Under intense international anticipation of the release today from prison of prominent rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who was convicted of the trumped up charge of “inciting subversion of state power,” the Chinese authorities have instead disappeared him. His supporters outside the Henan Provincial No. 2 Prison in Xinxiang (新乡) were told: “He has already been picked up.”
In addition, the authorities have also disappeared Jiang’s father and sister, who were “escorted” in the afternoon of February 27 by domestic security personnel to travel from their home in Xinyang (信阳), Henan, to meet Jiang at the prison. They have not been heard from after about 5:30PM that day. Both their cell phones have been turned off.
“The international community must not accept the totalitarian project underway in China as just another crackdown phase. Only in a lawless regime that continues to trample on human rights and human dignity can someone be imprisoned for legitimate exercise of rights, and serve his full sentence only to be disappeared into a larger prison outside,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China.
“Every concerned person and group of conscience, in particular bar associations, governments, and human rights experts, must speak out on this alarming and outrageous development, and demand the Chinese authorities disclose the whereabouts and status of Jiang and his father and sister and ensure their safety,” Hom added.
Recently, Jiang’s family learned that, upon release, Jiang would not be allowed to move back to his hometown in Xinyang or to Beijing, where he was living before his arrest. They said that he would be relocated in Zhengzhou, the city of his household registration (hukou), where the authorities would also find him a job.
The family has been concerned about Jiang’s physical wellbeing. In a recent interview with Deutsche Welle Chinese Service, Jiang's wife Jin Bianling (金变玲) said that when Jiang’s sister visited him in prison in early February, “his health was not well, and he looked gaunt, with darkened skin; he also had broken ribs” (他健康状况不佳，人看起来很黑很憔悴，而且肋骨折了).
Earlier, his family had learned that Jiang was forced to take “unidentified” medications in prison. During one prison visit, his father saw him sitting on a metal chair with manacles attached.
Jiang Tianyong, one of China’s most active rights lawyers, was first disappeared on November 21, 2016, from the Changsha train station, en route back to Beijing after attempting to visit detained lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), one of the lawyers swept up in the 709 Crackdown in 2015. Jiang’s disappearance was widely viewed as retaliation against him for his rights defense work and for meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, during Alston’s visit to China in August 2016.
On December 16, 2016, Chinese media reported that Jiang Tianyong had been detained on suspicion of “illegally possessing documents classified as state secrets,” fraudulent use of an identity card, and illegally disseminating state secrets overseas. On May 31, 2017, Jiang was officially arrested on suspicion of “subversion of state power,” a charge that was later changed to “inciting subversion of state power.” During Jiang’s detention at Changsha City No. 1 Detention Center, authorities refused to let lawyers retained by Jiang’s family meet with him. He was tried at the Intermediate People’s Court of Changsha on August 22, 2017, and was convicted on November 20, 2017 and sentenced to 2 years in prison and 3 years of post-release deprivation of political rights.