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Profiles: Gou Hongguo, Hu Shigen, Zhai Yanmin, and Zhou Shifeng

August 5, 2016

Gou Hongguo (勾洪国)
Rights Activist

Gou (a.k.a Ge Ping (戈平)) was born in Tianjin in November 1961. He is a former military officer and a businessman. In recent years, he actively participated in rights defense activities and focused in particular on vulnerable groups. 

Gou was taken away from his Beijing residence by Tianjin police on July 10, 2015. His home and office were also raided, all bank cards and cash seized, and his phone’s WeChat “Moments” were deleted. The next day, he was put under house arrest at a designated location by Tianjin Hexi District police on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” On January 8, 2016, Gou was formally arrested by Tianjin police and charged with “subversion of state power.” He was indicted on July 15. Throughout his detention, he was denied the right to see his family and access to the defense lawyer appointed by his family.

On August 5, 2016, the Tianjin No.2 Intermediate People’s Court convicted him of “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, and three years’ deprivation of political rights. Gou pled guilty and said he will not appeal.

He is currently detained in Tianjin Municipal No.1 Detention Center.

Hu Shigen (胡石根)
Democracy and Religious Freedom Activist

Born in 1954, in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. In 1986, he obtained a master’s degree from Peking University, and was subsequently assigned a teaching position at Beijing Language and Culture University (previously Beijing Language College). In 1989, due to his participation in the Democracy Movement that year, he was suspended from his post for self-examination and given administrative disciplinary punishment. In 1991, he secretly established the Chinese Free Democratic Party (中国自由民主党), with Wang Guoqi (王国齐), and assisted Kang Yuchun (康玉春) and others in establishing the Chinese Progressive Alliance (中华进步同盟). He also set up the China Free Trade Union Preparatory Committee (中国自由工会筹备委员会), along with Liu Jingsheng (刘京生), Gao Yuxiang (高玉祥), and others. He was detained on May 27, 1992, due to preparing protest and remembrance activities to mark the third anniversary of the June Fourth massacre. In December 1994, he was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights for “organizing and leading a counterrevolutionary group" and “carrying out counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.” After having his sentence reduced twice, he was released on August 26, 2008. In 2010, he was baptized as a Christian, and in 2012 became an elder in a family church to preach the gospel.

After he was released from prison, Hu Shigen continued to participate in activities to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights, and religious freedom, and as a result he suffered constant surveillance by the authorities and was also summonsed, secretly detained, and subjected to other forms of persecution. On May 3, 2014, he participated in a seminar to mark the 25th anniversary of June Fourth, and as a result was detained by Beijing police on May 6 for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” He was released on bail pending further investigation on June 5.

On July 10, 2015, Hu Shigen was summonsed by Beijing police and his home was raided. At the end of October, it became known that Tianjin police were holding him under residential surveillance “at a designated location” since August 7 that year, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.”  

On August 3, 2016 the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court convicted Hu of “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to seven and a half years’ imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights. Hu pled guilty in court and said he will not appeal. He is currently being held at Tianjin Municipal No.1 Detention Center.

Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民)
Beijing Rights Defender and Law Firm Employee

Zhai was born in May 1961 in Beijing. He was an employee at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm before his arrest in 2015.

Beginning in 2014, Zhai organized and participated in many rights defense solidarity activities, including in support of Hong Kong’s Occupy Central and the “Ten Gentlemen of Zhengzhou.” He also organized petitioners from different regions to go to Qing’an Railway Station in Heilongjiang to protest the shooting death of civilian Xu Chunhe in May 2015. He received many warnings from Beijing police because of his organizing and protest activities.

Zhai was arrested in June 2015, one month before the mass crackdown on lawyers and rights defenders that started on July 9, 2015. In more than 400 days of detention, he was denied communication with his family and access to the defense lawyer appointed by his family. On August 2, 2016, the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court convicted him of “subversion of state power” and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment, suspended for four years, and four years’ deprivation of political rights. Zhai said he will not appeal. He is currently being detained in Tianjin Municipal No.2 Detention Center.

Zhou Shifeng (周世锋)
Beijing Rights Defense Lawyer, Director of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm

Born in 1964, in Anyang County, Henan province. Zhou obtained a master’s degree in law from Peking University and a doctorate in law from Macau University of Science and Technology.

He began to practice law in 1995. He established Fengrui Law Firm in Beijing in 2007 to advocate for freedom, democracy, and constitutionalism. He has worked on a number of rights defense cases, including the case against the Sanlu Company brought by families of victims of tainted Sanlu milk powder, and in defense of Zhang Miao, a Beijing based journalist’s assistant for the German weekly, Die Zeit, who was detained for participating in activities in support of the Occupy protests in Hong Kong. In 2015, Zhou Shifeng, along with lawyers Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱) and Yang Xuelin (杨学林), established the Independent Lawyers Monitoring Group of the case of Nie Shubin (聂树斌案律师独立观察组), a 20-year-old man wrongfully executed in 1995. In June 2016, the Supreme People’s Court called the conviction "problematic and deficient" and ordered the case to be retried. That year, Zhou publicly announced that he would invest RMB 8 million to establish the China Lawyers Rights Defense Fund (中国律师维权基金) in order to provide financial support to families of persecuted Chinese lawyers.

Under Zhou, Fengrui Law Firm took on many high-profile cases and those in defense of underprivileged people. Fengrui’s clients included Ai Weiwei (艾未未), Ji Zhongxing (冀中星), Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木), Zhang Lin (张林), Cao Shunli (曹顺利), Yue Yue (悦悦), Fan Mugen (范木根), and Yao Baohua (姚宝华). Fengrui lawyers included Wang Yu (王宇), Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋)

Zhou Shifeng was recognized as a top lawyer by his peers. In January 2010, he was recognized as a “Progressive in Providing Social Welfare Legal Services (社会公益法律服务先进个人).” From July 2010 to July 2011, he was sent by the China Legal Aid Foundation (中国法律援助基金会) to participate in legal aid activities, and was called an outstanding aid lawyer. In January 2011, Zhou was also named a “Progressive in Providing Public Welfare Legal Services in Chaoyang District of Beijing (北京市朝阳区公益法律服务先进个人).” In April 2012, he was awarded the title of “Beijing Outstanding Lawyer 2009-2011 (2009—2011年度北京优秀律师).”

On the morning of July 10, 2015, Zhou Shifeng was forcefully taken away from his hotel room by three people. On January 8, 2016, he was arrested on suspicion of “subversion of state power” and detained in Tianjin Municipal No.1 Detention Center. On July 15, 2016, he was indicted by the No.2 branch of the Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate on the same charge.

On August 4, 2016, Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Zhou to seven years’ imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights for “subversion of state power.” He pled guilty in court and will not appeal.


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