Wang Yu, July 1, 2018
Wang Yu (王宇), born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, was a lawyer with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm when she was abducted in the early morning of July 9, 2015. The date of her detention marks the beginning of, and gives name to, the most notorious human rights event over the last two years – the 709 Crackdown. That same evening, her husband and son, en route to Australia for the son to attend school, were also detained. Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun, also a lawyer, were released on bail in August 2016 and the family of three was sequestered in an apartment in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, under severe surveillance. This continued until late 2017, when they were allowed to return to their home in Beijing. Wang Yu has not been able to resume her legal practice because of government obstruction.
Wang recounted her experience in secret detention in the early months of 709 Crackdown, and her forced TV denunciation of the American Bar Association’s inaugural Human Rights Award. Growing up and attending high school in Beijing, Wang Yu’s son Bao Zhuoxuan, 15 years old in July 2015, was briefly detained and then uprooted from home and school and taken to Inner Mongolia to live with his maternal grandparents. In October 2015, a few friends of Wang Yu inside and outside China devised a plan to help the young man by bringing him out of China secretly. It failed; Bao Zhuoxuan and the two adults accompanying him were captured near the Burmese border and brought back. After being held for two and half years, Bao Zhuoxuan was finally allowed to leave China early this year to study in Australia. While he has not spoken about his experiences, his mother Wang Yu spoke out for the first time in a recent interview with The Epoch Times. The following excerpts were translated by China Change and edited for clarity. — The Editors
The first time I tried to talk to someone about this [what my son has gone through], I simply couldn’t go on — I just wept and wept.
My son has never talked about it with me in detail; for us to talk about it is like being traumatized all over again. It pierces my heart. I’ve avoided going into depth with my son about his experiences. It was only through fragmentary words with my son, both sets of grandparents, and aunts, that I have learned a bit about what happened to him.
On July 9, 2015, my husband was taking our son to the airport as he was preparing to go to Australia for senior high school. I never imagined that the two of them would be arrested. At almost the same time, they came to our home, drilled out the lock, and in a few minutes had invaded my apartment. A gang of men came in, bowled me over, slapped on handcuffs, put a black hood over my head, then hauled me downstairs and stuffed me into the waiting vehicle. In other words, on the morning of July 9, our entire family was arrested.
Then, my son was taken to a hotel in Tianjin — I think one of the popular chains like ‘Ru Jia’ (如家) or ‘Seven Days’ (七天) — locked in a room, and monitored by police every day. Zhuoxuan resisted and tried to force his way out. He’s only 15 and slightly built at around 100 jin (110 lb.); one of the police officers grabbed him and instantly tossed him to the ground, or onto the bed, then picked him up and slammed him back down over and over again. The kid was really worn down by it, exhausted, and just slept. Three days after he was detained his aunt came to pick him up and take him to his paternal grandmother’s place, and after that he was taken back to the home of his other grandmother, my mother, in Inner Mongolia.
Growing up, my son had always attended top schools in Tianjin and Beijing, and he was all set to go to Australia for his studies, but now he was detained and exiled to far-flung Inner Mongolia in a city township to study. He found it very difficult to adjust to it all.
During custody, when they told me that my son was captured while trying to smuggle out of China, I passed out. I still feel the terror just thinking of it now. It has to be the most horrific moment of my life.
Friends told me that when they brought my son back from Burma, they put handcuffs and leg irons on him! People who haven’t been put in handcuffs and leg irons probably don’t know, but wearing them is torture. They did so gratuitously because there was no way my son, so small, could run away with so many police around him. How could they slap handcuffs and leg irons on him? I couldn’t get over it.
According to grandmother, in the Yunnan public security bureau, the police slapped him around, quite a lot, in the face. I cry whenever I talk about this. They made my son frame other people. They told him exactly what he had to say. He didn’t agree, so they hit him, with a thick, long wooden staff. They started at him in the lower back, moving higher and higher, smashing it into his back, while yelling: “If you don’t write what we say, we’re going to go all the way up to your head and smash your skull in.” My son begged for their forgiveness, responding: “Don’t hit me, it hurts too much, I can’t take it anymore; just write what you want and I’ll sign it, isn’t that enough?” This is how badly they beat my son!
In the early days after my husband and I were detained, my son did his part to fight back. He reached out to a dozen or so lawyers to find legal counsel for us. But he was a child after all, and easily controlled by the police.
Before I was released on bail, my son was living at my younger sister’s apartment. Police installed themselves in the apartment opposite hers; same with my mother’s, with police living opposite, on 24 hour shifts, watching them over. When my mother or my sister went out, whether buying vegetables, exercising, or going to the hairdresser, the police were there following.
When my son came home from school every day he would lock himself in his small bedroom, wouldn’t let anyone else in, and shut the window tight. He put himself in a completely closed-off state. This was right when the boy was in his adolescence, when he was naturally inclined to resist external control. Yet now, he not only had his independence stifled, but was stripped of his privacy and made to live under the lens of surveillance cameras, followed by state security police everywhere he went!
After I was released on bail, our whole family was exiled to Ulanhot in the east of Inner Mongolia. The state security police rented an apartment for the three of us. They themselves occupied the apartment opposite ours, so they could watch us 24/7. We were on the third floor. There were three surveillance cameras in the hallway, three facial recognition cameras, another camera downstairs in the entrance, another outside, and dozens of cameras affixed to the buildings surrounding ours. Whatever Bao Longjun and I did, even taking out the trash or running errands, the police would come downstairs and follow us around.
Every morning two or three police would come and take my son to school; two or three would then bring him back in the evening. There were three cameras pointed at him in his classroom, as well as cameras in the school corridors, and even a special monitoring room at the school where personnel could watch my son on monitors. Several state security officers patrolled the school.
My son lived under these conditions for two years. Mentally he was in a terrible state.
After I came home, I took him to the doctor, who said he was depressed. I thought to myself that I just couldn’t let my son keep living in this environment anymore, or he’d be ruined for life.
Before my son left China in January of this year, I never once slept a full night through! I feel that as long as my son is in this country, he’ll face danger — and I have no idea when or what harm will befall him! For us adults, whether it’s being put in detention or under house arrest, I think we can bear it, and we have learned to live with it. But with my son, no matter how old he is, we want to put him under our wing and look after him. But in China, parents can’t even look after their own children! It was only after my son left that I felt relieved.
Televised Confession: ‘I Was Sick to my Stomach Worrying About My Son’
In the early days after I was arrested on July 9, 2015, the police interrogators tried to get me on TV. I resisted and resisted more. In the end though, I gave in because of my son.
On about July 31 or August 1 2015, they put me into a car and hooded me. I had no idea what was outside, and I just heard one of the interrogators saying: “Ah, the CCTV’s Big Underpants don’t look bad at all!” So I knew we’d arrived at CCTV. I got taken into a room and they took the hood off, so I used my hair to cover my face, because I didn’t want them filming me. They said they were going to turn the camera on, and I cursed them out and said I didn’t want to be filmed. After that, one of the women said: “Lawyer Wang, if you don’t want to go on camera, we won’t force you. Just go back. If you want to be recorded later, we’ll be waiting.” I said: “You needn’t wait. I definitely don’t want to go on camera. I never wanted to go on camera. If you wait, you’ll be waiting in vain.” They sent me back. From what the interrogators said, it appeared that this woman was the very famous CCTV anchor Zhang Quanling (张泉灵). That time I managed to resist, and they didn’t get what they wanted.
Come one night in October, the police barged into my room in the middle of the night and woke me up yelling. They showed me two pieces of paper: the first, a facsimile from the public security department of Yunnan Province to the public security department of Inner Mongolia, saying that Yunnan public security organs had arrested a number of people attempting to steal across the border, one of which was my son, Bao Zhuoxuan, from Inner Mongolia; the second was a photo of my son. In the photo, he was leaning against a wall, which had on it measurements, making clear that it was the kind of mugshot made for suspected criminals who are being detained. Atop the photo it said: “Criminal Suspect Bao Zhuoxuan.” The moment I saw this, I fainted. My mind went blank.
They went to get a doctor, and when I came to there was a person in a white gown who gave me some antihypertensive drugs to lower my blood pressure. An interrogator said that my son had been kidnapped and the police rescued him; but since he had crossed the border illegally, he was being detained.
The interrogator said: “Do you want to save your son or not? If you want to save him, you need to make clear your stance and denounce those ‘anti-China forces.’” I asked back: “What are you talking about?” He wrote on a piece of paper the line he wanted me to repeat.
Every time I was interrogated, the police used a computer to transcribe the interrogation, and the computer’s webcam recorded it. So they said: “We’ll record you, you just state your stance, just say that you denounce the ‘anti-China forces’ who kidnapped your son. Then we will show it to the leaders in the Ministry of Public Security. If the leaders think that Wang Yu has really come around on her standpoint, they’ll let your son go.” I said: “You’re not going to put this on television, are you?” He said: “It definitely won’t go on TV.” So they shot that small piece of footage using the computer’s webcam, and the officer even said: “See? We just used the webcam to record it, not a camera. So it’s definitely not for media use. If we wanted to use it for media, we’d be using a proper, professional camera.”
After that they kept persuading me: if you want your son to go abroad to study, you have to be released from detention first, etc. They tried to negotiate, saying: “If you want your son to leave China, you need to first get out of detention, and if you don’t agree to go on television, then we can’t release you.”
I thought it over a long while. If it was just me going to prison for several years, I wouldn’t have cared so much. But I felt that I had to get out to be with my son, and do whatever it takes to send him out of China. So, for my son and my husband, I finally agreed to their demands to be recorded, do what they said, and read out the script they wrote for me. That was August 3 or 4, 2016, a year after I’d been taken to CCTV.
Only after I relented did they let me go.
My husband was very upset about the fact that I agreed to it. He was furious. Initially my son also thought that it was a disgrace. There was a period when the two of them would make cutting remarks to me or mock me for it. I felt I was under so much pressure. In the end I asked Zhuoxuan: “Son, do you think that it would have been better if I refused to go on television, and your mother and father were sentenced to a few years prison? Or is it better that I agreed, lost face, but we were able to be together?” He said: “I want my mother with me! Mama hasn’t lost face!”
Being a Lawyer in China, Before and After the 709 Crackdown
In the past, as one of China’s legal professionals, I felt that I wasn’t going to help this government deceive the people — I thought that since you promulgated this and that law, and you allowed me to be a lawyer, then I had no choice but pursue the rule of law! I knew that I might be suppressed because of that, but I couldn’t go against my conscience, or be used as an instrument of the judicial system like some lawyers, putting on the garb of a gorgeous legal worker while assisting the government deceive the public. I couldn’t do that, or I’d be deceiving my clients, deceiving society, and most importantly I’d be cheating my own conscience — I’d feel that I didn’t live up to my conscience!
Now I think that China simply has no law! It has some words called ‘the law’ over there, which they say are for everyone to follow, but they use it to limit and restrain citizens. Those in power are above the law.
There are 300,000 lawyers in China, and the number grows annually. The majority, however, are simply ‘flower vases’ — they’re put there to make outsiders and Chinese people who don’t know the truth think: China has the rule of law, has so many written laws, and so many lawyers.
The fact is that all these forms, including the public security bureau, the procuratorate, and the courts, are all meant for the creation of a false image of China being a country with the rule of law. In fact, China has no rule of law, and it has no law. The ‘709 incident’ is further proof that there is no such thing as rule of law in China! Nor is there law!
I’m bereft of hope. After being arrested this time, I just felt like we’d gone back to the Cultural Revolution era. Coming out of ‘709,’ I don’t believe we can make any impact as lawyers.
The essence of the rule of law is the restriction of government power. Yet the Chinese Communist Party uses the law as an instrument to strengthen its rule — and in so doing, lawyers are necessarily an instrument for strengthening their rule. This fact puts the legal profession in an extremely conflicted, awkward position.
If this system doesn’t change, China’s so-called rule of law is nothing but a sham. I don’t believe it.
The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.
The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, Matthew Robertson and Yaxue Cao, July 27, 2015.
She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Washington Post, July 18, 2015.
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018.