Zhao Haitong, seen in a detention center, was reportedly arrested in August 2013 and sentenced to 14 years in October 2014 for crimes including inciting subversion. Zhao was one of many arrested for ESS crimes during 2013, Xi's first year as party secretary. Photo credit: RFA
Statistics recently released in China Law Yearbook (CLY) call into question earlier data reported by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) and indicate that in 2013 indictments for crimes of endangering state security (ESS) reached the second highest level on record. The authoritative compendium typically includes arrest and indictment data for ESS—the category of crimes that comprises the most serious political offenses including subversion, splittism, and their incitement—and for the first time, provides data on the number of trials for cult offenses used to prosecute Falun Gong and other banned religious groups.
In contrast with past editions, the CLY published in 2014 does not refer explicitly to ESS in its accounting of arrests and indictments approved or made by the SPP. These numbers are not difficult to calculate, however, since the SPP work report for 2013 states that ESS statistics are aggregated with those of endangering national defense interests (ENDI) and dereliction of military duty (DMD), and the CLY provides disaggregated data for the latter categories.
This arithmetic shows that in 2013 the SPP indicted 1,384 individuals in 607 ESS cases, up 32 and 57 percent year-on-year, respectively. The number of individuals indicted for ESS in 2013 is the second highest figure reported in the CLY since reporting began in 1998. The highest figure was reached in 2008 when Tibetan protests contributed to a total of 1,407 indictments. Dui Hua’s previous estimate of ESS indictments for 2013 was based on a SPP work report released in March 2014, which may significantly underreport this figure. The higher numbers provided in the CLY are not only more authoritative but more in line with the conditions on the ground. Despite the discrepancy in figures, Dui Hua maintains that in 2013 the procuratorate frequently used other crimes (e.g., “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “illegal assembly”) as proxies for ESS crimes making the increase in ESS indictments all the more staggering.
The change in the number of arrests was less dramatic. We calculate that the SPP authorized public security and state security organs to arrest 937 individuals involved in 532 ESS cases in 2013. Compared with 2012, this represents an 18 percent decrease in individuals arrested but a 12 percent increase in cases. An average of 1.76 and 2.33 individuals were arrested in each ESS case in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
The 2014 CLY does not provide disaggregated data for ESS trials, and unlike the SPP, the Supreme People’s Court does not provide notation that indicates how to arrive at this data. Given substantial growth in the number of ESS indictments nationwide and ESS trials in Xinjiang, where most of these trials occur, Dui Hua believes that there was an increase in the number of ESS trials concluded in China in 2013. We previously estimated that the number of ESS trials in Xinjiang grew 10 percent to 300 trials of first instance in 2013. Nationwide, 369 ESS first-instance trials were concluded in 2012.
A lack of transparency in ESS cases continues to be a serious hurdle to protecting the rights of prisoners of conscience. Of the hundreds of people who faced ESS charges in 2013, only 31 made it into Dui Hua’s Political Prisoner Database (PPDB) as arrested, indicted, or tried. More than half of them are Tibetans implicated in self-immolation protests. Others are Han Chinese activists who called on government officials to disclose their assets through small-scale street protests. Although Xinjiang typically accounts for the majority of the ESS cases nationwide, we have discovered the names of just three Uyghurs sentenced for inciting splittism in that year.
|Name||Type (Arrested: A, |
Indicted: I, Tried: T)
|Abdusalam Abulat |
|T||Xinjiang||Inciting splittism||10 years||Apr 2023|
|Abulkerim Mehmet |
|T||Xinjiang||Inciting splittism||4 years||Apr 2017|
|T||Sichuan||inciting splittism||4 years||2016|
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||13 years||2026|
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||2.5 years||May 2015|
|Gu Yimin |
|I||Jiangsu||Inciting subversion||1.5 years||Nov 2014|
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||4 years||Feb 2017|
|Hortsang Tamdrin |
|T||Sichuan||Inciting splittism||4.5 years||Oct 2017|
|Jigme Tanke |
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||5 years||2018|
|Kelsang Dangzhi |
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||6 years||2019|
|Kerem Mehmet |
|T||Xinjiang||Inciting splittism||10 years||2023|
|Kunchok Choephel |
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||6 years||Nov 2019|
|Liu Benqi |
|I||Qinghai||Inciting subversion||3 years||Jul 2015|
|Liu Jiacai |
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||6 years||2018|
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism||4 years||2017|
|Huang Wenxun |
|A||Hubei||Inciting subversion*||4 years||Jun 2017|
|Pema Trinley |
|T||Sichuan||Inciting splittism||4 years||2016|
|T||Qinghai||Inciting splittism, murder||13 years||2025|
|Tenzin Rangdol |
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||5 years||Oct 2018|
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||5 years||Oct 2018|
|Trinley Tsekar |
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||9 years||2021|
|T||Tibet||Inciting splittism||3 years||2016|
|Wang XX |
|T||Hunan||Inciting subversion||3 years||Jul 2015|
|Yang Lin |
|Yuan Bing |
|Yang Wei |
|Yuan Xiaohua |
|Zhao Haitong |
|A||Xinjiang||Inciting subversion**||14 years||Aug 2027|
** May include other charges. Source: Dui Hua
Known Cult Crime Sentences by Group, 2013
Source: Dui Hua Foundation
Expanding the official picture of prisoners of conscience, the 2014 CLY provides a first-ever accounting of trials of first instance for Article 300: “leading or using a cult to undermine implementation of the law.” The yearbook said that the number of so-called cult trials rose nearly 60 percent year-on-year to 1,554 trials in 2013.
As compared with information on ESS cases, information on Article 300 cases is typically more accessible. Dui Hua’s PPDB documents about a third (517) of the individuals tried in 2013. Falun Gong accounted for 65 percent of known cases, with Almighty God accounting for 32 percent and unorthodox Protestant sects such as Spirit Sect and Society of Disciples making up about 3 percent.
2013 was Xi Jinping’s first year as party secretary, and in that year, he oversaw roughly three times as many ESS arrests and indictments as Hu Jintao did in 2003, Hu’s first year as party secretary. In Xi’s second year even more people are likely to have faced ESS charges, as policing increased in Xinjiang and the nationwide crackdown on dissent continued.