The recent denial of an application by rights defense lawyer Zheng Enchong and his wife Jiang Meili for passports and travel permits to visit Hong Kong is a continuation of the harassment that Zheng and his family have experienced since Zheng's release from prison in 2006. "Zheng Enchong is no longer subject to the restrictions under his now-completed sentence of 'deprivation of political rights,' and his international human rights of freedom of movement and association must be respected," said Sharon Hom, HRIC’s executive director. "Threats used by the Shanghai authorities implying that Zheng Enchong is still a criminal suspect are unacceptable."
Human Rights in China (HRIC) learned that on the morning of August 22, Zheng Enchong and Jiang Meili went to the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau (PSB) Immigration Department to pick up their passports and travel permits for a trip to Hong Kong and Macau. There they were given rejection letters stating that their travel permit was rejected, and that their passport applications were rejected in accordance with the Passport Law of the People’s Republic of China, article 13, paragraph 6. The relevant provision states that authorities can refuse to issue a passport where "[The applicant] is a defendant or criminal suspect in a criminal case."
Zheng Enchong told the official that if he was a criminal suspect, he should be detained. But the immigration official replied that he was simply implementing a decision made by senior officials.
Jiang Meili submitted applications for passports and travel permits for herself and Zheng Enchong on August 8, and was reportedly told to pick up the documents on August 22. In the meantime the Shanghai Municipal PSB repeatedly requested talks with Zheng Enchong. During a conversation on the afternoon of August 13, three PSB officials reportedly told Zheng that it would be in his best interests to withdraw his application, and that he should stop opposing the government and cease all contact with Shen Ting, a Hong Kong resident who has been working with Zheng Enchong on the cases of Shanghai residents evicted from their homes for urban redevelopment.
In addition, sources say, on another occasion officials from the Shanghai Municipal PSB told Zheng that the government had already been lenient in allowing his daughter to leave the country for a recent visit to the United States. Zheng reminded the officials that citizens have the right to enter and leave the country, and he had no intention of complying with their demands. At yet another meeting on the afternoon of August 18, PSB officials reportedly asked Zheng what he would do if his passport application was rejected. Zheng told them that he was prepared to initiate a lawsuit against the head of the Shanghai Municipal PSB if he was deprived of his right to leave and enter China.
Zheng Enchong was released from prison in June 2006 after serving a three-year sentence for "illegally providing state secrets overseas." Under the terms of his sentence, Zheng was further subject to an additional year of deprivation of political rights, under which he was prevented from resuming his law practice, speaking with news media or leaving his neighborhood. This one-year term ended at the beginning of June this year.
HRIC urges the Chinese government to cease the unlawful persecution of Zheng and his family and to stop using vague allegations to crack down on his activities and those of other human rights defenders.