Wang Qiaoling, May 26, 2017
This interview was conducted on May 5, 2017, three days before lawyer Li Heping returned home. – The Editors
Host: Hello everyone and welcome to “Surveying China,” (放眼大陆); I’m Huang Juan (黄娟). From July 9, 2015, for the next two months, about 300 lawyers, rights defenders, and dissidents were subject to mass disappearances; they were summoned by police, detained, and some have eventually been sentenced and jailed. This became the “709 Crackdown” that shocked the world. It’s been almost two years. Some victims have been imprisoned, others have been released on probation, still others have been given suspended sentences. It would seem that what family members want most is for the victims to be released, no matter what the circumstances. However, almost everyone who was released has fallen off the radar — they weren’t in fact truly freed. How can this be?
Today, we’re interviewing Ms. Wang Qiaoling (王峭嶺). Wang Qiaoling’s husband Li Heping (李和平) was disappeared about two years ago. On April 25, the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court suddenly staged a secret trial of Li; they announced the verdict on April 28: Li Heping had been found guilty of subversion of state power and sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for four years, with deprivation of political rights for four years. From the verdict to May 5, eight days have passed, yet Li hasn’t been set free and allowed to return home. Lawyers hired by the family have gone to the court and the detention center, but Li was nowhere to be found. Wang Qiaoling, what was your reaction to the sentence?
Wang Qiaoling: First of all, I never expected they would carry out the trial in secret, and I never expected that the charges against my husband would be upheld. I heard from the secret police, the security police (国保), that he’d been sentenced. Then they told me that this was “the best news.” “A suspended sentence means he can return home.” But when I heard it, I was enraged.
As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t any sort of good news! I know exactly what sort of man my husband is. If one were concerned with enduring humiliation to save one’s skin, then of course it’s a good thing that he can come home. But he’s not merely an innocent man. He’s someone who goes out of his way to help others, to help those who are even more innocent, and tries to secure justice for them. It’s as though, if he went out and helped up an elderly person who’d fallen in the street, and for that was falsely accused of subverting state power — would you say his being sentenced in that case shouldn’t make me mad?
So I was really furious about it. With the entire 709 case from its inception to today, we’ve personally experienced China’s rule of law. It’s as worthless as a rag. There’s no rule of law. So we’re working as hard as possible to expose the truth. Myself and the other wives of 709 lawyers dearly hope that our husbands will be declared innocent and come home free. But the secret police tell me that he’s been convicted of the crime, given a suspended sentence, and then try to say it’s good news. They’ve used so many perverse, twisted methods to torment my husband, force-feeding him drugs, and all sorts of other cruelties. For 22 months his lawyers have been unable to see him. There’s been no news. So their declaring my husband a criminal makes me really mad.
Host: International observers were also rather astonished about this: Why was Li Heping put on trial without his family even knowing about it?
Wang Qiaoling: Exactly. It’s not only the trial we didn’t know about. We hadn’t even received the bill of indictment beforehand; and afterwards they didn’t show us the judgement. It was conducted in total secrecy. In other words, 22 months after my husband was arrested, we know nothing, and then at the end they tell us he’s a criminal.
Host: Though we did see the official news that they had designated Wen Zhisheng (温志胜), of the Tianjin branch of the Beijing Zhonglun Law Firm (北京中伦律师事务所), as Li Heping’s lawyer. But he didn’t inform the family of Li Heping’s trial or what was going on. Have you met this Wen Zhisheng?
Wang Qiaoling: The first time I met this lawyer named Wen Zhisheng was on April 28, the day that my husband was found guilty. Wen Zhisheng, though he was Li Heping’s defense lawyer, wasn’t with his client in the courtroom when the sentence was read, but was instead with the secret police waiting outside my apartment building, waiting for me to come downstairs. They didn’t dare come up, because they knew I wouldn’t let them in. So they just waited for me to come down, then stopped me, surrounded me, and prevented me from leaving. At this point Wen Zhisheng told me: “I’m your husband’s lawyer.” I said, “So you’re Wen Zhisheng? I call you and you don’t answer; I sue you and you don’t dare show your face.” He closed in on me and said: “I have a handwritten note from your husband to you.” I said: “You people have fabricated so many things, including letters to family members from prison.” We’ve been through too much over these 22 months. They’ve fabricated letters, signatures, and video recordings. They even came and told us family members not to appeal on behalf of our husbands, because they’ve already confessed. But when the victims emerged they said that they had never made those video recordings.
So when Wen Zhisheng gave me the letter, I simply didn’t believe him. I’ve never acknowledged that Wen Zhisheng actually represents my husband. We can pay for a lawyer ourselves, and we can get the best in China. I myself notified the court that I’ll be acting as Li Heping’s defense counsel. Li Heping and I studied law together at university, in the same class, so I’m entirely qualified to serve in that capacity. But my husband has been deprived of any news from outside, and the authorities forcibly assigned this lawyer to him. So when I saw this Wen Zhisheng, I told him: “I don’t believe you, and I don’t accept you as my husband’s lawyer.” I didn’t look at the letter he gave me. Then he went over and snatched the phone from another 709 wife, because she was taking photos of the encounter.
Host: What did it matter that someone was taking photos of him? Did he want to hide the fact that he had been assigned to be Li Heping’s lawyer?
Wang Qiaoling: I think he tried to seize her phone because he was terrified of being exposed. From when I learned that he was made my husband’s lawyer, I had tried to see him, but he never took my calls. So I sued him; the day before yesterday I received a response from the Tianjin Higher People’s Court, ruling that they would not accept my case. So I gave Wen Zhisheng a nickname: “The running dog of the Zhao family Wen Zhisheng,” “the Zhao family’s running dog.” He’s a disgrace to the term lawyer. Even though I don’t acknowledge his role, as the officially-appointed lawyer to Li Heping, how could he not be in Tianjin on the day that Li Heping is being sentenced? Amazingly, at 11:00 a.m. when I go out, he’s there outside my door. He must have had to get up early, at least, and spend three hours traveling from Tianjin to my home in Beijing. So from that you know just how he goes about acquitting himself as a lawyer.
Host: It’s quite strange. Given that he’s the officially-assigned lawyer, why not just follow the procedures and be in the court when the verdict is delivered?
Wang Qiaoling: He came to my house with the police to do one thing: fool me into going with them back to Tianjin to meet my husband. That way, they could put us both under house arrest. I would have lost contact with everyone, and there would have been no opportunity for the truth to be exposed. From the beginning of 2016, of everyone who has been released on probation — including those who were given suspended sentences in August, as well as those even later released on probation — there’s not a single one who has been truly free. This is the “709 Model.”
Host: You mean to say that everyone who has been released, to this day, has not really been free to speak?
Wang Qiaoling: That’s exactly what I mean.
Host: Has anyone gone to meet with them?
Wang Qiaoling: There have been meetings. People have definitely gone to visit them in secret, but no one dares take photos, or if photos were taken, no one would dare publish them. It’s got to that point. They were subjected to unimaginable torture inside. After they’re released they’ve not dared to speak to their own family members or society at large. When the police came on April 28, if they had succeeded in taking me away they would have brought me to my husband in Tianjin, and then used coercive measures to completely cut us off from any contact with the world. Without a phone, I wouldn’t be able to go online, and I’d have lost contact with the world. This is the 709 model. Every family has been dealt with in this manner. Look at the case of Wang Yu (王宇). No one has seen her.
Host: I haven’t heard any news.
Wang Qiaoling: Zhao Wei [赵威, Li Heping’s legal assistant] is the same; no one I know has seen her. Another assistant of my husband’s, Gao Li (高丽), has not been seen either. Over these last two years we’ve seen just too many family members who’ve been tricked when going in to visit. The relatives think that after they see the detainee, they’ll all be able to go home together. That’s what the police tell them. But then they go, and the result is that all contact is lost.
Host: You mean family members also get put under house arrest?
Wang Qiaoling: When we can contact them, the most we dare do is just ask how they’re getting on. They say “alright,” and don’t dare say more than that. When they get entrapped like this we really have no idea what has befallen them. Consider the entire 709 Crackdown — how many victims have really dared to come out and speak the truth? This leads me to Li Heping’s current circumstances. According to Chinese law, Li Heping has been given a suspended sentence. On that very day he should have been released to come back home. Why, at this point, have we heard nothing? Today Li Heping’s former defense attorney Ma Lianshun (马连顺) was commissioned by me to go to the Tianjin Procuratorate, the court, the detention center, and the Guajiasi (挂甲寺) police station to ask them: “Where is Li Heping?” They all say: “We don’t know. He’s gone.” So now you see what sort of situation Li Heping is in. He’s been disappeared. A new round of disappearance.
Host: Goodness — he’s been given a suspended sentence and they still won’t let him go.
Wang Qiaoling: Right. This is the 709 model.
Host: It’s been eight days now. What are they playing at? In the case of Li Heping, whether he’s given a suspended sentence as in this case, or if he was released on probation, if the authorities were determined to keep him detained, why bother going through the trial?
Wang Qiaoling: If they simply kept him detained indefinitely, it would set the Chinese government against the democratic countries around the world that cherish universal values and liberty. This is why, under intense international scrutiny and pressure, they have no choice but to release some people, let them out on probation, or give suspended sentences — as though these were really light punishments. It’s a show for the world, because the pressure was getting too much. It’s as if someone was abusing his children and wife. In front of other people, he’d say: “Look, I’m not hitting them anymore!” But now they’ve switched their methods of tormenting those they’ve detained. Just look at those who’ve been released on probation and are home now, or those given suspended sentences — who dares speak freely? This is to say that imprisonment has now become house arrest, so you can’t speak, can’t have any contact with the world, and it puts the victims under intense psychological pressure. That pressure falls not only on them, but the entire family. By giving Li Heping a suspended sentence, their goal is to use house arrest to stop him from helping those victims around him who need help. He’s also lost his license to practice law, because he’s been convicted. And now for the next four years, any move he makes will be scrutinized, and if the authorities think that he’s trying to “subvert state power,” they’ll haul him in and make him serve three years in jail.
Host: This method actually seems to closely resemble what they’ve done to Gao Zhisheng (高智晟).
Wang Qiaoling: Yes, it’s very like the approach they used before on Gao. In wrapping up the 709 cases, the Chinese authorities, on the surface, have adopted a lenient approach — but in actual fact they’ve used more underhanded, devious tactics to harm these lawyers and activists. None of the 709 victims dares to speak freely about what they went through. This itself is a huge psychological torment. On top of that, almost every day they’re going around frightening this lawyer and that — arresting someone while they’re on vacation, grabbing others when they’re in the middle of a meal. They’re continuing to foster an atmosphere of terror among human rights lawyers.
Host: I assume you’re referring to the recent detention of Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) in Yunnan, and the arrest of a number of human rights lawyers in the middle of a meal in Chengdu?
Wang Qiaoling: Right. And actually if you think back to Jiangang’s involvement in Xie Yang’s (谢阳) 709 case, all he did was his duty as a lawyer. If your client has been subjected to savage torture and you pretend like nothing happened, are you doing your job as a lawyer? In that case the authorities should simply scrap the entire legal profession and be done with it. If you’re a lawyer, then you have to defend the rights of your client — you expose the facts of the torture that your client was put through; this is one’s professional duty. If the authorities have the nerve to carry out this sort of torture, then they shouldn’t complain when it’s exposed. If they’ve got the nerve to act like scoundrels, then they should at least dare to proclaim themselves as scoundrels. You can’t act like a thug and simultaneously pretend like you’re a good person. I’m holding back on speaking too harshly in order to spare their feelings a bit.
Host: In these 709 mass arrests, there was another lawyer who received a lot of attention, Xie Yanyi (谢燕益). He was released a little while ago, but I don’t know what his circumstances are like now. It seems difficult to get any information about him.
Wang Qiaoling: Right — this is the “709 model” that I was talking about. Lawyer Xie was released on probation around the same time as Li Chunfu (李春富, Li Chunfu’s younger brother). Their families are really happy that they were allowed home. But they found that even after they came back home, they were unable to enjoy life in any normal fashion. Once home they made some announcements like “We need to rest,” etc. But have you heard anything about what they went through? No. What you’ve heard privately, or heard from so-and-so’s wife, hasn’t been verified by the person themselves, so you can only say that privately the news is that this or that happened. This is the 709 model. The authorities changed up their tactics, continuing to keep detained those they’ve “released.” If they dare to speak publicly about what happened to them in prison, the security police will appear once more and begin harassing and disturbing the family. So they can’t really live free lives.
Host: You just mentioned Li Chunfu, Li Heping’s younger brother. The news seemed to be that soon after he was released, his family found that he was mentally disturbed, but I haven’t heard the details of the situation now.
Wang Qiaoling: He indeed experience enormous mental suffering, and when he got out his mind seemed muddled and confused. He couldn’t identify his family members, and didn’t know whether he could trust and rely or them or not. He thought that the friends dropping by to visit were police. At the time, this was truly agonizing to behold. He said himself: I remember the day I left the detention center very clearly; the procedural aspect of the case had reached a decision-point: either I was going to sue the court, or else they were going to release me. But on that day the police were adamant to take me out of the police station.” He’s a lawyer; he said to them: “Firstly, you’re not my family; secondly, you’re not my lawyer, and you’re just taking me away like this. The detention center is under surveillance, but you taking me away like this means I can’t be certain of my personal safety.” So he was forcibly removed from the detention center, and even his signature on the probation documents was added later — the police forced him to sign them. There was also a bail bond of 1,000 yuan for the probation. He found it very strange, saying: “I don’t have any money. Who paid this?” The police said that his family paid it, but there was no family there, and no one knows where this money came from. So whether it’s Li Chunfu or anyone else arrested in the 709 crackdown, from their arrest to their release, there has been all manner of trampling on due process, official procedures, and the law. The police themselves say it: “There’s no law. There’s nothing you can do but confess.”
Host: It sounds like all these cases were blackbox operations. Ms. Wang, your husband has been locked up for nearly two years and has been unable to meet his lawyers. As his wife, how have you gotten through this?
Wang Qiaoling: I’m extremely concerned for his safety. Who can bear their husband’s absence, disappearance and separation for so long? Li Heping was vanished on July 10, 2015; when we received the notification of his arrest on January 20, 2016, my first reaction was: He’s alive; thank God that he’s still alive. Over the next grueling year or so, we received not a skerrick of news about him, until a few days ago when the police told me that my husband had been found guilty and was given a suspended sentence. My first reaction was again: He’s still alive. In China, detention centers are at least better than “residential surveillance at a designated place,” basically secret detention, where deaths can happen easily. I was very concerned that his body wouldn’t be able to take it, or that there’d be some sort of accident. My feeling on both these occasions was to thank God that he’s still alive.
How did I get through these last two years? I’m greatly fortunate because I’m a Christian. In the times of greatest trial, I pray. The most difficult times have been when I haven’t heard word about my husband. At these times, I’ve myself received a knock on the door and been taken to the detention center. Last August I accompanied another family as they went to apply to observe their husband’s court case. On the road in the middle of the night I was taken away by about a dozen men who shoved me into their car. No one knew who had taken me. I was locked in a room in the detention center for 24 hours. At this most difficult time, I got through it with prayer. As a Christian, I know that our human lives aren’t in our own hands — but in the hands of God. If one day, as I’m rushing about my business, I die — I believe that this will have been allowed by God. I know that upon death I’ll certainly be going to Heaven. That’s not because I’m so great, but because I have faith — we’re formed by our faith in God. So over these past two years, during the days of greatest torment, I’ve relied on prayer and faith in God to overcome. I know that God is a God of kindness and compassion. The 709 Crackdown over the past two years has pushed many families to the verge of destruction — but I always try to look at these affairs as they must appear in the eyes of God. In the midst of unrighteousness, you can often see love between people emerge and grow, and this love is conferred by God.
I remember some time ago that a foreign friend told me that China’s birth control policies are a horrendous violation of human rights; but because of these birth control policies, many baby girls are abandoned, and he and his wife adopted and raised three Chinese girls. Now he has three great loves in his family. And precisely in the midst of injustice, I found that my husband’s work was precisely about showing compassion toward and helping those around him — especially those at the bottom of society, like peasants, or those who have been wrongly sentenced to death, and so on. After my husband was arrested I met so many strangers who respected him, believed in him, and because of this loved our family. I also saw my children, throughout all this turmoil, go from being jealous of one another to showing concern and love for one another. I also saw that as our family went through these collective trials and tribulations, we not only withstood what was hard to face, but we were also willing to reach out a helping hand and support those around us. I have witnessed all these things over the last two years. When God opened my eyes and let me see all this, I felt that the burden of living became easier to bear.
Host: I remember there was a wife of one of the 709 lawyers — I think it was Li Wenzu (李文足, the wife of Wang Quanzhang)? — who said she cried for a long time, all the way until you reached out with a helping hand, wrote her a letter, and she finally had an ally and no longer felt isolated and helpless.
Wang Qiaoling: That was roughly what happened. In early 2016 when I received the notice of my husband’s arrest, I thought: God, what is it you want me to do? Right then, I said to myself with great clarity: Don’t linger in your own pain; you need to help those around you who are suffering in the same way. So during that Chinese New Year, I gave it a go, driving around to check in on the other family members of 709 victims. What we’re able to do is so feeble, minimal, and limited, but when you’re willing to do that little bit, you’ll find that love is like a seed that, when placed in the soil, can grow and grow. In the nearly two years since the 709 incident we’ve all been supported by one another. This is so precious. I feel that for all families — whether or not they fell victim to this shocking 709 incident — we all need to learn to not just look after ourselves, but look after those around us.
Host: When a lonely individual steps outside themselves, it creates a greater power. Over these last two years, in fact, the model of resistance we’ve seen from 709 families is completely different to the impressions we have and the circumstances of the past. Back years ago in Taiwan it was also like that — the families of those persecuted would display the tragicness of all, and thus gain international sympathy. Of course, this sort of suffering is indeed worthy of sympathy. But the way you went about resisting was original and creative, adopting a lot of new approaches, and this was what drew a lot of attention. I think in the future this will become a model that is worthy of study.
Wang Qiaoling: Someone will actually study this? Hah.
Host: I hope it won’t need to be studied much more!
Wang Qiaoling: For us it camel very natural — it was natural to go about it this way. That people want to study it, I think that’s quite amusing. I suffered clinical depression 17 years ago. I had just given birth to our eldest son and was suffering post-partum depression and was receiving treatment for in hospital. When I began believing in Jesus, and was in an environment where everyone was kind to one another, in a church, I gradually underwent a complete recovery. When I lived out in my own life the teachings of the Bible, I found that they brought benefits both to myself and the people around me. I experienced this as the work of God. You might have found that we’re very optimistic, proactive, and we don’t play the victim or indulge in sadness — this is just our normal manner. We’re just really optimistic people. If it wasn’t for so many years of the church helping me, I wouldn’t be like this.
China’s Hero Lawyers, WSJ editorial, May 22, 2017.
In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post Editorial, January 26, 2017.
‘My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer,’ interview with Ai Weiwei in 2010.
Transcribed and translated by China Change.
China Change, May 25, 2015
The struggle continues for Chinese workers who labored on the Imperial Pacific casino project. This morning, as captured in this video, over 20 workers are protesting in the streets of Saipan chanting “pay my hard-earned wages, I want to return home.” Below is a letter issued by the protesting workers describing their long hours, low pay, and inhumane treatment. They are demanding to be paid in accordance with U.S. minimum wage and overtime laws as well as seeking compensation for injured workers.
These workers were employed by a variety of Chinese construction companies helping construct the casino, including Beilida, Gold Mantis, CMC Macao, and the state-owned enterprise MCC. As the New York Times noted, several of the companies see their work in Saipan as part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” project.
Earlier this month, after a series of protests, over 90 undocumented Gold Mantis workers received compensation pursuant to a U.S. Department of Labor settlement. However, Gold Mantis never compensated workers injured on the job, despite calls for them to do so by a previous OSHA official and other advocates. And some Gold Mantis employees still have not been paid.
One of the protesting workers, Gui Lin Zhang, worked for both MCC and Gold Mantis. He had to pay US $1,000 in cash to the Gold Mantis boss to get that job. Before he was paid his salary of $910 for his one month of work, another $300 “management fee” was deducted. He has not received any pay from the U.S. Department of Labor settlement. Further, after leaving Gold Mantis, he was then injured while working at MCC, pulling muscles in his back. The company refused to take him to a doctor or provide any compensation.
Describing his work in Saipan, Zhang stated, “In terms of emotional stress, working 6 months on the casino project was equivalent to working 20 years in China. The managers frequently cursed at us. They treated us like we were not humans.”
At least one of the workers for CMC Macao had worked for over a month but not received any wages at all.
The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions and other allies have called on Imperial Pacific to tell its contractors to compensate workers.
The workers ask allies to tell Imperial Pacific via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (+852- 3968-9800) that all exploited casino workers must receive the pay and compensation to which they are entitled.
Xu Xiaoshun, father of Wu Gan, May 22, 2017
On May 20, 2015, while supporting lawyers on the “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” at the Jiangxi Provincial Higher People’s Court, Wu Gan (aka “The Butcher”) was detained by the Nanchang municipal police. Several days later he, a native of Fujian province, was charged by the Fujian police with the crimes of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “defamation,” and jailed in Yongtai County Detention Center. During his detention in Fujian he was able to meet with lawyers several times. But then he was suddenly forbidden meetings, and on February 1, 2016, it was learned he’d been transferred to the custody of Tianjin municipal police as part of the 709 (July 9, 2015) case, or the now infamous crackdown on human rights lawyers, and was detained in Tianjin 2nd Detention Center. On December 9, 2016, 17 months after seeing their client last, attorneys Yan Xin and Ge Yongxi obtained permission to meet with Wu Gan in Tianjin, and learned from him that he’d been brutally tortured, including being deprived of sleep, shackled hand and foot like a death row prisoner with “I-bar” hand irons, hospitalized and administered “excessive and exaggerated” medical treatment, and not allowed outside for more than 200 days. He told the lawyers that those administering his case hoped he would plead guilty, accept a state-appointed lawyer, and make a televised confession. He staunchly refused. On January 3, 2017, Wu Gan was indicted with the crimes of subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. On March 24, 2017, attorney Ge Yongxi again met with Wu Gan. Wu Gan revealed that he’d been seen by a state-delegated female psychologist who advised him to plead guilty. Wu Gan emphasized that he would not commit unprincipled acts, and would not fire his lawyers and accept state-appointed ones. Due to the international attention attracted by the publishing of attorney Chen Jiangang’s “Transcript of My Meeting with Xie Yang,” Wu Gan’s lawyers have been denied meetings with Wu Gan again since March 24. — The Editors
Dear colleagues, Wu Gan’s friends, victims of 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers, and supporters: I send my regards to you all. My name is Xu Xiaoshun (徐孝顺); I am Wu Gan’s father. Since Wu Gan was illegally imprisoned by the authorities, you have given him a lot of support and concern. I take this opportunity to thank you all from the bottom of my heart!
Wu Gan uses his mother’s surname, but did not inherit his mother’s gentle temperament. He’s just like me, inclined to help victims of injustice. Over the years Wu Gan has helped defend the rights of many people he’d never met before. I don’t have a specific understanding of all the things he did. But I do know his enthusiasm and integrity. I said to him: “What’s the use of your activism? It’s eventually going to land you in jail.” But he has his own ideas. Every time we met we argued, but after each dispute he persisted in his course of action.
I believe that everyone is somewhat familiar with the things Wu Gan has done since 2008. The authorities bitterly hate him, and have repeatedly persecuted him. But they have not succeeded in getting him to surrender. This is how they do things: when they couldn’t subdue him, they targeted his family to blackmail him. So on September 13, 2012, the local government gathered some people and fabricated the excuse of the crime of embezzlement to criminally detain me. According to their statement, I falsified accounts and conspired with others to privately sell an oil company’s crude oil. Of course the contents of the fabricated accounts couldn’t be verified. I was detained until May 23, 2013. When they couldn’t break me, they released me on “bail pending trial.” The year-long bail period expired on May 23, 2014, and in lieu of any evidence they dropped the case. However, on May 19, 2015, when Wu Gan was defending the rights of those sentenced to death in the Leping Wrongful Conviction Case in the Nanchang, Jiangxi Higher People’s Court, he was arrested. In order to make Wu Gan give up, on June 25, 2015 the authorities detained me again using the same charge. Since then, they have put on a show and held three court sessions. On January 19, 2017, they again released me on “bail pending trial.” On April 17 of this year, the Fuqing Municipal Court issued a ruling allowing the procuratorate to withdraw the criminal charges. On May 3, 2017, I received the Fuqing Municipal Procuratorate’s decision not to prosecute. From detention to withdrawal of charges, I was detained for nearly two years.
Discerning eyes can see that I was imprisoned altogether for more than two years because of my son Wu Gan’s human rights defense activities. I’ve suffered hardship, but have never blamed him. What he’s done isn’t wrong—I’m somewhat educated and I understand right and wrong. Some say that I have suffered guilt by association, but I have a different view. Guilt by association was invented by the Warring States Period statesman Shang Yang (商鞅, 390-338 BC), it means that when a person has committed a crime, their relatives share responsibility and must be punished as well. But my son Wu Gan has committed no crime. I was arrested, but only as a hostage to blackmail my son to plead guilty. I believe this interpretation is easier for people to understand.
My health has deteriorated after spending more than two years in the detention center. Old maladies are recurring. My hips and legs don’t move so well. Now that my own “case” has finished, I have to come out and say thank you to everyone! Thank you for more than two years of support and for helping Wu Gan, even though Wu Gan has yet to be “tried” and there are more 709 victims remaining in illegal detention. I think family members of other 709 victims share my sentiment.
I read carefully Wu Gan’s “indictment” cooked up by the authorities. According to the “indictment,” my son Wu Gan was involved in 12 things: supporting three Fujian netizens (福建三网民案), supporting home demolition victims (很多拆迁案), supporting me, supporting the lawyers attacked in Jiansanjiang, at a re-education center in northeastern Heilongjiang Province (建三江案), supporting the Huaihua Huang Family sisters (怀化黄氏姐妹), supporting the Zhengzhou Ten (郑州十君子案), supporting attorney Cheng Hai (程海律师), supporting Yunnan’s Lu Yong for helping 1,000 fellow leukemia patients get access to cheap, life-saving generic drugs from India (陆勇案), supporting Fan Mugen (范木根案), supporting Qing’an’s Xu Chunhe (庆安徐纯合案), and supporting the Jiangxi province “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” lawyers (江西乐平案). These twelve cases all have specific victims of injustice, and all have real problems that may qualify as crimes. He supported victims of injustice and helped them seek redress, and for this he is charged with the crime of “subverting state power.”
To be honest, reading the indictment I was very angry. Wu Gan was helping victims of injustice. He hasn’t done anything to rebel, but he has been named a rebel. I may disagree with his tactics, but I feel very proud of him. I may not fully understand why my son does these things, but, as someone born several months before the establishment of this Communist government, I understand the regime that rules the society in which I now live.
After I was released from jail, Wu Gan’s friend showed me a video Wu Gan had recorded. After watching it, I cried. Old as I am, I seldom cry. In 1999, when my village was polluted, I took the lead in defending our rights and was sentenced to prison. I did not cry. But after watching the video of my son, I saw another side to him, and cried. My son is a man, and I cried like a baby.
I don’t use the Internet, but his friends showed me information online and I now know a lot of things that happened after Wu Gan got arrested. I know that a lot of lawyers have been arrested since Wu Gan’s arrest. This is known as the 709 Crackdown. Many 709 Crackdown family members, relatives, and friends have been doing everything they can to free their loved ones. Especially Ms. Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Ms. Li Wenzu (李文足); they are really amazing. And many friends, relatives, and netizens support the 709 victims with bravery and intelligence. As Wu Gan’s father, and as a family member of a 709 Crackdown victim, I want to be part of the struggle and do my share, even though my hips and legs aren’t that nimble.
Before Wu Gan was arrested, he entrusted his affairs to some friends. They are able to go online and get more information, take quick action, and their numbers are quite large. I’m very reassured. I write this letter to express gratitude, and also to issue an appeal: Let’s all work together for the sake of 709 victims, and for the sake of my son Wu Gan. The more people who fight back, the better.
I’m a man with few hobbies, but I like to study fengshui (geomancy). People used to seek my advice on fengshui in choosing cemetery sites. Some may think that this is superstition, but I think it’s a way of giving people spiritual sustenance. A friend of Wu Gan told me that there’s a mother of one of the 709 victims who is a devout Buddhist. Every morning after her meditation, she said: My son is innocent, but they arrested him and won’t let lawyers meet him, leaving me no news of him whatsoever. Buddha, when will they die? I want to tell this mother, and I also say it in my heart every day: My son is innocent, they arrested him, now they won’t let his lawyers meet him. I want to find them a suitable site for their burial!
Thank you all again!
May 14, 2017
Xu Xiaoshun (徐孝顺)
Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017.
Activist Who Rejected TV Confession Invites CCTV Interviewer to Be Witness at His Trial, Wu Gan, March 24, 2017
Wu Gan the Butcher, Yaqiu Wang, July 22, 2015
Chang Ping, May 18, 2017
“Corruption is not just the result of money being misused, but the lack of a fair and transparent mechanism itself.”
God said: “Let there be light,” and then there was light. Xi Jinping said: “A ‘Project of the Century’ must be undertaken,” and then there was “One Belt, One Road.” At the just-completed summit in Beijing, Xi Jinping announced that China will invest hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars in 60 countries to lead in the construction of bridges, railways, ports and energy projects. This venture is known as “One Belt, One Road,” and involves more than 60 percent of the world’s population. It’s projected to transform the global political and economic order, and can be said to be the largest overseas investment project undertaken by a single country in history.
Where does such an unprecedented, magnificent, and spectacular plan come from? How many Chinese were aware of it in advance? Was it critically evaluated? And what was the outcome of the evaluation? Other than Xi Jinping, there is probably no one who can answer these questions. And no one knows if he himself has carefully thought about it. People can at least learn about almighty God by reading the Bible. But the “One Belt, One Road” plan of renewing the world only consists of a few pages of empty speeches and some conference documents. According to Chinese media descriptions, the whole world is heralding the birth of a new savior.
‘One Belt, One Road’: Don’t Ask Me Where I Came From
It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, but in China a corrupt “church” still monopolizes everything. Rational Europeans cast a suspicious eye. German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not attend the forum and “join in the festivities,” and the German Minister for Economics and Energy, Brigitte Zypries, who attended the event, criticized the unclear source of capital in China’s acquisition of German companies. Minister Zypries should also see that the lack of clarity does not just apply to the origin of part of the capital, but the whole “One Belt, One Road” project.
Joerg Wuttke, President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, said in a recent interview: “I hope China is actually embracing the world and opening up to foreign trade instead of just reaching out.” Risk analyst Andrew Gilholm said: “I don’t think many people are buying the spin that this is all in the name of free trade and global prosperity.” Siegfried O. Wolf, Director of Research at South Asia Democratic Forum in Brussels, was even more candid: “At present there is a lack of an effective platform for ‘One Bridge, One Road’ cooperation between Europe and China. If China is reluctant to build this bridge, and is unwilling to move toward multilateral mechanisms and disregards the values of the European Union based on good governance, rule of law, human rights, and democracy, then European skepticism of ‘One Belt, One Road’ will continue.”
Countries outside Europe aren’t irrational either. U.S. President Donald Trump, a businessman, has adopted a wait-and-see attitude toward China’s Creation Project, and only sent National Security Council Asia Director Matthew Pottinger to attend the meeting. Australia rejected China’s invitation. India boycotted the summit, saying that the “One Belt, One Road” project ignored “core concerns about sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Many of the leaders attending the summit are autocrats who don’t care about the questionable origin of China’s funding, and know the Chinese government doesn’t care how the investment is actually used once it’s given.
Buy One, Give Two Away: Corruption and the Deterioration of Human Rights
Many Chinese believe that Xi Jinping is leading a fight against corruption. What is corruption? Corruption is not just the result of money being misused, but the lack of a fair and transparent mechanism itself. In this sense, the lack of democratic supervision of “One Belt, One Road” is a mechanism for corruption. As with all large projects in China, there is no restriction on power, and this inevitably results in the criminal activities of corruption, rent-seeking, giving and taking bribes and money laundering.
While the Chinese media was obediently singing the praises of “One Belt, One Road” and its benefit to all mankind, a Chinese netizen posted the comment: “Some people lamented that overnight we’ve returned to the Song Dynasty [translator’s note: Song is a homonym for “give away” in Mandarin]. Others asked: the Southern Song Dynasty or the Northern Song Dynasty? Answer: No, it’s not ‘Southern Song Dynasty or Northern Song Dynasty,’ it’s the ‘Eastern Song [Give-Away] Dynasty’ and ‘Western Song [Give-Away] Dynasty!” Without public oversight, an unelected leader can take hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars in taxpayers’ money and give it to authoritarian states. The only thing that taxpayers can do is sneer at and mock it. Can a sane person believe that this is a good thing?
In the process of cooking up “One Belt, One Road,” China’s human rights situation has significantly deteriorated and threatens the whole world. Can all these—the kidnapping of Hong Kong booksellers, the coerced confessions of journalists, NGO workers, dissidents, and activists on China Central Television (CCTV), the disappearance of a Taiwanese human rights worker, and the cruel torture suffered by a large number of Chinese human rights lawyers—make you believe that such a government, which is expanding its economic and political clout through the “One Belt, One Road” program, will bring a New Gospel to mankind?
Chang Ping is a Chinese media veteran and current events commentator now living in political exile in Germany.
This is a Deutsche Welle column. Translated by China Change.
Also by Chang Ping:
China’s ‘Freedom’ Cage, by Chang Ping, 2015.
We’d Be Satisfied With Any Government!, October, 2015.
An interview with Chang Ping:
May 11, 2017
U.S. Investigates Work at Pacific Island Casino Project With Trump Ties, New York Times, May 4, 2017.
Chen Guiqiu, May 8, 2017
Over the weekend, ahead of the trial of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) on Monday, his wife Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋) published an article detailing, for the first time, how she first learned about her husband’s torture during the 6-month “residential surveillance at a designated place” and then in the Changsha 2nd Detention Center. Xie Yang, during the three-hour show trial for subversion and disrupting court order, denied being tortured as part of an apparent deal with the government. He looked gaunt in photographs. He was represented by a government appointed lawyer, and no witnesses were called. A handwritten statement by Xie Yang on January 13, sealed with red wax thumbprints, foretold this unfortunate “denial”: “If, one day in the future, I do confess — whether in writing or on camera or on tape, that will not be the true expression of my own mind. It may be because I’ve been subjected to prolonged torture, or because I’ve been offered the chance to be released on bail to reunite with my family. Right now I am being put under enormous pressure, and my family is being put under enormous pressure, for me ‘confess’ guilt and keep silent about the torture I was subject to.” — The Editors
On March 2, 2017, in a nearly 12 minute segment, CCTV-4 published a report about the torture of Hunan human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). The report, using numerous strands of evidence, purported to comprehensively prove that “Xie Yang did not suffer torture.” It said that the claim that Xie Yang had been tortured was a “conspiracy,” “engineered” by myself and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇). Included in the report was footage of Jiang Tianyong — under secret detention since November 21 last year — confessing guilt, and a so-called “independent investigation” by the Hunan Procuratorate, as well eyewitness description by the reporter upon visiting Xie Yang in the detention center.
Xie Yang’s defense lawyer, Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), produced an exhaustive, professional, and meticulous transcript of Xie Yang’s descriptions of the torture he suffered during meetings last December and on several successive days in January this year. These were published on January 19, 2017. A mass smear campaign in March also hinted that Chen Jiangang’s torture transcripts were a fabrication. Chen has already provided detailed and potent rebuttals of these ludicrous claims (here and here).
From early March to now, I’ve been silent for over two months. Today, I’m breaking that silence. First of all, I’d like the world to know how I came to gain news of the torture of Xie Yang beginning in August, 2016. With this, as well as Chen Jiangang’s transcripts and Xie Yang’s own handwritten statement, people can decide for themselves whether Xie Yang’s torture is real, and who is lying.
I. In late July, 2016, Hunan security police arranged for lawyer Zhang Zhongshi (张重实) to visit Xie Yang, for the purpose of persuading him to confess. Xie Yang had been in detention for a year by then, six months of which was under residential surveillance. After that he was held in the Changsha 2nd Detention Center. The meeting was extremely short. Xie Yang hurriedly recounted to Zhang some of the torture he suffered. He said that he was tortured to give a confession, and that he had at one point screamed out for help. He also told Zhang that over the past few days the detention center had locked him up in the same cell as a death row prisoner. The latter deliberately provoked him with lit cigarettes, and that after Xie Yang fought back against the bullying, the death row prisoner seized the opportunity to beat Xie Yang with his hand manacles. He sustained head injuries from this.
II. In August 2016, someone called and texted me multiple times at 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., saying that a man was calling for help from the second floor of the retired cadre guesthouse of the National University of Defense Technology on Deya Road in Changsha. The cries for help included my telephone number, name, and work unit. I went to visit this brave caller to verify what he told me. He said that the blood-curdling cries for help were terrifying in the extreme. Later, the interviews of Xie Yang by Chen Jiangang corroborated this incident. Xie Yang was indeed, while suffering an illness and trying to deflect the blows raining down on him, screaming for help out of the window of the cadre guest house.
III. On November 21, 2016, lawyer Zhang Zhongshi was able to formally hold a conference with Xie Yang for the first time as his defense lawyer. He heard Xie Yang, on his way to the meeting room, cry out at being slugged by the disciplinary officer Yuan Jin (袁进), and he touched Xie Yang’s swollen, bloody head. Zhang and I then exposed this incident to the media.
IV. In the year that Xie Yang was held in the detention center, several former detainees personally gave me extremely detailed accounts of the torture and inhumane treatment he was put to. They said he was put in solitary confinement, denied the use of money placed in his account by family, and denied toothpaste and toilet paper. He also described to them the numerous forms of torture applied against him during residential surveillance at a designated place. I have audio recordings of these accounts. I will make them public at an appropriate time.
V. During my contact with the state security police and public security forces, a number of people told me the news that Xie Yang had been tortured in custody. I also made audio recordings of these statements.
VI. These varied sources corroborated each other. I cannot reveal the names because they would be subject to violent reprisal for telling me. They include individuals in the security police and the public security system whose conscience has not been lost, and kind-hearted people who have suffered like me. When the state terrorists behind these acts have fallen from power, I will let you know who these heroes are.
Before Chen Jiangang’s interview transcripts were published, the news about Xie Yang was revealed by myself and his previous defense lawyers, covering two periods of time: when Xie Yang was being held in residential surveillance (July 11, 2015 to January 8, 2016) and after he was placed in the detention center (January 8, 2016 to the present). Every piece of evidence we gathered can be verified.
The torture details we learned from the above channels were verified in their entirety by Chen Jiangang’s transcript.
I know in my bones that in China the public security officials, the public prosecutors, and the courts, are one colluding family, and that the judicial system is unjust and has no transparency. According to Chinese law, during the time that Xie Yang has been detained, a video recording should have been kept 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If the torture is fake, the authorities simply need to produce the video evidence to show it. This would constitute the most persuasive, primary evidence. Why have they never produced it? Clearly, all the “evidence” they keep speaking about are all lies.
May 6, 2017
This is an excerpt of Chen Guiqiu’s article, translated by China Change.