Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng is due for release on 1 March 2022. He has been imprisoned since January 2018, when he was placed under Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location (RSDL) a day after publishing an open letter recommending amendments to the Chinese Constitution. Like so many other Human Rights Defenders and lawyers in China, he was sentenced to “inciting subversion of state power”.
On 29 May 2020, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention published an opinion declaring Mr. Yu’s detention to be arbitrary. It found that there was no legal basis for his arrest and there were significant violations of his right to a fair trial, among other serious concerns.
With his sentence due to come to an end on 1 March 2022, there are fears that he may be released from his place of detention but continue to be under strict supervision from the authorities, and unable to fully enjoy his rights. Myself and my predecessor have both written communications to the Chinese Government on Mr. Yu’s case, expressing concern that he has been targeted for his work as a human rights lawyer and that his conviction is “indicative of a broader pattern of growing restrictions on the space for discussion and debate in China”. The Chinese Government responded to both communications, but unfortunately did little to allay our concerns or take actions to remedy the rights violations involved in Mr. Yu’s case.
In June 2021, I issued a press release on the widespread detention of human rights defenders in China for their peaceful work. Mr. Yu was among those mentioned in the statement, in particular because of his deteriorating health condition.