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ALERT 22/02/2022

ALERT 10/04/2024

China: lawyer Tang Jitian held incommunicado by the Chinese authorities

10 April 2024

Chinese lawyer Tang Jitian has been held incommunicado by the Chinese authorities since his disappearance on 4 November 2023. He had already been held incommunicado between December 2021 and January 2023.

Tang Jitian had been banned from leaving the country to visit his daughter, who was ill in Japan. Before placing him in incommunicado detention, the authorities had claimed that the lawyer could “endanger national security”. He was released on 14 January 2023 in his hometown.

Mr Jitian has been held incommunicado again since November 2023. The lawyer was on his way to the funeral of one of his family members and has not been heard from since.

His daughter, who was seriously ill with tuberculosis, died on 20 February 2024 in Japan.


The Observatory expresses its solidarity with Tang Jitian and his family.

The Observatory urges the Chinese authorities to release Tang Jitian.

The Observatory recalls that according to article 9, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, « Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law. »

The Observatory recalls that, as stated in the United Nations basic principles on the role of the Bar, in particular principles 17 and 27:

Principle 17: “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”

Principle 27: Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.”



CHINA: The Observatory denounces the disappearance of the lawyer Tang Jitian, his arbitrary detention incommunicado in a secret location, the silence of the Chinese authorities and the censorship imposed on this arbitrary detention by the Chinese authorities 

24 February 2022

Tang Jitian is a human rights lawyer in the People’s Republic of China. Based in Beijing, he is a leading figure in the Weiquan movement (Rights Defense Movement) and has defended victims of illegal land requisitions, Falun Gong practitioners, HIV victims and other vulnerable groups, including his fellow human rights lawyers.

Tang has faced reprisals from the Chinese authorities for his legal practice and human rights work. In 2010, he was permanently disbarred, but continued to work for human rights. He was then placed under house arrest and detained on several occasions. In 2014, Tang and three other lawyers (Zhang Junjie, Jiang Tianyong and Wang Chen) were detained for investigating the detention of several Falun Gong members. Tang denounced the torture he suffered, as he suffered multiple fractures during his 15-day detention. In 2017, he was turned back by border guards at the Lo Wu checkpoint while attempting to travel to Hong Kong for medical treatment, and was informed that he was prohibited from leaving the mainland for national security reasons. In December 2021, Tang disappeared before arriving in Beijing for a human rights event organised by the European Union and was still missing at the start of the 2022 Winter Olympics. His relatives believe that he is being held incommunicado in an undisclosed location.

On 17 February 2022, the Swiss Embassy in China reported Tang Jitian’s disappearance on the Chinese social network Weibo. The Chinese authorities quickly censored this message. The Swiss Embassy in China post has been suppressed once again after having warned of its censorship.

Since the start of the Winter Olympics, several human rights defenders and lawyers have been detained. They are accused of “inciting state subversion”.

The Observatory denounces the disappearance of Tang Jitian, his arbitrary and illegal detention in a secret location, the silence of the Chinese authorities and the censorship imposed upon his case.

The Observatory calls on the participating states in the 2022 Winter Olympics to demand proof of the reliable life of our colleague Tang Jitian and his release

The Observatory reminds the Chinese authorities of the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers (1990):

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all their professional functions without hindrance, intimidation, harassment or undue interference; (b) are able to travel and consult with their clients freely, both within and outside the country; and (c) are not subject to, or threatened with, prosecution or economic or other sanctions for any actions taken in accordance with their recognized professional obligations and standards and their professional ethics.” (Principle 16)

“Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions. ” (Principle 18)

“Lawyers shall enjoy civil and penal immunity for relevant statements made in good faith in written or oral pleadings or in their professional appearances before a court, tribunal or other legal or administrative authority.” (Principle 20)

“Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. In exercising these rights, lawyers shall always conduct themselves in accordance with the law and the recognized standards and ethics of the legal profession.” (Principle 23)