Eva Pils

USALI Affiliated Professor Eva Pils Quoted in Guardian Article

April 28, 2017

China convicts rights lawyer Li Heping of 'subversion of state power'

Li, once told that China considered him ‘more dangerous than Bin Laden’, sentenced in secret trial to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve

A respected Christian human rights lawyer has been convicted of “subversion of state power” at a secret trial in China, almost two years after he was first detained in a sweeping crackdown.

Li Heping was sentenced to three years in prison with a four-year reprieve, the court in the eastern city of Tianjin said on an official social media account, meaning he should be released but could be arrested and jailed at any point.

The trial was held behind closed doors on Tuesday because “the case involved state secrets”, the court said, but was only announced along with the verdict on Friday.

 

'I want to rescue my dad': children's heartbreak for the lawyers China has taken away

Li was swept up in a nationwide crackdown on rights lawyers and activists in July 2015, where police detained or questioned about 250 people. Since assuming power, China’s president, Xi Jinping, has launched a new wave of attacks on activists and the lawyers who defend them.

Li’s case drew attention around the world, and EU officials, as well as the embassies of 11 countries, called for his claims of torture while in custody to be investigated. His wife has said authorities used electric shocks on him.

“A suspended sentence does not mean he’s free until we actually get to see him and he’s allowed to speak freely, and given what we’ve seen in the past that probably won’t happen,” said Eva Pils, a professor at King’s College London and longtime friend of Li.

“It was a secret trial so we don’t know what state he is in,” Pils added. “In addition to our usual concerns about torture and physical health, I’m worried that this entire process may have robbed him of his mental health, especially after what they’ve apparently done to his brother.”

Li’s younger brother, Li Chunfu, emerged from 500 days of secret detention in January and was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his family.

Li became well known for defending the disenfranchised, including Christian house churches, victims of forced evictions and free speech advocates. He worked within the scope of China’s legal system, rather than taking to the streets in protest. One Chinese security agent reportedly once told Li that the state considered him “more dangerous than Bin Laden”.

Although Li is likely to be released in the coming weeks, he has already spent more than 20 months in detention. At least 11 activists who received suspended sentences disappeared shortly after they were released, with some forced to undergo months of political education classes before being placed under house arrest by local police, according to human rights groups.

The court’s verdict was seen as a warning to other activists, and included a catalogue of vague charges, without citing any specific examples of illegality.

“The court ruled that since 2008, the defendant Li Heping repeatedly used the internet and foreign media interviews to discredit and attack state power and the legal system,” the court said. The court also accused Li of accepting foreign funds and employing paid defendants.

A lawyer hired by Li’s family to defend him was rejected by authorities and he was ultimately given a government appointed lawyer, an increasing trend in political prosecutions.

The conviction came on the same day that another civil rights lawyer, Xie Yang, was set to go on trial, but it was later cancelled.

Read the full article here.

USALI Affiliated Professor Eva Pils Quoted in Reuters Article

June 5, 2017

China activists fear increased surveillance with new security law

By Christian Shepherd

(Refiles this May 25 story to add "Chinese" to advocacy group's name in paragraph 13.)

By Christian Shepherd

Chinese activists say they fear intensified state surveillance after a draft law seeking to legitimize monitoring of suspects and raid premises was announced last week, the latest step to strengthen Beijing's security apparatus.

Half a dozen activists contacted by Reuters say they already face extensive surveillance by security agents and cameras outside their homes. Messages they post on social media, including instant messaging applications like WeChat are monitored and censored, they said.

The draft of a new law to formally underpin and possibly expand China's intelligence gathering operations at home and abroad was released on May 16.

However, the law was vaguely worded and contained no details on the specific powers being granted to various state agencies.

"State intelligence work should...provide support to guard against and dispel state security threats (and) protect major national interests," the document said.

The law will give authorities new legal grounds to monitor and investigate foreign and domestic individuals and bodies in order to protect national security, it said.

Public consultation for the draft ends on June 4. It is unclear when the final version may be passed.

Hu Jia, a well-known dissident, said the release was met with fear and despair in his circle of reform-minded activists, where it was seen as a sign of strengthening resolve in the ruling Communist Party to crush dissent.

"Before, the party acted in secret, but now they have confidence to openly say: 'We are watching you'," Hu told Reuters.

"The law is also partly to frighten people ahead of the 19th Party Congress; to tell them to be careful, to be quiet," he added. Hu was referring to the once in five years congress of the Communist Party likely to be held in October or November in which President Xi Jinping is likely to further cement his hold on power by appointing allies into the party's inner core.

Read the entire article here.

Eva Pils. Jane Henderson. King's Law Journal. "BREXIT and International Relations: The Impact of Brexit on Relations with Russia and China."

In autumn 2016 Affiliated Professor Eva Pils co-published the artile considering the likely impact of Brexit on relations between the United Kingdom, China, and Russia.

INTRODUCTION

This paper considers the likely impact of Brexit on the relations between the United Kingdom and two significant states on the world stage: Russia, which is physically the largest, and heir to one of the Cold War superpowers, and China, which is the most populous, and which some think may be the next superpower. In discussing this impact, we also address how Brexit affects the EU’s relationship with Russia and China.

This question can be conveniently considered from three different (though interacting) perspectives. First, what impact will the change in Britain’s EU status have on individual Russian/Chinese or UK citizens wishing to travel to, invest in or trade with the other state? Secondly, what change is likely between Russia/China and Britain on a state-to-state level? Finally, both the UK and Russia/China belong to some important international organisations; will Britain leaving the EU impact on its place in these other organisations in relation to Russia or China?
 

A. Russia

England (and later, the UK) and Russia have a long history of interaction, sometimes as friend, sometimes as foe. Tsar Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible) would have liked to have married Queen Elizabeth I (or failing that, one of her maids in waiting) but was refused. The first Russian Emperor, Peter the Great, stayed in London from January to April 1698. As during his preceding visit to the Netherlands, he worked in the dockyards to learn about shipbuilding. (He also had some notoriously drunken parties.) This led to a sadly brief period of unprecedentedly warm relations between Britain and Russia. During the following century, Jeremy Bentham’s works were of interest to Prince Potemkin, one of the lovers of Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great). In early nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries respectively the desires of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler to expand their empires put Russia on the same side as Britain; in the 1850s during the Crimean War they opposed one another as part of the then ‘Great Game’ waged between the British, French, Ottoman and Russian empires. Lenin also spent time in London

B. China

Historically the most important thing about Sino-British relations is these relations’ principal origin in colonialism. British historians usually note (not always without gloating about China’s subsequent surrender to British power and influence) that when George III’s emissary arrived in China in 1793 to request that the British be allowed to establish more extensive trade relations on their own terms, his gifts were graciously accepted, but the request rejected with the message,

As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. This then is my answer to your request to appoint a representative at my Court, a request contrary to our dynastic usage, which would only result in inconvenience to yourself … 22 Emperor Qianlong, letter to George III, 1793, available in translation at <http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/qianlong.html>.View all notes

Chinese historians will of course comment on the ‘unequal treaties’ that, inter alia, ceded Hong Kong and, later, its New Territories to Britain, and the memory of the humiliation33 The term conventionally used is ‘national humiliation’ (guochi).View all notes and wreckage colonialism brought to China is symbolised, to many people's minds, by the ruins of wanton ‘punitive’ destruction that can still be seen in Yuanming Park in north-west Beijing.44 Sheila Melvin, ‘The Ruins of Yuanmingyuan’ (ChinaFile, 4 May 2012) <www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/caixin-media/ruins-yuanmingyuan>.View all notes

When the UK, in October 2015, received the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and President of the People's Republic of China (PRC) Xi Jinping with extraordinary pomp—taking him to Buckingham Palace in a golden carriage and repeatedly using the phrase ‘golden relationship’ to predict a glorious shared future of exchange and partnership55 Shi Zhiqin and Lai Suetyi, ‘Xi's Visit to Kick Off a Golden Age of China-UK Relations’ The Diplomat (15 October 2015) <http://thediplomat.com/2015/10/xis-visit-to-kick-off-a-golden-age-of-china-uk-relations/>.View all notes—some saw in this a poignant reversal of fortunes. But there were many concerns about China's numerous rule of law challenges, at a time when the UK, like other European countries, seemed to have its own, different, struggles with adhering to and endorsing human rights standards.

A few months later, Brexit seemed likely to add to anxieties and concerns about what is already a complex and challenging relationship,66 Tom Phillips, ‘China, Britain and Brexit: Vote to Leave EU Robs “Golden Relationship” of Its Lustre’ The Guardian (London, 30 June 2016) <www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/china-britain-and-brexit-vote-to-leave-eu-robs-golden-relationship-of-its-lustre>.View all notes even though in terms of immediate consequences for individuals (see section II.B) there is little that can be predicted with any confidence at this point. China's influence on and in a Britain that is no longer part of the EU is set to generate legal and political challenges.

For the complete article please click here.

Eva Pils. 'If Anything Happens…:’ Meeting the Now-detained Human Rights Lawyers. China Change

Meeting people who could be disappeared anytime is a bit unnerving. You keep wondering if this is the last time you’ll see them. You want to ask what you should do in case something bad happens, but you don’t want to distress them by asking too directly.

Eva Pils publishes new book, "China’s Human Rights Lawyers: Advocacy and Resistance (Routledge Research in Human Rights Law)"

This book offers a unique insight into the role of human rights lawyers in Chinese law and politics. In her extensive account, Eva Pils shows how these practitioners are important as legal advocates for victims of injustice and how bureaucratic systems of control operate to subdue and marginalise them. 

Eva Pils. China must be held to account over ‘disappeared’ lawyers. The Guardian

China’s human rights lawyers are currently experiencing unprecedented persecution. Over the past 40 days, six lawyers have been taken away by the police and disappeared. Dozens of other rights defenders, activists and dissidents have also been taken away; and one of the lawyers has resurfaced under circumstances suggesting that he was badly tortured.

Eva Pils. China's Human Rights Lawyers: Advocacy and Resistance. Routledge Research in Human Rights Law

This book offers a unique insight into the role of human rights lawyers in Chinese law and politics. In her extensive account, Eva Pils shows how these practitioners are important as legal advocates for victims of injustice and how bureaucratic systems of control operate to subdue and marginalise them. 

Jerome A. Cohen and Eva Pils. China’s Criminal Justice and Chongqing’s Anti-triad Campaign: Law v. Practice. SCMP (South China Morning Post)

There really are “two Chinas” when it comes to criminal justice — and injustice. There is the China where thousands of law reformers — scholars, lawyers, legislative draftsmen, judges, prosecutors and officials — painstakingly labor for years to produce laws, interpretations and regulations designed to bring greater fairness and accuracy to a system that has long cried out for both.