The Rights Practice, for many years, has been calling for an end to the use of incommunicado detention, in particular 'residential surveillance in designated location' (RSDL) as this type of ‘coercive measure’ is too easily open to abuse and the risk of torture. In 2015, our submission to the review of China by UN Committee against Torture (CAT) reiterated our agreement with many lawyers and legal scholars in China that this type of measure should be abolished. In our report to the Universal Periodic Review of China our key recommendations were to end the use of any unofficial places of detention and ensure all detainees have prompt access to a lawyer.

We are encouraged to see that on 24 August 2018, ten UN Special Procedures sent a joint letter to China strongly condemning the use of RSDL and to urge repeal of the measure, as recommended by the CAT review. We endorse the following statement along with the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, the International Service for Human Rights, the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders and Safeguard Defenders:

China | Incommunicado detention must go, say UN experts

UN experts raise the alarm about the use of ‘residential surveillance in a designated location’, affirming the use of enforced disappearance to muzzle dissent and punish human rights defenders in China.

A mother does not know whether her son’s health is failing.

A lawyer does not know how to defend his client, or else is informed – by a third party – that she has been dismissed by the defendant.

A family loses their income, their home and even the ability to enroll their son in school.

All of the above are the human impacts of a legal form of detention in China known as ‘residential surveillance in a designated location,’ or RSDL, and all are violations of basic human rights. Eighteen UN experts agree, and in August sent a letter to the Chinese government making clear that, for these and many other reasons, the law is incompatible with international law and should be repealed immediately.

The common thread running through the July 2015 or ‘709 crackdown’ in China, and continuing through today, is the use of this nominally-legal measure to detain human rights defenders for up to six months, without access to family or lawyers.

‘Placement in RSDL is tantamount to an enforced disappearance,’ say the experts, in that it consists of placing individuals under incommunicado detention for investigation for prolonged periods without disclosing their whereabouts - in short, in secret detention.

Recommendations from the UN Committee against Torture calling for the repeal of RSDL, made during its 2015 review of China, ‘do not seem to have been taken into account,’ added the experts, who reiterated the fact that if detentions are to be justified, the detainees should be formally accounted for and held in formal places of detention.

‘RSDL is a deliberate measure to detain persons outside the somewhat better monitored and regulated detention centres. It undermines any other efforts by China to prevent the use of torture,’ said Nicola Macbean at The Rights Practice...

Read Full Press Release Here.

For more information, please contact: Sarah M. Brooks at s.brooks[at] or on Twitter @sarahmcneer.

Image credit: Badiucao for Amnesty International