The famous Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang is unaccounted for after security force agents took him away last Tuesday, according to his wife, university professor of Chemistry Chen Guiqiu, on social media.
In the last known case, the lawyer had been defending in a rural area of Hunan province (southern China) a pregnant teacher, Li Tiantian, forcibly transferred to a psychiatric facility, according to the Network of Human Rights Lawyers (Weiquanwang) on his blog. A few days later, he himself was detained.
“Xie Yang was detained by state security on January 11 and unknown his whereabouts. His phone is operational but calls are transferred to voicemail all the time,” Chen said on his Twitter account. “Local state security bureaus have warned Xie's family not to talk to the media.”
The 49-year-old lawyer and resident of Changsha, the capital of Hunan, is known for his defense of dissidents and other defendants in politically sensitive cases. Among others, he has represented people involved in the New Citizen civil movement, which in the first decade of the century tried to promote transparency in Chinese government. One of his favorite phrases is “don't let silence become a habit”.
In July 2015 he was one of those detained in a large raid against nearly two hundred human rights lawyers throughout China, which would be dubbed “709″ after the date it began.
During his detention, first six months incommunicado in a secret place and then a year and a half in a detention center, he reported to his lawyers that he had been subjected to torture, which he described in detail. In 2017, he was tried for crimes of disorderly conduct and subversion against the state, two charges that are frequently used in China against dissidents. At trial he pleaded guilty and retracted his allegations of torture. But the court did not impose any sentence on him, allowing him to keep his license to practice when he returned home. Something that the vast majority of those arrested in the 709 raid, subjected to the scrutiny of the authorities even today, have never been able to recover.
It was later learned that he was forced to withdraw those complaints as a condition to regain his freedom.
In 2020, his license to practice was finally withdrawn, amid a climate of tightening control of civil society and surveillance of dissidents. The Hunan provincial government's Justice Department said at the time that his permit had been revoked for multiple episodes of “contempt of court” – his attempts to defend his clients – and for comments on social media that were deemed either defamatory or misleading. endangered national security.
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