BEIJING – A woman human rights activist has been held incommunicado since she was taken away by Chinese authorities from her home in Shanghai on March 20, Amnesty International said on Wednesday, urging the government to set her free without any further delay.
The rights group said the “devoted grassroots human rights defender,” Chen Jianfang, has been denied access to a lawyer of her choice or her family which has raised “fears that she is at real risk of torture and other ill treatment.”
The police have also not revealed the details about where Chen has been detained since she and her husband were taken away by police on March 20 from their Shanghai home.
Citing unnamed sources, Amnesty International said their “neighbor witnessed approximately seven police cars of the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau parked outside their home” on the morning of that day.
“Amnesty International has been told that police did not inform the couple of the offense they were suspected of committing when they were arrested. Chen’s husband was released on bail on April 3,” the rights group said.
Citing unconfirmed reports, the non-profit said she was “formally arrested on suspicion of the charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’ in June,” a charge frequently used by China against activists and dissidents.
According to Chinese law, the police have the authority to keep suspects incommunicado and in a secret location for up to six months in cases involving national security, terrorism and bribery.
Amnesty said Chen’s friends “have speculated that her detention was related to her online article, posted on March 14, commemorating the fifth anniversary of Cao Shunli’s death.”
Cao, a lawyer and activist and Chen’s friend and colleague, died in custody in 2014, months after she was arrested before she was to fly to Geneva to attend a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Amnesty said Chen’s lawyer showed up before the authorities in June to ask about the case but they refused to provide him with any information claiming that he was not a valid legal representative.
The group urged the Chinese authorities to release Chen “immediately and unconditionally as she is a prisoner of conscience, deprived of liberty solely for exercising her human rights peacefully.”
The activist has been a victim of police persecution since 2000, when she started claiming compensation from authorities after land under cultivation in her village on the outskirts of Shanghai was “forcibly seized for redevelopment.”