Dawu legal team, April 4, 2021
Sun Dawu (孙大午), a prominent entrepreneur in Xushui District, Baoding City, Hebei Province, is the founder of Dawu Group. Beginning nearly 40 years ago with 1,000 chickens and 50 pigs, Dawu Group has transformed a remote and undesirable tract of saline land into a pearl on the North China Plain, building a modern community with production, conference center, education, healthcare, leisure and entertainment, tourism, and retirement care rolled into one. Dawu Group’s headquarters covers an area of around 5,000 mu (more than 800 acres), employs nearly 10,000 employees, and operates 28 subsidiaries with assets totalling more than 10 billion yuan. It has been a key leading enterprise in the agricultural industry of Hebei Province.
In the early morning of November 11, 2020, Sun Dawu and the senior management of the group suddenly suffered its biggest crisis since 2003; Sun was imprisoned along with his family and key executives; those held include 25 people, among them his wife, two sons, and daughters-in-law. The 2020 case has received widespread attention and concern; however, various factors have obscured the progress of the case from the outside world.
Here, we offer some answers to pertinent problems concerning the Dawu case:
1. What detention measures have been taken against Sun Dawu and other executives involved in the case?
A: At present, there are 30 people involved in the case. Seven people, including Sun Dawu, Sun Dehua (孙德华), Sun Zhihua (孙志华), Sun Meng (孙萌), Liu Ping (刘平), Jin Fengyu (靳凤羽), and Ji Weilian (纪玮莲) were put under residential surveillance at a designated location (指定居所监视居住 or RSDL) at an undisclosed place by the Gaobeidian City Public Security. Another five people are on bail, and the remaining 18 people are held in detention centers in Baoding, Gaobeidian, Mancheng, Shunping County, and Gaoyang County, respectively. The investigation period has been extended to May 16, 2021.
2. Which level of the public security apparatus is in charge of the investigation?
A: Dawu Group is located in Xushui District, Baoding city, the case is nominally being investigated by the Gaobeidian City Public Security Bureau (Gaobeidian is a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Baoding), but when the defense lawyers request meetings with the accused to discuss the case, the Gaobeidian police said they must ask for permission from higher authorities.
3. What are the charges against the Dawu Group?
A: The arrest documents mainly concern the crimes of illegally absorbing public deposits (非法吸收公众存款罪), provoking trouble (寻衅滋事), disrupting public order (聚众扰乱公共场所秩序罪), disrupting production and business operations (破坏生产经营罪), willful bodily injury (故意伤害罪), obstruction of public services (妨害公务罪), raising crowds against the state organs (聚众冲击国家机关罪), and so on. Based on what lawyers have learned from meeting with clients, it cannot be ruled out that the number of charges could grow.
4. Is the Dawu Group involved in possible organized crime (涉黑涉恶)?
A: According to the current legal documents, the case unit has not identified the case as involving organized crime (“black and evil”). During his meeting with the lawyers, Sun Dawu expressed firm belief that the government will not wantonly name him as being involved in organized crime. However, we must remain highly vigilant, as there is nothing to guarantee that the case will not be artificially elevated to involve charges of organized crime. It should be especially noted that the Dawu Group is a legally operating company, has an excellent reputation in the local area, believes in shared prosperity, and places the interests of the local farmers first. It is preposterous to suggest that it is involved with organized crime.
5. What are the origins of this case?
A: In addition to the crime of illegal absorption of public deposits, all other crimes are related to disputes over farmland, as well as the “incident of August 4th forced demolition petition.” Many years ago, the village of Langwuzhuang (郎五庄), where the Dawu Group is located, leased over 740 mu of farmland to the state-run Xushui Farm for cultivation, but the farm ended up actually occupying more than 2,000 mu of land in Langwuzhuang. The two sides have been arguing for several years over the rights to the farmland. Eventually, Langwuzhuang leased its land to Dawu Group’s seed company. On June 21, Dawu got in a dispute with the Xushui state farm over forcible tilling and planting. In the morning of August 4, 2020, when the farm demolished a temporary building belonging to Dawu, some Dawu employees and Langwuzhuang villagers defended their rights and prevented a vehicle of the farm director, Zhang Hongsheng (张洪生), from leaving. The Xushui District Public Security Bureau intervened, resulting in many injuries. In the afternoon of that day, fired up by the anger from the demolition and injuries they sustained that day, the company’s employees gathered at the entrance of the district public security bureau to peacefully voice their demands — this was the direct trigger for the case.
For now, the vast majority of charges surrounding the Dawu Group are related to this conflict. Objectively speaking, the Dawu Group has not been entirely calm in the handling of this incident, as the dispute has been emotionally charged; for this reason, the company has been reflecting on its mistakes. However, any attempt to present Dawu as an organized criminal operation would be a serious distortion of the facts, and a blatantly unfair jab at private enterprise.
6. What of rumors that Dawu Group has been taken over by the government?
A: After the case started, Baoding, Xushui and other levels of government assigned a total of 29 working groups to be stationed at Dawu and its subsidiaries. The Group’s official seal as well as that of most of the subsidiaries were put under “management” or “co-management” by the working groups. Use of the company seals have to be approved by the related working group. Dawu Hospital is being “helped and supported” (“帮扶”) by the Baoding No. 1 Central Hospital, and the Dawu School is being “helped and supported” by the Baoding Normal School, Baoding City Education Bureau and Xushui Education Bureau. The heads of some subsidiaries are required to report to the working group for approval in order to travel and are assigned personnel from the working group to “accompany” them. The autonomy of the enterprise has been seriously affected.
7. Is the presence of the government working groups in Dawu helpful for the stable operation of the Group?
A: We believe that the aim of the government working groups is to stabilize the company’s operation, but in fact, the government working groups’ actions, including controlling the company seals and financial affairs, and even interfering with the personal freedom of employees have seriously interfered with the normal operation of the Group and exacerbating disquiet among the Group’s employees. This has led to a series of questions: On what legal basis do the working groups control the company seals and its financial affairs? During the period when the working groups have control over the company seals, does the legal risk of business operation fall to the company or to the working groups? Dawu Group hopes that the working groups will withdraw and that the Group will take back its company seals and restore financial freedom to the enterprise. The Group is willing to carry out business activities independently under the leadership of the Party and in accordance with the law, and actively accept the supervision of government departments and the community.
8. What is Dawu Group’s current business situation?
A: In the case of Dawu Construction Company, for example, the planned interior decoration of the office building was stopped, construction projects were stopped, and the number of employees has fallen sharply, from more than 1,500 to about 200. The subsidiaries are experiencing different degrees of customer loss, low staff morale, serious loss of technical personnel, declining sales and overall operating losses. The pressure on the future operations of each subsidiaries of Dawu Group is mounting daily.
9. Have lawyers been engaged to take the Dawu case, and what are their views on the case?
A: [The defendants in] the Dawu case have engaged a top legal team in China, including Chi Susheng (迟夙生), Wang Shihua (王誓华), Hao Yachao (郝亚超), Yang Bin (杨斌), Zhang Lei (张磊), Liu Jinbin (刘金滨) and Wang Wanqiong (王万琼). Lawyer Zheng Chengyue (郑成月) was hired as the company’s legal advisor. After meeting with the defendants and ascertaining the case details, the lawyers are of the preliminary opinion that most of the charges in this case can not be substantiated, let alone constitute involvement in organized crime.
10. What are the latest developments of the case?
A: At present, the case is still in the stage of investigation, and the public security apparatus has not made any indication that this case involves organized crime. Lawyers have met with the defendants, and has tried to gain an understanding of the case from the investigators. The lawyers have been treated in a peculiar way when trying to meet clients: without any justification, Baoding detention center required that the lawyers in the Dawu case must make appointments in person in order to meet with the defendants (it’s understood that in other cases, telephone appointments were permitted). In violation of the written law that a meeting with an attorney must be granted within 48 hours, lawyers in this case were allowed to meet clients only about 10 days after the appointment. Without any justification, the authorities forbade the defendants from meeting with their respective attorneys on the same day. During the meeting, staff at the detention center claimed that since this case was special, the meeting time would be limited to 20 minutes. They required the attorneys to provide travel itineraries of the past 30 days certified by their respective law firms’ official stamp. The lawyers in the Dawu case believe that the Gaobeidian PSB’s application of RSDL is illegal, and the Group had already reported the situation to the relevant supervisory authorities. The Gaobeidian PSB has to gain the approval of higher authorities before allowing lawyers’ visits. When investigators were explaining the case details, they did not bring up the issue of organized crime. The Dawu Group and lawyers are diligently working to gain the release of the company’s executives, so as to resolve the company’s crisis and restore its normal operations.
Note from the Editors: According to various sources, on April 7, 2021, Dawu Group’s legal advisors Zheng Yuecheng (郑月成), Yang Bin (杨斌) and Ren Zhao (任照), along with two sisters-in-law of Sun Dawu (wives of Sun Dehua and Sun Zhihua) were taken to the police station for “disrupting meetings of the Group’s senior executives” — a meeting of the government’s work groups stationed at Dawu.
孙大午，河北省保定市徐水区知名民营企业家，大午集团创始人。大午集团从饲养1000只鸡、50头猪起步，经过近四十年的打拼，在一片荒凉、没人願意承包的盐碱地上， 初步建成了一座集生产、会展、教育、医疗、休闲、娱乐 、旅游、养老于一体，职工近万，学生过万的现代化的康养小镇，成为华北平原上一颗耀眼的明珠。集团总部占地近5000亩，员工9000余人，下辖子公司28家，资产逾百亿，是省级农业产业化经营重点龙头企业。
2020年11月11日凌晨，孙大午及集团高层突然二次蒙难， 锒铛入狱，包括孙大午全家（妻子、二个儿子和儿媳妇）在内的25人被羁押至今，大午集团遭遇了自2003年以来的 又一次严峻危机。本案受到社会广泛关注，但因为各种原因，案件进展一直不为外界所知，现解答社会比较关切的 几个问题：
答：除非法吸收公众存款罪外，其它罪名都与农场土纠纷和“8.4强拆请愿事件”有关。多年前，大午集团所在的郎五庄村曾将740亩土地交由国营徐水农场耕种，但农场实际占用郎五庄村土地超2000亩。为了土地确权问题， 双方数年间争执不下。后来，郎五庄村将地租给了大午种业公司。2020年6月21日，大午集团与国营徐水农场在有争议土地上发生抢耕抢种。2020年8月4日早晨，因农场强拆争议土地上的大午公司临时建筑，部分员工村民维权， 阻拦农场场长张洪生的车辆离开，后徐水区公安局介入， 导致多人受伤。当日下午，公司员工在强拆和员工受伤的愤怒情緒影响下，到区公安局门口和平表达诉求，成为本案的直接导火索。目前来看，围绕大午集团的绝大多数罪名都与此次冲突有关。客观来讲，大午集团本身在处理此次事件中确实存在不冷静、情緒化的问题，公司上下对此也在深刻反思。但是，借这样一个机会把大午集团试图认定成涉黑涉恶，却是严重违背事实的，是对民营企业的极端不公平。
答：案发后，保定、徐水等各级政府一共指派了29个工作组进驻集团及各下属子公司，集团公章及大部分子公司的公章由工作组保管或“共管”，使用须经工作组审批， 大午医院由保定市第一中心医院“帮扶”、大午学校由保师附校、保定市教育局、徐水市教育局“帮扶”，部分子公司负责人外出需报工作组审批并被工作组指派专人“陪 同”，企业自主经营权受到严重影响。
答：大午案目前聘请了包括迟夙生、王誓华、郝亚超、 杨斌、张磊、刘金滨、王万琼在内的国内顶尖法律团队介入。聘请郑成月担任公司顾问。律师们经会见了解，初步 认为本案大多罪名不成立，更不构成涉黑或者涉恶。
答：目前案件仍在侦查阶段，公安机关没有透露本案涉 黑，律师陆续会见了当事人，向侦查机关了解案情。 律师会见手续受到了特殊对待，保定市看守无任何依据 情况下要求本案律师必须当面（据了解其他案件可以 电话 ）：违反48小时内安排会见的明文规定，预约后 10天左右才安排会见：无任何依据情况下不允许本案同案当事人同一天会见；会见中看守所工作人员宣称本案特殊，只能会见20分钟；要求律师提供30日内行程证明并加盖律所公章；律师认为高碑店市公安局指定居所监视居住违法，集团已经向相关监督机关反映情况；高碑店市公安局要请示上级机关才安排接待律师，侦查人员介绍案情时没有提涉黑涉恶的问题。集团与律师正在共同努力为公司高管申请取保，以解决集团经营危机、恢复集团正常运转。
Sun Dawu: A Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneur’s 36-year Dream in the Era of Reform and Opening Up (Part One), Yaxue Cao, March 30, 2021.
Sun Dawu: A Chinese Agricultural Entrepreneur’s 36-year Dream in the Era of Reform and Opening Up (Part Two), Yaxue Cao, April 2, 2021.
Dawu Group’s Concept of ‘Constitutional Labor-Capital Republic’ and Its Model of ‘Open Governance and Co-Prosperity’, Wang Jiangsong, November 24, 2020.
What Can You Do in the Face of Terror – A Chinese Entrepreneur Responds to Arrest of Rights Lawyers, Sun Dawu, July 24, 2015.