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Post Reeducation-Through-Labor “Abolition”: Lawyers and Defenders Monitor Legal Reform Implementation--The Jiansanjiang Case

Last updated: April 28, 2014

The unlawful detention of a group of lawyers and citizens in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, in late March and early April 2014 highlights the critical role that lawyers and citizens play in the implementation of legal reform and the challenges they face.  

Since the highly-touted abolition of the Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL) system officially went into effect in late December 2013, lawyers in different parts of the country have been monitoring its implementation out of widespread concern that the notorious extrajudicial detention system may in fact continue in other forms. Created in the 1950s to punish “rightists” and “minor-counterrevolutionaries,” RTL came to be used to punish offenders of minor crimes such as drug abuse and prostitution, as well as petitioners, rights defenders, and Falun Gong practitioners. An RTL decision—made by a local Reeducation-Through-Labor Management Committee (劳动教养管理委员会)—enabled the police to keep an individual in detention for up to three years without trial, with a possibility of a one-year extension.

In late March, a group of lawyers and citizens came to Jiansanjiang to look into a “legal education base,” which they believed to be a detention facility—or a black jail—holding relatives of these citizens. The police took the four lawyers into custody on the morning of March 21 as they were preparing to file a complaint at the Jiansanjiang People’s Procuratorate about the unlawful detention.

HRIC has compiled the following information on the developments in Jiansanjiang, based on sources on the ground and online posts by involved individuals and witnesses. 

Heilongjiang Authorities’ Actions against Lawyers & Citizens


  • Wang Cheng (王成), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) and Tang Jitian (唐吉田): 15-day administrative detention (March 22-April 6) for "engaging in the activities of an evil cult to harm society" (利用邪教活动危害社会).
  • Zhang Junjie (张俊杰): 5-day detention (March 22-27)

Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, and Wang Cheng were all released on April 6. All suffered various degrees of injuries (details below).

  • The 15 individuals listed below—who had gone to Jiansanjiang to show support for the detained lawyers—are believed to be in custody as of April 8 2014 (Source: Bei Feng):

Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Jiang Jianjun (姜建军), Zhang Rongping (张荣平), Sun Dongsheng (孙东生), Li Baolin (李宝霖), Chen Jinxin (陈进新), Yuan Xianchen (袁显臣),  Li Fawang (李发旺) , Liang Yan (梁艳) , Zhao Yuan (赵远), Zhang Shiqing (张世清), Liu Xing (刘星), Li Dawei (李大伟), Zhang Yan (张炎), Chi Jinchun (迟进春).

Most of these individuals are at the Hongxinglong Detention Center (红兴隆拘留所). Chi Jinchun is in Harbin; Zhang Yan and Li Fawang (李发旺) are in Jiamusi; and Liang Yan is at Baoquanling, Suibin Farm Detention Center (宝泉岭绥滨农场拘留所).

Forced Entry into Hotel Rooms, Questioning

  • Early morning on March 29, more than a dozen lawyers, including Fu Yonggang (付永刚), Wang Shengsheng (王胜生), and Wang Quanzhang (王全章), and citizens were taken by the police for questioning. Those picked up had their hands bound and black hoods put over their head. They were reportedly taken to various locations, including the Qindeli Public Security Bureau sub-branch (勤得利公安分局) and the Daxing Public Security Bureau (大兴公安局).


Threats and Harassment

  • Lawyer Cai Ying (蔡瑛), who was among the first group of lawyers to arrive and who represents detained lawyer Tang Jitian, left Jiansanjaing on March 25. Judicial authorities began to contact him, ask him questions about Jiansanjiang and implicitly pressure him not to intervene by checking whether he has been properly appointed as representative of the detained lawyers.
  • Wang Cheng's wife Zhou Jinlian (周金莲) received a notice on March 25, 2014 by express mail, from the landlord, addressed to Wang Cheng, saying the landlord is taking back the apartment for personal use and that the Wang family must move out within five days. She has refused to comply. She is reportedly under surveillance. (Unverified online information)

Denying Lawyer-Client Meeting

  • According to a Weibo post by Wang Xing (王兴), Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wang went back to Beijing today without being able to see their client, Jiang Tianyong. The authorities refused to provide a reason or explanation for denying Jiang a meeting with his lawyers. Public security organs did not respond to the lawyers’  complaints. Wang also filed a complaint before the procuratorate on the beating of Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), and the procuratorate accepted the related documents and said they would investigate. (April 4, 2014)

Accusation by State Media

  • On April 2, 2014, the Global Times published an op-ed in both Chinese and English, accusing the lawyers involved in the Jiansanjiang incident of inciting “illegal activities rather than offering legal assistance through legitimate channels”:

Radical lawyers undermine legal authority

See rebuttal by lawyer Liu Sixin (刘四新), who has a doctorate in law from Beida.

Lawyers and Citizens’ Actions

Showing Support in Jiansanjiang

  • Many lawyers and other citizens have been coming to Jiansanjiang from different parts of the country to press for the release of the detained lawyers and citizens and to show their support. These lawyers include:
  • Cai Ying (蔡瑛), Fu Yonggang (付永刚), Ge Wenxiu (葛文秀), Hu Guiyun (胡贵云), Jiang Yuanmin (蒋援民),  Li Jinxing (李金星), Liu Jinxiang (刘金湘), Li Guobei (李国蓓), Wang Shengsheng (王胜生), Wang Quanzhang (王全章), Wang Guangqi (王光琦), Xi Xiangdong (袭祥栋), Xie Yang (谢阳), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Zhang Keke (张科科), Zhang Lei (张磊)

More are expected to come to. In addition, at least 26 other right defenders are known to have come to Jiansanjiang.

Rebuttal to Accusation by State Media

  • Rebuttal by Lawyer Liu Sixin (刘四) in response to an op-ed published by the Global Times that accuses the lawyers involved in the Jiansanjiang case of inciting “illegal activities rather than offering legal assistance through legitimate channels.” In his rebuttal, Liu calls the op-ed “shameless” and “thoroughly law-blind.” (April 3, 2014)

Hunger Strike

  • Two of the visiting lawyers, Zhang Lei and Li Jinxing, mounted a 48-hour hunger strike (March 25-27) in front of the Qixing Detention Center—where the four lawyers were being held—to protest the authorities’ refusal to let them meet with the detained lawyers.

Proposal for Online Performance Art Protest

  • Women human rights defenders have launched an online appeal asking citizens to protest the thug-like treatment of lawyer Wang Shengsheng (王胜生) by posing for photos with black hoods over their heads, with hands bound, and wearing placards that read "Women lawyers in black hoods, where is the light?" The appeal requests that these photos then be circulated online with a description of how the women feel with their heads covered by black hoods. (April 3, 2014)

Statements, Open letters, and Signature Campaigns

Legal Complaints

Request for Bar Association Assistance


Human rights lawyer Liu Weiguo (刘卫国) circulated online 20 templates of Open Government Information requests seeking disclosure of information concerning the detention of the four lawyers and the authorities’ refusal to allow them to meet their lawyers. Liu asks citizens to fill out the applications, mail them out, and widely disseminate the templates in order to support frontline actions in Jiansanjiang to free the lawyers and hold perpetrators accountable. (March 31, 2014)

Personal Statements

  • Personal Account by Lawyer Xie Yang (谢 阳) (@谢阳律师911) regarding his request to meet with Jiang Tianyong at Qixing Detention Center. (April 2, 2014)

  • Personal Statement by lawyer Zhang Junjie (Parts I, II, and III)


International Responses

Select Media Coverage

See more at HRIC's Daily News Brief.

Civil Society Statements