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China Change, April 21, 2017
Since the publication in early January of the “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang,” made by lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), detailing a series of meetings with Xie Yang (谢阳) at the Changsha 2nd Detention Center, the Xie Yang case has taken many bizarre turns.
The revelations of torture in the interviews, the first meticulously-recorded and lengthy account of the abuse meted out to a human rights lawyer, offer a shocking view of the “709 crackdown” since mid-2015. As of now, four human rights lawyers and a number of activists are still in detention, and in the case of lawyer Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), have been denied access to their lawyers for well over 600 days.
The torture of Xie Yang was perpetrated during the six months of secret detention, known as “residential surveillance at a designated location,” in the second half of 2015. After being exposed this year, it took the media by storm and provoked waves of strong reaction from the international legal community, governments, UN specialists, and human rights NGOs. On February 27, ambassadors of 11 nations wrote to the Chinese Minister of Public Security seeking answers to the reports.
Two days later, on March 1, Chinese state media, both print and broadcast, launched a smear campaign accusing the lawyers of colluding to fabricate the claims and catering to foreign media. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who was abducted in Changsha on Novmeber 21, 2016, after visiting Xie Yang’s wife and children and posing for a photo outside the Changsha 2nd Detention Center, was made to appear on TV “confessing” that he had made up the torture details. An “investigative report” by the Hunan Procuratorate, which made a blurry, half-page appearance on CCTV, denied that torture had occurred. It was later reported that a few of the 11 ambassadors were subsequently summoned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and shown the “conclusions” of this report.
Stunned by the boldfaced denial, lawyer Chen Jiangang posted articles and videos (with English subtitles) refuting the official media’s shabby narrative and questioning the Hunan investigation in its entirety. He was then was summoned for a talk with officials in Beijing, and menacing hints were made that he was under some sort of investigation…
Meanwhile, defense lawyers have been denied the right to meet with Xie Yang since February 28, a violation of Chinese law.
In recent weeks it seems that authorities in Hunan and Beijing have been negotiating a “resolution” of the case with Xie Yang. He was appointed an officially-sanctioned attorney. Yesterday, we heard the news that Xie Yang will be tried on April 25.
We don’t know what’s in store for Xie Yang. His wife, Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), a professor of environmental science at Hunan University, recently arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum. Today, she issued the following statement:
In December 2016 lawyers Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) were commissioned by the family of Xie Yang to be his defense attorneys; they were then allowed by the Changsha 2nd Detention Center to meet Xie Yang, and obtained his signature confirming their power of attorney. This made Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing Xie Yang’s official defense lawyers.
Following this, the two lawyers met with Xie Yang on multiple occasions, and came to learn of the extensive torture he was subjected to. They also began filing complaints against his torturers. The outcome of the submission of these complaints, however, was not that the torturers were investigated and held responsible, but that on February 28, 2017, the two lawyers were suddenly prevented from meeting with their client at the detention center. Why were the lawyers hired by family and the defendant prevented from working on the case?
Earlier this month, representatives of the Justice Department of Hunan Province met with Liu Zhengqing in Guangzhou and then Chen Jiangang in Beijing, saying that on March 31 Xie Yang had dissolved the contractual relationships with them as attorneys and instead turned around and commissioned He Xiaodian (贺小电) in Changsha as his defense lawyer.
Why have the Hunan authorities gone to such lengths to alter Xie Yang’s legal representation?
Now I am shocked to learn that on April 25, 2017, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court will be trying Xie Yang for “inciting subversion of state power” (煽动颠覆国家政权罪), and “disrupting court order” (扰乱法庭秩序罪), and that his defense lawyer at court will be He Xiaodian.
Xie Yang’s family, defense lawyers, and his friends in China and overseas are anxiously watching and waiting for what the authorities will do.
Chen Guiqiu, wife of Xie Yang, in the United States
April 20, 2017
China’s Extraordinary Response to the 11-Nation Letter Over the Torture of Human Rights Lawyers, Yaxue Cao, March 28, 2017.
As China Blocks Xie Yang’s Own Lawyers Following the Torture Revelation, Wife Reprimands the Lawyer Who Met Him Without Consent
Chen Guiqiu, April 9, 2017
Since February 27, four weeks after the much-reported torture of Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). who has been imprisoned since July 2015, the two family-appointed lawyers of Xie have repeatedly been denied meetings with him. The last time they saw him was February 6. According to Chinese law, lawyers are free to meet their clients any time during the trial stage. Rattled by the coverage of torture and responses by international legal professionals as well as foreign governments, China took extraordinary steps in early March to deny the torture and attempt to discredit the report, in an all-out propaganda assault. They forced lawyer Jiang Tianyong to confess to the “fabrication” on national television, and threatened Xie Yang’s lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), responsible for publishing his transcript of meetings with Xie Yang as the latter recounted the torture he was put through in heart wrenching detail. Recently, without the family’s knowledge or consent, a lawyer named He Xiaodian (贺小电) visited Xie Yang in custody at least once, apparently at the bidding of the authorities, in an attempt to get Xie to appoint lawyers who will cooperate with the government. Xie Yang’s wife Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), a professor of environmental science at Hunan University, wrote the following letter to Mr. He Xiaodian. This is an important development in the Xie Yang story, and China Change here offers an unauthorized translation of the letter. — The Editors
To the honorable Director He,* greetings:
Director He, as you can tell from the salutation, I continue to treat you respectfully.
I was shocked to learn that you led a group of people to visit Xie Yang in the detention center. Did you know that for the last month Xie Yang’s own defense lawyers, Liu Zhengqing (刘正清)and Chen Jiangang, have been prevented from seeing him? Their legally stipulated rights have not been protected, and yet you were allowed to pay a visit. Can you tell me why?
Do you know the details of how Xie Yang has been tortured for over more than a year? Did you know that, because we exposed the details of the inhumane torture he was subject to, I was summoned, interrogated, and threatened at the end of last year? Did you see the reports vilifying Xie Yang run by CCTV, Phoenix, and Global Times in early March this year? Did you know that lawyer Chen Jiangang has been investigated, intimidated, and threatened? Did you know that he is currently having trouble in his practice and that he has two young children to provide for? Did you know that lawyer Liu Zhengqing has attempted to visit Xie Yang on numerous occasions, including many personal trips to the detention center, whereupon he has simply been rudely told to go away?
We have already clashed once before over this, last September. At the time, Xie Yang had been locked up for 16 months and hadn’t once been able to see his defense lawyers, yet you managed to see him several times! How strange, given that I had never hired you, or met you — yet you were somehow able to enjoy the extralegal privilege of meeting with my husband. And now, without even asking me for a cent or seeking my signature on a Power of Attorney letter, you’ve happily gone to the detention center to see Xie Yang, while the lawyers that I myself hired to defend him, who traveled long distances to Changsha, couldn’t see their client? As a lawyer, why is your allegiance aligned with certain people, and not the law?
Though it’s nothing unusual in today’s society, your eagerness to do the government’s bidding still gave me a shock. This is because I know that many years ago you left your post as a judge and were determined to become a lawyer. You seemed to be one of those who knew where the future of China was headed, and knew how to maintain a basic sense of human decency. You’re over 50 years of age, yet you still allow yourself to be led by the nose. Is it that you need to help frame up Xie Yang so you can bolster your political credentials? Or is it that they promised you a huge cash reward for cooperating? While you grieve for the recent passing of your own mother, have you considered that Xie Yang too has aging parents who are hoping for their son’s return? And that his brothers and sisters are all waiting to be reunited with him?
What is the purpose of your meeting Xie Yang, anyway? Did you go to try to force him to sign papers commissioning you as his lawyer? Why are you willing to be the scapegoat for these people? Do you want to become Xie Yang’s lawyer, enter a guilty plea on his behalf, and send him to jail? What I’m thinking is: even though you may be gaining benefit from doing this, and gaining illicit privilege, you may not be able to enjoy peace for the rest of your life. Surely you’ve heard of the many cases where ordinary people fight back against the injustice inflicted on them. I personally have no way of guaranteeing that, in Xie Yang’s case, there’s no relative or friend who won’t take excessive measures in his defense.
The right and wrong in this case is so clear that a four-year-old would understand! Perhaps in your heart you do understand, but you are bound by mutual interest with the relevant organs, have to do what they ask you to, and get rewarded for doing so, in the face of overwhelming public condemnation.
I heard that you don’t like to go online, so I’m going to ask one of your colleagues to share with you the reports from the three media mentioned above, accusing us of fabricating the torture, so you can watch them together and exercise your meticulous legal reasoning, of which I think you’re still capable. You can see for yourself how how the top-tier state media outlets of the country represent the twisted logic of the relevant departments handling the case; see for yourself the pure idiocy of it all; and realize how you are becoming part of this web of lies they’re weaving. You could still back away from this travesty, unless you believe that the sun can rise in the west if the people in power say so, and everyone else in China are deaf, dumb, and blind.
I’d like to think your actions thus far are a slip of judgment after a talk, or a drinking party, with certain people. But when it comes to Xie Yang’s case, we won’t let this happen. Please, think it over carefully.
Xie Yang’s wife, Chen Guiqiu
April 5, 2017
*He Xiaodian is the head of Hunan Gangwei Law Firm (湖南纲维律师事务所) in Changsha where Xie Yang was once an associate.
How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light: Lawyer Chen Jiangang Rebuts China’s Smear Campaign, Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation, January 20, 2017.
Yaxue Cao, March 28, 2017
When on March 1 Chinese media launched a sudden and all-out smear campaign claiming that the torture of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) was a fabrication, and that Western media coverage of it was “fake news,” many of us wondered what this outburst was all about. A UN Human Rights Council meeting? The German Chancellor’s planned visit?
Now we know. On February 27, diplomatic missions in Beijing from 11 countries wrote a letter, expressing their “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.” The letter also urged China to abandon the practice of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). The 11 countries are: Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and seven European Union member nations: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Looking back, one has to marvel at China’s response.
The Smear Campaign: A Lightning-Fast Mass Production
On March 1, two days after the 11-country letter was delivered, the smear campaign began. Global Times (《环球时报》) led the charge with the article “The Truth about ‘Xie Yang Torture’: It’s a Fabrication Catering to Western Media”. It was quickly reposted by other print media and on major news portals such as Sina, Tencent, Netease, China National Radio, China.com, etc. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was disappeared on November 21 last year and subsequently placed under RSDL, was shown on camera “admitting” that he was involved in the fabrication of Xie Yang’s claim to have been tortured, and that Xie Yang’s defense lawyer (Chen Jiangang) supplied further embellishments.
On March 2, CCTV broadcast (on at least two channels) a segment titled “The investigation into the truth about Xie Yang’s torture – a concoction of storytelling and imagination”. A prosecutor from the Hunan Procuratorate claimed that a team of prosecutors conducted an investigation in mid-February and concluded that the torture allegations were not true. CCTV failed to show a single full page from the “report,” except for what appeared to be the final page signed by three names.
The same day, Legal Daily, Procuratorate Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily and other papers joined the chorus of attack: that Xie Yang’s torture is a lie that has been rebuked by an investigation by the Hunan Procuratorate. The official website of the Ministry of Public Security and the official website of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate served up the same articles.
Also on March 2, the Weibo account of the Communist Party Youth League posted a 4-minute video called “The Truth About Xie Yang Torture Hyped up by Overseas Anti-China Media” (China Change subtitled the video). In addition to repeating the same smears, it made cynical deployment of several one-liners from President Donald Trump to add a veneer of legitimacy to the attack.
On March 2, Phoenix Television, a pro-Beijing broadcaster, showed two segments repeating similar content to CCTV (here and here). These video segments were reposted by provincial public security Weibo accounts.
On March 2, Xinhua’s English news website has this story: “Investigation reveals fake ‘torture stories’ about lawyer Xie Yang.”
Implicating Lawyer Chen Jiangang and his Firm
First off, Jiang Tianyong’s two defense lawyers were shocked to see their client on national television. They promptly asked: We have been denied meeting with our client for months on grounds of national security — how could a CCTV reporter, a camera crew, and God knows who else trudge in and film him? They demanded an answer but have received none.
In mid-February, the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau and the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau summoned the 38-year-old lawyer Chen Jiangang — one Xie Yang’s two defense lawyers and the author of the detailed torture transcripts published on January 19 — and berated him for disclosing case information and giving interviews to foreign media. He was told to keep his mouth shut.
Following the massive smear campaign on March 1 and 2, Chen Jiangang published a long article detailing his meetings with Xie Yang and how the transcripts came about, questioning the Hunan Procuratorate’s so-called “independent report.” On March 5, he sent a formal letter to Hunan prosecutors, but has heard nothing back to this day.
He also posted Xie Yang’s own statement on January 13 affirming the fact that he was tortured. Sensing that he too is in danger of being retaliated against, Chen posted a statement: “I take complete responsibility for every character in the two transcripts I made of the meetings with Xie Yang, as well as for any other transcripts that have not yet been made public.”
Meanwhile, he has received a flow of nonstop calls and messages from municipal and district justice bureaus. “You made big troubles for us,” he was told. “The Center is extremely furious.” The authorities, he learned, approached some of his former clients and attempted to get them to smear him – an indication that the retaliation campaign is well underway.
His law firm was “inspected” earlier last week and the principals were told that they needed to “tighten management.” It’s all about intimidation.
Since February 28 both defense lawyers have been unable to meet Xie Yang despite repeated requests.
Angry Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Lashes Out
“China is always opposed to the efforts of any country to disrupt the normal case handling by Chinese judicial authorities at the excuse of human rights,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said on March 21, responding to the February 27 letter by 11 countries.
“You mentioned this expression of opinions by 11 missions in China. I believe this in itself is violating the spirit of rule of law. All sovereign states enjoy the independence of judicial affairs, and no country has the right to interfere with the independence of their judicial affairs,” Ms. Hua said in response to a question from The Globe and Mail.
The letter seems to have really rattled China and ruffled feathers in Beijing.
New Warning: ‘Be Aware, Diplomats!’
For Washington Post, the news on March 22 was that the United States abstained from signing the letter, conspicuously and inexplicably. Some suggested the omission was due to the still-unfilled senior positions and the chaotic nature of the transition, while others believed it was a decision most likely made by Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State.
The Chinese government apparently relished the fact that the United States didn’t participate. Global Times took a screenshot of the Post’s headline, though in their Chinese-language summary only drew attention to the U.S. absence, while neglecting the part about “lawyers” and “torture.”
They also had a field day co-opting Trump with images and soundbites like “very fake news” and “you’re fired!”
Global Times criticized western governments for inflating the number of lawyers who were subject to persecution, pointing out that the “Hunan People’s Procuratorate has issued a formal investigation report over allegations of ‘Xie Yang being tortured,’” and concluding that they are not true. It warned Western governments not to misjudge the Chinese judiciary due to “political bias.”
Is There An ‘Investigation’?
No, there isn’t. They know perfectly well that everything about Xie Yang’s reports of torture is true. The CCTV report on March 2 showed only half a page from the much vaunted Hunan Procuratorate investigation. Of the half page there is the title, the “Conclusion,” and in between nothing more than ellipses.
Lawyer Chen Jiangang lobbed a barrage of questions about this report, which I sample here:
- Why wasn’t Xie Yang’s defense counsel asked to join the investigation?
- Why haven’t you published the report? Publish the report!
- The torture was first reported in October 2016, but you didn’t “investigate” it until mid-February — what took you so long?
- How is it legal to place Xie Yang under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’?
- Why not publish the surveillance video/audio recording of Xie Yang’s interrogation to prove, in the most straightforward manner, that there was no torture? By law, the authorities should have recorded every minute of it.
- The Xie Yang torture transcripts names scores of torturers. Why not ask them to state to the public that they didn’t torture Xie Yang?
- Why didn’t CCTV ask Xie Yang himself on camera whether he was tortured?
- Can you all come out and debate with me about your investigation?
What’s at Stake
China has to be seriously rattled to have launched such a furious and massive counterattack. It came right after the 11-country letter, but I suspect the letter was merely the last straw in a period of prolonged media coverage and governmental and NGO reaction to the torture revelations — not just of Xie Yang, but of Li Chunfu, and privately, of other 709 Incident detainees.
Indeed, we have yet to learn the whole extent of the 709 torture. In a letter to world leaders, four wives summarized what they had learned from talking to those who had been released and who have yet to speak out openly about their experiences in custody:
“Whether the internees were in good health or not, they were all made to take medication. ….The most they were forced to take was 20 pills per day, including barbiturates and antipsychotic drugs, along with other unidentified drugs. The victims were either forced to consume the drugs or tricked into doing so, and afterwards often felt dazed and stuporous.”
“….Prisoners were also put in cages submerged mostly in water, and left inside for seven days, the entire body underwater with a space to breath at the top. As they stood in the water and tried to sleep, rats would scurry about outside the cage, biting their nose and ears.”
Concurrent with the arbitrary detention and torture that began on July 9, 2015, China has been propagating a narrative where an evil force, led by the United States and its allies, is working to destabilize the world for its own gain: in Iraq, in Syria, over the South China Sea, and inside China. The establishment of THAAD in South Korea is also seen as a finger in China’s eye. One of the many videos Chinese authorities have disseminated on domestic websites included stealthy shots of U.S. embassy vehicles and personnel, and a French diplomat, during the first four 709 trials last August in front of a Tianjin court. All this was fitted to nefarious music and a sarcastic, hectoring voiceover. Human rights lawyers and defenders are depicted as agents of China’s subversion in a U.S.-led color revolution.
The revelations of the torture of Xie Yang were an extraordinary act of courage by both Xie Yang and his lawyer Chen Jiangang. The broader meaning of it was laid bare by they two lawyers during their long conversations at the No. 2 West Meeting Room at Changsha 2nd Detention Center. Chen related in a home recording on March 7:
“But Xie Yang refused to admit any guilt because he is innocent….. His thought was that he wanted to maintain the final dignity for Chinese lawyers as a whole. He also thought that right now a nationwide crackdown and persecution of human rights lawyers — and any lawyer who dares to resist the authorities — is taking place, and that he would spare no effort to fight his case and push back against the persecution. If they succeeded easily in Xie Yang’s case, they would unscrupulously harm and persecute other lawyers in the future. He was willing to use himself to ‘test the tiger.’ I’m not saying how wonderful he is. I know him too well, he has many flaws. But on this point, he said he wanted to use his own case to fight back and to prevent them from persecuting lawyers as a whole in the future.” [26’03”-27’36”; subtitled by China Change]
You too, diplomats and policymakers, have to hold your ground and push back. You must not be beaten off or scared away, or you will be crushed and overrun.
Bill of Indictment Against Human Rights Lawyer Xie Yang, January 11, 2017.
Wu Gan, March 24, 2017
Well-known human rights activist Wu Gan (吴淦) was arrested in May 2015. After a brief period of custody in his home province Fujian, he was taken to Tianjin as part of the 709 arrests. According to a complaint filed by his lawyer, on August 1, 2015, Wu Gan was forced to participate in a video interview with CCTV host Dong Qian (董倩) in which he was supposed to confess his guilt. He refused to follow the script. Yesterday his lawyer posted online Wu Gan’s letter to Ms. Dong Qian, dated March 8. — The Editors
Dear Ms. Dong Qian,
I write this letter to you because I still have a thin thread of hope in your basic humanity. I hate all dictatorships, as well as those who help dictators, but I’m an optimist when it comes to human nature. For example, this is what the public thinks about the organization your work for: when the auxiliary building of CCTV headquarters, known as “big underpants,” went up in flames, people were ecstatic. When one of your evening news hosts got throat cancer, the public delighted in his misfortune — it seems fitting that a throat used to broadcast untruth everyday should become cancerous. Netizens nicknamed CCTV a den of debauchery where the likes of Li Dongsheng (李东生, former minister of public security) plied his trade as a pimp, sending CCTV women up to Zhou Yongkang (周永康, former security boss) to have his way with. The prime time Evening News is such a bore that netizens have turned it into a template for endless spoofing. When one day one of your own, Bi Fujian (毕福剑), made wicked fun of Maoism in his off-time, it shows what a schizophrenic place it is! I cite all of these to remind you just how CCTV is perceived by the people.
CCTV is despised not because people’s values are warped, but because this system has warped everything. It’s this system that has turned the media you work for into a tool for keeping the people ignorant, making it an accomplice for the worst evil. It’s now become a byword for lies and propaganda and a spokesperson for evil.
The only way to wash away the stain of associating with it, and to gain your own integrity and personal esteem, is to flee as soon as possible. When the anchor Du Xian (杜宪) demonstrated her own humanity after the June 4 massacre — wearing black, showing her tears on television — she received a silent national applause and respect from all. The public sees things clearly. I respectfully ask you: for such a beauty, why be a villain?
I have applied for you to be a witness in my case, and I hope you will appear in court and testify. I want you to tell the world about how I was hauled, a black hood covering my head, in front of you for an interview on August 1, 2015. Please gather your courage and conscience, and tell the public what you saw on that day. Tell everyone how I rebuked and exposed An Shaodong (安少东, security agent and interrogator) who sat diagonally from me. Tell the public what he did to me. Tell them about my back injury.
Tell them how actors were brought in to act out a script for the televised confession. I trust that you’ll show the kind-hearted side of your nature. I’m sorry that you didn’t get what you had come for because I refused to act according to their script. For my disobedience, I was punished badly by An Shaodong after being taken back to detention center.
An Shaodong sat diagonally from me to intimidate me. I experienced for myself the inside process by which CCTV makes its news pieces, and how the station and the public security organs work hand in hand to create the news they need. Amazing country, amazing media, amazing public security agents; together they produce amazing journalism.
Finally, allow me to express my gratitude to your television station. I am very grateful that CCTV joined in when People’s Daily and Xinhua slandered me with Cultural Revolution-style propaganda while I had no freedom to speak for myself. On the other hand, thank heaven I was slandered, not praised. Or it would truly have been a stain on my reputation. How could I have lived with my head up high if mouthpieces like you said nice things about me? In 2009, when your television station and a media under People’s Daily tried to interview me about the Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) case, I rejected it due to my germophobia. A man doesn’t keep company with evil, and this is the line I draw while going about being a human being.
Wu Gan (Super Vulgar Butcher)
March 8, 2017
Wu Gan: Urgent Request to Meet the Residential Prosecutors at the Tianjin Second Detention Center
I am Wu Gan. For over a year since my transfer to the Tianjin Second Detention Center on January 8, 2016, I have made countless requests to meet with you, the residential prosecutors from the Second Branch of the Tianjin Municipal Procuratorate. The detention center told me that they had passed on my requests but that they could do nothing as you kept declining to see me.
I need to see you, not because I want to have nice chats with you about the beauty and meaning of life, but to complain about police violations in handling my case, including torture. There is something even more important: I want to report leads about a possible voluntary manslaughter case. But you are nowhere to be found. I am not the only detainee who has trouble meeting you; other detainees have the same problem.
You are supposed to carry out your duty, which is to meet with each detainee and learn if they have been subjected to illegal treatment. But you have abdicated your legal responsibilities. This is not a matter of being lazy, but a matter of negligence.
I’m requesting this urgent meeting because time is running out, and the death row inmate in question could be executed soon. For those who are sentenced to death for something they didn’t do, the truth can never be restored. So you must meet with me as soon as possible to hear my complaint. As for whether you investigate or not, or whether or not I will suffer retaliation, you may do as you please.
I will expose more details of these matters in the future, showing the public just how prosecutors in China go about their jobs.
March 24, 2017
Lawyer Ge Yongxi: Meeting with Wu Gan
Yesterday afternoon and this morning, I twice met with Mr. Wu Gan, who is being charged with “subversion of state power.” After we had discussed the case work, Wu asked about people and events outside, and he asked me to pass on his thanks to friends.
We also talked about the issue of compromising and admitting “guilt.” Wu Gan said that, during the Two Sessions (political meetings earlier this month), the government sent two female mental health counselors to speak with him. Over and over again, they attempted to coax him into admitting guilt. Wu Gan asked the Tianjin Second Detention Center to tell the authorities that they needn’t waste their resources by sending anyone else, because these two women had failed to convince him, with facts and universal values, that what he did was wrong. He said that the fact that they were using coercion and deception to make him admit guilt is enough to prove that what he did was right — that it was good for the country and the people, and could stand the test of time.
Wu Gan reiterated his two guiding principles: first, he would never do anything unscrupulous; second, he would never sack his own lawyers and retain lawyers designated by the government.
Wu Gan said that he has gained more than he has lost during the ordeal of the past nearly two years. He was able to reflect on many aspects of his past experiences; he learned how to triumph in the midst of devilish cruelty; he learned how to live close quarters and long term with all sorts of criminal suspects, but not sunk to their level.
We both enjoyed our conversation and wished we had more time. Around lunchtime we said our goodbyes and ended our meeting at the repeated urging of several police officers.
Ge Yongxi (葛永喜)
March 24, 2017
Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017
Wu Gan the Butcher, a profile by Yaqiu Wang, July 22, 2015
‘The Ball Is in Your Court!’ Questions for the Hunan Procuratorate Regarding Its ‘Independent Investigation’ into Xie Yang’s Torture
Chen Jiangang, March 22, 2017
The public didn’t know until yesterday that ambassadors from 11 countries wrote a letter to China’s Minister of Public Security on February 27, 2017, expressing their grave concern over recent reports of torture of human rights lawyers, and China’s use of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). In light of our knowledge of this letter, China’s massive smear campaign beginning on March 1 — two days after the letter was received — becomes much more disturbing. China made lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) “confess” on camera that he had made up the reports of Xie Yang’s (谢阳) torture; Jiang was forcibly disappeared on November 21, 2016, and subsequently placed under RSDL, and thus could not have made those statements of his own volition, raising the concern that he has also been tortured. Chinese state media further hinted that Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), Xie Yang’s defense lawyer, worked with Jiang to further the fabrication. Since then, lawyers Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) have been denied several requests to meet their client Xie Yang, and Chen is worried that Xie Yang may be tortured again. Meanwhile, Chen himself has been under significant pressure to keep his mouth shut, and officials from the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau and the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau have frequently warned of trouble, and requested talks. Today they are conducting an “inspection” of his law firm. “If I can only use my mouth for eating but not for speaking,” Chen said, “you may as well ask me to be a pig or a dog.” We are concerned about lawyer Chen Jiangang’s safety and the reprisals that will inevitably befall him. We remain concerned about Jiang Tianyong and Xie Yang’s circumstances and that of the 709 lawyers and activists still in custody in Tianjin. — The Editors
On March 3, China Central Television published a story titled “The Truth Behind Lawyer Xie Yang’s Claims of Torture: An Intricate Fabrication” (《律师谢阳“遭遇酷刑”真相调查 酷刑是故事加细节想象出来的》) in which Yang Zhizhong (杨志忠), a prosecutor in charge of internal supervision of criminal enforcement in the Hunan Procuratorate, was quoted saying that no torture of the Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang have taken place during his time in custody.
“The entire mission of our criminal enforcement supervision division is to protect the legal rights of detainees, so we took it upon ourselves to form this eight-person investigation team to conduct an independent investigation,” he said on camera. “Through our investigation, we found that these four claims of ‘torture’ can be said, absolutely, to be false.”
As Xie Yang’s defense counsel who published the transcripts of Xie Yang’s torture, I submit the following points of fact, clarification, and questioning to the Hunan Procuratorate, which I hope it will examine and respond to.
- Xie Yang’s Defense Counsel Has Not Seen the Report
The official China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast briefly flashed an image of the Hunan Procuratorate’s report, titled “Investigative Report Regarding Claims by Xie Yang and His Defense Attorney of Torture, Forced Confession, and Abuse During Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location and in Custody at the Detention Center” (《关于谢阳及其辩护人反映谢阳在指定监视居住和看守所羁押期间受到刑讯逼供、虐待等问题的调查报告》, henceforth “the report”). Judging from the title, the Hunan Procuratorate opened an investigation into the reports of torture of Xie Yang as a result of Xie Yang’s complaint and that of his defense counsel. In that case, shouldn’t they contact Xie Yang’s defense counsel, the individuals who made public the transcripts? Shouldn’t the conclusion of the report be communicated to Xie Yang’s defense counsel? Xie Yang’s two lawyers, Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), have not received either oral or written notification concerning the investigation or been subject to questioning by the Hunan Procuratorate. Neither have they even seen a single complete page of the final report.
The Hunan Procuratorate claims that it produced its report to refute allegations by Xie Yang’s defense lawyers, yet it hides the report from those lawyers. Why? Did you go to all that trouble just to flash half a page for one second on CCTV?
- How Was the Report Independent?
From Xie Yang’s case file that I read, Xie Yang was charged with “opposing the Party and opposing socialism.” The indictment of Xie Yang accuses him of publishing “many speeches attacking and defaming the government, judicial organs, and the state justice system.” That is to say, Xie Yang is the attacker, the criminal suspect, and the Communist Party, government departments, and judicial organs, are the victims. The two stand in an oppositional relationship. Thus, the following questions arise:
i. The Hunan Procuratorate is lead by the Party, is it not?
ii. The individuals who participated in the investigation are Party members, are they not? (If any prosecutor at the Hunan Procuratorate is not a Party member, please come forward and refute me.)
iii. The Hunan Procuratorate is a judicial organ, is it not?
If the answer to any of the above three questions is in the affirmative, then there can be no such thing as an “independent investigation,” because the Hunan Procuratorate and its prosecutors are all parties to a dispute with Xie Yang. You don’t get to be a referee when you are a competing athlete.
- Please Publish the Report
The official broadcast says that Western media began reporting on the prosecution of Xie Yang in October 2016, that Xie Yang’s defense lawyers published two “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang” on January 19, 2017, and that the Hunan Procuratorate began its own investigation on February 17. But as of today, this investigative report has not been published as far as I know.
Please publish the entire text for public scrutiny. The ball is in your court!
Regarding the Western media reports: in its video, CCTV only showed a few reports by overseas Chinese-language media outlets around October 11, 2016. But mainstream media organizations in the United States, England, France, and Spain only began to report on Xie Yang torture following my transcripts published on January 19, 2017. Perhaps it’s precisely because of the massive international response that the government has gone all out attempting to irrationally and speciously refute it.
- Please Clarify the Legality of ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’
Given that the Hunan Procuratorate has produced an “independent” investigation which exculpated the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau, please make public your findings of the legal grounds on which the Changsha public security authorities held Xie Yang in the National University of Defense Technology’s (国防科技大学) guesthouse for retired cadres, at 732 Deya Road, Kaifu district, Changsha.
Please also provide the legal basis on which Xie Yang’s family members were not notified during this period of captivity.
Please also provide the legal basis on which Xie Yang was prohibited visitation from his family members, and access to his legal counsel, during this period of captivity.
What’s also interesting, and suspicious, is CCTV’s brief shot of some brand new small plastic stools — the kind elementary school students use — in the supposed room in which Xie Yang was held during the “residential surveillance” period. Was the room featured in the shot the same room in which Xie Yang was held? Were those plastic stools the same ones used in the “dangling chair” torture that Xie Yang described? Xie Yang was never asked anything on camera.
For my rebuttal on this question, please consult item 11 in my article “How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light.” It needn’t be rehashed here.
- Please Make Public the Interrogation Video Made During Residential Surveillance
According to Article 19 of “SPC, SPP, MPS, MSS, MoJ, and the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPCSC Regulation on Several Questions Concerning the Implementation of the CPL” (《最高人民法院最高人民检察院公安部国家安全部司法部全国人大常委会法制工作委员会关于实施刑事诉讼法若干问题的规定》), and Article 121 of the “Criminal Procedure Law” (《刑事诉讼法》), as well as Article 203 of the “Public Security Criminal Complaint Regulations” (《公安刑诉规定》), as well as the fact that Xie Yang stood accused of the crime of “subversion of state power,” all interrogations of Xie Yang are required to have been fully recorded. Moreover, this audio and visual recording must be “from beginning to end, with no interruptions or alterations of integrity. It is not permitted to selectively record, or to edit or redact the film.”
As public prosecutors with the Hunan Procuratorate, you are surely aware of these regulations, and surely you know that the most direct way of ascertaining the truth of the matter is to directly consult those interrogation recordings.
Have you watched and listened to the recordings?
If you have not accessed the recordings, why not?
If the public security authorities said that they do not have the recordings, then this would be a serious violation of the law. How do you intend to deal with it?
In your report, did you include discussion of whether or not you have examined the full recordings of the interrogation sessions?
- Have You Questioned the Potential Torturers?
I will repeat once more that it seems, judging by the headline of your report, that you began the investigation after reading the transcripts. Thus, please answer this: of the nearly 50 individuals accused of torture — including Li Feng (李峰), Li Kewei (李克伟), Wang Dehua (王德华), Hu Yunfeng (胡云峰), Wang Tieta (王铁铊), Zhu Heng (朱恒), Ye Yun (叶云), Xie Leshi (谢乐石), Zhou Liang (周浪), Yin Zhuo (尹卓), Qu Ke (屈可), Li Yang (李旸), Zhou Yi (周毅), Zhuang Xiaoliang (庄晓亮), Yuan Jin (袁进) — did you perform any investigation of any of them at all?
You are determined to tell the public that the torture of Xie Yang was fabricated, but to this date you have not provided the text of the report you wrote.
The CCTV report included nothing about the investigation of these individuals, but instead included remarks by his cellmates. Xie Yang was not transferred to the detention center until January 9, 2016. How would his cellmates have knowledge of torture that took place earlier?
- Would the Procuratorate and its Loyal Journalists Please Consult a Calendar?
The CCTV report notes that Xie Yang “sleeps nine hours a night,” does physical exercise, and that he’s perfectly healthy. The detention center even gives him physicals. The journalist remarks: “Our reporter observed that Xie Yang walks with a steady stride and climbs stairs without difficulty.”
I advise the Hunan Procuratorate and the obedient CCTV journalists to pick up a calendar with one hand and grope around for your conscience with the other.
i. Regarding the time and location
The torture and forced confessions reported by Xie Yang and his legal counsel took place between July 12, 2015 and January 8, 2016. Xie Yang was being held in the retired cadre guesthouse of the National University of Defense Technology. The “investigation” by the Hunan Procuratorate and its journalists took place in the latter half of February 2017 — over a year later. The two locations are also dozens of kilometers apart. Does the fact that Xie Yang was able to “walk with a steady stride and climb stairs without difficulty” in February 2017 somehow prove that a year ago he was not savagely beaten, suffocated with cigarette smoke, forced to sit on a stack of stools with his legs dangling until they swelled up, deprived of sleep through endless questioning, deprived of water, and so on?
ii. The injury to Xie Yang’s legs
During his torture, Xie Yang’s legs suffered severe swelling. But he has been out of that black jail for 13 months now. When the Hunan Procuratorate and the CCTV journalists saw him, he could walk normally. How can that logically result in the conclusion that he was not tortured?
iii. The improvement in Xie Yang’s conditions
The first time lawyer Zhang Zhongshi (张重实) met with Xie Yang at the Changsha No. 2 Detention Center, he heard with his own ears the disciplinary officer Yuan Jin berating and slugging Xie Yang before the meeting. Zhang then lodged a complaint against the detention center and Yuan Jin, and the authorities transferred the officer out. Xie Yang made clear on many occasions that his conditions began to improve once he was allowed access to a lawyer. Even so, he still suffered unjust treatment. For instance, he was limited to spending 600 yuan a month to buy food and daily necessities, a restriction not placed on other detainees.
We are very happy to know that Xie Yang is now allowed to sleep and is in good health. But that does not prove that he was not tortured and beaten in a black jail a year ago.
- CCTV Journalists: Please Let Xie Yang Speak
In the CCTV interview, Xie Yang is permitted to say only a few sentences: “I’m wearing a wool sweater,” “I’m in good health,” “I sleep nine hours at night, and the detention center gives us health checkups,” “I called ‘120’ [China’s emergency number] because I was sick,” and so forth. Nowhere does he deny that he was tortured.
Hunan Procuratorate and CCTV journalists, please ask Xie Yang on camera: “Were you tortured to give a confession? Are the transcripts published by your defense lawyers accurate?” These are the two fundamental questions you should actually be investigating.
- There is a True Version of Events
CCTV, Phoenix TV, QQ TV, Hunan TV and other media outlets have been running headline reports about “fake news” in the Western press, using Cultural Revolution-style language. Good journalists report truthfully wherever they are. If media purposefully fabricates news, conceals the truth, deceives the public, and dumbs-down the public, then they’re shameless media whose journalists have little dignity or conscience.
I look forward to the response of the Hunan Procuratorate and of the media organizations that have attempted to blot out the truth.
March 5, 2017
How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light: Lawyer Chen Jiangang Rebuts China’s Smear Campaign, Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017
Co-opting Trump, Chinese State Propaganda Brands Torture Revelations ‘Fake News’, March 8, 2017 (with English subtitle)
China Change, March 9, 2017
On March 1, Chinese state-run print and television media launched a massive campaign to discredit reports that human rights lawyer Xie Yang was severely tortured during his detention, from July 11, 2015 to the present. The propaganda apparatus paraded on camera Jiang Tianyong, another human rights lawyer kidnapped by state security in November 2016, “confessing” that he had fabricated the details of torture to capture the attention of Western media and governments, who are said to be implacably biased against China. Jiang Tianyong is believed to have been tortured to subjection. The next day, the official Weibo account of the Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League trotted out a four minute video that, in addition to repeating the same smears, made cynical deployment of several one-liners from President Donald Trump to add a veneer of legitimacy to the attack. China Change uploaded the video to YouTube for preservation, and added subtitles so viewers can examine Party propaganda in its rawest form.
Since last August, the Chinese propaganda apparatus has pumped out a series of similar video productions that have reached tens of millions of viewers on domestic social media platforms. Such videos have charged that the goal of the United States is to incite a color revolution in China to topple the Communist regime. The conspiratorial anti-U.S. narrative used to be dismissed by China watchers as hawkish cries from the Party’s radical fringe, but by now it should be clear that this discourse in fact lies at the core of Party ideology.
These videos include:
After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, China Change, July 15, 2016
The torture of Xie Yang:
How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light: Lawyer Chen Jiangang Rebuts China’s Smear Campaign, Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others
World media reports about the torture of Xie Yang following the publication of the transcripts:
Punches, Kicks and the ‘Dangling Chair’: Detainee Tells of Torture in China, New York Times, January 20, 2017.
Document of Torture: One Chinese Lawyer’s Story From Jail, WSJ China Real Time, January 20, 2017.
A broken lawyer and a hawkish judge cast deep pall over China’s legal system, Washington Post, January 21, 2017.
Beijing Breaks Lawyers, Wall Street Journal editorial, January 22, 2017.
Abogados chinos se movilizan contra el Gobierno tras conocerse torturas, EFE, January 22, 2017.
‘Your only right is to obey’: lawyer describes torture in China’s secret jails, The Guardian, January 23, 2017.
China must respect lawyers’ human rights, a letter by 29 international lawyers, judges and jurists, The Guardian, January 23, 2017.
Un avocat chinois révèle des tortures subies en détention, Le Monde, January 24, 2017.
“Te haremos sufrir de la manera que nos apetezca”, El País, January 24, 2017.
In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post editorial, January 27, 2017.