GENEVA (6 December 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts has urged the Chinese Government to immediately investigate the whereabouts and fate of a prominent human rights lawyer, Jiang Tianyong, who has disappeared since 21 November 2016.

Mr. Jiang Tianyong has represented clients in a number of high-profile cases in China, including clients that carried HIV, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan protesters and victims of the 2008 milk scandal, as well as well-known rights defenders.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that Mr. Jiang may have been disappeared by the State agents because of his human rights work,” the UN experts noted. “Over the past years, we have received information that Mr. Jiang has been arrested, detained, and beaten by the police and state security officers on multiple occasions as a result of his human rights work.”

“Combined with the reports of hundreds of human rights defenders in China that have been harassed, arrested, criminally charged, detained, or gone missing since the ‘709 crackdown’ in July 2015, we fear that Mr. Jiang’s disappearance may be directly linked to his advocacy and he may be at risk of torture,” they said.

Mr. Jiang’s whereabouts are unknown after he visited Changsha, Hunan Province, to meet with a family member of a human rights lawyer who had been arrested in last year’s crackdown, and who is detained at the Changsha Detention Centre. While in Changsha, he accompanied the family member and three other lawyers to the detention centre to inquire about the detainee’s situation.

The last communication from Jiang was a message to a friend in the evening of 21 November, informing that he would board the train to return to Beijing the next morning.  Authorities in Beijing, Changsha and Zhengzhou, where Mr. Jiang is a registered resident, have reportedly refused to investigate his disappearance.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, who met with Mr. Jiang in August during his visit to China, said he was deeply concerned that Mr. Jiang’s disappearance may have occurred, at least in part, in reprisal for his cooperation with the UN during his visit to China.

“The international standards are clear: States must refrain from and protect all persons from acts of reprisal,” Mr. Alston said, noting that that other individuals he met during his visit to China have also been harassed and subjected to what appears to be reprisals.

“As an essential condition to all country visits of the Special Procedures mandate holders, Governments must provide assurance that no persons will suffer intimidation, threats, harassment or punishment, be subjected to judicial proceedings or to any other kind of reprisals by any means whatsoever, for their cooperation with the UN experts,” he stressed.

The UN human rights experts, who are in contact with the Chinese authorities to clarify the issues in question, have urged them to investigate Mr. Jiang’s whereabouts and guarantee him access to a lawyer and his family, as well as the medical care he requires, given his poor health.

(*) The experts: Mr. Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN experts urge China to investigate disappearance of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong