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China: Further information on death penalty / fear of imminent execution: Cheung Tze-keung

, N° d'index: ASA 17/040/1998

On 7 December 1998, Guangdong Higher People's Court is expected to rule on the appeals against the death sentences imposed upon Cheung Tze-keung, Chan Chi-hou, Chin Hon-sau, Ma Shangzhong and Liang Hui. As successful appeals are rare, Amnesty International fears they face imminent execution.

PUBLIC AI Index: ASA 17/40/98
4 December 1998
Further information on EXTRA 78/98 (ASA 17/35/98, 21 October 1998) -
Death penalty / Fear of imminent execution
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA Cheung Tze-keung, aged 45, Hong Kong citizen
New names: Chan Chi-hou, aged 36, Hong Kong citizen
Chin Hon-sau, aged 43, Hong Kong citizen
Ma Shangzhong, aged 33, Chinese citizen
Liang Hui, aged 32, Chinese citizen
On 7 December 1998, Guangdong Higher People’s Court is expected to rule on
the above defendants’ appeals against their death sentences. As successful
appeals are rare, Amnesty International fears they face imminent execution.
The men were sentenced to death by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court
on 12 November after a trial involving 29 other people, including 13 Hong Kong
citizens.
Cheung Tze-keung and Chin Hon-sau were sentenced to death for illegally trading
in explosives. Chan Chi-hou, Ma Shangzhong and Liang Hui were sentenced to
death for their roles in a robbery in Shenzhen during which a businessman was
abducted and suffocated to death. Two other Hong Kong citizens, Chu Yuk-sing
and Li Wan were sentenced to death with a two year reprieve for robbing Hong
Kong jewellery stores. All were also sentenced to prison terms for kidnapping
in Hong Kong or smuggling, trading or storing weapons.
The Hong Kong authorities have said they did not press for the defendants to
be returned to Hong Kong because they have no formal agreement with China on
the return of fugitives or prisoners and did not have enough evidence to
prosecute in Hong Kong.
The handling of the case has provoked great controversy in Hong Kong and has
been criticized for undermining its judicial autonomy under the “one country
two systems” principle. The debate hinges on the dubious assertions by the
Guangdong court and the Hong Kong government that trial in China under the
Chinese Criminal Code is appropriate for all these cases, even though some
of the alleged crimes took place in Hong Kong where there is no death penalty.
Little reliable evidence has reportedly been presented to prove that all the
crimes were ‘plotted planned and prepared’ on the mainland and therefore can
be tried on the mainland.
For example, Cheung Tze-keung is the alleged major culprit who supposedly
organized and planned the illegal purchase of explosives, although he did not
buy or smuggle them on the mainland. In court, evidence of his leading role
was limited to a wish he expressed for explosives during a conversation with
a co-defendant in Macau, his participation in off loading the shipment in Hong
Kong, and a regular payment to a co-defendant from Hong Kong.
A Hong Kong government official has reportedly acknowledged that much of the
evidence presented at the trial would be inadmissible in Hong Kong. Defendants
statements were reportedly the major source of the prosecution’s evidence.
Even though under China’s Criminal Procedure Law (article 46) no one can “be
found guilty...if there is only his statement but no evidence”, key facts,
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such as where the crimes were planned, reportedly appeared only in defendants
contradictory oral statements.
Amnesty International is concerned that some defendants claim to have been
forced to make such statements after being ill-treated or tortured, including
being beaten on the feet with electric batons. There is no indication that
any of these allegations have been investigated, or addressed in the verdict,
despite one defendant reportedly trying to show his wounds during the trial.
The organization is concerned that the defendants did not receive a fair trial.
The reasons for this include the fact that defence lawyers were not able to
question key prosecution witnesses or have access to key evidence. Cheung
Tze-keung’s Hong Kong lawyer was only allowed to attend the first day of the
trial.
Appeals against the death sentence by some of the defendants rest on the
following:
- that the facts are unclear and the evidence insufficient for conviction.
- that incorrect jurisdiction has been used because the law and the facts do
not support trying all the cases in China under the Chinese criminal code.
- that the law has been mishandled with regard to group crimes because there
is insufficient evidence to show the defendants “organized or directed” the
crimes. They should therefore only be punished for their individual and limited
roles.
- that the punishment is excessive and unequal in that the alleged crimes are
not “extremely serious” and do not warrant the death penalty. Other
co-defendants have been sentenced to prison terms for equally serious offences.
- that there was undue haste in rushing for convictions before the facts were
clear whilst related crimes still await trial in Hong Kong.
Relatives of some defendants have also appealed to President Jiang Zemin, and
the National People’s Congress for clemency.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express and airmail letters
either in English or Chinese or in your own language:
- urging that the death sentences imposed on Cheung Tze-Keung and the six others
be commuted;
- urging that the basis for the charges and full trial proceedings be made
public; that the trial is examined to ensure that it was carried out according
to International standards on fair trials; that all appeal grounds are fully
and impartially investigated; that the sentences are delayed until the results
of the examinations are made clear; that allegations of torture are
investigated; and pointing out that related crimes still await trial in Hong
Kong;
- calling on the Hong Kong authorities to take action to protect their citizens
from the death penalty in China and to ensure that the judicial autonomy of
Hong Kong remains intact;
- urging that the arbitrary and massive use of the death penalty in China be
stopped;
- expressing opposition to the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate form
of cruel and inhuman punishment and as a violation of the right to life as
guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
APPEALS TO: (please note that fax machines in China are not always reliable)
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Governor of the Guangdong Provincial People's Government
LU Ruihua Shengzhang
Guangdongsheng Renmin Zhengfu
305 Dongfeng Zhong Lu
Guangzhoushi 510031
Guangdongsheng
People's Republic of China
Telegrams: Governor, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China
Telexes: 44563 OFAGDCN
Faxes: + 8620 83331606
Salutation: Dear Governor
President of the Guangdong Provincial High People's Court
MAI Chongkai Yuanzhang
Guangdongsheng Gaoji Renmin Fayuan
26 Cangbian Lu
Guangzhoushi 510090
Guangdongsheng
People's Republic of China
Telegram: President of the Provincial High People's Court, Guangzhou,
Guangdong Province, China
Faxes: + 8620 83330344
Salutation: Dear President
President of the Supreme People's Court of the People's Republic of China
REN Jianxin Yuanzhang
Zuigao Renmin Fayuan
27 Dongjiao Min Xiang
Beijingshi 100726
People's Republic of China
Telegrams: President of the Supreme People's Court, Beijing, China
Faxes: + 86106 512 5012
Salutation: Dear President
Chief Executive of the Hong Kong SAR
Tung Chee Hua Chief Executive
S/F Main Wing
Central Government Offices
Lower Albert Road
Hong Kong SAR
Faxes: + 852 2509 0577
Salutation: Dear Chief Executive
COPIES TO:
Xinhua News Agency
Faxes: + 86106 201 9332
and to diplomatic representatives of the People's Republic of China accredited
to your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

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