labour for organising a Spring Festival gathering for petitioners in Beijing. He also organised the rescue of three petitioners from Hunan province from a ‘black jail’ (an extralegal detention centre run by Chinese security forces) in Beijing, inviting reporters and exposing it as an illegal holding centre. Zhao Zhenjia had been released from this third period of re-education through labour only sixteen days previous to being detained again on 9 June 2013.
In addition to these activities, Zhao Zhenjia was active in the peaceful campaign to free fellow human rights defender Mr Chen Guangcheng from house arrest between 2010 and 2012. Zhao Zhenjia was one of many human rights defenders who was beaten up by guards after attempting to visit Chen Guangcheng in his home town.
Front Line Defenders is concerned at the ongoing detention of Zhao Zhenjia as it is directly related to his work in defence of human rights, and fears for his physical and psychological integrity in detention in light of the fact he has been sent three times to ‘re-education through labour’ camps since 2000.