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May 9, 2018
On July 9, 2015, Wang Yu (王宇) became the first target in a campaign of mass arrests against human rights lawyers in China. Over the next roughly two weeks, over 300 rights lawyers were arrested, interrogated, detained, and threatened — thus begetting the notorious ‘709 Incident.’ After over a month in secret detention at a black site in Beijing, Wang Yu was transferred to Tianjin for a continuation of her detention, then under so-called ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ (指定居所監視居住). For over a year she was not allowed to see her lawyer, family, or communicate with the outside world. Another 20 or so lawyers and activists, including Wang Yu’s husband Bao Longjun (包龍軍), were given similar treatment. During the secret detention and their time in detention centers, they were severely tortured, including by sleep deprivation, prolonged interrogation, forced-feeding with unidentified drugs, beatings, insults, being hand- and foot-cuffed, or having their family’s safety threatened. Some were even placed in cages submerged in water, so-called ‘water cage’ torture. Currently, three individuals are serving prison sentences, three were released on suspended sentences, and all others except one were released on a probationary form of ‘bail.’ Lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) has been detained for over 1,000 days, neither sentenced nor released, and no one even knows whether he is dead or alive.
In August 2016, Wang Yu and her husband were released on a probationary form of bail (取保候審), whereupon they were forcibly taken to an apartment building in Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia. There they were reunited with their son, Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), who had previously been coercively removed from Beijing and placed in Ulanhot to continue high-school. In Ulanhot, their movements were closely monitored, they were followed wherever they went, and their apartment was fitted out with an extensive array of surveillance cameras that pointed to their doorway, stairs and in and out of the building entrance. Wang Yu believed that the apartment itself was bugged too. Around a year later they were allowed to return to their own home in Beijing. Now, though they’re apparently ‘free,’ every move they make is still surveilled by the authorities, and Wang Yu has been unable to resume her profession as a lawyer.
Among China’s human rights lawyers, Wang Yu has been called the ‘Goddess of War.’ Prior to the 709 crackdown, she traveled the country taking on all manner of human rights cases. The image of Wang the lawyer in the ‘Hooligan Sparrow’ documentary, handing out fliers about the law under the beating sun in Hainan, left a deep impression of her commitment.
On July 8, 2016, the American Bar Association announced that it had selected Wang Yu to receive its inaugural ABA International Human Rights Award, “in recognition of her dedication to human rights, justice and the rule of law in China.” This news seemed to rattle the Communist Party. The authorities knew perfectly well that the 709 crackdown was an illegal, politically motivated large-scale persecution of human rights lawyers, and that the cruelty of torture methods they used exceed what most people can conceive. They fear the moral support that the international community was extending to the targets of their attacks.
In an attempt to sever such support, in the days leading up to the award ceremony, the authorities forced a detained Wang Yu to record at least two similar video statements castigating and rejecting the award. In one news clip, broadcast on CCTV, China’s state-run central TV, she says: “I haven’t really done anything in terms of human rights, so this sort of award is using me to besmirch the reputation of the Chinese government and besmirch the image of China. Thus, I insist on not approving, acknowledging, or accepting it. Nor will I have any other individual or organization accept the award on my behalf. If, despite my explicit rejection, they force the award upon me, this will be a violation of my human rights, and I strongly protest.”
In another clip broadcast on Phoenix, a state-run TV station thinly-masked as commercial TV in Hong Kong, she sits outdoors with a grass lawn behind her. In front of her are a number of official journalists whose faces the audience couldn’t see. She says, her voice halting: “As far as I’m concerned, this award is using me as a tool to attack and denigrate the Chinese government. I’m a Chinese person; I only accept the leadership of the Chinese government. I don’t want this or similar awards, not now, nor in the future.”
Two Tianjin lawyers claiming to represent her even sent a letter to the ABA, saying that the ABA award constituted an “infringement on the reputational rights of Ms. Wang Yu… Ms. Wang Yu reserves the right to pursue your organization as liable for such infringements.” The letter demanded that the ABA “cease and desist” in giving her the award.
On the basis that Wang Yu was in detention and could not speak of her own free will, the ABA dismissed the ploy and went ahead giving the award in Wang Yu’s absence on August 6, 2016, during its annual convention in San Francisco.
Two weeks after the award, a nationalistic website in China published an article by a “former NGO worker” who claimed to have worked at ABA’s office in Beijing. It described one boss as being lazy and incompetent, and another as rude and lecherous. It portrayed the ABA Beijing office as a place where Chinese employees were discriminated against and where “humanity and dignity…was worthless.” It insinuated, without clear factual statements, that ABA’s activities in China were political and ABA was a tool of the U.S. government being used to instigate a color revolution.
Now we have come full circle: in the book “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories from inside China’s system for enforced disappearances” published in November 2017 by Safeguard Defenders, Wang Yu for the first time reveals what she experienced under residential surveillance (China Change has an excerpt). In a new report recently released by the same organization, Wang Yu revealed how she was forced to rebuke and reject the ABA’s award. On television, she appears with a slightly puffy face, sitting outdoors before a grass lawn. In front of her are a number of official journalists whose faces the audience couldn’t see. She says, her voice halting: “I haven’t really done anything in terms of human rights, so this sort of award is using me to besmirch the reputation of the Chinese government and besmirch the image of China. Thus, I insist on not approving, acknowledging, or accepting it. Nor will I have any other individual or organization accept the award on my behalf. If, despite my explicit rejection, they force the award upon me, this will be a violation of my human rights, and I strongly protest.”
The following statement by Wang Yu about this incident is reproduced below with permission.
Wang Yu’s Account
It is difficult to explain, why I went on television, what kind of mental process I had gone through. And until now, I still feel it is difficult to describe, I don’t know how to talk about it. Actually, I do want to talk about it in detail, but I always feel sad. I am still struggling to get over the trauma. But I know I should speak out, even if just in this simple way.
It was about April 2016 and I had already been transferred to the Tianjin First Detention Centre. I had just finished my breast surgery at that time and the guards and interrogators were taking quite good care of me. My interrogator said if I cooperated then my case would be “dealt with leniently.” He meant I could be released soon. They also kept reminding me that my dream of sending my son overseas to study could happen only once I had been released from the detention centre.
How, then, did they want me to cooperate? They said all the 709 Crackdown people need to demonstrate a good attitude before they would be dealt with leniently. They said a PSB [Public Security Bureau] boss would come to the detention centre in a few days and they wanted me to say to him that: “I understand my mistake, I was tricked, and I was used. I denounce those overseas anti-China forces and I am grateful for how the PSB has helped and educated me.” After that, they stopped taking me to the interrogation room and moved me to a staff office where they fixed up space for me to eat and memorise the material my interrogator gave me.
Around about the end of April, the interrogator told me the boss was coming today and that we should make the video. He promised me the video would only be shown to that boss, and it would definitely not be shown to the public. He told me not to worry and just follow the script they had given to me. If I couldn’t memorize it all, then we could just re-record it. They also told me that everyone who was caught up in the 709 Crackdown had already made such videos. I kept asking them to confirm that it wouldn’t be shown in public and they promised it would not. Despite their assurances, I was still very unhappy about having to do the video.
In the afternoon, I was taken to the office again. A few minutes later, a man came in; he was in plainclothes and about 50 years old. A young man in his 20s followed with a camera. They both said something similar to me; something about how they would find a way out for me. I have suffered a lot of memory loss in the past few years so even if I try to remember exactly what happened, I can’t. But I do remember asking him who would see the video and he repeatedly said that it was only for their boss and not for television.
The young man finished setting up the camera, then the older one started asking questions. I don’t remember the exact questions, but it was basically the same as my interrogator had told me to study. I didn’t answer very well, because my memory was bad and also I didn’t want to make the video. I really messed up some of the questions and they had to ask me again and again. After three or four hours, they eventually left.
Some 20 days later, I heard that the so-called PSB boss had said that last video was not good enough and that we had to record it again. So, we recorded it again, but two days later, my interrogator said it still wasn’t acceptable. The next time they came with a camera and a computer, with the script typed into the computer in a huge font size. They wanted me to read it from the screen and look into the camera. We recorded it like this many times and finally they left. But another two days later they came back and said it still wasn’t good enough, so we did it all again. But that didn’t pass either.
It was about the beginning of June, one day before the Dragon Boat festival, when my interrogator told me that another boss was coming and wanted to talk to me. If I behaved well I could get out of the detention centre. Not long after, two men in their 50s or 60s in plainclothes, came in. They surprised me by shaking my hand when they first arrived. Later, I learned they were the vice-director and division chief of the Tianjin PSB. They talked briefly about my health and my situation and then asked me to give a self-evaluation. I said: “Of course, I think that I am a good person and also a good lawyer. I believe in behaving with kindness and I am professional in my work and have always won my clients’ approval.”
After that they often took me to their office to talk with them. They kept trying to persuade me to do an interview on television, but I kept saying no.
In the beginning of July, my interrogator talked to me alone. He said, “Think carefully. If you don’t agree to go on television how will you be able to get out? How will your husband Bao Longjun be able to get out? How will your son ever be able to study abroad?”
I thought hard about it for a few nights. I thought, neither me nor my husband can communicate with anyone from outside. Who knows when it will all end. And my poor son was home without us. We didn’t know how he was doing. Although, my interrogator told me that he had been released and was living in Ulanhot, he might be under surveillance, he didn’t have his parents with him. What kind of future would he have?
I though the two so-called “bosses” who had been talking with me looked like they would keep their word. After speaking with them for many days, I trusted them, and the people around me treated me much better. Much better than when I was in RSDL [residential surveillance at a designated location], where they were very cruel to me.
So, I decided to accept. I just wanted to see my son so much. I thought, if I couldn’t get out my son would never be able to study overseas. I might get out many years later, but by then what would have happened to my son? If he was harmed now, the trauma would stay with him his whole life. I needed to be with him during this stage of his life. I decided that I would do my best to help my son go to a free country and study. He would no longer live like a slave, suffering in this country. He has to leave, he must leave, I thought. That was the most urgent thing. So I had to do it, even if it meant doing something awful.
I also considered the possibility that they might break their promise—and if they did I vowed to fight. So, I said yes to their request to go on television, but only if they released me first. I started practicing the script they prepared for me and we rehearsed it many times, almost every day before I left the detention center.
On 22 July 2016, they went through the formality of my “release on bail.” They took me from the Tianjin First Detention Centre to the Tianjin Police Training Base under Tianjin Panshan Mountain. I stayed there for about 10 days.
They transferred me to Tianjin Heping Hotel and for the next two days I was still under their control. I did the interview in a western-style building near the Heping Hotel a few days later. That afternoon, about 4 or 5pm I was reunited with my son. He hugged me and cried for a long time. I also quietly shed tears.
The next day, my son and I met his father Bao Longjun who had also just been released on bail.
After my release I became very depressed. We were kept under house arrest in Ulanhot. My son and his father often made fun of me because of what I had said on that television interview and I felt very hurt and under a lot of pressure. One time, when I couldn’t stand it anymore, I asked my son, “Would you rather I suffered and went on television so I could be with you, or would you prefer that I didn’t go on television but then stayed in prison?” My son said emphatically: “I want my mum with me!”
Hearing my son say this, I believe that everything I suffered was worth it. This was the only way I could be reunited with my son, so I had to do it.
When I got back home, I gradually began to understand what kind of pain my son had been through over the past year. Such cruelty caused my son to suffer from severe depression and that made me even more determined to settle my son overseas so that he could heal both mentally and physically.
So, this is my story. I don’t expect everyone to understand. I just want to say that my son is everything to me. Perhaps, I had no other choice.
The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017.
New York Times editorial: Show Trials in China, August 6, 2016.
She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Washington Post, July 18, 2015.
Li Wenzu, April 12, 2018
Li Wenzu (李文足) is the wife of 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋). On April 4, the 1000th day of her husband’s disappearance on July 10, 2015, she and a group of 709 lawyers’ wives began a march from Beijing to Tianjin, about 130 kilometers, where Wang Quanzhang is supposedly being detained. Along the way, other activists joined them on and off. On the sixth day of their march, their march were broken up by scores of plainclothes police officers, and Li Wenzu was taken back home to Beijing by force. Human Rights in China translated Li Wenzu’s account of her first day back. We offer you a translation of her account of the second day. However, as we prepare this piece, this morning Beijing time, outside Li Wenzu’s apartment building in Shijingshan District, the dozens of plainclothes officers and their helpers are nowhere to be seen. Li Wenzu has taken her son out for a train ride…. — The Editors
This is the 1006th day of [my husband] Wang Quanzhang’s disappearance, and the second day of my home detention. Even Auntie (the nanny) and my toddler son are blocked from leaving home. The plainclothes police at the door told us that if we go out the door, they will kill us. It was only after I called 110 [China’s 911] that Auntie and my son were let out of the house. As they walked out, a group of old women from the neighborhood committee yelled at them, “traitors!” and Auntie and my son both burst into tears.
This is the 1006th day of Wang Quanzhang’s disappearance, and the second day of my home detention.
In the morning, Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Fan Lili (樊丽丽), Big Brother Zhang Shangen (张善根), Big Sister Guo Shumei (郭树梅), Big Sister Wang Xiuzhen (王秀珍), and sister Zhu Ling (朱玲) came to visit me. But they were stopped by 40 or 50 people who were in the courtyard; the group included the neighborhood committee director and personnel, as well as plainclothes police officers. Not only were they swearing at [my friends], but they also grabbed their phones, and even broke Wang Qiaoling’s glasses from the side.
I opened the door and wanted to go downstairs to greet them, but the door wouldn’t push open; several people were pushing it shut from the other side. My friends couldn’t come up, and I couldn’t get out. All I could do was climb up the window to talk with my friends who had come to see me. From the 5th floor window, I also spoke angrily about “709” and Wang Quanzhang, which led to onlookers gathering downstairs to watch the commotion.
Another thing happened that I didn’t expect: a little after 3 o’clock in the afternoon, Auntie wanted to take the boy out for a stroll, and a man standing in the doorway turned to us and shouted: “If you dare to come out, we’ll kill you, do you not believe it?” I said, “I believe it, I very much believe it, because you’re all hooligans and scoundrels, I know that you’re capable of anything.”
With my 110 call in which I made a strong demand, my son and Auntie were able to go out. However, a group of women from the neighborhood committee who were at the entrance to the building hurled all kinds of abuse at Auntie and the child, saying that Auntie was a turncoat and traitor. “Go back!” They shouted at them. Auntie took the child back home; both of them were crying. These people not only blocked us, but also claimed constantly that they would kill us. Now that my son and I are in their hands, killing us is easy. If my son and I are disappeared, if we are killed, please, my many friends, help write this tragedy in history. Thank you my friends for visiting me today! Thank you, netizens, for your constant attention and concern!
Wang Quanzhang: The 709 Lawyer Not Heard From Since July 2015, Yaxue Cao, January 15, 2018.
China Change, December 22, 2017
Around 4:30 p.m. on December 19, dissident writer Li Xuewen (黎学文) got off Guangzhou subway’s No. 5 line at the Guangzhou Train Station. Before he swiped his card to exit, two plainclothes officers approached him, flashed their IDs, and told Li Xuewen that he was wanted by the Ministry of Public Security for allegedly “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” This refers to Li’s participation in a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.”
Li Xuewen told his lawyer Ge Yongxi (葛永喜) in a meeting on Friday that the police then handcuffed him and took him to the nearby police station where he was also shackled, despite his loud protest. At 9:00 p.m., Li was taken to a hospital for a physical and then sent to the Guangzhou Railway Detention Center. Later he was taken to the Xinhui Detention Center.
Li Xuewen believes that he was recognized by China’s sophisticated surveillance and facial recognition system.
Police interrogations focused on the details of the seaside memorial of Liu Xiaobo. Li Xuewen told his interrogators that:
- I have not committed any crime;
- It’s wrong to detain me;
- I will face all the consequences of my actions.
Li Xuewen thanked friends for their concerns and wished everyone a happy winter solstice. Winter solstice, he said, is when the night is the longest and after that, darkness will wane.
Below is Li Xuewen’s pre-written statement on October 31, 2017, in anticipation of the arrest that has now taken place.
Personal Statement by Li Xuewen
I was one of the participants in the July 19, 2017 seaside commemoration of Liu Xiaobo held in Yamen, Xinhui, Guangdong. From July 22, when Guangzhou police began nightly raids and arrests of participants, a total of 9 attendees of the event have been arrested one after another; most were later released on restrictive bail conditions.
In late August I got news that police in my hometown in Hubei had, armed with photos of the commemoration event, sought out my elderly parents and demanded that I turn myself in and accept punishment. I had become a national fugitive. Over the last few months I’ve been through an extraordinary period of hiding and changing locations, which has worried my family, girlfriend, and friends.
I’ve also gone through a process from utter terror in the first few weeks to no fear at all now. I’ve decided to put an end to living like a fugitive. I’m now willing to openly face arrest. If I’m arrested, I hope that my friends do everything they can to advocate on my behalf.
I make the following brief statement:
- As someone who began reading Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s works as a teenager, I’ve been deeply affected by his ideas and his spirit. I went to grieve Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s death of my own accord, as a way of paying respect to, and fondly recalling, one of my mentors in life. I also wanted to protest the authorities’ persecution of Liu Xiaobo. No matter how the authorities persecute me, I don’t regret my participation, and I firmly believe that I’m innocent.
- I will not write a repentance statement, and I will not accept any illegal or inhumane persecution I’m subjected to. I’m healthy in mind and body, and if I should be damaged in either regard in detention, it will be purely due to torture and persecution. This long period of misery and suffering we’re going through will end one day!
October 31, 2017
Mural Censored at the Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, ArtAsiaPacific, December 18, 2017.
From Sea to a Sea of Words: Poet Ensnared as China Shuts Down Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo, Yaxue Cao, September 14, 2017.
Yaxue Cao, September 14, 2017
It’s said that when Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) won the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010, one of his friends wept. But he wasn’t shedding tears of joy. “He will never get out alive,” the friend said. At the time, the 55-year-old Liu had just begun his 11-year sentence at the Jinzhou Prison in Liaoning Province. The prediction that he won’t make it out alive was a difficult one to credit even for the most pessimistic observers of China’s political system (of which, in China, there is no shortage). Anything can happen in 11 years. Many more people — in particular Liu’s large group of friends — were able to bite their tongues until the day Liu was to be released, and the day on which a page in Chinese politics might, just might, be turned.
On July 13, 2017, the omen became reality.
Chinese internet users have employed the term “crush the bones and toss the ashes” (挫骨扬灰) to describe what was done to the remains of Liu Xiaobo. This phrase both expresses the sequence of events, and also most imaginatively captures the hatred and belligerence the Chinese Communist Party has toward Liu Xiaobo the person and Liu Xiaobo the symbol. As far as the Party is concerned, not only must Liu die, but he must also not leave behind anything that people can gather around and commemorate.
The Chinese authorities perhaps thought that a sea burial would be the most thorough method of expunging all traces of Liu Xiaobo — but not so, as memories are more about hearts and minds than materiality. “Wherever the ocean is, there is Liu Xiaobo.” The ocean itself became Liu Xiaobo’s tomb. From Dalian to Guangdong, the Chinese government has spared no effort to detain supporters who went to the coast to hold memorials for Liu. The signalling by the authorities is clear: no commemoration of Liu Xiaobo is permitted.
From when Liu Xiaobo was suddenly admitted to hospital with liver cancer on June 26, to when he died three weeks later, numerous social media users composed poems to express their shock and grief. Poet Meng Lang (孟浪) said: “On July 13, the night of Xiaobo’s death, poems of memory and dirges flooded forth from the internet. WeChat groups and public accounts widely spread many moving poems.” The poems, of course, were pounced upon and deleted by China’s armies of censors working overtime.
“The authors that made up this literary whirlwind,” Meng Lang said, “knew that when they read the news they were reading history; they were reaching through to history as they touched the present.” Editors and publishers had the same idea and reached out to Meng Lang: they invited him to pull the poems together to form a compilation.
The 49-year-old Guangzhou poet Langzi (浪子, real name Wu Mingliang 吴明良) and Meng Lang in Taiwan got to work editing the anthology. Meng Lang told China Change that the selection and editing of about 200 poems is already done. Authors range from anonymous internet users to famous poets; from the youngest, at 20 years old, to the oldest, at over 80.
On August 18, the Guangzhou police came for Langzi with an arrest warrant.
The anthology was originally scheduled to be published in September, but Langzi’s detention has put those plans on hold.
The Chinese authorities seem determined to find a couple of “criminals” among all who have commemorated Liu Xiaobo, thus “killing a chicken to scare the monkeys.” On June 26, after the news emerged that Liu Xiaobo was in hospital, Langzi added his name to a declaration calling for Liu’s release, and gave an interview to Hong Kong’s TVB. Shortly afterwards, police set up a surveillance camera outside his apartment entrance, then on June 30 summoned him for an interrogation. On July 1, Guangzhou police detained him for 10 days on the charges of “damaging a police bicycle.” Langzi explained to his lawyer that all he did was shove away a bicycle the police left blocking his doorway.
The police also wanted to know whether the poet was behind a group called Freedom for Liu Xiaobo Action Group (自由劉曉波工作組) that emerged soon after the news of Liu Xiaobo’s terminal illness.
If he wasn’t involved in editing the anthology of poetry, Langzi’s troubles might have ended there. But on August 8, personnel from the Administration of Press, Publication, Radio and Television of Guangzhou Municipality raided Langzi’s apartment. Last year the poet had published a personal collection titled “A Lost Map” (《走失的地图》), and going with it a collection of visual artwork from Chinese painters of various styles, “A Form of Beginning” (《一种开端》), and held a public exhibition locally. A year ago this wasn’t a problem, but all of a sudden it was an “illegal business operation” punishable by the law.
It merely illustrates, as countless cases do every day, how law can be gratuitously utilized for political persecution or personal vendettas in China.
On August 29 Langzi’s friend Peng Heping (彭和平), who had helped him print the catalog for the 2016 exhibition, was also criminally detained. It appears as though the authorities are doing their utmost to find a crime for the poet they have determined to punish.
On September 17, Langzi will have been detained for 30 days. According to Chinese law, the authorities must decide whether they’re formally arresting him or releasing him.
Liu Xiaobo’s thoughts have their roots in his training in literature and poetry. While he was better known for his commentary and politics, he was also a poet. He published an anthology in Hong Kong together with Liu Xia in 2000. In the 1980s he was closely associated with the rebellious poetry experiments that began in his days as a literature student at Jilin University.
In 2010, in “I Have No Enemies: My Final Statement,” Liu Xiaobo wrote: “I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.” It now appears that in China, the threshold for speech crimes is being constantly lowered, and the charges leveled in an increasingly arbitrary manner.
This much is for certain: in a calendar that is being filled with an ever growing list of “politically sensitive dates,” July 13 will be added, and in China’s practiced criminal code, there will be the “crime for commemorating Liu Xiaobo.”
A friend of Langzi’s worried on Twitter: “If I don’t finish my tea in the morning, I don’t feel at ease the entire day; in the evening, if I don’t finish my wine, I feel that life is unbearable. Langzi has the same habits, and I can’t begin imagining how he will get by in a prison cell.”
We Are Never Afraid of the Road Being Dark and Endlessly Long
We are never afraid of the road being dark and endlessly long
To set off smiling, even if empty-handed
Once gone, never returns. In the unknown city
We are as alone as the crowds, spreading
The leaked information, forests are chopped down
Wasteland is cultivated, the fiery heart and soul
Is once again sealed in ice. Braving with the wild youth
Or against the risk of being ruined, we possess
Something otherwise, but like a wounded wild goose
Who never knows where to fly and soar
What those incarnations reflect is, the song of freedom
Turning into a possible homebound journey, which in the darkness rises
And roams, letting out obscure somniloquism: We
Are never afraid of the road being dark and endlessly long
Translated by Chris Z.
by Meng Lang
Broadcast the death of a nation
Broadcast the death of a country
Hallelujah, only he is coming back to life.
Who stopped his resurrection
This nation has no murderer
This country has no bloodstain.
They did a sleight of hand at the scene,
Those doctors, a sleight of hand, benevolent
and full of this nation, this country.
Can you lose some weight? A little more?
Like him, alone, thinned down to bones
still buttressing the museum of mankind.
Broadcast the death of a nation
Broadcast the death of a country
Hallelujah, only he is coming back to life.
Translated by Anne Henochowicz
January 8, 2017
July 9, 2015, marked the beginning of a large number of arrests of human rights lawyers and rights defenders in China. Dozens of lawyers and human rights defenders have been disappeared, and hundreds of lawyers and defenders have been called in for intimidating “chats” with the police, or been temporarily detained. The campaign has extended to 23 provinces, shocking both China and the world alike, and is now known as the “709 mass arrest.”
The “709 mass arrest” is the most severe attack on the rule of law and human rights in China for the last decade. This is shown clearly in how it has turned lawyers into imaginary enemies, making their lawful activities a primary target of attack. They’ve been arbitrarily disappeared without notification to their family and subject to torture and abuse in custody; they’ve been subject to forced confessions; they’ve been slandered and tried by state-controlled media; they’ve been deprived of their right to be represented by counsel of their choosing; their own lawyers have been deprived of their right to represent their clients, at times detained and intimidated; and their families have been implicated in collective punishments. This mode of suppression continues to the present, with lawyers in Chengdu, Suzhou, and Shenzhen subject to similar attacks. A sense of terror is spreading, and everyone feels that they could be next. On November 21, human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was disappeared after he went to call on the detained lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), one of the “709” lawyers. To this day Jiang’s whereabouts are unknown.
The 709 mass arrests have gone on for 18 months now, with lawyers and activists like Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yang, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益)*, Li Chunfu (李春富), Wu Gan (吴淦)**, and others still being jailed. The cases of Li Heping and Xie Yang have been handed over to the courts, and will likely soon be tried: Xie Yang was indicted on December 16, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order,” and his case has now been handed to the Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court for trial; Li Heping was indicted on December 5, 2016, for “subversion of state power,” and his case has now been handed to the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court for trial.
All people should enjoy the right to live free of terror, and all yearn for safety, individual rights, and dignity. If this is our consensus, let’s unite and join the “709 Trial Observation Group” to bear witness to the illegal methods of the “709 model” of persecution as well as the bravery of the 709 heroes, and let’s do so from inside and outside the courtroom, in China and outside China.
Those interested in joining the “709 Trial Observation Group” are invited to provide their contact information to the group’s administrator, available at +852-9240-7356 (for WhatsApp or Telegram) or via email@example.com.
Attachment: A short summary of the Li Heping case and the Xie Yang case
In the course of the past 18 months, Li Heping has been forcibly disappeared for half a year. No word was given to his family by the authorities. On January 8, 2016, he was deprived of the right to legal counsel, though in a disguised manner: the authorities simply refused to recognize the defense lawyers appointed by his family. Li Heping’s wife had her home broken into and was summoned by the public security bureau after she brought suit against state media who had slandered Li Heping. She was then forced to move home, but found she had been locked out of her new residence. She’s also been prevented from leaving the country, and has been unable to secure a passport for her daughter. The couple’s daughter was blocked from enrolling in school, and harassed while attempting to attend school; Li Heping’s wife has herself been followed, threatened, and illegally detained, and Li’s defense lawyers have been denied meetings, access to case files, or communication with their client.
In the course of the past 18 months, Xie Yang has been tortured and subject to sleep deprivation and long hours of interrogation. His legs were injured, exacerbating an existing injury and leading to severe swelling and pain. He was suffocated with cigarette smoke, violently beaten while he suffered an illness, kept in manacles for prolonged periods, locked in a cell with prisoners who had communicable diseases about which he was not informed, been beaten by death row prisoners, had rags stuffed in his mouth by disciplinary officers, been isolated long-term in an attempt to crush his will, and beaten in the head just before a meeting with his lawyer. In Xie Yang’s case, the prosecuting and security agencies prevented defense counsel from seeing him or accessing any of his case files for 16 months. They refused to acknowledge that lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) was indeed Xie Yang’s counsel. They prevented his wife from leaving the country, trailed her, coerced her, eavesdropped on her calls, and abducted her for forced “vacations” in the company of security personnel. They called in defense counsel for intimidating “chats,” threatened them, prevented them from leaving the country and ignored entirely all of their opinions. The first and second times the case was transferred to the Procuratorate, state prosecutors interrogated Xie Yang for weeks on end and refused to allow defense counsel access to him.
China Change’s notes:
*Xie Yanyi was released “on bail” but, as are the cases of Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, and Zhao Wei, he is still under some form of control, not free to speak to or see people.
** Wu Gan has also been indicted recently.
Translated by China Change. The original: http://www.msguancha.com/a/lanmu4/2016/1223/15295.html
Huang Simin, October 13, 2016
“If you want to understand your own country, then you’ve already stepped on the path to criminality.” — Ai Weiwei
“Do you think there is dignity in living a good life in this country?” — Li Tingyu
Born and raised in Guangdong, Li Tingyu (李婷玉) was a student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou where she majored in English but dropped out in senior year. She had been working with her boyfriend Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇) on the self-published media known as 非新闻 (“Non-News”) until the couple’s detention on June 16 this year. The two were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and are currently detained in the Dali Detention Center, Yunnan.
Li Tingyu and Lu Yuyu have become well-known online in recent years for their dogged work, through the Non-News blog, in searching, collating, and publishing information about mass incidents around China.
As Li Tingyu’s lawyer, I came to understand her personal background and history in the course of representing her and meeting her in custody. She gave her permission for me to set it down.
Childhood Encounter with Migrant Workers
The question “How’d you end up here?” sounds like the beginning of an interrogation. When I asked Li Tingyu, she wasn’t put off. She laughed, then told me her story.
Li was born in 1991 in a small, well-off village in Foshan, Guangdong Province. She grew up in complete comfort, attended elementary school in the village, and had not the slightest understanding of the outside world. The village had a large number of “migrant workers,” however, and her best friend was from Chongqing — the daughter of a migrant worker. The girl’s mother collected trash for a living, and her father worked in a factory. They had to pay very high tuition — a few thousand yuan, which was a big chunk of household income — for the daughter to attend school in the village. The girl one day invited Li Tingyu to her place to play, and Li was shocked by the overcrowded ghetto of shanty houses. She couldn’t understand why the other villagers, of which she was a part, could do nothing but collect rent and lead a life of leisure, while migrant workers had to wear themselves down with arduous manual labor. In the end the friend from Chongqing had to go back home to continue her studies.
Later on, her readings exposed her to the issues of the Hukou system and workers’ rights, and she grasped at once what was going on — the experiences and observations of her childhood had left her with a deep impression.
A Petite Rebel
When she was in junior high school in the early 2000s, Li developed an appetite for devouring books and news stories online, mostly on politics, society, and the economy. She was fascinated by pedagogy, and after learning about the educational systems elsewhere in the world, penned an earnest letter to her headmaster demanding that he not “ruin us students with exam-oriented education.” Of course, the principal of a middle school in China is not going to follow this sort of advice. But at that age Li Tingyu was already developing independent ideas about how things were, and making her own choices. She managed to spend the minimum effort to get through the exams and still got grades near the top of her class, and used the rest of her time to read what she wanted. It was a boarding school, so Li would often burrow under the blanket with a flashlight and a book deep into the night.
By the time Li Tingyu was in high school, the atmosphere online was fairly liberal [the years leading up to the Olympics in 2008] — at least, much better than it is today — and blogs were all the rage. Li read them avidly, and gained an ever deeper understanding of Chinese society. She said that this period was a kind of awakening for her.
Li recalled her politics teacher in senior high school — he personally participated in the 1989 student movement, was punished by local authorities, and in 1991 left his hometown and came with the son to Guangzhou, finally winding up in this small town teaching high school. This teacher wasn’t like the others, forcing students to woodenly parrot political texts — instead, he often ended up speaking about his experiences in the student movement. He encouraged students to go and read up about what really happened. This teacher left a deep impression on the students. Luckily — and unexpectedly — the teacher wasn’t reported to the authorities.
Li Tingyu also recalled how her classmates would pass around Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs on QQ, a Chinese messaging app. Through all this, her understanding of China continued to evolve.
The GoAgent ‘Savior’
At some point during senior high school Li read an essay by Zhang Ming, a well-known academic and liberal intellectual, analyzing the wreck that is China’s university system. From that point on Li held a low regard for life at university. She chose English for two reasons: she was good at it and she saw English as a tool for assimilating more information. Knowing that books in Chinese were often censored in facts and interpretation, she often went straight to English. The Sun Yat-sen University library had a number of English volumes on the June 4 movement, and she read them all.
Li says that, to a large extent, the internet changed her life — especially in the third year of undergraduate studies, when she learnt how to “jump the Great Firewall” with a VPN called GoAgent. She had installed GoAgent on the computers of at least 50-60 of her friends. There were teachers at the university who asked her help to install the software. Li said that through all this she experienced an ineffable “savior”-type feeling: only through being able to access free information was it possible to understand the reality in China. Even if her fellow students only wanted to read celebrity news to begin with, as time went on, they’d start paying attention to social issues. She was once reported by a fellow student for “politically incorrect” speech, and her school counselor urged her to be a more careful about who she revealed her thoughts to.
A ‘Good Life’ Without Dignity
Li recalled a conversation she once had with a friend online about the “reincarnation party” (an internet term, primarily used on Weibo, that refers to individuals who have had their accounts deleted, and who then re-establish a second, third, or fourth ‘life’ on Weibo to continue their protest). The friend was a graduate student of sociology at Peking University, doing research on the topic. The friend remarked, with an obvious sense of superiority, about how the internet at Peking University wasn’t restricted, that he can find find out whatever information he wants easily, and how he would emigrate to live a better life.” I interjected that there are plenty of people who think like this. Li recalled, still indignant, “he didn’t care about fighting against the information restrictions; instead, he bragged about his privilege of having more access than others.”
“Do you think there is dignity in living a good life in this country?” she asked him.
I fell silent. Indeed, having a true life of dignity in China comes at an enormous cost. In a society that lacks the most basic rights, the “dignity” that most people enjoy is as false and fleeting as soap bubbles. In reality, it’s the Li Tingyus of China, now in jail, who are actually living with dignity.
The Turning Point
Everyone has a turning point at some time in their lives — the episodes that drive us to do what we do now. A few years ago I was in the office of lawyer Li Heping, looking over files and documentary materials on the “Leping death penalty case,” when I violently broke into tears. In the end, I forgot I had to catch my train. From that point on things inside me changed. Li Heping, though, is now in detention for supposed “subversion of state power.”
I asked Li Tingyu whether she had a turning point. She mentioned a few episodes that did it. Once, doing homework on media studies, she stumbled across a website in India that contained an account of self-immolations in Tibet. The news stunned her. During the “Southern Weekend incident,” in which her friends from senior high school went along to support, and in the end were taken into custody. She and her friends used Weibo to get the message out about the friends’ detention. That was the first time that Li had been that close to a specific act of resistance. Later, she encountered activists, and that also brought changes to her life.
I asked why she quit university when she was in the fourth and final year. She responded, earnestly, that she’d figured it out years ago that the diploma meant little to her. I responded that I’d also been something of a rebel, but I couldn’t do something like that — especially given that it only requires sticking at it for a few more months until graduation.
She thought quietly for a moment, and said she grew up with her grandparents, and after they died she moved in with her mom and dad, but they never really communicated. “No one really looked after my life,” she said.
I didn’t probe further. So many of our feelings are so deep inside. How much solitude and suffering must one silently bear to gain that level of resolve and courage? All I can say is: I wish you well, Li Tingyu.
September 5, 2016
Huang Simin (黄思敏) is a Hubei-based lawyer.
What Do Lu Yuyu’s Statistics of Protest Tell Us About the Chinese Society Today, by Wu Qiang, July, 2016