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To All Friends Concerned With the Imprisoned Human Rights Activist Wu Gan and the 709 Case

Xu Xiaoshun, father of Wu Gan, May 22, 2017

On May 20, 2015, while supporting lawyers on the “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” at the Jiangxi Provincial Higher People’s Court, Wu Gan (aka “The Butcher”) was detained by the Nanchang municipal police. Several days later he, a native of Fujian province, was charged by the Fujian police with the crimes of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “defamation,” and jailed in Yongtai County Detention Center. During his detention in Fujian he was able to meet with lawyers several times. But then he was suddenly forbidden meetings, and on February 1, 2016, it was learned he’d been transferred to the custody of Tianjin municipal police as part of the 709 (July 9, 2015) case, or the now infamous crackdown on human rights lawyers, and was detained in Tianjin 2nd Detention Center. On December 9, 2016, 17 months after seeing their client last, attorneys Yan Xin and Ge Yongxi obtained permission to meet with Wu Gan in Tianjin, and learned from him that he’d been brutally tortured, including being deprived of sleep, shackled hand and foot like a death row prisoner with “I-bar” hand irons, hospitalized and administered “excessive and exaggerated” medical treatment, and not allowed outside for more than 200 days. He told the lawyers that those administering his case hoped he would plead guilty, accept a state-appointed lawyer, and make a televised confession. He staunchly refused. On January 3, 2017, Wu Gan was indicted with the crimes of subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. On March 24, 2017, attorney Ge Yongxi again met with Wu Gan. Wu Gan revealed that he’d been seen by a state-delegated female psychologist who advised him to plead guilty. Wu Gan emphasized that he would not commit unprincipled acts, and would not fire his lawyers and accept state-appointed ones. Due to the international attention attracted by the publishing of attorney Chen Jiangang’s “Transcript of My Meeting with Xie Yang,” Wu Gan’s lawyers have been denied meetings with Wu Gan again since March 24. — The Editors




Dear colleagues, Wu Gan’s friends, victims of 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers, and supporters: I send my regards to you all. My name is Xu Xiaoshun (徐孝顺); I am Wu Gan’s father. Since Wu Gan was illegally imprisoned by the authorities, you have given him a lot of support and concern. I take this opportunity to thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Wu Gan uses his mother’s surname, but did not inherit his mother’s gentle temperament. He’s just like me, inclined to help victims of injustice. Over the years Wu Gan has helped defend the rights of many people he’d never met before. I don’t have a specific understanding of all the things he did. But I do know his enthusiasm and integrity. I said to him: “What’s the use of your activism? It’s eventually going to land you in jail.” But he has his own ideas. Every time we met we argued, but after each dispute he persisted in his course of action.  

I believe that everyone is somewhat familiar with the things Wu Gan has done since 2008. The authorities bitterly hate him, and have repeatedly persecuted him. But they have not succeeded in getting him to surrender. This is how they do things: when they couldn’t subdue him, they targeted his family to blackmail him. So on September 13, 2012, the local government gathered some people and fabricated the excuse of the crime of embezzlement to criminally detain me. According to their statement, I falsified accounts and conspired with others to privately sell an oil company’s crude oil. Of course the contents of the fabricated accounts couldn’t be verified. I was detained until May 23, 2013. When they couldn’t break me, they released me on “bail pending trial.” The year-long bail period expired on May 23, 2014, and in lieu of any evidence they dropped the case. However, on May 19, 2015, when Wu Gan was defending the rights of those sentenced to death in the Leping Wrongful Conviction Case in the Nanchang, Jiangxi Higher People’s Court, he was arrested. In order to make Wu Gan give up, on June 25, 2015 the authorities detained me again using the same charge. Since then, they have put on a show and held three court sessions. On January 19, 2017, they again released me on “bail pending trial.” On April 17 of this year, the Fuqing Municipal Court issued a ruling allowing the procuratorate to withdraw the criminal charges. On May 3, 2017, I received the Fuqing Municipal Procuratorate’s decision not to prosecute. From detention to withdrawal of charges, I was detained for nearly two years.



Discerning eyes can see that I was imprisoned altogether for more than two years because of my son Wu Gan’s human rights defense activities. I’ve suffered hardship, but have never blamed him. What he’s done isn’t wrong—I’m somewhat educated and I understand right and wrong. Some say that I have suffered guilt by association, but I have a different view. Guilt by association was invented by the Warring States Period statesman Shang Yang (商鞅, 390-338 BC), it means that when a person has committed a crime, their relatives share responsibility and must be punished as well. But my son Wu Gan has committed no crime. I was arrested, but only as a hostage to blackmail my son to plead guilty. I believe this interpretation is easier for people to understand.

My health has deteriorated after spending more than two years in the detention center. Old maladies are recurring. My hips and legs don’t move so well. Now that my own “case” has finished, I have to come out and say thank you to everyone! Thank you for more than two years of support and for helping Wu Gan, even though Wu Gan has yet to be “tried” and there are more 709 victims remaining in illegal detention. I think family members of other 709 victims share my sentiment.

I read carefully Wu Gan’s “indictment” cooked up by the authorities. According to the “indictment,” my son Wu Gan was involved in 12 things: supporting three Fujian netizens (福建三网民案), supporting home demolition victims (很多拆迁案), supporting me, supporting the lawyers attacked in Jiansanjiang, at a re-education center in northeastern Heilongjiang Province (建三江案), supporting the Huaihua Huang Family sisters (怀化黄氏姐妹), supporting the Zhengzhou Ten (郑州十君子案), supporting attorney Cheng Hai (程海律师), supporting Yunnan’s Lu Yong for helping 1,000 fellow leukemia patients get access to cheap, life-saving generic drugs from India (陆勇案), supporting Fan Mugen (范木根案), supporting Qing’an’s Xu Chunhe (庆安徐纯合案), and supporting the Jiangxi province “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” lawyers (江西乐平案). These twelve cases all have specific victims of injustice, and all have real problems that may qualify as crimes. He supported victims of injustice and helped them seek redress, and for this he is charged with the crime of “subverting state power.”

To be honest, reading the indictment I was very angry. Wu Gan was helping victims of injustice. He hasn’t done anything to rebel, but he has been named a rebel. I may disagree with his tactics, but I feel very proud of him. I may not fully understand why my son does these things, but, as someone born several months before the establishment of this Communist government, I understand the regime that rules the society in which I now live.

After I was released from jail, Wu Gan’s friend showed me a video Wu Gan had recorded. After watching it, I cried. Old as I am, I seldom cry. In 1999, when my village was polluted, I took the lead in defending our rights and was sentenced to prison. I did not cry. But after watching the video of my son, I saw another side to him, and cried. My son is a man, and I cried like a baby.

I don’t use the Internet, but his friends showed me information online and I now know a lot of things that happened after Wu Gan got arrested. I know that a lot of lawyers have been arrested since Wu Gan’s arrest. This is known as the 709 Crackdown. Many 709 Crackdown family members, relatives, and friends have been doing everything they can to free their loved ones. Especially Ms. Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Ms. Li Wenzu (李文足); they are really amazing. And many friends, relatives, and netizens support the 709 victims with bravery and intelligence. As Wu Gan’s father, and as a family member of a 709 Crackdown victim, I want to be part of the struggle and do my share, even though my hips and legs aren’t that nimble.

Before Wu Gan was arrested, he entrusted his affairs to some friends. They are able to go online and get more information, take quick action, and their numbers are quite large. I’m very reassured. I write this letter to express gratitude, and also to issue an appeal: Let’s all work together for the sake of 709 victims, and for the sake of my son Wu Gan. The more people who fight back, the better.

I’m a man with few hobbies, but I like to study fengshui (geomancy). People used to seek my advice on fengshui in choosing cemetery sites. Some may think that this is superstition, but I think it’s a way of giving people spiritual sustenance. A friend of Wu Gan told me that there’s a mother of one of the 709 victims who is a devout Buddhist. Every morning after her meditation, she said: My son is innocent, but they arrested him and won’t let lawyers meet him, leaving me no news of him whatsoever. Buddha, when will they die? I want to tell this mother, and I also say it in my heart every day: My son is innocent, they arrested him, now they won’t let his lawyers meet him. I want to find them a suitable site for their burial!

Thank you all again!


May 14, 2017
Xu Xiaoshun (徐孝顺)




Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017.

Activist Who Rejected TV Confession Invites CCTV Interviewer to Be Witness at His Trial, Wu Gan, March 24, 2017

Wu Gan the Butcher, Yaqiu Wang, July 22, 2015




Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan

January 12, 2017




Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate Number Two Branch

Bill of Indictment

TJ 2d Br Proc Crim Indict (2016) No. 10001


Defendant Wu Gan (吴淦), male, [redacted], identification card number [redacted], Han ethnicity, high school graduate, a native of Xiamen city Fujian province, administrative employee of Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), registered address [redacted], residence [redacted], placed under criminal detention by Public Security Bureau of Siming precinct of Xiamen municipality, Fujian province, on May 27, 2015, on suspicion of picking quarrels and provoking trouble and defamation. With the approval of this procuratorate, arrested by the Xiamen Public Security Bureau on July 3, 2015, on suspicion of inciting subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. His period of detention was recalculated on January 20, 2016, due to suspicion of the crime of subversion of state power.

Investigation of this case has been completed by the Tianjin Public Security Bureau. On August 17, 2016, it referred the case to this procuratorate for prosecutorial review of defendant Wu Gan’s culpability for the crimes of inciting subversion of state power and picking quarrels and provoking trouble. Upon jurisdiction was determined in accordance with the law, this procuratorate, on August 19, 2016, informed the defendant of his right to retain defense counsel, questioned the defendant in accordance with the law, heard the defense lawyer’s opinions, and reviewed the complete set of documents in this case. During this period the case was twice sent back to the investigating organ for additional investigation in accordance with the law, and the deadline for prosecutorial review was extended three times.

Having reviewed the case in accordance with the law, we find: 

Defendant Wu Gan has long been influenced by the infiltration of anti-China forces and gradually formed his idea of overthrowing the country’s current political and judicial system. Since 2010, Wu Gan has used the Internet to publish his ideas about subverting state power and incited people who are unaware of the truth to oppose the government. He published the online articles “Guide to Butchering Pigs,”* “Guide to Drinking Tea,”** and “Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes,” and attacked institutions of the state. He accepted interviews by foreign media and posted online video lectures, promoted the so-called idea of “toppling the wall,” and willfully attacked the socialist system. He engaged in criminal activities subverting state power, such as unlawful gatherings and causing disturbances. In October 2014, Wu Gan joined the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm headed by Zhou Shifeng (who carried out activities of subversion of state power using the firm as a platform to hype sensitive cases and incidents, and who has been sentenced) and colluded with Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民  who, for a long time, carried out activities of subversion of state power by unlawfully organizing petitioners to make disturbances and has been sentenced), and Li Heping (李和平 who engaged in activities of subversion of state power by using funds from certain overseas non-governmental organizations and has been dealt with separately) to strengthen the idea of subversion of state power, concentrate on hyping sensitive cases and incidents, and carry out a series of criminal activities of subversion of state power and overthrow of the socialist system, severely harming the state security and social stability. Specific facts are as follows:

  1. In April 2010, Fujian Province Fuzhou City Mawei District People’s Court reviewed a case involving false accusation and framing. During this period, defendant Wu Gan maliciously hyped up this case on the internet, inciting people to gather at the court to make disturbances and antagonize the judicial institutions of the state. On the date of hearing, Wu Gan hung banners and shouted slogans with others outside of the court and posted video on the Internet, severely affecting the People’s Court in its examination of the case according to the law, smearing the image of the judicial institution, and creating bad political effects both at home and abroad.
  1. In April 2012, defendant Wu Gan was involved in a dispute in connection with relocation compensation in Jin’an District, Fuzhou City, Fujian Province. From April to August of the same year, Wu Gan several times organized many people to put up banners and set up tents in front of the Fuzhou Urban and Rural Construction Committee. He posted slogans on houses to be torn down, insulted and verbally abused the Jin’an District director on the Internet, and severely harmed the image of the government and of state employees and instigated people who did not know the facts to oppose the government.
  1. In September 2012, Fujian Province Fuqing City Public Security Bureau investigated by law a case involving official embezzlement. During the investigation, defendant Wu Gan stirred up trouble by holding up signs in front of the Fuqing Public Security Bureau, and online many times wantonly insulted and verbally abused the director of the Public Security Bureau and police officers, and called the martyr who died on duty a “protector of the criminal underworld.” Through these actions he severely harmed the image of the public security apparatus and people’s police, and instigated hatred against state institutions by people who were unaware of the truth.
  1. On March 22, 2014, the Heilongjiang Province, Jiansanjiang Wasteland Reclamation Public Security Bureau administratively detained people involved in disturbing social order. Defendant Wu Gan and others organized a so-called “Jiansanjiang Citizen Solidarity Rescue Group,” published a “Fundraising Proposal for Citizen Rescue,” and acted as the fundraising contact person and supervisor, and encouraged others to illegally gather in Jiansanjiang and create disturbances. Some lawyers and petitioners subsequently unlawfully gathered in front of Jiansanjiang Wasteland Reclamation Public Security Bureau and at Qixing Detention Center to sit in, shout slogans, display banners, and hype up the incident on the internet to defame and attack the institutions of state authority. Wu Gan then published on the Internet personal information of police officers, and asked people to do a “human flesh search” and issued a “most wanted reward notice.” He also insulted and verbally abused public security and police officers, and incited resistance to the state, creating a bad political influence at home and abroad.
  1. In May 2014, Hunan Province Huaihua City Intermediate People’s Court heard a case concerning gathering a crowd to disturb the social order. During the trial, defendant Wu Gan together with Li Heping attempted to hype the case in Mayang County, Huaihua City. From May 20 to 21, Wu Gan held up a sign in front of the Mayang County government headquarters, and submitted a letter of complaint to the Huaihua City People’s Procuratorate, slandering and defaming the county’s Communist Party secretary. He then continued to hype this case on the internet, inciting people who did not know the truth to resent the socialist system with Chinese characteristics.
  1. In May 2014, Henan Province Zhengzhou City Public Security Bureau conducted an investigation of related people involved in disrupting public order. Defendant Wu Gan, together with Zhai Yanmin and others, hyped up antagonism toward the case and numerous times sought fundraising support online. In July of the same year, some lawyers and visiting petitioners gathered illegally in front of the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center to sit-in and hold a hunger strike. They hung banners and shouted slogans, unreasonably demanding the release of the detainees. They maliciously publicized the incident online, slandering and attacking government organs. During this period, Wu Gan issued on the internet the so-called “Award Order” and “Wanted Order,” and carried out so-called “performance art” in front of the detention center to insult and slander the Public Security Bureau director and incite people who didn’t know the facts to resent state organs and thereby created an adverse effect at home and abroad.
  1. In September 2014, Beijing Municipal Changping District Justice Bureau held a hearing on an administrative penalty case. Defendant Wu Gan went online to encourage other people to gather illegally at the hearing. At the scene, he also held up posters insulting the Justice Bureau and Lawyers Association, verbally abused police officers on duty, and shouted slogans and blocked the entrance with others, creating serious chaos at the scene. Upon learning that related people had been administratively detained by the public security organs, Wu Gan maliciously published blog posts with a great number of photos humiliating police officers to slander and attacking the government.
  1. In December 2014, a civil case handled by the Beijing Fengrui Law Office was settled upon mediation by the court. On instructions from Zhou Shifeng, defendant Wu Gan and Xie Yuandong (谢远东 who was dealt with in another case) went to the Dali Bai Ethnic Minority Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan Province, to publicize this case. Between January 7 and 12, 2015, Wu Gan attacked the judicial organs and defamed the judicial system by putting up big-character posters at the Prefecture People’s Government, People’s Procuratorate, Intermediate People’s Court, and other places, and by driving a vehicle with big-character posters inside and outside of the court to make provocations. He also maliciously stirred up trouble on the internet, attempting to incite people who did not know the truth to resent China’s socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics judicial system.
  1. On December 3, 2013, two people were killed during a home demolition in Huqiu District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province. In January 2014, defendant Wu Gan attended a so-called “Suzhou Urbanization and Demolition Symposium.” It slandered this case, and attacked our country’s system, inciting hatred against the socialist system. From January-February 2015, Wu Gan learned that this and a related case were starting. He actively started organizing fundraising online, maliciously created a disturbance, and incited people who didn’t know the facts to come to Suzhou to illegally assemble, stir up trouble and oppose the government.
  1. In March 2015, Hebei Province Baoding City Mancheng District People’s Court heard the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm representative’s extortion case. During the hearing, defendant Wu Gan took instructions from Zhou Shifeng and fabricated a rumor about “Injustice Caused by the Baoding Municipal Communist Party Politics and Law Committee” and other rumors, and created a malicious disturbance online, stirring up resentment against China’s socialism-with-Chinese-characteristics judicial system among people who didn’t know the true circumstances.  
  1. On May 2, 2015, a police officer was attacked in the Qing’an County, Heilongjiang Province Railway Station waiting room, and the officer then shot and killed the attacker. After this incident, defendant Wu Gan published many blog posts distorting the facts of this event, concocting rumors that the attacker was a petitioner and the police opened fire to prevent him from traveling to petition the government. Wu Gan incited others to come to Qing’an County to unlawfully protest. Afterward he published online a so-called “Qing’an Incident Investigation Report,” disseminated falsehoods, and instigated people who didn’t know the facts to oppose the government.  
  1. In May 2015, the Higher People’s Court of Jiangxi Province convened a criminal appeal hearing. From May 18-19, defendant Wu Gan made a malicious disturbance online and afterward loudly abused and insulted the judge in front of the court and erected a “mourning hall,” blackening the image of judicial organs and vilifying and attacking the nation’s legal system.

On May 27, 2015, defendant Wu Gan was arrested and brought to justice.

The principal evidence of the above facts includes: 1. Material and documentary evidence such as big-character posters and criminal court judgment; 2. Testimony of witnesses Zhai Yanmin and Xie Yuandong, etc.; 3. Inspection reports and evaluative opinions; 4. Written notes of searches, detention, and examinations; 5. Video and audio material and digital data; 6. Defendant Wu Gan’s deposition and defense.

This procuratorate believes that defendant Wu Gan organized, plotted, and implemented the crime of subverting state power and overturning the socialist system. His actions violated Article 105(1) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China. The criminal facts are clear and the evidence is reliable and abundant. He should be held responsible for the crime of subverting state power. 

Prosecution is brought in accordance with Article 172(2) of the Criminal Procedural Law of the People’s Republic of China. Please sentence in accordance with the law.


To: Tianjin Number Two Intermediate People’s Court

Prosecutor: Guan Ning

Acting Prosecutor: Sheng Guowen

Acting Prosecutor: Cao Jiyuan

December 23, 2016



Translator’s notes:

*Guide to Butchering Pigs (《杀猪宝典》) is Wu Gan’s guide to confronting human rights violators, including collection of personal information, and strategies and techniques of effective activism. The Guide, first posted in 2012, has been very popular and its tactics widely adopted by activists.

**Guide to Drinking Tea (《喝茶宝典》) is Wu Gan’s guide to how to cope with police interrogations, which often is given the euphemism of “drinking tea.” He details strategies and tactics on how to overcome fear, and how to give as little information as possible.

***Guide to Petitioners Fighting Against Forced Demolition of Homes (《访民杀猪宝典》). In this Guide, Wu Gan, who has worked with many petitioners whose homes have been demolished illegally and by force, instructs petitioners how to fight for their rights by exposing officials, making use of the law, and staging effective activism.





Wu Gan the Butcher, July, 2015.




 “Crooked Beam” Xie Yanyi

Liang Xiaojun, July 25, 2016

Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) is a human rights lawyer, and one of the 709 detainees. – The Editors


Xie Yanyi

It was probably somewhere around the end of 2008 that I started receiving occasional group emails from someone writing under the name Liang Buzheng (梁不正)—“Crooked Beam.” Sometimes the emails would contain this person’s views on politics, while other times they would describe the actions he was taking in the legal sphere. In those days much of my time was spent handling commercial cases in order to make a living, so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to public interest law or human rights issues. As a result, I would often simply skip over those emails from “Crooked Beam” without really reading them. But I did take note of the author’s rather unusual name.

It was probably around that same time that I began to hear the name “Xie Yanyi” mentioned by different people in different circumstances. It was only then that I drew the link between that name and the “Crooked Beam” of the emails I had been getting. I’d heard that this Xie Yanyi had filed suit against former leader Jiang Zemin for violating the constitution by refusing to resign as chairman of the Central Military Commission in 2003, and I became interested to find out what sort of a person this “Crooked Beam” was.

I asked the head of Xie’s law firm at the time about him. He was in a terrible fix in those days, since Xie’s employment there was preventing his firm from passing its annual review. He told me that Xie was “just like Li Kui” (李逵), the tough and temperamental character from the classic novel, Outlaws of the Marsh. I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant by that, but I took the image I had of Li Kui from the novel and its television adaptions and pictured Xie Yanyi as a big, strong fellow with a full beard.

Then, in May 2009, I attended a meeting of lawyers gathered to condemn police in Chongqing for beating lawyers Li Chunfu (李春富) and Zhang Kai (张凯)* over their investigation into the death of a Falun Gong practitioner in a labor camp. At the meeting, I was approached by a fellow with deep-seated eyes, delicate features, and a well-proportioned physique who asked me if I was a reporter. When I told him I wasn’t, he turned and walked away. I asked the person next to me who he was, and he told me: “That’s Xie Yanyi.” That was the first time I’d ever set eyes on Xie Yanyi.

From the end of that year, I gradually started getting involved in more public interest and human rights cases. Those of us working on these cases would often meet up for dinner, but since Xie Yanyi lived way out in Miyun County he was often unable to join us or else would only have a few bites and say a few words before rushing off. Our paths didn’t cross much back then, and we never had a chance to talk in any depth.

Later on, though, we would come to work together on a few cases. I would listen in great admiration to his flowing defense arguments, which were always strong, reasoned, and well documented, knowing that my own arguments were never as theoretically strong. These days, whenever my colleague Dong Qianyong (董前勇) takes on a case involving religious belief, I will give him a photocopy of one of Xie’s defense arguments for his reference. But in my own mind, I can’t shake the image of Xie Yanyi as a “barefoot lawyer,” wearing sandals, dressed in everyday attire, and toting a huge backpack.

It was probably around 2012 that he began telling me about his belief that China’s future transition to democracy could only come through the peaceful development of a democratic culture. Those days I was terribly busy with my work, running here and there to handle one case after another. I simply had neither time nor energy to think about the direction or path of China’s future development. I had no idea how to respond to his ideas, and he didn’t seem interested in trying to convince me. So we usually ended up simply laughing off those discussions.

Later, he gave me a copy of his self-published book entitled Roads of Faith, which was a collection of articles and essays he’d written over the previous few years. The epigraph read: “The power of peace and reason is unstoppable! This is the age when citizens will demonstrate their will.” I’m not much for reading books and I’d already read some of his articles before, so I merely paged through the book before placing it on my bookshelf, where it would remain untouched.

When the “709” crackdown on lawyers was launched last year, my friends and I were all living in fear, not knowing whose turn it would be to be arrested next. When I heard that Xie Yanyi had been arrested, I wasn’t at all surprised.

Through our previous work together, I’d come to know Xie’s mother, a remarkably spry old woman who was also a lawyer down in Gaobeidian (高碑店) in Hebei. I tried to contact her a number of times to find out what plans there were for Xie Yanyi’s legal defense, but no one ever answered and later her mobile just shut off, so I had to drop it. Besides Xie’s mother, I didn’t know any of his other relatives and didn’t know how else to help.

Late last year, a friend took me out to Xie Yanyi’s home in Miyun County, where I met Xie’s wife, Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊). She was six or seven months pregnant at the time, but she still took her electric bicycle out to buy groceries so she could cook for her two sons. There were two plaques hanging on the wall of their home, one reading “Peace and Democracy” and the other reading “The World Belongs to Everyone.” I knew that these were things that Xie Yanyi truly believed in.

On January 8, when Xie Yanyi was formally arrested on charges of “inciting subversion,” Yuan Shanshan appointed me to be his defense attorney. Given the blatant illegality of what the police have done, I don’t know how much I can really accomplish, but I’m grateful for the confidence that Yuan Shanshan and Xie’s older brother have shown in me.

It’s through our conversations that I’ve come to have a better understanding of who Xie Yanyi is. He had all sorts of advantages growing up, and could have been set for life if he’d simply relied on his parents. But he had much more respect for those who made their own way in the world. He gave up a chance to study overseas in Singapore and returned home to Gaobeidian, where he lived alone and devoted himself to studying to pass the bar exam.

After becoming a lawyer in Beijing, he encountered so many miscarriages of justice and observed so much of society’s darker side that his thinking changed and he began to think in terms of problems with the way the system was set up. After he filed his “first suit on behalf of constitutionalism” against Jiang Zemin in 2003, he became the object of heavy police surveillance but never gave up his aspiration to use his efforts to secure a peaceful, democratic future for future generations.

Xie made a point of getting to know people from all walks of life during his trips to handle cases or through his social encounters and would talk with them about his own beliefs and ways of thinking in an effort to persuade them. After the police shooting of a man in the Qing’an railway station in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, he paid his own way to go up to Heilongjiang and provide legal assistance to the man’s family and seek the truth about the case.

After Wang Yu (王宇) and her husband and son were taken into custody on July 9 of last year, Xie Yanyi was one of the first to go online and call for assistance. Even though he was also taken in by the police for questioning in the middle of the night, he refused to compromise. Instead, he stated: Even though he was put under tremendous pressure, he insisted on speaking up for Wang Yu and the Fengrui Law Firm. Soon his house was raided and he himself was “disappeared.” In August 2015, Xie’s mother passed away; in March 2016, his daughter was born . . .

Because I’m handling Xie Yanyi’s case and have come to have a much deeper understanding of his past, I’ve thought a lot and had countless discussions with friends about the choices we make in life as well as life’s meaning and value. I was paging through the copy of Roads of Faith that Xie gave me in an attempt to understand the trajectory of his thinking when I happened to notice the date of his inscription to me—July 11, 2012. Three years and one day later, he would be taken away from his home by police in the early morning hours and “disappeared” until this very day. Several hundred copies of Roads of Faith were confiscated from his home, perhaps becoming evidence for the authorities’ charge that he had engaged in “inciting subversion.”

While most of us might anticipate that China’s transition to democracy will come about as a result of elite power struggles, economic recession, or popular protest, people like Xie Yanyi long ago started to think and put into practice ways to make this transition possible. In this day and age, when there is so much cynicism and resignation in the face of tyranny, people like Xie Yanyi are really valuable. He represents the conscience, the courage, and the future of our nation’s people. Though we may have all faced the same kinds of difficulties as Xie Yanyi in the past, we have shrunk back from them whereas he stood firm. This willingness to stand firm makes his yearlong enforced disappearance a distillation of all the joys and sorrows others have experienced for over a decade. Through his loss of freedom, Xie Yanyi bears witness to the absurdity of claims to “govern the state in accordance with the law.”

It’s his family and children who have paid the most for these ideals, but the realization of those ideals will be a precious gift that he will bestow upon them.

Of all my interactions with Xie Yanyi, one scene is as clear in my mind as if it were yesterday: One summer day, we are standing on the sandy banks of the Tuo River in Luzhou, Sichuan, watching the sun set to west as the river flowed eastward toward the Yangtze. I sigh to think of the passage of time, the vastness of the universe, and how insignificant we humans ultimately are . . .


Liang Xiaojun

July 14, 2016


*Li Chunfu is also among the 709 detained lawyers. Zhang Kai was detained last August for representing churches in Wenzhou. He was released in March, 2016, following persistent international pressure.


Photo: Epoch Times.

Photo: Epoch Times.

Liang Xiaojun (梁小军) is a human rights lawyer in China. 


America and Europe’s Failure in Securing the Release of Lawyers and Activists in Connection With the ‘709 Incident’, Jiang Tianyong, July 17, 2016.

After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, China Change, July 15, 2016.

The ‘709 Incident:’ some testimony from the human rights lawyer community, Eva Pils, July 8, 2016.

Biographies of Lawyers, Staffers and Activists Detained or Disappeared in the July 10 Nationwide Raid Against Rights Lawyers, July 23, 2015.

14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, August 19, 2015.




Wu Gan the Butcher

By Yaqiu Wang, published: July 22, 2015


On May 19, rights activist Wu Gan (吴淦), better known for his online name “Super Vulgar Butcher” or the “Butcher” for short, set up two pull-up standees in front of the Jiangxi Province Higher People’s Court. He was there to protest the court’s denial of the defense’s access to files of the “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” (“乐平冤案”). In May 2002, police arrested four suspects in a case of robbery, rape, and dismemberment that occurred in Leping, Jiangxi province, in 2000. The four confessed under torture and were sentenced to death with a stay of execution. In early November 2011, a suspect in another case claimed responsibility for the crime. In light of the admission, rights lawyers took on the case by representing the four and requesting a retrial, but the Jiangxi Higher Court refused their repeated and lawful request to review the case files. This case, as well as the Nie Shubin case (聂树斌案) and the recently overturned Huugjilt case, are among the typical cases of miscarriage of justice that China’s rights lawyers pursue.  Correcting wrongs in China’s faulty judicial system is at best difficult, if not impossible altogether, and rights lawyers have, over time, come to develop methods to put pressure on the courts. On that day, the lawyers for the four victims had already staged a sit-in outside the courthouse for over a week to no avail.

Wu Gan in front of the Jiangxi Higher Court on May 19, 2015.

Wu Gan in front of the Jiangxi Higher Court on May 19, 2015.

Wu Gan, who works for Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), had messages for the chief justice of the court, Zhang Zhonghou (张忠厚). The poster on Wu Gan’s right was an image of tomb stone for Zhang and a couplet deploring his lack of a righteousness and basic humanity; on his left, the poster announced that the “Butcher” was raising money on behalf of the four victims so that they could bribe the justice for a retrial, a prevalent vice in China’s judicial system, and asked the chief justice to set a price. Wu Gan stood between the two posters with both his middle fingers up. It was Wu Gan’s signature protest.

Wu Gan was detained that day and received a penalty of 10 days of administrative detention for “disturbing order of the work unit, and publicly insulting people.” However, on May 27, he was criminally detained by the police in Fujian, his home province, and transferred to the remote Yongtai Detention Center (永泰看守所), for allegedly “creating disturbances” and “defamation.”

On May 28, many of the media throughout China — including the core of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece media such as the People’s Daily, Xinhua, and China Central Television (CCTV) — started bombarding their audiences with reports about Wu Gan. The People’s Daily article said that Wu Gan was an “arrogant, vulgar, vicious person who used offensive speech,” and was given to slandering people. The article also “exposed” Wu’s private life saying he was “having an extramarital affair,” that he had “abandoned his ex-wife,” and that Wu’s father and brother were “outlaws.” Xinhua and CCTV proceeded further to discredit Wu based on interviews with Wu’s “former colleagues” and “village relatives.”

At present, the search results for “Super Vulgar Butcher” or “Wu Gan” on Google or Baidu give sites containing articles reposted or rewritten from the aforementioned CCP mouthpiece media, showing the extent of the Party’s propaganda efforts to discredit Wu Gan. Dissident columnist Mo Zhixu commented: “The People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and CCTV are all out to defame the Butcher. Few since 1949 have enjoyed such solemn treatment.” “Nothing new,” an online author pointed out insouciantly. “Among those who enjoyed the same treatment were Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇), Deng Xiaoping (邓小平), and Peng Dehuai (彭德怀).”

Made a Name for Himself in the Deng Yujiao Case

Wu Gan, who is 43 years old this year, was born in a village in Fujian province’s Fuqing municipality (福建福清). Based on his own account, he didn’t finish junior high school and, as an adult, served as a soldier, a security checker at an airport, and engaged in business. Wu Gan has long publicized his personal information online in order to “dispel the doubts of netizens, and challenge unscrupulous officials to do the same.”

Beginning in 2008, Wu Gan became active in major forums, blogs, and used many internet names before finally settling on “Super Vulgar Butcher.” Wu Gan says he chose this name to spurn “the so-called elites who theorize too much and do too little.”

On May 10, 2009, a government official from Badong county in Hubei province (湖北巴东) named Deng Guida (邓贵大), along with other county officials, went to a leisure center. While there, the officials propositioned a 21-year-old female attendant Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) for sexual favors but Deng rejected them. Outraged, Deng Guida tried to rape her. In a panic, Deng Yujiao pulled a fruit paring knife she was carrying and stabbed Deng Guida. Deng Yujiao then took the initiative to get Deng Guida to a hospital emergency room and dial 110 to surrender herself. Deng Guida died, and the Badong police opened an investigation into Deng Yujiao on suspicion of intentional homicide.

Wu Gan with Deng Yujiao.

Wu Gan with Deng Yujiao.

On May 14, Wu Gan posted a description of the case online, alongside his personal information, his ID number, and the account number set up to receive donations. He said he would take actions “to help this sister who defended her honor with a [fruit] knife.” Wu Gan’s friend, You Jingyou (游精佑), told China Change that, although he did not know Wu Gan at that time, once he learned that he and Wu were from the same province, he quickly sent a thousand yuan donation. “After I sent the money,” You said, “I thought that, apart from the Deng Yujiao-related activities, Wu himself will have expenses. I then sent another thousand yuan to Wu’s own account making clear that this money was for his own personal use, to spend as he pleased, and requested that he not put the money into the donation account. The next day, Wu Gan called me and said that he would also put the second thousand yuan into the public donation account.”

On May 16, Wu Gan went to Badong county to assist Deng Yujiao’s relatives in hiring a lawyer, and Wu was also the first non-family member to visit Deng Yujiao in the hospital. Wu Gan posted updates on the progress of the case and gave many media interviews. A photograph of Wu Gan at Deng Yujiao’s bedside giving her a thumbs up went viral, making Wu Gan an instant online celebrity. It also gave the local government a taste of the power of public opinion on the internet. Following these actions, lawyers from Beijing took on the case, netizens from across the country formed “observation groups” in solidarity with Deng Yujiao, and journalists headed to Badong county to investigate the case. On May 28, on the pretext of “preventing lightning strikes,” the local government cut off television broadcasts, the internet, and even interrupted part of the shipping on the Yangzi River by ordering that ships not stop at the Badong port, bringing the local areas into a state of “semi-martial law.”

On June 16, the Badong County People’s Court issued a verdict exempting Deng Yujiao from criminal punishment.

Around the same time, the Chinese government also scraped a planned policy to require personal computers sold in China be equipped with the “Green Dam” software that would purportedly filter pornography but was really a massive state surveillance initiative, after the planned move had been met with overwhelming criticism online. Looking back, that was a hopeful time of Chinese internet when netizens found their places and voices in social media but the censorship had yet to fully catch up, and when liberal Chinese enthused that the internet would change China.

The Case of the Three Netizens in Fujian

One evening in 2008, a 25-year-old female named Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲), who resided in Minqing county in Fujian province (福建闽清), returned home along with friends from a night at a KTV feeling sick and died the next day. The local police identified the cause of death as “ectopic pregnancy” leading to “bleeding from a tubal rupture.” Yan’s mother, however, believed that her daughter had died after being serially raped by a group of men, including local policemen, and repeatedly petitioned the authorities for investigation into her daughter’s death. Three netizens in Fujian, Fan Yanqiong (范燕琼), You Jingyou (游佑精), and Wu Huaying (吴华英),  assisted Yan’s mother in writing petitions and making a video. The details of this case spread quickly online.

Demonstration during the trial of three netizens in Fujian.

Demonstration during the trial of three netizens in Fujian.

From June to July 2009, police in Fujian arrested a large number of netizen activists involved in this case. The three netizens were arrested for “slandering.” While the case was being heard, Wu Gan went several times to Fujian to participate in a series of demonstrations. Wu established a “netizens’ concern group,” gave briefings on the court hearings, wrote an open letter to the Fujian People’s Congress, and undertook other actions as well. During the court hearings, Wu held placards at the entrance to the court, put up banners, shouted slogans, sang songs, and reported the court situation live on Twitter. Remembering Wu Gan’s activism, You Jingyou told China Change: “In the spring of 2010, the warden at the detention center told me that someone had pitched a tent in front of the detention center but ‘was quickly driven off.’ I laughed to myself and thought that person had to be the Butcher as no other person in this world would pull such a stunt.”

On April 16, 2010, the day the court was to pass judgment in the case, the court was surrounded by a cordon of hundreds of police and several layers of barricades. About a thousand people gathered at the court entrance loudly shouting: “The three netizens are not guilty of any crime!” In the end, the court sentenced Fan Yanqiong to prison for two years while You Jingyou and Wu Huaying were each sentenced to one year. A netizen who was present tweeted, “After the sentencing of You Jingyou and the others, the Butcher slumped on the floor, his eyes red and wet.”

The case against the three netizens of Fujian was seen as the Chinese government’s landmark case for suppressing freedom of speech on the internet. Since that case, online freedom of speech has steadily declined. In today China, internet in 2010 feels positively like a golden age.

The cases, both large and small, in which Wu Gan participated and played a leading role were too numerous to keep tabs on. Many of these cases, such as the Qian Yunhui Case, visits to the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng,  the Xia Junfeng Case, and the Fan Mugen Case, gained wide attention from both domestic and foreign media thanks largely to legal and citizen activism. (Click here for a link to a China Change report on a land rights incident in which Wu Gan participated.)

In the recent incident of police shooting dead a destitude peasant in Qing’an city of the northernmost Heilongjiang province (黑龙江庆安),[1] Wu Gan announced online that he was willing to provide legal assistance and to raise fund for the family of Xu Chunhe (徐纯合), the victim. The next day, Wu Gan stated that he had met with an eyewitness to the shooting scene and had also obtained smart phone video footages of the incident. Obstructed by police, Wu Gan was unable to go to Qing’an himself, but he made public the video, audio and photographs relating to the incident that he had obtained. In the video, Xu Chunhe’s child is heard telling her father: “Stop fighting, father! Let’s go home!” The heart wrenching video quickly spread throughout the internet.

Shortly before his own detention, Wu Gan raised over 36,000 RMB for Ren Ziyuan (任自元), a Shandong high school teacher who was released in May after serving ten years in prison for “inciting subversion” and suffering debilitating torture, to help the latter to transition to life outside prison.

Over the years, the authorities surveilled, harassed, evicted, and temporarily detained Wu Gan. When the news came that Wu Gan had been criminally detained this time, some netizens exclaimed that “Wu Gan has finally paid the price.”


TheHog Butchering Model ”

When Wu Gan got involved in a case, he would first issue information about the case online,  and appeal to netizens to follow the case and collect personal information about the officials involved in the case, especially evidence of their corruption. On the internet, Wu Gan often satirized and spoofed these officials. Meanwhile Wu Gan would call on noted rights lawyers, scholars, and media personalities to become involved in the case. When the moment was right, he himself would go to the scene and also mobilize netizens and petitioners to do the same. On the scene, apart from holding placards, shouting slogans, and other such commonly used means of protest, Wu Gan would also perform a variety of performance art. In addition, he would set up online crowd funding to pay for the activists and to assist the families of the victims. Wu Gan called his unique form of activism “butchering hogs.”

The act he staged in front the courthouse in Jiangsi notwithstanding, other examples include: After Yu Shiwen (于世文), Chen Wei (陈卫) and ten others were arrested by the Zhengzhou police in early 2014 for commemorating Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) and those who perished in the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Wu Gan issued an ‘arrest warrant’ online for the arrest of the then Bureau Chief of the city’s Public Security Bureau. Wu himself then went to Zhengzhou and posted copies of his arrest warrant at subway entrances, on electric poles, at entrances to government departments, and other such places. During the Kunming elementary students’ prostitution case, Wu Gan put up a sign that read “Tomb of the Kunming Justice Department” outside the entrance to the court. Artist Kuang Laowu (邝老五) commented: “When Wu Gan took part in helping others defend their rights, he used performance art consciously and aptly to move the case toward a reasonable solution.”

Based on his own experiences, Wu Gan wrote articles to pass on his methods to those  struggling to defend their rights or to right an injustice. “The Butcher’s Bible” (《杀猪宝典》) is one. “Rights Defense Guidebook for Property Owners Facing Eviction and Demolition” (《被拆迁征地户维权宝典》) and the “Petitioners’ Hog Butchering Guidebook” (《访民杀猪宝典》) are two other examples.  In the widely circulated “The Butcher’s Bible,” Wu Gan wrote: “You should know that what the officials fear most are death and losing their official positions. So you must grip him like a mad dog bites or like dogskin plaster sticks to the skin, attacking his official position. There are many ways of doing this. You may use performance art, live webcasts, online spoofing, reporting him to his superiors, exposing him on the internet, digging up dirt on him, his family and others close to him, and describing all of his wrongdoings in his offical capacity. Blame him for all the misconduct of his predessessors. There is no injustice in doing this because, as the incumbent, he represents an office, and should bear all the responsibility for it.” “When you are butchering hogs, you want to be high profile, open, and transparent as this is the best way to protect yourself. Go butchering hogs with your head raised high, and don’t act like you are conducting underground activities. It would be best to live webcast your action, so do your homework to learn how to use internet first.”

Wu Gan made use of the human resources of noted lawyers, scholars, and the average netizens; he integrated seamlessly online public opinion and real actions; he transformed  online pressure into offline pressure. The dissident community greatly approved his methods. Wu Qiang (吴强), a political science professor at Tsinghua University, said that the hog butchering methods are “a Chinese-style radicalism and a most effective model of non-violent struggle.” Chen Guangcheng believes that “the hog butchering model is most noteable for its bold creativity,” and its “invaluable and effective methods are worth popularizing.” Chen also noted that arresting Wu Gan is “an attempt to put a stop to the spreading application of the hog butchering model that fuses online and offline actions.”


Wu Gan’s career as a rights activist is not without controversy. In the Kunming elementary students prostitution case, one netizen expressed doubts: “Wu Gan purportedly raised more than 40,000 yuan from netizens, and flew three round trips to Kunming. That sounds to me like a tourist. I say, give a half directly to the victims, and give the other half to me: I will put on the same performance art that the Butcher performed and I guarantee my performance will be of higher quality.” In the Xia Junfeng case, there were also netizens who accused Wu Gan of pocketing 30,000 yuan from netizens’ contributions to Xia’s surviving wife and child, but Xia’s wife came out on Weibo and dismissed the charge.

People who have come to know Wu Gan spoke about him warmly.

屠夫吴淦Wang Lihong (王荔蕻), who served a nine-month prison term in 2011-2012 for organizing protests in support of the three netizens in Fujian, told China Change: “Wu Gan has an air of worldliness about him, and perhaps some of the ‘elite’ don’t like this. But what I’ve seen is his sincerity and sense of right and wrong. He has a sense of humor and is an optimist. He cries when he sees the sufferings of political prisoners and their families, so he braved slander to raise money for them.”

Young activist Huang Bin (黄宾), who has met face to face with Wu Gan four times, wrote on his blog: “In order to denigrate the Butcher, the media inside China’s Great Firewall concocted a great deal of defamatory materials against him without elaborating on the specifics, and these clumsy propaganda tactics would perhaps fool some people who do not know Wu Gan. But most people who have met with and spoken to him admire his courage, honor, and the sacrifices he has made.”

Wang Lihong told China Change, “Because of his notoriety, many victims of injustice called him up for help. He would patiently listen to them and write down their stories. Once he could verify the accuracy of a case, he would go out and put up a fight, often against local authorities, with his idiocincratic methods.

Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇), “China’s Protest Archivist” who is routinely harassed by security police, told China Change that: “When I was driven out of Guangdong province by the security police and had no place to go, Wu Gan brought me to his relative’s home in Fuzhou for shelter, helped me find work, and told netizens in Fuzhou to take care of me. He is an optimistic and chivalrous person. Accusations of misusing funds are sheer rubbish put out by the Fifty Centers [people paid by the Party to slander people]. They tarnish every rights defender who is an effective doer.”

Since Wu Gan’s Arrest

Since his arrest, people have come out to support him, especially petitioners who have built connections with him over the years through grassroots activism. The “Hog Butchering Workshop” (杀猪工作室) makes regular announcements about case development, and an expert consultation group (屠夫案知名专家顾问团) consisting of well-known intellectuals, journalists, legal professionals and other personalities, as well as a citizen support group, have been formed. Netizens established a website and a Twitter account dedicated to Wu Gan.

Meanwhile, internet censorship of Wu Gan is extraordinarily severe. No information about his case could be published on Weibo or WeChat, including photos of Wu Gan and people supporting him. His wife’s bank account, to which supporters had been sending donations, became inaccessible recently.

Fujian police established a task force for the Wu Gan case. He was interrogated dozens of times in the first days by many police officers, some from Beijing, according to his lawyers Wang Yu (王宇) and Li Fangping (李方平) who were able to meet him and report about the meetings in the first few weeks of his detention, despite vindictive obstruction by the detention center. On June 29, however, his lawyer Yan Xin (燕薪) was denied of meeting on the grounds that the case is involved with national security.

On July 7, Wu Gan was formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “creating disturbances.”

On July 10, Chinese authorities astounded the world by arresting lawyers and staffers at Fengrui Law Firm, including Wang Yu and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), director of the firm. As of July 21, at least 242 rights lawyers, staffers and activists in 24 provinces have been criminally detained, disappreared, held incommunicado in what’s known as “residence under surveillance,” summoned, or temporarily detained. The Party’s proganda jauggernaut has since been running full gear, churning out reports,  commentaries, TV segments that announced the firm as a “major criminal ring” and the rights lawyers “pests” and “troublemakers” in a style reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, the ugliest pages of the CCP rule.

Wu Gan told his lawyer Li Fangping, “I wind up in prison after so many years of fighting injustices, so I might as well relax and take a break. My job now is stay well, keep my spirits up and my morale high.” He wanted his wife to be strong and take good care of herself, and he asked the lawyers to bring him books on philosophy and Tang and Song poetry. Yan Xin, the last lawyer who visited Wu Gan on June 8, brought back these words from him: “My case is an absurd and entertaining movie. The filming has begun, and I have gotten into character.”


[1] On May 2 this year, in Heilongjiang province’s Qing’an city, a middle aged man named Xu Chunhe took his three young children and his 80 year old mother to the train station to board a train. After Xu was stopped for no reason by train station attendants, Xu had an altercation with the police on duty, and was shot to death by the police. A heated debate ensued online over whether or not the police had sufficient reason to open fire. Netizens demanded that the local authorities make public surveillance video from the scene, but the Qing’an authorities refused to do so. On May 5, Xu Chunhe’s cousin signed an agreement with the Harbin Railway Police stating that he would not pursue the matter any further. On May 14, CCTV aired an edited version of the surveillance video of shooting incident and announced the conclusions of the local railway police: the police acted appropriately in shooting Xu Chunhe. On May 16, Wu Gan issued a statement questioning whether Xu was seen throwing his daughter down in the video. After that, many more analyses and photographs appeared online casting doubt on the CCTV video.


Yaqiu Wang (王亚秋) researches and writes about civil society and human rights in China.



Washington Post: She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Profile of Lawyer Wang Yu, July 18, 2015.

AP: Activist known for brash tactics among dozens held in China, July 26, 2015


Chinese version 《屠夫吴淦》