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A Statement by Lawyer Chen Jiangang, Blocked Today From Leaving China to Take Part in the Humphrey Fellowship Program
Chen Jiangang, April 1, 2019
In the summer of 2018, I applied for the “Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program” to study law and human rights. After I was interviewed and had taken the TOEFL, I was accepted into the program. According to arrangements made by the program administrators, I was due to fly to the United States on April 1, 2019, to participate in English study in advance of the start of my program.
In order to succeed in traveling to the United States to study, I contacted the relevant personnel of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (Beijing PSB) to ask if I was still prohibited from leaving the country. I was told that I was prohibited from going to the United States for educational exchange, and that the exit ban on me and my family was of unlimited duration. The relevant personnel at the Beijing PSB told me that there were two reasons for the ban: first, I represented Xie Yang, one of the lawyers detained in the “709 Lawyers Incident”; second, the US government accepted me as a visiting scholar, “Who knows what they are up to in getting you to come to the US?”
Today, April 1, 2019, I went to the Beijing Capital Airport in the morning to board the plane [flight DL128]. I was pulled away at Customs (海关). A Customs official, who wore the name tag Zhang Guoxin (张国信), told me: Per instructions from the Beijing Public Security Bureau, Chen Jiangang will not be allowed to pass through Customs because his exit will endanger national security. They refused to give me any explanation in writing. After I demanded repeatedly for the basis of the exit ban, Zhang Guoxin replied: “The reasons cannot be explicitly stated; we just can’t let you leave the country.”
The Humphrey Fellowship Program was established in 1978 to honor the memory and achievements of the late US Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Since 1978, more than 5,000 Fellows from 157 countries have participated in the Humphrey Program, including more than 150 from China. The vast majority of the past participants from China have been government personnel. The Humphrey Program covers many fields, including public health, environmental protection, agriculture, education, journalism, and law. Humphrey Fellows, for the most part, come from developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Until now, there hasn’t been a single case from any country in the world in which a Fellow has been unable to participate in the program because their government blocked them and prohibited their attendance.
Even before the onset of the mass roundups of lawyers on July 9, 2015, I was illegally prohibited from leaving the country by the Beijing PSB. In 2017, my family was told that my wife, our two children, and I were all put on the Beijing PSB’s exit ban “blacklist.” At the time my older son was four years old, and my younger son was less than one year old. To date, my family has been unable to travel outside mainland China.
During the week-long May First holidays in 2017, my family was illegally detained while we were on vacation in Yunnan. At that time, the Beijing PSB sent agents to Yunnan to get me. The agents took me into custody and brought me back to Beijing. They told me that I was not allowed to travel freely because I represented Xie Yang [one of the 709 lawyers], and defended clients in some earlier human rights cases involving freedom of speech and belief.
In light of the above facts, I declare that:
I. I demand to leave the country to participate in the Humphrey Fellowship Program.
The Chinese government’s prohibition on my leaving the country as a Humphrey Fellow is a diplomatic event. Domestically, illegally banning me from studying abroad is an abuse of power by the government. It is not only a denial of the basic human rights of a citizen, but also an instance of bias against lawyers and the legal profession. It is the opposite of “governing the country according to law.”
With respect to the international community, this is a betrayal of international cooperation and a flagrant provocation against international norms.
II. I am a practicing lawyer, and my practice qualification certificate and practice license (license number 11101200810281378) were issued jointly by the PRC Ministry of Justice and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice. It is part of his or her normal professional work for a lawyer to handle criminal cases, including the “709 Xie Yang Case.” The fact that the Beijing PSB used my involvement in the Xie Yang case as grounds to implicate me and my family is an unlawful act on the part of the Chinese government.
By banning a human rights lawyer from studying abroad, the Chinese government continues its persecution of this group since the “709 Crackdown,” and continues its unbridled persecution of the rule of law in China. This persecution of lawyers and disregard for the rule of law once again shows to the world that the Chinese government is openly and unceasingly depriving people of their human rights and persecuting lawyers, and that the Chinese government’s promises cannot be trusted, its laws were not intended to be implemented, and that nothing stops the Chinese government from doing whatever it wants to, disregarding any law or commitment it makes.
III. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States in 1979, the Chinese government has never proclaimed the United States to be a hostile nation, nor has it defined the United States as an enemy country. It has not issued a ban on tourism and study in the United States. Chairman Xi Jinping clearly expressed to the world that “we have a thousand reasons to have good Sino-US relations, and no reason to damage Sino-US relations.” However, the Beijing PSB and other agencies have regarded the US government-sponsored fellowship as a hostile and malicious act. This is completely contrary to the direction determined by Chairman Xi Jinping; relevant officials are intentionally damaging Chairman Xi’s principles and policies.
IV. I will adopt all possible means to protest the Chinese government’s illegal persecution of me and my family. I will defend my rights. I respectfully ask that friends at home and abroad, the media, international organizations, and national governments pay attention and provide assistance.
V. To date, no government agency has filed charges against me. I have not committed any crimes. I am completely innocent. If, in the future, I appear in any media outlet confessing guilt or wrongdoings, it is not my intention, nor is it true. This kind of “confession,” self-humiliation, and self-defilement could only be made under circumstances in which I’ve been tortured or threatened. Because there is no crime, naturally it follows that there is no criminal gang, nor are there any accomplices. But if I am tortured or threatened, I may “confess” to other “criminals.” If this happens, I declare in advance that all my “confessions” are coerced false admissions.
Declarant: Chen Jiangang
April 1, 2019
(The Chinese original of the statement is posted on Twitter.)
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 19, 2017.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation, January 20, 2017.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others, January 21, 2017.
Chen Guiqiu, May 8, 2017
Over the weekend, ahead of the trial of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) on Monday, his wife Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋) published an article detailing, for the first time, how she first learned about her husband’s torture during the 6-month “residential surveillance at a designated place” and then in the Changsha 2nd Detention Center. Xie Yang, during the three-hour show trial for subversion and disrupting court order, denied being tortured as part of an apparent deal with the government. He looked gaunt in photographs. He was represented by a government appointed lawyer, and no witnesses were called. A handwritten statement by Xie Yang on January 13, sealed with red wax thumbprints, foretold this unfortunate “denial”: “If, one day in the future, I do confess — whether in writing or on camera or on tape, that will not be the true expression of my own mind. It may be because I’ve been subjected to prolonged torture, or because I’ve been offered the chance to be released on bail to reunite with my family. Right now I am being put under enormous pressure, and my family is being put under enormous pressure, for me ‘confess’ guilt and keep silent about the torture I was subject to.” — The Editors
On March 2, 2017, in a nearly 12 minute segment, CCTV-4 published a report about the torture of Hunan human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). The report, using numerous strands of evidence, purported to comprehensively prove that “Xie Yang did not suffer torture.” It said that the claim that Xie Yang had been tortured was a “conspiracy,” “engineered” by myself and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇). Included in the report was footage of Jiang Tianyong — under secret detention since November 21 last year — confessing guilt, and a so-called “independent investigation” by the Hunan Procuratorate, as well eyewitness description by the reporter upon visiting Xie Yang in the detention center.
Xie Yang’s defense lawyer, Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), produced an exhaustive, professional, and meticulous transcript of Xie Yang’s descriptions of the torture he suffered during meetings last December and on several successive days in January this year. These were published on January 19, 2017. A mass smear campaign in March also hinted that Chen Jiangang’s torture transcripts were a fabrication. Chen has already provided detailed and potent rebuttals of these ludicrous claims (here and here).
From early March to now, I’ve been silent for over two months. Today, I’m breaking that silence. First of all, I’d like the world to know how I came to gain news of the torture of Xie Yang beginning in August, 2016. With this, as well as Chen Jiangang’s transcripts and Xie Yang’s own handwritten statement, people can decide for themselves whether Xie Yang’s torture is real, and who is lying.
I. In late July, 2016, Hunan security police arranged for lawyer Zhang Zhongshi (张重实) to visit Xie Yang, for the purpose of persuading him to confess. Xie Yang had been in detention for a year by then, six months of which was under residential surveillance. After that he was held in the Changsha 2nd Detention Center. The meeting was extremely short. Xie Yang hurriedly recounted to Zhang some of the torture he suffered. He said that he was tortured to give a confession, and that he had at one point screamed out for help. He also told Zhang that over the past few days the detention center had locked him up in the same cell as a death row prisoner. The latter deliberately provoked him with lit cigarettes, and that after Xie Yang fought back against the bullying, the death row prisoner seized the opportunity to beat Xie Yang with his hand manacles. He sustained head injuries from this.
II. In August 2016, someone called and texted me multiple times at 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., saying that a man was calling for help from the second floor of the retired cadre guesthouse of the National University of Defense Technology on Deya Road in Changsha. The cries for help included my telephone number, name, and work unit. I went to visit this brave caller to verify what he told me. He said that the blood-curdling cries for help were terrifying in the extreme. Later, the interviews of Xie Yang by Chen Jiangang corroborated this incident. Xie Yang was indeed, while suffering an illness and trying to deflect the blows raining down on him, screaming for help out of the window of the cadre guest house.
III. On November 21, 2016, lawyer Zhang Zhongshi was able to formally hold a conference with Xie Yang for the first time as his defense lawyer. He heard Xie Yang, on his way to the meeting room, cry out at being slugged by the disciplinary officer Yuan Jin (袁进), and he touched Xie Yang’s swollen, bloody head. Zhang and I then exposed this incident to the media.
IV. In the year that Xie Yang was held in the detention center, several former detainees personally gave me extremely detailed accounts of the torture and inhumane treatment he was put to. They said he was put in solitary confinement, denied the use of money placed in his account by family, and denied toothpaste and toilet paper. He also described to them the numerous forms of torture applied against him during residential surveillance at a designated place. I have audio recordings of these accounts. I will make them public at an appropriate time.
V. During my contact with the state security police and public security forces, a number of people told me the news that Xie Yang had been tortured in custody. I also made audio recordings of these statements.
VI. These varied sources corroborated each other. I cannot reveal the names because they would be subject to violent reprisal for telling me. They include individuals in the security police and the public security system whose conscience has not been lost, and kind-hearted people who have suffered like me. When the state terrorists behind these acts have fallen from power, I will let you know who these heroes are.
Before Chen Jiangang’s interview transcripts were published, the news about Xie Yang was revealed by myself and his previous defense lawyers, covering two periods of time: when Xie Yang was being held in residential surveillance (July 11, 2015 to January 8, 2016) and after he was placed in the detention center (January 8, 2016 to the present). Every piece of evidence we gathered can be verified.
The torture details we learned from the above channels were verified in their entirety by Chen Jiangang’s transcript.
I know in my bones that in China the public security officials, the public prosecutors, and the courts, are one colluding family, and that the judicial system is unjust and has no transparency. According to Chinese law, during the time that Xie Yang has been detained, a video recording should have been kept 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If the torture is fake, the authorities simply need to produce the video evidence to show it. This would constitute the most persuasive, primary evidence. Why have they never produced it? Clearly, all the “evidence” they keep speaking about are all lies.
May 6, 2017
This is an excerpt of Chen Guiqiu’s article, translated by China Change.
Urgent Statement by Chinese Lawyers Concerning Lawyer Chen Jiangang Who Was Detained by Yunnan Police Along With Family and Friends
May 4, 2017
We have learned that, around 1 pm on May 3, 2017, Beijing lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), his wife and two young children, as well as their friends Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) and his wife, were forcibly taken into custody by local police while the company was on a tourist trip in Jinghong, Yunnan province (云南景洪). In doing so, the police did not present any legal warrant. Lawyer Chen Jiangang and the company have now been in custody for over 19 hours, and their belongings have been confiscated. [As of the publication of the translation of this statement, they have been detained for over 30 hours.]
We are acutely aware that lawyer Chen Jiangang has riled the authorities for revealing the torture of his client, the Hunan-based lawyer Xie Yang, and we hope that his detention in Yunnan is not intentional retaliation against lawyer Chen Jiangang by the relevant organs. We’d also like to stress that free movement inside the borders of China is a natural, as well as a legal, right of each and every Chinese citizen.
Based on the international standard that lawyers shall not face reprisal or be persecuted for practicing their profession, and also based on citizens’ natural and legal rights to travel freely in the country, we issue the following urgent statement:
1. Yunnan police must immediately and unconditionally release Chen Jiangang, Zhang Baocheng and others traveling with them;
2. We have been paying close attention to the situation and will continue to do so. We will provide all legal assistance to lawyer Chen Jiangang and others on the same trip who have been controlled by police.
May 4, 2017
Stated by lawyers:
Jiang Yongji, Gansu (蒋永继，甘肃律师)；Wen Donghai, Hunan (文东海，湖南律师)；Cai Ying, Hunan (蔡瑛，湖南律师)；Zhang Jinwu (张金武，山东律师)；Chang Weishan, jiangsu (程为善，江苏律师)；Li Yuzhen, Shandong (李玉真，山东律师)；Zhu Shengwu, Shandong (祝圣武，山东律师)；Huang Hanzhong, Beijing (黄汉中，北京律师); Liu Zhiqiang, Shanxi (刘志强，陕西律师)；Yu Quan, Sichuan (于全，四川律师)；
DingbXikui, Beijing (丁锡奎，北京律师)；Chen Jinxue, Guangdong (陈进学，广东律师)；Qin Yongpei, Guangxi (覃永沛，广西律师)；LAN Zhixue, Beijing (兰志学，北京律师)；Chang Boyang, Henan (常伯阳，河南律师)；Ji Laisong, Henan (姬来松，河南律师)；Hu Linzheng, Hunan (胡林政，湖南律师)；Zhou Yinchang, Shandong (周云昌，山东律师)；Ma Wei, Tianjin (马卫，天津律师)；Liu Shuqing, Shandong (刘书庆，山东律师)；
Liu Weiguo, Shandong (刘卫国，山东律师)；Zhao Yonglin, Shandong (赵永林，山东律师)；Zhao Hexu, Shandong (赵和绪，山东律师)；Xiao Yunyang, Guizhou (萧云阳，贵州律师)；Shu Xiangxin, Shandong (舒向新，山东律师后)；Ge Wenxiu, Guangdong (葛文秀，广东律师)；Chen Jinhua, Hunan (陈金华，湖南律师)；Wang Qingpeng, Hebei (王清鹏，河北律师)；Yu Wensheng, Beijing (余文生，北京律师)；Lu Siwei, Sichuan (卢思位，四川律师)；
Huang Zhiqiang, Zhejiang (黄志强，浙江律师)；Situ Yiping, Shandong (司徒一平，山东律师)；Li Jinxing, Shandong (李金星，山东律师)；Zheng Xiang, Shandong (郑湘，山东律师)；Luo Lizhi, Hunan (罗立志，湖南律师)；Yang Xuan, Hunan (杨璇，湖南律师)；Chen Yixuan, Hunan (陈以轩，湖南律师)；Zou Lihui, Fujian (邹丽惠，福建律师)；Fan Biaowen, Guangdong (范标文，广东律师)；Lu Fangzhi, Hunan (吕方芝，湖南律师)；
Wang Haijun, Hunan (王海军，湖南律师)；Zhang Junjie, Henan (张俊杰，河南律师)；Wen Yu, Guangdong (闻宇，广东律师)；Wei Shuiping, Guangdong (魏水平，广东律师)；Zhai Yuan, Sichuan (瞿远，四川律师)；Zhao Shaohua, Guangdong (赵绍华，广东律师)；Pang Kun, Shenzhen (庞琨，深圳律师)；Wang Huanan, Shandong (王化南，山东律师)；Fang Yining, Beijing (房一宁，北京律师)；Ma Wannian, Ningxia (马万年，宁夏律师)；
Xu Hongwei, Shandong (徐红卫，山东律师)；Xu Guijuan, Shandong (许桂娟，山东律师)；Chen Nanshi, Hunan (陈南石，湖南律师)；Zhang Zhongshi, Hunan (张重实，湖南律师)；Wang Zhenjiang, Shandong (王振江，山东律师)；Li Yongheng, Shandong (李永恒，山东律师)；Meng Meng, Henan (孟猛，河南律师)；Tang Jitian, Beijing (唐吉田，北京律师后)；Ren Quanniu, Henan (任全牛，河南律师)；Liu Wei, Beijing (刘巍，北京律师后)；
Wen Haibo, Beijing (温海波，北京律师)；Liu Yan, Shandong (刘彦，山东律师)；Ling Qilei, Beijing (蔺其磊，北京律师)；Liu Jianjun, Beijing (刘建军，北京律师)；Li Weida, Hebei (李威达，河北律师)；Li Jinglin, Beijing (李静林，北京律师)；Xie Yanyi, Beijing (谢燕益，北京律师)；Zhang Lei, Beijing (张磊，北京律师)；Sui Muqing, Guangdong (隋牧青，广东律师)；
Tang Jiaji, Guangxi (谭家骥，广西律师)；Zhong Jinhua, Shanghai (钟锦化，上海律师)；Wang Zongyue, Guizhou (王宗跃，贵州律师)；Yang Mingkuai, Yunnan (杨明跨，云南律师)；Ma Lianshun, Henan (马连顺，河南律师)；Ge Wenxiu, Guangdong (葛文秀，广东律师)；Xi Xiangdong, Shandong (袭祥栋，山东律师)；Zeng Yi, Yunnan (曾义，云南律师)；Lu Tingge, Hebei (卢廷阁，河北律师)；
Li Fangping, Beijing (李方平，北京律师)；Liang Xiaojun, Beijing (梁小军，北京律师)；Liu Shihui, Guangdong (刘士辉，广东律师)；Wu Kuiming, Guangdong (吴魁明，广东律师)；Ji Zhongjiu, Zhejiang (纪中久，浙江律师)；Teng Biao, Beijing (滕彪，北京律师)；Zheng Enchong, Shanghai (郑恩宠，上海律师)；Jiang Yuanmin, Guangdong (蒋援民，广东律师)；Luo Qian, Hunan (罗茜，湖南律师)；Liu Lianhe, Tianjin (刘连贺，天津律师)；
Liu Zhengqing, Guangdong (刘正清，广东律师)；Cui Xiaoping, Guangdong (崔小平，广东律师)；Tong Chaoping, Beijing (童朝平，北京律师)；Wang Qiushi, Heilongjiang (王秋实，黑龙江律师)；He Wei, Chongqing (何伟，重庆律师)；Zhang Jinhong, Henan (张锦宏，河南律师)；
Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), wife of 709 lawyer Xie Yang; Li Wenzu (李文足), wife of 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang; Jin Bianling (金变玲), wife of 709 lawyer Jiang Tianyong; and Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), wife of 709 lawyer Li Heping.
We continue to ask more lawyers and other concerned parties to co-sign this statement. Please send your information via WeChat or text to 18093643144, or communicate your intent to any of the above signatories.
China Change, May 3, 2017
(Chen Jianggang’s video statement on March 3: “If I lose my freedom.”)
Lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), on a holiday driving tour with wife, two young children (six and three), and two friends, were detained in a police station in Jinghong, Yunnan (云南景洪) around 1:00 p.m. on May 3. Jinghong is part of Xishuangbanna (西双版纳), a popular tourist destination.
The two friends are Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) and Zhang’s wife Liu Juefan (刘珏帆).
Around 5:00 p.m., all six were taken away in vehicles by a dozen or so armed police, according to a handwritten note by Chen Jiangang, circulating on WeChat. The note said:
1. Before I signed [a list of confiscated belongings], no one showed me any proper warrant.
2. Many more of our personal belongings have been stolen from us.
May 3, 2017
Lawyer Chen Jiangang has been the defense counsel for 709 lawyer Xie Yang since December, 2016, and published the Xie Yang torture transcripts on January 19, 2017. On March 1 and 2, the state media launched a massive campaign alleging that the torture of Xie Yang was a fabrication, involving not only lawyer Jiang Tianyong, but also Chen Jiangang.
Since then Chen Jiangang has been summoned for talks, and his former clients were interviewed by police looking for ways to frame Chen for possible retaliation. Indeed, he’s the most at-risk human rights lawyer since the kidnapping of Jiang Tianyong in November, 2016.
In a statement dated March 3, Chen said, “I have committed no crime. I will never, of my own volition, assent to any illegal interrogation, and nor will I level false charges against or attempt to frame anyone. Any written, oral, or video confession, self-degradation, or accusation against other people will only have been made under the circumstances that I have been deprived of liberty, am under duress, or am being tortured and threatened. Those are the only circumstances under which I could be forced to say such things, and none of them will be true.”
We call on the international media, human rights organizations, and diplomatic missions in Beijing to seek answers about the detention of lawyer Chen Jianggang, his family and friends, and the immediate release of them all.
Immediate action is crucial for his safety and that of his family.
Chen Jiangang, April 24, 2017
This article was written in December, 2015. Between then and now, the 45-year-old but youthful looking human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) performed a rare act of courage: revealing his torture in full detail while still behind bars, and despite the perpetrators’ repeated threats. The author Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), a friend, became Xie Yang’s defense lawyer in December 2016, recording the torture in a series meetings earlier this year. Then in an equally courageous action, Chen published them. The revelations caused an international stir, providing a rare but clear glimpse of the “709 Crackdown” on human rights lawyers, while also showing how the Chinese authorities routinely use unspeakable torture to extract confessions. “[Xie Yang’s] thought was that he wanted to maintain the final dignity for Chinese lawyers as a whole,” Chen Jiangang said in a home recording on March 7. “He also thought that right now a nationwide crackdown and persecution of human rights lawyers 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.’ Today in Changsha, Xie Yang stands trial for “subverting state power.” — The Editors
When Xie Yang was imprisoned it was height of summer; now cold winter beats on our doors. In a flash, five months has passed and we’ve heard nothing. Over the past two years dissidents, online opinion leaders, journalists, and rights lawyers have been dragged onto state television and humiliated with forced “confessions.” Every few days there’s someone new on screen, crying bitterly, pleading guilt, accepting punishment, apologizing to the nation and the people… The scripts are pre-written, and CCTV news crews are on standby awaiting orders. Yet to this day there have been no “Confessions From Mr. Xie.” It looks like Xie Yang has not cooperated, and the producers had no actor for their stage play.
Whenever I think of Xie Yang, his smile always comes to mind. No matter the situation he’s in, there it is: a sunny, wide smile that brightens the day. Xie Yang’s smile is probably the first impression of him that many are left with.
Xie Yang, with his swarthy features and slow and careful speech, always seems to surprise. But everything he does comes from the heart, and is motivated by his deepest feelings. With Xie Yang, it’s never just for show.
Hunan Mule Versus the Bandits of Shandong
The phrase “Hunan mule” (湖南骡子) passes for a compliment for the Hunanese, along with sayings like “if your tooth is broke, swallow it with the blood.” “Hunan mule” is a reference to the unbending character of the people who hail from the region. They toil and suffer without complaint, and they’re strong of mind and full of courage. Sometimes, they’re also a bit excitable, and apt to “kick their hind legs.” Xie Yang is a classic Hunan mule, and thus earned the sobriquet “Xie Yang the Stubborn.”
In 2011, the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) had just finished a four year prison term, earned for exposing the Communist Party’s brutal birth control practices in the countryside. He was then put under house arrest in Dongshigu village, Linyi, Shandong Province. Keeping him under guard became a cottage industry for local thugs: some were in charge of watching the family courtyard, others for making sure every approaching road was sealed off, others for dishing out beatings to visitors, others for delivering food. They worked shifts, 24/7. It didn’t matter who came to voice support, whether netizens, foreign journalists, or movie stars — whoever approached was beaten and chased away.
When Xie Yang heard about it, he didn’t believe it, and decided to pay Chen a visit himself. But before he could even enter Dongshigu, he was caught. The thugs began slugging him, tore apart his clothes, took his money, then bailed him into a car and dumped him in the middle of nowhere, a few dozen kilometers away. Poor Xie Yang had no ID, no money, and hardly any clothes left. Later, he told me that while he was in the car, tied up, hooded, and being beaten, his captors told him again and again that they were going to drive him out and bury him alive. He said the fact that he lived to tell the tale felt like a new life. Later still, I came to learn that this technique used by the thugs had its own term of art: “tossing to the wild” (“野抛”).
Xie Yang told me that what happened to him in Dongshigu had a profound impact on him. It hit him so hard, he said, that it brought about an internal rebirth. On the soil of Shandong — the cradle of Chinese civilization — Xie Yang came to a deep understanding of the state of the rule of law in China. It was a turning point in his journey to becoming a rights defense lawyer.
Defending the New Citizens
In 2014, with international attention focused on the prosecution of the New Citizens Movement in Beijing, Xie Yang appeared in court as counsel for Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), one of the four defendants. Lawyer Ge Yongxi (葛永喜) did most of the talking for the defense, and Xie Yang didn’t have much occasion to offer an opinion. When it was his turn to question the evidence, that Zhang Baocheng held up a placard calling for officials to make public their personal assets, Xie Yang responded in thick Hunan vernacular: “My client’s done a belter job.” The judge didn’t get it, and again asked for him to raise any questions about the evidence. Xie Yang repeated his remark. The judge then began thumping his gavel, demanding he provide an opinion on the evidence. Xie Yang didn’t react, and again said the same sentence: “My opinion of the evidence is simply that my client’s done a belter job.” (i.e., “My client has done a great job.”)
The demand that officials make public their assets is common sense in a democratic country. In China, it’s enough to land one in jail. That was all Xie Yang had to say about the evidence.
In March 2014, four human rights lawyers — Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Zhang Junjie (张俊杰) and Wang Cheng (王成) — traveled to the remote, far northeastern town of Jiansanjiang (建三江), Heilongjiang Province, to represent a number of Falun Gong practitioners locked in a black jail. When they got there the lawyers were taken captive and brutally beaten, sparking lawyers and citizens from around China to begin traveling to Jiansanjiang in protest and support. To deal with the flood of supporters, local authorities stationed about a dozen vehicles and dozens of fully-armed personnel on the only road leading there. It was early April, but the region had been hit with sudden snowfall, and visibility was low. The road there was desolate, empty fields stretching out into the distance, with no villages in sight — so the dozens of defense lawyer and citizens who went to protest were easily captured. Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was hooded and had his head rammed into a wall; Wang Shengsheng (王胜生) was hooded and dragged away while still in his pyjamas; Li Jinxing (李金星) told me that he got so cold in Jiansanjiang that it damaged his internal organs and took months to recover.
Xie Yang had arranged to travel there with a few other lawyers in early April. He was the first to arrive in Harbin where they were to meet. He could have waited for the others and gone together, so at least if they were buried alive there’d be company. But instead, as he recounted later with a grin, he thought: “What am I waiting around for? Forget it. First to come, first to go!”
With his authorization letter making clear he was an attorney on a case, he traveled by himself through the snow. As expected, he was picked up halfway there and searched. He didn’t try to hide anything and told them: “Haven’t you boys arrested a big crowd already? I’m with them!”
‘I Want to File the Case!’
Human rights lawyers are the chief offenders in China’s “New Five Black Categories,” (新黑五类) because they often serve as the defenders and guardians of the other four (political dissidents, believers, free speechers, the disenfranchised). The state sees them as a threat. Lawyers are willing to forgo income and personal safety in order to seek redress for wronged citizens — but on many occasions even filing the case is a battle. As for those who have their homes demolished, or those beaten by urban enforcement officers, or those who have family members killed by them, or by police — how many can actually file their cases?
Once, Xie Yang went to file an administrative lawsuit on behalf of a plaintiff who was treated unjustly by the state. If the administrative court doesn’t first of all even report the matter to their superiors, if it hasn’t contacted the defendants, researched countermeasures beforehand and is confident about the outcome, the court won’t even accept your filing.
Xie Yang, with his complaint and dossier of evidence in hand, again tried to talk to the judge, but the judge still wouldn’t register the case. If you won’t register the case, will you at least provide a “Formal Notification of Refusal to Register a Case”? Sorry — no. That’s just not how we do things. Why not? Why doesn’t the judge follow the law? Judge, have you seen the law?
The judge looks down at his cell phone, giving Xie Yang the cold shoulder: how amusing that this lawyer actually thinks the law is for real!
Everyone in the legal community, from veterans to rookies, has been through this. Everyone has their reservoir of pent-up rage.
Xie Yang the Stubborn tried to get his point across in every possible way, with no result. After being ignored and humiliated, he was ready to kick his hind legs. The story goes that Xie Yang the Stubborn stood in the court with his hands and legs pointed out, in the shape of a big “X,” and yelled at the top of his voice: “EVERYONE. BE. QUIET.” The court instantly fell silent. All eyes were locked on Xie Yang. Then, his face lit up with fury, he raised a finger toward the presiding judge, and bellowed: “I want to file the case!”
Even after all that, they still didn’t put the case on file for him. Instead, the bailiffs took their cue to rough him up.
I once asked Xie Yang about where this incident took place. He sniggered and said: “Don’t remember.”
In China, there are quite a few lawyers who don’t approve of Xie Yang’s way of going about things. Indeed, roaring at the judge in the courtroom isn’t known to solve problems. But that’s Xie Yang.
‘Who Pays Your Salary?’
The professional environment for human rights lawyers in China is terrible. Everyone knows it. The number of lawyers who’ve had to move firms, or who’ve even been persecuted and run out of the industry, is countless.
In October 2013, after Xie Yang began taking on sensitive cases, the firm he was under contract with in Changsha forced him to transfer out. He then filed an application with the Changsha Justice Bureau to work at another firm. The law stipulates that both the Hunan Provincial Department of Justice, as well as the Changsha Justice Bureau, must examine and approve his application within 30 days. If they approve, he receives a new lawyer’s license; if they reject the application, they must provide a written explanation. But after seven months, the two Bureaus hadn’t processed the paperwork. This amounted to stripping Xie Yang of his right to practice his profession. In May 2014, he lodged an administrative lawsuit, suing the Changsha Justice Bureau and the Hunan Provincial Department of Justice for failing to carry out their duties.
Xie Yang’s complaint became a cause célèbre in the rights defense community in China. Two lawyers with national profile represented him, and 200-300 lawyers and interested citizens came from around the country to observe the court hearing. Because of the number of attendees, the court had to change the venue three times, eventually using their largest — and rarely used — courtroom. The Furong District Court in Changsha (长沙市芙蓉区法院) had never seen this many observers at a trial before.
When it was plaintiff Xie Yang’s turn to speak, he made an exhaustive list of everything the two judicial agencies had done to harass, persecute, and humiliate him. Then, with righteous indignation, he said: “You justice departments aren’t sons of bitches, you’re sons of lawyers — we pay for your living!”
As soon as these words fell from his lips, the entire courtroom erupted in applause. The judge knew that the reaction couldn’t be halted, and didn’t try stopping it.
I was traveling at the time and couldn’t attend, but photos of the scene in the courtroom were circulated online. Xie Yang could be seen, his dark face set off by his white clothes, with his classic smile, standing in front of his peers, looking every part the victorious hero.
Xie Yang told me later that he saw this case as one of the biggest achievements of his life. He said: “Even if I can’t be a lawyer anymore, it was worth it!”
A Black Robe and Bent Knees
Xie Yang’s stubbornness is legendary. After the trial, there was no judgement. After multiple abortive attempts at trying to prod the court for a verdict, he once again struck out on his own, though this time attracting more controversy than support: Xie Yang announced that he was going to don his lawyer’s gown, plant himself in front of the courthouse, and kneel. He said he’d do this every week, 15 minutes each time. When the news came out, many lawyers were pained to hear it. His own defense lawyer publicly distanced himself from the initiative. When the number of people trying to talk him out of it grew, he stopped picking up his phone. But Xie Yang makes good on his word, so he did end up doing the protest once.
Of course, the gesture was by no means to signify that he had come to kneel down, begging the authorities to toss him a lifeline. It was because he thought that the sight of a lawyer in a black robe kneeling at the doors of a courthouse would turn into a news event, and shame the court into acting. But the system Xie Yang was facing doesn’t share these ideas of honor and shame. Fortunately he later did receive a new lawyer’s licence and was able to continue plying his trade.
Let the Bullets Fly a Bit Longer
There were around 10,000 households in Hunan who were forced to evacuate due to the construction of the Tuokou reservoir (托口水库). The migration destroyed the properties of many families, and they were left with no avenues to seek redress. Some villagers killed themselves in despair. Xie Yang organized a group of lawyers to begin defending the villagers’ rights. The hearing was no more than a show, as the defendant — that is, the government — had never found themselves at the losing end of a forced demolition lawsuit.
But something unexpected happened in the courtroom: contained in the dossier presented by the government was a record of a conversation personally prepared by two government officials. Participants in the conversation included a Party secretary, the Public Security Bureau leader, the president of the court, and the official in charge of demolitions. They were discussing how they were monitoring the two main lawyers in this case, Xie Yang and Luo Lizhi (罗立志), including their schedules and chats together. Each of the officials spoke, according to the meeting record. The public security leader explained how he was preparing to mobilize so many people and vehicles, ready at any time to apprehend the lawyers; they referred to the “important instructions” of the Party secretary; how the court president was going to wrap up the case, how he was going to sort out Xie Yang and the other lawyers and then report back to the Party secretary, and so on.
Friends: If you want to know why it’s so hard to get administrative lawsuits filed, why it’s so hard to win them, and why officials are so complacent and treat the people like dirt, then you should examine the meeting records revealed in this case. Is this sort of lawsuit fair? Has the world ever seen its like?
When these records were discovered, Hu Lizheng (胡林政), one of the lawyers, demanded the court recuse itself from adjudicating the case. The defendants went pale, and bailiffs dashed forward to seize control of the evidence. When the Tuokou villagers who’d come to observe the trial realized what was going on, they began shouting and weeping at how unjust it all was. They filled the courtroom with cries.
The court session was adjourned. What would be the next step? Xie Yang had a head for pacing and said: “Let the bullets fly a bit longer” — that is, to watch and wait. But before there could be any next step, Xie Yang was arrested on the grounds of “gathering a crowd to disrupt court order” (聚众扰乱法庭秩序罪).
The bullets fell to the ground as soon as Xie Yang was taken into custody. The court announced that the lawsuit was dropped.
Xu Chunhe, or When Human Life is Cut Down Like Grass
Another case Xie Yang was involved in was the shooting of Xu Chunhe (徐纯合) in early May, 2015. This case was one of the key factors leading up to the mass arrest of rights defense lawyers and citizen activists on July 9, 2015.
Xu Chunhe was a petitioner from the city of Qing’an, Heilongjiang Province (黑龙江省庆安). He was traveling by train with his eighty-year-old mother and three kids when he was shot dead by a police officer at the train station. The well-known activist Wu Gan (吴淦) exposed surveillance footage from the scene online, and what had taken place was clear.
Xie Yang traveled to Qing’an and was hired by the family to file the complaint. After he was commissioned, Xie Yang demanded that the police make public the full surveillance footage, and also that they begin an investigation into the matter. These demands met with no result.
At this point, Xie Yang and a few other lawyers stood outside the Harbin Railway Public Security Bureau and unfurled a big-character banner saying: “You’ve No Option But to Release the Full Surveillance Video!”
Following this, the citizens and lawyers who got involved in the case were jailed one after another. These included Wu Gan, who sought out the truth of what happened, and the lawyers Xie Yang and Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), who tried to obtain justice for the family of the man wrongly killed.
Xie Yang’s Tenderness
Xie Yang has two daughters, one about ten years old and the other a toddler. He often had to travel around China, from one case to the other, and hardly had the leisure to enjoy his girls’ company. When I was with him, on more than one occasion Xie Yang pulled out his cellphone and began watching videos of the girls playing at home, his face and eyes lighting up with cheer.
You can’t say he’s a good husband. He was hardly home; he took on cases that placed him in physical and political danger, causing his wife to fret about him and fear for the family. Though a loving father, he’s been detained for more than five months now, and I heard that his daughters have constantly asked: “When will daddy come back?” Does a good father put himself in such danger and risk letting down his children?
Having come to the end of my account, just what kind of person is Xie Yang?
The official indictment, on December 16, 2016, after he was detained for 17 months, charges Xie Yang with the crimes of subversion of state power and disrupting court order.
Confucius, some 2,500 years ago, said that “men of principle are sure to have courage,” and that “to see what is right and not do it is want of courage.” He also said, “Men with aspiration and with benevolence do not sacrifice benevolence to remain alive, but would sacrifice themselves for benevolence.” Mencius said, “To live is my desire, and to be righteous is also my desire. If the two can’t be had at the same time, I’d give up life to achieve righteousness.” In our time of moral poverty, Xie Yang is such a man whose actions and choices befit the ideals of Confucius and Mencius.
Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) is a human rights lawyer in China.
Translated from an abbreviated version with author’s permission.
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.