Political and Judicial Persecution Must be Based on Law, and it Must Be Professional and Reasonable — My Self Defense (in part)

Wang Quanzhang, Citizen of the People’s Republic of China

Photo: Kyodo News

On January 24, 2019, after more than 1,300 days of incommunicado detention, the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court finally convicted me of the crime of subversion of state power; on April 24, 2019, the Tianjin Higher People’s Court quickly issued a ruling upholding the original judgment.

The judgment of the trial of first instance and the ruling of the second-instance court involved extremely serious, unlawful operations with respect to both facts and procedure.

After they interrogated me dozens of times, the investigators finally extracted and summarized three so-called “crimes” from my professional experience and daily life:

1. Participation in the incident involving meeting detainees at the Jiansanjiang Detention Center;[1]

2. Establishing an overseas company with Peter [Dahlin] to apply for funds for legal aid;[2]

3. Accepting media interviews relating to three Falun Gong cases I handled, including the “Jingjiang Court’s Judicial Detention Incident.”[3]

It took “a half a year or even up to a year and a half” of “research” (in the words of prosecutor Gong Ning 宫宁) by police, prosecutors and court personnel to proclaim that the three incidents were found to be “a new type of subversion of state power, a mode of color revolution”;

Regarding the “Jiansanjiang Detention Center Incident,” the Jiansanjiang police agency had already dealt with it, and I was reprimanded for having “disrupted the order in public places”; the Tianjin law enforcement agencies (i.e., police, prosecutors, courts) continued to escalate and attack by violating the legal principles of the “prohibition against double jeopardy” and “res judicata.”

Regarding establishing an overseas company, the application for legal aid funds is protected by the Regulations of The People’s Republic of China on Legal Aid and the UN “Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,” which China agreed to when it was adopted by consensus.[4] The company did not support any Falun Gong cases, nor did I personally take a cent from the US National Endowment for Democracy. The Beijing Municipal National Security Bureau already determined that the actions of the company’s main figure, Peter [Dahlin], did not constitute a crime. The Tianjin law enforcement apparatus nonetheless determined that my early participation in the organization was a crime, which violates the legal principle of “Nihil in lege intolerabilius est [quam] eandem rem diverso jure censeri,” or “Nothing is more intolerable in law than that the same matter, thing or case should be subject to different views of law.” 

Regarding accepting media interviews in Falun Gong cases I handled, this is speech rather than behavior. Taking speech as conduct in order to judge and attack me shows that personnel from Tianjin law enforcement agencies handling my case lacked common sense, were confused in their understanding, and were unscrupulous in cooking up charges against me.

The language used by the media, the language of popular discourse and the language of law differ significantly with respect to the connotation and denotation of the same word, and in the legal context, the strictest and narrowest interpretation of a word is pursued. The legal definition of terms analogous to “subversion” used by normal countries across the globe is “armed overthrow.” Even if someone rambles on about “subversion,” it is not the meaning of “subversion” in law, and cannot be criminalized by the machinery of power arbitrarily. It is not the practice of a rule-of-law country to mix up legal terms with popular spoken language, language used by the media, and even literary terms. The machinery of power cannot take the conduct of citizens and arbitrarily “prove” such behavior to be subversion; it is even more shocking for the authorities to consider some of the methods of practicing lawyers in the normal course of their work, which at most could be seen as inappropriate, as subverting the regime.

Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court’s Lin Kun (林崑), Zhou Hong (周虹), Zhang Ruoyu (张若宇), and others; and Gong Ning (宫宁), Sheng Guowen (盛国文), Cao Jiyuan (曹纪元) and other personnel of the Tianjin Procuratorate’s Second Branch, and Guo Aiqiang (郭爱强), Fu Rui (付锐), et al. of the Tianjin Municipal Public Security Bureau, were fully aware (they knew or should have known) that my actions did not constitute a crime. It was just for their so-called face that they infringed on the basic rights of detainees, rejected the defense lawyers my family hired for me, and forcibly advanced my case, in order to cover up the truth and uphold the mistakes they had committed. They forced me to meet with their “cooperative lawyer,” undermined the rules governing criminal case defenders, destroyed the system of relatives and friends acting as defenders, detained me beyond the time limit for concluding a trial, illegally prolonged my detention, and held secret court hearings. They blatantly trampled on the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Law, challenging and showing contempt for a law enacted by the National People’s Congress; the authorities bestowed powers upon themselves and expanded their powers themselves. What is vividly and thoroughly on display is the willfulness, arbitrariness, and even self-contradiction of the power operators in my case.

Hao Baoli (郝宝利), Jiao Zhimin (缴治民), Fu Jie (傅捷), and other personnel of the Tianjin Higher People’s Court continued the erroneous thinking and method of case-handling of the trial personnel in the court of first instance.  They interfered with my choice of defenders and ignored the fact that the court of first instance did not conduct a normal court hearing. The Tianjin Higher People’s Court ignored the legal provision that when a “defender is dismissed, and another defender entrusted, the court should adjourn and reschedule” and brazenly affirmed that the first instance “trial procedure was fair.”

These personnel rely on the legal knowledge and legal education they have acquired to advance to their current positions, and they rely on trampling the knowledge they have learned and distorting the education they received in order to maintain their positions. These case-handlers, who operate under circumstances in which they fail to understand clearly the basic concepts of “the state” and “national security,” readily invoke so-called national security and openly undermine the legal principles they vigorously advocate by arbitrarily detaining, arbitrarily charging, arbitrarily convicting and arbitrarily sentencing citizens. They have brought endless disasters to the people and run counter to the aim of “ruling the country according to law.” These anti-rule of law elements in the judicial system are the real factors of social instability, the destroyers of the judicial system and the enemies of “a rule-of-law country.”

The personnel who handled my case, as a whole, are suspected of the crime of the misuse of law in adjudication, and some of the police interrogators are suspected of the crimes of insulting another person, defamation and using torture to coerce a confession. Some prosecutors are suspected of committing the crime of insulting another person, and I have already submitted a complaint specifically raising these issues.

Fu Zhenghua (傅政华), with the participation of Sun Lijun (孙力军), made the decision to launch the mass crackdown on human rights lawyers five years ago; the campaign was also directed by him (according to Lin Kun 林崑 of the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court). The police apparatus used as excuses “collusion between lawyers and petitioners, and law firms employing nonlawyers to participate in rights defense” to execute a long-premeditated political sweep of human rights lawyers. It was another peak in the official suppression of civil rights defense movements during the past few decades. After more than 20 days of dodging about amid this sweep, I still was unable to escape.

On August 3, 2015, at about 12:30 at night, while I was swimming at an outdoor swimming spot in Jinan, Shandong, I was taken into custody by dozens of guards who were on the lookout for me. After that, I was transferred to seven different places of detention, and was detained for three crimes assigned to me in succession, “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” “inciting subversion of state power,” and “subversion of state power.”

At the National Security Agency Detention Center (the interrogation transcript falsely stated I was in Beijing No. 1 Detention Center), the Jing’an Guest House (京安招待所), and Jin’an Guest House (津安招待所), which is a secret detention facility and a certain armed police training base, I was subjected to harsh interrogation.  Although I experienced many moments when I felt I’d be better off dead, what I have suffered and encountered really is not worth mentioning compared to the incidents of torture that I have heard about and learned about, which have already been exposed.   

If you are a human rights defender and you are truly on the path of defending human rights, you will become the power machine’s most important and dangerous enemy. Your every move, every detail of your life will be recorded, and a file created, which will be taken out and used when you’re being interrogated.

China’s Constitution and laws stipulate many freedoms and rights of citizens, but those who hold the levers of the machinery of power have more freedoms and rights. When these freedoms collide, individual freedoms become extremely fragile and even disappear completely.

I have never admitted guilt in my case. I have not recorded any video confessing guilt. I have not made any statement about guilt. When my case was still in the police stage, I didn’t even write one single punctuation mark.

During the most painful period of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), I did not have a psychotic break; nor did I suffer from Stockholm Syndrome, and nor would I fall in love with Big Brother.

After I was transferred to the detention center, I filed complaints and accusations against those law-violating handlers of my case and wrote letters to Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman Xi Jinping, but those letters were all seized. My family, and Cheng Hai (程海), the defense lawyer my wife and I entrusted in advance and whom I have always recognized, also ceaselessly exerted great efforts in making complaints and accusations.

I, lawyer Quanzhang, have continuously committed to stopping the motion of the machinery that creates unjust, false, and wrongful prosecutions (冤假错案). During the stipulated three-year trial period, after going through a struggle that approached the time limit, the Tianjin court was unable to open a regular court session. I thus partially realized my own goal of blocking their actions.

Due process is the result of human suffering and radiates the brilliance of humanity’s wisdom. I also firmly believe that if a trial is conducted according to the principles of genuine due process, it would be difficult for wrongful prosecution to advance. In all such cases, the manipulators of authorities are caught flagrantly violating the most key aspects of the procedural law.

We cannot tolerate or accept wrongful prosecutions and convictions. Humankind long ago discovered and created effective methods to crack, and to the greatest extent, minimize wrongful prosecutions. Many people, however, have not realized this, or some people realize it but pretend not to have seen it, or even deliberately avoid it, even to the extent of abolishing basic configurations that already exist within the system.   

All wrongful convictions must be redressed, and they will be redressed; if not in this moment, then they will certainly be vindicated by history and by the people.

Victims of wrongful convictions, if there’s something you need, I hope I can help you, and do my best, using my frail body.

Chinese lawyers and human rights defenders have no higher requirements; they are not asking for stars and the moon ––they just need sunlight, air, and water. They just hope that those actors in the legal system can abide by the laws they formulate and enthusiastically publicly promote. They just want the most basic freedoms and the most basic rights of the people stipulated in the Chinese Constitution and laws to be truly guaranteed.   

I was eventually charged and convicted of the crime of subversion of state power. I was defeated during the process of countering the subversion charge and opposing the wrongful prosecution. Several lawyers whom my family hired to represent me were detained, others were forced to withdraw; some had their licenses revoked, and Cheng Hai’s law firm was even been cancelled. They have paid a huge price. Freedom is not free. This is the unavoidable path for human rights defenders; a hardship they must bear. Failure does not mean a cessation to exploration and struggle. We will learn our lessons and reflect on our mistakes, so that in the future, people will take fewer detours and pay less of a price. Even if one day I stop moving forward, the efforts of my compatriots to fight against wrongful convictions, and charges of subversion will not stop, nor will humanity’s efforts to pursue truth, freedom, justice, and dignity.

Those who’ve taken part in creating wrongful convictions, on the one hand, claim to put power in a cage in the system, on the other hand, they put those who are committed to putting power into a cage into their own cage of power. On the one hand, they claim to want to make people feel fairness and justice in their cases, on the other hand, they do everything possible to cover up the truth by resorting to secret trials. On the one hand, they are obliged to correct some wrongful cases, on the other hand, they unscrupulously create new wrongful convictions without restraint. On the one hand, they claim they put “the people” at the center, on the other hand, they exclude people from the core judicial process. Those people who pay lip service to “the people” while trampling on them will one day discover that this society will not be made more stable by crushing human rights lawyers and human rights defenders. One day they will realize that they themselves are also human beings, and that they, too, need human rights, and that they, too, need human rights lawyers to defend them.

During my detention, I encountered more types of victims of wrongful convictions. Many of these people ––entrepreneurs, billionaires, Hong Kong businessmen–– previously believed in making a fortune while keeping a low profile and were indifferent to human rights and to the wrongful convictions of others. There were also some victims of “residential surveillance at a designated location who suffered painful interrogations” (in the past it was called shuanggui, now it is called liuzhi), including the Party secretary of a Political and Legal Affairs Commission, a mayor, a district Party secretary, cadres of the State Council and even the chief of a Public Security Bureau. Previously, these people were party of the machinery of power, and seemingly never thought they themselves would become the power machine’s target. Their experience was both full of irony, and depressing. 

Many more people will be wronged in the future, and many people will lose their lives and freedom; many families will be shattered, and many people will either proactively or be compelled to take the road of defense of rights and redress of grievances, regardless of whether they are rich or not, powerful or powerless, well-educated or otherwise.

During these nearly five long years, my case has received continuous and strong attention and support from all over the world. To those human rights groups, lawyers’ organizations, international political leaders, free media, and numerous netizens –– thank you for your help during this journey.

During the long period when I was detained and isolated from the world, all the outside world’s doubts and worries were reasonable, and no support was superfluous, even if you just clicked “like” or reposted some news. All of this gave my family enormous support and enabled them to endure these extremely difficult years. It is also because of your voices that I am safer, and not alone.

Now, after the 709 Crackdown, many lawyers and human rights defenders have again been detained, one after the next, including Lawyer Li Yuhan (李昱函律师), Lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生律师), Mr. Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Mr. Huang Qi (黄琦), Pastor Wang Yi (王怡牧师), Mr. Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志), Mr. Zhui Hun (追魂), Lawyer Qin Yongpei (覃永沛律师), Lawyer Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿律师), Mr. Cheng Yuan (程渊), Lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜律师), Dr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永博士), Mr. Fang Bin (方斌), Lawyer Chen Qiushi (陈秋实律师), Lawyer Zhang Zhan (张展律师), Mr. Xie Wenfei (谢文飞), Mr. Wang Zang (王藏), Professor Xu Zhangrun (许章润教授) and thousands of spiritual believers and human rights defenders. These people are currently enduring, and have endured the suffering that we previously bore, and today they need the attention and support of everyone, and the international community.

The interviews I’ve given so far represent only a small part of the true picture.  More truth and details will follow. I’ll clarify my thoughts amid the enigma of a dense, confusing, and complicated history and reality, and over a long stretch of time unfold them in layers, slowly restoring them. I plan to write a book tentatively titled “The Endless End.”

Maybe one day I will have no choice but to leave; maybe I will face a harsher and even more sinister environment, but dear friends, don’t be sad, and don’t cry for me. I, lawyer Quanzhang, have told the world I love so deeply what kind of person I am, in my own way, bearing a fatigued body covered with scars, carrying with me previous success, virtue and sin.

May every Chinese person be free from unjust, false and wrongful prosecutions, free from arbitrary violations by the machinery of power, free from political and judicial persecution carried out under the guise of concocted pretexts and excuses….  

May justice in individual cases, individual freedom and individual dignity soon come to China.

July 8, 2020

[1] Translator’s note: In March 2014, four lawyers were detained in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang province, while trying to free Falun Gong practitioners who had been detained in a black jail. Wang Quanzhang was among the many lawyers and citizen activists who went to Jiansanjiang to protest against the detention of the lawyers and attempt a rescue.  In the early hours of March 29, Wang –– who was representing one of the detained lawyers ––  was dragged out of bed by security officials and taken to a detention center where he was forced to sign a statement claiming that he would not represent his client or Falun Gong practitioners. Wang Quanzhang later wrote a detailed account of the incident for the New York Times’ Chinese edition

[2] Translator’s note: In an interview with China Change in January 2017, Peter Dahlin provided detailed information about the activities of the NGO Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, which he and Wang Quanzhang and a few others founded in 2009.

[3] Translator’s note: In April 2013, Wang Quanzhang was given a 10-day “judicial detention” by a court in Jingjiang, Jiangsu province, for “disrupting court order.” A large number of lawyers arrived on the scene protesting the court’s action against a lawyer. Wang was released after three days in detention.

[4] Translator’s note: The HRD Declaration is not a treaty to be signed; it was adopted by consensus (without a vote) and without signatures.

Translated from Chinese by Andrea Worden.


A Tribute to Wang Quanzhang, Yaxue Cao, on the second China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day, July 8, 2018, New York.

4 responses to “Political and Judicial Persecution Must be Based on Law, and it Must Be Professional and Reasonable — My Self Defense (in part)”

  1. […] The fifth who dared speak in July was Wang Quanzhang, the human rights lawyer who was recently released  and reunited with his family after four years in prison. The lawyer, arrested in the widespread “Black Friday” or “709” crackdown of 2015, published a statement titled “Political and Judicial Persecution Must be Based on Law, and it Must Be Professional and Reasonable — My Self Defense” on WeChat. The article was deleted, but has been translated into English by China Change. […]

  2. […] 1. Participation in the incident involving meeting detainees at the Jiansanjiang Detention Center;[1] […]

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