Name: Zhou Li (周莉)
Profession(s): Petitioner leader, organizer
Detailed information and legal analysis can be found in the case files or Urgent Appeals, please see the files section on your right.
Human Rights work/background
Zhou is a prolific writer on human rights issues in China and has worked partly as a freelance journalist, has worked to assist petitioners in Beijing seeking redress of human rights violations, and has been involved extensively with housing rights, such as forced demolitions and evictions.
Zhou Li works to assist petitioners in Beijing, and has worked to supply information regarding abuses against petitioners to foreign media, such as Associated Press.
Some notable work by Zhou Li includes:
- Investigated and brought attention to the situation of Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇), in Badong county, Yesanguan town, Hubei province, a hostess that was charged with murder of a government official after she defended herself against that government officials' attempted rape.
- Starting a free legal advice clinic in May 2007 to advice residents of the Hongqiao area within the Chongwen district of Beijing, whose homes were slated for demolition as part of a large property development scheme involving investors from Hong Kong. Her actions led to the planned demolitions being cancelled, although they have now resumed.
- Investigated, and brought attention to, a case of child prostitution involving local police which received a lot of national media attention. She was detained just two days after returning from Kunming.
Zhou Li is a Beijing-based human rights defender who has been under criminal detention and kept largely incommunicado since August 12, 2009, when she was apprehended by up to 20 police officers. Zhou's phone was turned off after her disappearance, her home door left unlocked. Zhou Li is held at Chongwen district detention center, but no visits have been allowed, with the exception of one 30 minute visit by her 2 year old son together with her nanny in early autumn. Since late autumn, no visits have been allowed by the Police. UPDATE: Zhou Li was sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment on May 4, 2010.
Leading up to current situation
Zhou was apprehended on August 12, 2009, when about 20 public security officers (police) entered her home and took her away. No detention notice was provided to any family member in violation of law, nor was any notice posted at her home. Her front door was left unlocked. Her computer is missing. No other documentation, nor communication, was made to her parents or other family members, and as such, her place of detention, nor reason for detention, was provided.
Police said Zhou was set for release after the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic in early October, but that has not happened.
Detained: August 12, 2009
Detention center: Chongwen district detention center
Detention center location: Intersection of Tuanhe Road and Tuangui Road, in Tuanhe industrial area, Xihongmen town, Daxing district 100076, Beijing (看守所办公地址：大兴区团和团桂路口崇文看守所西红门站100076)
Current legal status: Criminal detention (See below)
Charge: Initially “Disturbing social order”, later (date unknown) changed to “Picking Quarrels and Provoking Troubles” (See below). Final charge brought to court is again "disturbing social order" (扰乱社会秩序)
Status: In investigation phase, after case having been returned by Procuratorate twice for more evidence (dates for these returns unknown). (See below)
Trial date: Beginning April 6, 2010
Trial court: People's court, Chongwen district (崇文法院)
Verdict: Found guilty on May 4, 2010, 1 year of imprisonment
Appeal: Sentence upheld by Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court on July 6, 2010.
Lawyer(s): Mo Shaoping (lead), Ma Gangquan (assisting)
NOTE: Procuratorate is the name for the Prosecutor’s office in China.
Current legal situation:
As no further visit has been allowed by anyone after her son and nanny visited her in early autumn it is hard to say what her current legal status is. If still in criminal detention, she is illegally detained. Police have said, although without much clarity, that her case has been forwarded to the Procuratorate (prosecutors office in China), it is however unknown when her case was forwarded, making it difficult to state her current legal situation. New information from recently released detainees at the same detention center states that the case has now been returned from the Procuratorate’s office twice, after which Police have been forced to change the charge, as it cannot be returned from the Procuratorate more than twice under the same charge. It is thus possible that the charge will change again if the Procuratorate feels there is a lack of evidence for the current charge, and by changing the charge, Police can keep Zhou Li in legal limbo further.
Police at the detention facility have told Zhou Li that they will not allow her to seek legal counsel, which, since the case does not involve state secrets, is a violation of law. Furthermore, Police have intimidated Zhou Li’s parents to the extent that they are refusing to provide “power of attorney”. As such, at this moment, it is impossible to arrange for a lawyer to visit Zhou Li and retain information on her situation, until another family member agrees to grant “power of attorney”.
All updated information is being retrieved through recently released detainees at the same detention center, people that have been asked by Zhou Li to bring out the information. As such, the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group cannot guarantee whether this information is wholly correct.
The charge of “Picking Quarrels and Provoking Troubles” can lead to up to five (5) years of imprisonment. Charge has been changed back to "Disturbing social order" (扰乱社会秩序).
About the charges:
“Disturbing social order” (article 290 of the Criminal Procedure Law): Maximum sentence depends on seriousness of disruption, and can be either of these two:
- Assemble a mob to disturb social order where the circumstances are serious and result in disruption to work, production, sales, teaching or scientific research and cause serious losses. The sentence for ‘principal offenders’ is 3 to 7 years imprisonment, and those who took an active part in the disturbances are subject to up to 3 years imprisonment, criminal detention, control or deprivation of political rights; and
- Assemble a mob to assault state organs resulting in the disruption of their operations and serious losses. The sentence for ‘principal offenders’ is between 5 to 10 years imprisonment, and those who took an active part in the disturbances are subject to up to 3 years imprisonment, criminal detention, control or deprivation of political rights.
“Picking Quarrels and Provoking Troubles” (article 293 of the Criminal Procedure Law): To disturb social order in any of the following ways can lead to a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment, criminal detention or control:
- Beat another person in serious circumstances;
- Chase, obstruct or abuse others in serious circumstances;
- Take other people’s property by force or threats, cause damage to property or occupy public and private property in serious circumstances; or
- Create a disturbance in a public place causing a serious disruption of public order.
Reason for detention:
Zhou Li has undertaken at least three activities for which we suspect she is being persecuted for.
It is suspected that the reason, or at least one of the reasons, behind Zhou Li's detention is her work in Chongwen district in Beijing providing a free legal advice clinic to residents of the Hongqiao area within the district whose homes were slated for demolition as part of a large property development scheme involving investors from Hong Kong. Her actions led to the planned demolitions being cancelled (albeit temporarily) and became one of the major rights incidents in China at the time. The demolitions have since re-started and Zhou Li may have been detained to prevent her from taking the same action again.
Zhou has recently been involved in bringing attention to the situation of Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇), a hostess that was charged with murder of a government official after she defended herself against that government officials' attempted rape, a violated that has attracted widespread attention in China.
Another possible reason for her detention was her recent visit to Kunming city (Yunnan province) to investigate a case of child prostitution involving local police which received a lot of national media attention. She was detained just two days after returning from Kunming.
Other related violations and information:
Police have harassed members of Zhou Li's family, including her parents, and have threatened them as a way to seek evidence against Zhou Li. The parents have been scared to the extent they refuse to hire a lawyer for Zhou Li, fearing retribution by Police.
The lock to Zhou Li’s home has been changed by the landlord, which means that she has effectively lost her home.
Zhou Li’s two year old son Zhou Dandan has since Zhou Li’s detention been taken care of by a nanny in Beijing. Zhou Li had earlier agreed to pay the nanny 2000 RMB per month (roughly 295 USD) to cover the cost of her taking care of the child, and with each month Zhou Li is detained her debts increase. The current financial situation has been solved due to outside assistance, but the future of her son continues to be a major source of concern. Police are monitoring the nanny and son.
On the morning of March 3, 2009 (at roughly 8am) she was taken forcibly by Police of the Tianqiao Police Substation, Beijing, to the outskirts of the city because of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a common action by police against key Beijing activists when these conferences are held. They confiscated her cellphone for the duration of the detention. She was later released.
Zhou was evicted in 2007, after her landlord was beaten up on October 10 that year by Police because she (the landlord) had let a human rights defender living in her courtyard.
Zhao has regularly been summoned by Police to answer questions about her work, people she meets, and articles she publishes online.
List of related information
- A collection of articles written by Zhou Li (in Chinese): http://www.boxun.com/hero/200902/zhouli/3_1.shtml
- August 12: Zhou Li is released after serving one year prison term.
- July 6: Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court upholds verdict of Zhou Li, and thus strikes down Zhou Li's appeal.
- May 4: Zhou Li sentenced to 1 year of imprisonment. See press release below for details.
- April 11: Trial, which was adjourned earlier, set to resume on April 12
- April 11: Major update on Zhou Li's case. See Update on Zhou Li April 11, 2010 document below for information on the trial, statements by witnesses and head defense counsel Mo Shaoping.
- April 2: Trial to begin April 6, 2010
- March 28, 2010: Trial court is Chongwen court (崇文法院)
- March 24, 2010: Trial of Zhou Li - Mo Shaoping set to lead defense, Ma Gangquan assisting.
- February 17, 2010: Power of attorney retained for Zhou Li.
CHINESE URGENT ACTION WORKING GROUP
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