Home » Posts tagged 'arbitrary detention'
Tag Archives: arbitrary detention
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
By Yaxue Cao, published: November 16, 2015
While the number of spotted seals keeps dwindling, its ardent protector gets jail time – an all too familiar Chinese tale.
The 52-year-old Tian Jiguang (田继光) is an environmentalist living in the northeastern province of Liaoning, China, known for his commitment to protecting spotted seals that breed in the wetlands of his hometown, where the Liao River meets the Yellow Sea. He was arrested in October 2013 for “alleged extortion.” When he was indicted, he was given an additional charge of “embezzlement.”
In September 2014 he was sentenced by the Dawa County Court (大洼县法院) to 12 years in prison—5 years for extortion, and 8 for embezzlement. Last Friday (November 13), Panjin Municipality Intermediate Court (盘锦市中级法院) upheld the original verdict after the second instance trial. The decision once again sent shockwaves, and revulsion, through China’s NGO sector.
According to reports in Chinese media, citing the indictment and other sources, Tian’s detention was a direct result of a blog post in June 2013 that exposed a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation for pollution. After his article was posted, the company sent officials to speak with him—suggesting a RMB100,000 yuan (about $16,000) sponsorship of his NGO. This became the basis for the “extortion” charge against Tian. But according to his lawyer’s defense posted online, Tian never asked the company for sponsorship, and the 100,000 yuan was never transferred. Tian did accept a small reimbursement from the company for the purchase of a Canon camera for the group he founded—the Association of Volunteers for the Protection of Spotted Seals—but his lawyer argued that neither “threats” nor “blackmail” was involved on Tian’s part, necessary to constitute the crime of “extortion.”
Months later when Tian was indicted, there was the additional embezzlement charge against him—he was accused of having pocketed RMB 460,000 yuan (about $74,000) from the Association. His lawyer Ni Zeren (倪泽仁) argued that, while there were indeed irregularities in the Association’s bookkeeping, it is “utterly irresponsible” for the prosecutors to accuse Tian of embezzling 460,000 yuan out of the total 490,000 yuan (about $79,000) that the Association had received over the years from donations and sponsorships. Family members said Tian had over the years spent his own money on many of his activities.
During the first trial, two witnesses from the oil company refused to appear in court to be cross-examined. The lawyer told media, during the second instance trial, evidence benefitting Tian Jiguang was not introduced, nor did the court consider the many questions the lawyer raised. It took the court only half an hour to deliver the verdict.
Spotted seals are the only seals that breed in China’s waters. Every November, they swim from Baengnyeong Island, South Korea, to the mouth of Liao River in Panjin. Come January, they give birth to baby spotted seals on ice floats; in April, they swim back to Baengnyeong Island.
In 2007, Tian, a member of the Communist Party, was a private businessman who ran an advertising company. His father was a former chief of Panshan County’s Fisheries Bureau and his brother was a deputy chief in Panshan County’s Ocean and Fisheries Bureau, in charge of the protection of spotted seals. The brother asked Tian to place some spotted seal advertisements, an assignment that led Tian into the field of environmentalism. He soon founded the Panjin City Association of Volunteers for the Protection of the Spotted Seals (盘锦市保护斑海豹志愿者协会).
The Association quickly gained 3,000 members, and Tian often organized them to stand on the street and talk to citizens about issues associated with spotted seals. Once, he mobilized 2,000 volunteers from all over the country to collect garbage on the beach. Each winter, Tian and volunteers would station themselves in an observation outpost to watch and photograph the seals.
Tian set up a billboard on the roadside of the Spotted Seals Reserve, instructing fishermen to call his own cell phone number when they saw spotted seals. They began calling him, for his responsive service, instead of the station set up by the government. Tian’s devotion was recognized by both the people and the authorities: in 2010, he was one of the ten “People of the Ocean” chosen by the State Oceanic Administration.
“Due to ocean pollution, oil drilling, port construction, and the expansion of mudflat aquaculture, not to mention human capture and killing, the number of spotted seals has dwindled from near 10,000 to less than 2,000 today,” he wrote in 2012. “The spotted seals arrived in the Liao River Bay before humans did, and we must leave enough space for the indigenous animals to live and survive as we extract oil, build roads, and seek development for ourselves.”
As he became more well known, Tian led the sometimes contentious process of environmental advocacy. In 2011, he mobilized a large number of NGOs across China to demand the government change the course of a highway that would have gone through the spotted seals habitat. The government finally agreed to move the highway 18 kilometers away.
In April 2013, he revealed through his Weibo account that oil rigs of the Liaohe Oil Field were only one kilometer away from the spot where the seals came to shore. People’s Daily reported the matter and interviewed Tian. “We hope the city will suspend the construction of a viewing corridor and shelve the oil field development so as to leave the spotted seal habitat in peace,” he told the Party mouthpiece.
In June 2013, Tian exposed the wastewater and garbage pollution of the Oil Field’s subsidiary Special Petroleum Company (辽河油田盘锦特油公司).
According to the lawyers, Tian rejected the ruling. He believes that instead of penalizing environmental violators, the local government was persecuting him and his environmental group. He vowed to take his case to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s internal investigatory organ.
The office of the Association of Volunteers for the Protection of Spotted Seals, on the 4th floor of a modest building, is now empty and accumulating dust, according to an article in Southern Weekend; its website has been shut down because no one has renewed the server contract; all of the observation events and public awareness campaigns have stopped.
Members become emotional when speaking of Tian. They believe he was persecuted for his persistence and determination in the cause. Responding to the verdict, an NGO practitioner in China told China Change that “we all feel extremely unsafe.”
Two years ago today, China announced the abolition of the notorious Re-education Through Labor system and was widely lauded for the move. But the past two years have seen extended detention without trial, trial without verdict, or secret detention, being used to target dissent instead. The charges laid against lawyers, dissidents, activists, and NGO workers are often arbitrary.
In Tian Jiguang’s case, the 12-year sentence legally imposed through the court system makes labor camps, which carry a maximum 4-year sentence, seem like a good deal.
中国环保名人田继光昨日受审，腾讯新闻，May 29, 2015
環保人士田繼光勒索罪維持原判, i-cable in Hong Kong, November 13, 2015.
敲诈罪？侵占罪？律师称：无罪, the first trial defense, Sina blog, March 12, 2015. (with photos)
赶走公路，深陷油污——一个动物保护明星的陨落，《南方周末》，June 11, 2-15.
斑海豹“家”在何处：栖息地宁静不再, People’s Daily, May 2, 2013.
Spotted seals’ habitat under threat again, China Dialogue, October 8, 2012.
See a slideshow of spotted seals at China Dialogue.
By Yaqiu Wang, published: August 2, 2015
During the recent sweeping crackdown on rights lawyers, Chinese authorities placed lawyers Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Xie Yang (谢阳), as well as activist Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), under “residential surveillance at a designated place” (指定居所监视居住), according to official reports. Some observers of China’s human rights practices were relieved upon hearing this. The literal meaning of this coercive measure gives the impression that, compared with formal detention, there must be relatively fewer restrictions on movement under residential surveillance. Gou Guoping’s wife, upon learning that her husband was to be placed under residential surveillance, was, in her own words, “ecstatic.” But after calling the public security bureau to obtain more information, she was told: “The case is under investigation. The whereabouts of the person is a secret.”
There are two kinds of “residential surveillance” in China: enforced at the domicile of the suspect, or enforced at a designated place. Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law (刑事诉讼法) stipulates: “Where, for a crime suspected to endanger State security, a crime involving terrorist activities and a crime involving a significant amount of bribes, residential surveillance at the domicile of the criminal suspect or defendant may impede the investigation, it may…be enforced at a designated place of residence.”
The Criminal Procedure Law further stipulates: “Where a criminal suspect or defendant is placed under residential surveillance at a designated place of residence, his/her family shall be informed of the information related thereto within 24 hours upon enforcement of residential surveillance, unless notification cannot be processed.”
But the reality is that authorities usually refuse to tell the individual’s family or lawyer where they’re being held. As a result, the suspect’s lawyer goes from detention center to detention center, from police station to police station, as well as to the Office of Letters and Calls, in a vain attempt to find out where they are.
As Teng Biao (滕彪), a visiting fellow at US-Asia Law Institute, New York University, points out: “The essence of ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ is pre-trial custody in a place outside of legally designated places of custody. Because it does not need to be subject to the rules of formal detention centers, in reality ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ is often a more severe form of detention. When a detainee is tortured, it is difficult to obtain evidence.” Furthermore, authorities are allowed to detain “suspects” under this law for six months—no other legal process required.
The best known case of “residential surveillance at a designated place” is probably artist Ai Weiwei’s (艾未未) 81-day secret detention in the spring of 2011 in Beijing. At Venice Art Biennale 2013, the artist exhibited a set of six installations called S.A.C.R.E.D. that depicts the scenes of his forced disappearance.
During the pro-democracy protests, or “Jasmine Revolution,” in 2011, the Chinese government placed a large number of political dissidents under “residential surveillance at a designated place,” including rights lawyers Liu Shihui (刘士辉) and Tang Jingling (唐荆陵). Liu recalled: “The agents beat me. I had to get stitches. My ribs were in severe pain. I was deprived of sleep for five days and five nights. To be taken to a detention center actually became my highest hope at that time.” Tang Jingling was deprived of sleep for 10 days. It was not until “his entire body started to shiver, his hands became numb, his heart beat erratically, and his life was in danger” that the police allowed him one to two hours sleep per day.
At around the same time, dissident writer Ye Du (野渡) was placed under residential surveillance in a police training center in Guangzhou for 96 days. He told China Change: “I didn’t see sunlight for a whole month. I was interrogated for 22 hours a day. One hour for food, one hour for sleep. I was interrogated like this for seven consecutive days until I suffered terrible gastrointestinal bleeding. Then they stopped.”
Writing about his 85-days of “residential surveillance” in 2002, He Depu (何德普), a pro-democracy activist who also served eight years in prison for organizing the Chinese Democratic Party, gave this assessment: “I feel that China’s residential surveillance system is one of the cruelest systems of torture there is.”
“Residential surveillance” is also applied to other categories of prisoners. Hua Chunhui (华春辉), a dissident who was once criminally detained, recently tweeted: “A co-inmate of mine who was allegedly involved with a criminal gang was first incarcerated in a re-education-through-labor center, then he was placed under residential surveillance at a designated place. Several months later he was taken back to the detention center. He told me that it wasn’t a place for humans.” At that point Hua understood “the horrors of ‘residential surveillance at a designated place.’”
Yaqiu Wang (王亚秋) researches and writes about civil society and human rights in China.
The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, Matthew Robertson and Yaxue Cao, July 27, 2015.