On March 15, 2012, well-known rights defense lawyer Yang Zaixin (杨在新), after nine months in detention, was put under “residential surveillance at a designated place”—which means, under the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, detention at a place other than the detainee’s home or an official detention center.
Yang was criminally detained on June 14, 2011 and formally arrested on June 28, 2011, by the police in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on charges of “witness tampering” (妨害作证罪) under Article 306 of China’s Criminal Law, which has been widely criticized for its misuse by the authorities against lawyers.
Yang was one of four defense lawyers in a murder trial in Behai that was adjourned in September 2010, after testimony by three defense witnesses seriously challenged the prosecution’s case. (Since then, the case has been heard several more times, with the next hearing scheduled for March 23, 2012.)
On June 14, 2011, the day that Yang was first taken into custody, the three other defense lawyers on the Beihai murder case, Luo Sifang (罗思方), Liang Wucheng (梁武诚), and Yang Zhonghan (杨忠汉), were also detained or put under house arrest by Beihai authorities on similar charges.
News of the four lawyers’ detention galvanized many lawyers in China to form a special group to provide assistance. Following the group’s efforts, on June 28, 2011, Yang Zhonghan was released from detention on bail, and Luo Sifang and Liang Wucheng were released from house arrest. But Yang Zaixin was officially arrested.
During Yang’s detention, Haicheng People’s Procuratorate in Beihai City refused to prosecute Yang’s case and twice returned the case to the Haicheng Public Security Branch Bureau for further investigation. Yang’s defense lawyer, Chen Guangwu (陈光武), argues that March 14, 2012, marked the last day that the authorities were allowed by law to hold Yang in detention during their investigation.
According to Yang’s wife, Huang Zhongyan (黄仲琰), she received an anonymous phone call on March 15, 2012, telling her that her husband had been put under residential surveillance. Huang then went to the Haicheng Procuratorate, where officials confirmed the residential surveillance status but told her that they did not know where Yang was being kept.
On March 22, seven days after the anonymous phone call, Huang, Chen, and Qin Yongpei (覃永沛), the director of the law firm where Yang previously worked, were allowed to visit Yang at the “designated place,” an apartment in a residential building in Beihai. Qin reported on his microblog that Yang looked to be in good spirits, but he does not have freedom of movement—there are four guards who stay, eat, and sleep with Yang.
For more information on Yang Zaixin, see:
- “Guangxi Rights Defense Lawyer Yang Zaixin Formally Arrested,” July 5, 2011
- “Guangxi Rights Defense Lawyer Detained for ‘Witness Tampering,” June 16, 2011
- “Albert Ho and Emily Lau on Democracy under One Country, Two Systems,” China Rights Forum, 2010, no.4
- “Chinese Rights Defense Lawyers under All-out Attack by the Authorities,” June 4, 2009