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‘I have decided to travel to Beijing, find out what is going on, and rescue my husband’: A Statement by Wife of Taiwanese NGO Worker Lee Ming-che
March 31, 2017
Taiwanese pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-che disappeared on March 19 after clearing immigration in Macau. China has confirmed that Lee is being investigated on suspicion of ‘pursuing activity harmful to national security.’ This is an unauthorized translation of his wife’s statement. — The Editors
Lee Ching-yu’s Press Release:
I’ve been a historian of Taiwan’s period of political violence, the “White Terror,” for many years. Now that my own my loved one is detained, terror grips my heart. I’ve tried so hard to calm myself, to carefully compose my thoughts. I know from the history of the White Terror in Taiwan that when a country’s system of rule of law hasn’t risen to international standards, all attempts to offer defenses according to the law are useless. We can only offer a defense of humanity and human rights — but the legal systems in such countries aren’t built upon universal conceptions of human rights.
It’s for this reason that I make this considered announcement: I am not going to hire a lawyer and thus engage in pointless legal wrangling.
All human rights workers, all those who bring hope to corners of the world that need human rights upheld, are innocent. It is precisely through the contributions of such individuals that human welfare and civilization grows.
My husband acted selflessly and with love for mankind, and I am full of confidence that everything he has done is worthy of the utmost respect.
I’ve decided to travel to Beijing, find out what is going on, and rescue my husband.
Lee Ming-che’s wife, Lee Ching-yu
March 31, 2017
China Change, November 29, 2016
“A lawyer who was born at just the right time; a lawyer who’s willing to take any case; a lawyer hated by a small political clique; a lawyer who wants to win the respect of regular folk; a lawyer who kept going even after being stripped of his law license.” – Jiang Tianyong’s Twitter bio
Lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) has been incommunicado for nine days as of today, and repeated attempts by his wife and lawyers to confirm his whereabouts and the circumstances of his disappearance have been met with obstruction. He’s believed to have been abducted by the Chinese government and fear is mounting that he is now, once again, being subjected to brutal treatment.
On November 21, after meeting with the wife of detained lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) in Changsha, Jiang notified his wife and friends that he was returning to Beijing by the D940 train, due to arrive at the Beijing West Railway Station at 6:30 a.m. He never arrived, and no one has been able to reach him by phone since the evening of November 21.
Jiang Tianyong has been a prominent figure in the struggle for the rule of law in China over the past decade. While he only practiced law for a little over five years before being stripped of his license, he continued his legal activism tirelessly. Of most recent note, Jiang led the campaign to free rights lawyers detained in the mass July 15 crackdown last year known as the “709 Incident.”
International media have reported his disappearance (AP, Reuters), over 60 lawyers in China issued a statement demanding information and explanation, and France, Germany and the United States urged the Chinese government to provide information about Jiang. German Vice Chancellor and trade minister Sigmar Gabriel, who visited China recently and met with Jiang and eight other lawyers and relatives of detained lawyers, was shocked to learn about his disappearance, and vowed to put pressure on Chinese leaders.
As Good as the Company He Keeps
Jiang Tianyong was born in Luoshan (罗山县), the southernmost county in China’s central province of Henan. “The area around our hometown was beautiful — the land of milk and honey surrounded by mountains and lakes. But from the time I can remember, we were very poor. We never had enough to eat or wear, and despite working long hours doing non-stop manual labor, year in and year out, we were always hard up.”
In 1991, Jiang enrolled in what’s now Changsha University and after graduation became a high school Chinese teacher in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province. “Even though teaching is an important profession, I never found it interesting enough, and it never quite sated my curiosity. I was, on the other hand, deeply drawn to questions of power, the law, and democracy,” he told an interviewer in 2010. His high school classmate Li Heping (李和平), already a lawyer and one of those detained in the 709 arrests last year, encouraged him to take the bar exam. He did, and passed.
In 2004, Jiang moved to Beijing to practice law. He became a human rights lawyer inspired by the barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng. In 2005 when Chen was tried and sentenced to four years in prison, Jiang was there by his side defending him.
“It was only with the Chen Guangcheng case that I truly entered the ranks of the human rights lawyers,” he said. “Later on the Internal Security police came and spoke with me, saying: ‘Your problem is that you’re not careful enough about choosing your friends, and you’ve been led down a wrong path. If you didn’t make friends with people like Chen Guangcheng, Li Heping, and Teng Biao, you wouldn’t be in the trouble you are today.’ Haha.”
Soon after, Jiang ramped up his human rights work, representing a clutch of sensitive clients: Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), a persecuted rights lawyer; private oil well owners in the Shanbei oilfields (陕北油田) who had their assets expropriated by the state; farmers in Taishi village, Guangzhou (广州太石村), who sought to sack local Party officials for corruption; and dissident Hu Jia (胡佳) who went on to receive the Sakharov Prize in 2008, among other cases. After 2008 Jiang began taking on Falun Gong cases. “I’ve been involved in more than 20,” he said.
In late 2005, at the height of a HIV epidemic in China caused by contaminated blood transfusions, Jiang was one of the lawyers who collaborated with an NGO to represent poor rural victims, according to a recent article by Wan Yanhai (万延海), the head of Aizhixing (爱知行).
In 2009, Jiang represented Jigme Guri, a senior monk at Labrang monastery in southern Gansu, who was arrested after providing a video recording of unrest on March 14 to Voice of America.
In late 2009, Jiang was one of the eight lawyers in Beijing stripped of their licenses to practice. The reason, he said, is because they had represented Falun Gong practitioners and been part of a campaign to directly elect the officials of the Beijing Bar Association, a Party-controlled body that regulates the profession. The experience of Jiang and others is portrayed in the film “Disbarment” (吊照门) by the documentarian He Yang (何楊).
Jiang says he has enormous respect for the legal profession. “History shows us that lawyers have played a crucial role in modern times: for instance, the role of lawyers was indispensable and its traces everywhere in the American declaration of independence and the War of Independence; the French Revolution, though given to an excess of violence, saw lawyers play a very significant role. There’s nothing more important for defending democratic rights than the law, and there’s no one more involved in that than lawyers.”
60 Days of Secret Detention
Jiang Tianyong is no stranger to secret, forced disappearances.
In February 2011, when an anonymous call for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China’s major cities made the rounds online, Chinese authorities detained hundreds of lawyers, activists, and dissidents across the country. Jiang Tianyong was one of them. He was released in April, but remained silent about what he went through. In September that year he decided to speak out, revealing the details in an interview with Voice of America.
On February 19, Jiang was dragged away and shoved in a car as he family watched on, then driven to a secret detention center for interrogation. He told his captors that what they were doing was illegal. After demanding to know the legal basis for interrogation, he found that “in that small room, the law of the People’s Republic of China had been annulled.”
In the two months he was detained, neither he nor his family were given any formal notification of his status, no one knew where he had been locked up, and his family didn’t even know if he was dead or alive. He didn’t see the sun once while in custody. The only light he was exposed to was the harsh glow of the bulb in his dark cell.
His interrogators pummeled his body hard with plastic bottles full of water, pinched his face, and screamed abuse and threats in a constant stream. On the third day, the police decided that Jiang would get out of bed according to their rules: He would be made to rise, yell “Report!” and then say “I am willing to be educated by the government!” Then, he had to recite from memory three so-called patriotic songs decided by his jailers. If he made an error, he had to start again.
He was deprived of sleep the first five nights in detention while being interrogated from midnight to 6:00 a.m.
He was also forced to “self-reflect,” which took the form of sitting in front of a wall, hands on knees, where he was attacked if he so much as flinched. He could be called in for “talks” by public security personnel at any moment, where they would try to brainwash him with what they described as “remedial education.” He had no choice but to listen as they went on and on. Jiang said he lingered on the cusp of losing his mind at any moment — he could have had a mental breakdown, leapt up and lashed out at his jailers, or anything, he said.
Wan Yanhai described the state Jiang was in over the months after his disappearance. “When I spoke with him on the phone he’d interrupt and tell me to stop talking, because he had to report everything back to the security police. I told him not to worry, and that I could help him write the report. So our interactions mostly resumed their normalcy. We didn’t have any particular secrets to keep anyway.”
Coming out with the details of his detention was also part of the healing process, if one can be “healed” at all after such traumatic experiences.
Ruptured Eardrum and Eight Broken Ribs
On May 4, 2012, after Chen Guangcheng made his daring escape from his village in Shandong to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Jiang went to visit him in the Chaoyang Hospital in the capital. For that, he was bailed up by at least five Internal Security agents, and in the course of the beating had his left eardrum ruptured.
On March 20, 2014, Jiang, along with his colleagues Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Wang Cheng (王成), and Zhang Junjie (张俊杰) traveled to a notorious “legal education base” (a.k.a. brainwashing center) at the Qinglongshan Farm, Jiansanjiang Agricultural Reclamation District (建三江农垦总局), in the far northern province of Heilongjiang, demanding that the Falun Gong practitioners illegally detained there be released. They also submitted a complaint to the local Procuratorate. The following morning they were all taken away by local public security authorities, and administratively detained for 15 days for engaging in so-called “heterodox religious activities.”
In an interview with VOA, Tang Jitian described the police torture and beatings he was subjected to. “They refused to show their police badges, explain our legal rights, or to have two police present when questioning, nor did they turn on their audio-video recording equipment. I was of the belief that the procedures violated the law, and refused to cooperate. Immediately a few police began thumping me in the ears and face, then used a plastic bottle full of water to start hitting me in the cheeks, knocking a tooth out. When they finished striking me they asked whether or not I’d sign the interrogation transcript. I said that it was illegal, and I wasn’t going to sign it. They cuffed my hands behind my back, hooded me, and dragged me to an anonymous room in the Daxing Public Security Sub-Bureau compound. Then they strung me up by the hands — still behind my back — and started punching and kicking.”
Tang Jitian continued: “About five or six police were involved. As they were beating me they threatened that they were going to cut out my kidneys while I was still alive. The main thing I remember is the pain of being repeatedly hit in the chest — it was excruciating. I immediately began sweating uncontrollably, and I felt darkness start to close in. In the end I had no choice but to promise to cooperate. So they dragged me back to the interrogation room and started slapping me in the face again and hitting me with the water bottles. Left with no other option, I signed their transcript. Still they left me handcuffed in one of the duty rooms at the Daxing Sub-Bureau until later that evening. From the morning of March 21 when we were put under police control, until that night, I was only given two steamed buns. On the evening of March 22 I was taken to the detention center, which was the first time I had a proper meal.”
All four lawyers were subjected similar brutalities and suffered injuries. Eight of Jiang Tianyong’s ribs were broken.
A Veteran Activist, Determined to Stay
Jiang Tianyong has been living in danger for years. Internal Security agents follow him nearly every day, and his door lock is glued shut by thugs with the government so often that he’s gotten used to replacing it. At his exhortation, his wife and daughter left the country — and he’s simply happy that they don’t need to live a life of fear anymore.
An individual close to Jiang recently wrote the following in a group chat on the secure messaging application Telegram: “Lawyer Jiang is truly one of the very few veteran activists to both stay in China and continue the work. Friends regularly tell him to leave and go into hiding, because there’s no hope for saving China at this stage. But he always says: As long as there’s room to do something, he doesn’t want to leave China and fritter his time away overseas. ‘Leaving is easy, but coming back is hard,’ he said. After the mass arrests of lawyers in July last year, many of Jiang’s friends were once again secretly detained, tortured, and tried. Political activists, rights defenders, lawyers, NGO workers, all vanished. Jiang was the fish who escaped the dragnet — but he hardly took heed of the danger, continuing to swim against the current, consoling 709 families and helping them however he could.”
When a close friend urged him to leave, he said, “Li Heping and the others are like brothers to me. How could I possibly leave at this point?”
Jiang told the Associated Press in June that he feared he could be detained at any moment, and rarely spent more than a few nights in one place.
Friends and colleagues describe him as warm, caring, and selfless.
China Change, May 18, 2016
On October 6, 2015, the two Chinese human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) were arrested for attempting to help the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) escape China through Burma, so he could come to the United States to study. Now, seven months after their arrest, the first word of their fates has been heard: Xing Qingxian’s wife was provided with a notice of arrest dated May 5 saying that he is suspected of “organizing human trafficking across borders.” He is currently held in the Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center.
The news is a result of months of fruitless efforts on the part of the lawyers and families, though we have yet to see Tang Zhishun’s arrest notice.
Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou (覃臣寿) wrote on Twitter that “From their arrest last October, this is the first time we’ve learnt where they are being detained. Someone has to take responsibility for this forced disappearance and inhuman treatment.”
As part of the biggest assault on human rights in China last year, police on July 9 detained the husband of Wang Yu, rights activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), as well as their son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), at the Beijing Airport. Bao Zhuoxuan was set to make his way to Australia for his studies and his dad was accompanying him. At the same time, Wang Yu was taken from the family home, while in the days that followed, several hundred human rights lawyers across China were disappeared, detained, or subject to questioning. It’s already been over 10 months since this took place, and over 20 lawyers and law firm staffers are still being held in secret detention, without access to counsel. It’s been widely feared that they have been subjected to torture.
The “July 9 Incident” highlights the arbitrariness and deteriorating conditions of China’s sham rule of law. Strong and sustained criticism from the international community and human rights groups have fallen on deaf ears.
The 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan was released after a temporary detention, but police confiscated his passport and told him that he was forbidden to leave China to study. He was then sent off to the home of his paternal grandparents in Ulaan xot, Inner Mongolia. Last October during the National Day celebrations, friends of Wang Yu and Bao Longjun decided to mount a daring rescue operation and spirit Bao Zhuoxuan out of the country. Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian were responsible for escorting him. Their plan was to take him to Thailand through Myanmar, and then to the United States. But the authorities got wind of the plan, and they were arrested in Mong La, a quasi-independent part of northern Myanmar. Local police made the arrest, and handed them to Chinese authorities for repatriation.
Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan (何娟), and Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen (高沈), as well as their 8-year-old daughter, are currently in the United States.
After Bao, Tang, and Xing were arrested, Bao Zhuoxuan was again returned to the grandparents in Inner Mongolia and put under strict surveillance.
Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou told China Change that he has been asking about his client’s status for months now, and hasn’t received a single response. Qin said that because Wang Yu and Bao Longjun are being held in the Hexi detention center in Tianjin, that’s the first place he went on December 28 last year to make inquiries. He was told that Tang wasn’t there. The mother and younger sister of Tang told him that after he was arrested, police from Beijing and Inner Mongolia went to his home and carried out a thorough search, taking away several computers. The next day, lawyer Qin Chenshou traveled to Ulaan xot, in the Hinggan League prefecture of Inner Mongolia, and was told that Tang’s case had nothing to do with them. He was also told that the case was a matter of national security. Later, Qin submitted numerous requests under freedom of information rules for information about his client, to the Ministry of Public Security at the central level, and to the bureaus in Tianjin and Hinggan League in Inner Mongolia. He has never received any answer to these requests.
Lawyer Qin said, the last seven months Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhushun have been subject to “forced disappearance by the government.”
On January 8, when Qin attempted to traveled from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, he was stopped at the border and refused exit. He wasn’t sure whether this denial was related to his involvement in the Tang Zhishun case, he told China Change. Last July and this year during the Chinese New Year, Qin was called in for chats by the Guangxi police, who warned him not to reveal any details of the cases he was handling to the media, or put them online.
Xing Qingxian’s lawyer Ran Tong also made similarly futile efforts for his client.
Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan attempted to raise awareness about the disappearance of her husband online, but was quickly shut down by the censors. Two blogs she opened on Sina were only around for 20 days before being deleted; the third only survived only two days. “I’ve just been trying to raise awareness about my husband’s disappearance — I don’t know what would work,” she said. Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen, as well as He Juan, went to protest outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during the Lantern Festival this year, demanding that the Chinese government immediately release their husbands.
Tang Zhishun suffers high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and other illnesses, while Xing Qingxian has asthma and needs constant medication.
Last October, Gao Shen told Voice of America that before her husband was arrested, Tang was an engineer at a state-owned enterprise, while she worked at an office job—the two of them, and their daughter, were a happy family, and never expected this sort of disaster. Now, their eight-year-old daughter asks where her father is every day. “I have no idea how to answer her,” Gao said. She described her husband as a man eager to help others, and the couple had on numerous occasions donated money and clothing to earthquake survivors in Yushu, Gansu Province, and Wenchuan, in Sichuan. They’ve also helped many victims of forced demolitions.
Xing Qingxian is a human rights defender who has worked in both Chengdu and Guiyang, southwestern provincial capitals. While not a lawyer, he has since 2006 been helping the vulnerable members of the society to defend their rights using legal tools. He also provided free legal consultation to workers on a QQ platform. In 2009, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” after participating in a protest outside the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. After he was released in 2011, Xing Qingxian continued his involvement in rights defense work, and took part people’s representative elections in Guiyang as an independent candidate.
Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, January 28, 2016.
China Change, published: May 5, 2014
Update (7:00 am, Eastern Time, May 6): Five are criminally detained for “creating disturbances (寻衅滋事), and they are: Xu Youyu, Hao Jian, Liu Di, Hu Shigen and Pu Zhiqiang.
As the 25th anniversary of Tian’anmen Democracy Movement approaches, a small group of people, consisted of Tiananmen mothers, scholars, dissidents, writers, held a seminar in Beijing on May 3rd to remember the event, discuss its impact and consequences, and call for truth finding and resolution of remaining issues. Less than two days after the seminar, multiple disappearances have been reported.
The attendees were:
Cui Weiping （崔卫平，professor at Beijing Film Academy）, Guo Yuhua (郭于华, sociology professor at Tsinghua University), Hao Jian (郝建, professor at Beijing Film Academy), Hu Shigen (胡石根, dissident, former political prisoner and former lecturer at Beijing Language and Culture University), Li Xuewen (黎学文，independent scholar and writer), Liang Xiaoyan (梁晓燕，Tiananmen participant, former college teacher and currently NGO leader)， Liu Di （刘荻, dissident writer, imprisoned for over a year for her online expressions in 2002）, Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强, rights lawyer), Qin Hui (秦晖, historian at Tsinghua University), Wang Dongcheng (王东成, professor at China Youth University for Political Sciences), Wu Wei (吴伟, independent scholar and former official in Zhao Zhiyang’s time in 1980s), Xu Youyu (徐友渔, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Ye Fu (野夫, independent writer), Zhang Xianling (张先玲, Tiananmen mother), Zhou Feng (周枫, associate professor at China Youth University for Political Sciences). Four people couldn’t make it but sent written comments: Chen Ziming (陈子明, dissident scholar), He Weifang (贺卫方, legal scholar at Peking University), Murong Xuecun (慕容雪村, independent writer) and Wang Xiaoshan (王小山, independent commentator).
The seminar, held right under the authorities’ nose as an activist puts it, is considered by many an audacious act as the Chinese government is clearly nervous about the approaching anniversary, and more so this year.
At 4 am on Monday, Beijing time, police took rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang away from home. And in the afternoon between 2 to 4, police raided his home in Beijing, taking away books, laptops and cell phones.
Hao Jian has been out of reach since Sunday, and his home is reported to have been raided too on Monday.
In addition, at least Hu Shigen, Liu Di and Xu Youyu, who was taken away by police around 5 pm, Monday, are still out of reach so far.
Cui Weiping, Guo Yuhua, Qin Hui, and Wang Xiaoshan were questioned by police and have since been released, according to information available on social media.
A source told China Change that Liang Xiaoyan has been taken on a forced “trip” out of Beijing.
The same source also told China Change that the Chinese security police had been calling the attendees prior to the seminar likely in an attempt to stop the meeting, but none answered the phone.
The Beijing-based independent journalist Gao Yu has been disappeared since April 24. She was due to attend a June 4th-related event in Hong Kong.
According to Teng Biao, Yao Jianfu (姚监复), another independent scholar and a close friend of Gao Yu, is also missing.
Over the recent days, there have been reports that dissidents and activists are being “shang-gang” (上岗) – placed under house arrest — ahead of the Tian’anmen anniversary, including Mo Zhixu (莫之许) in Beijing and Ye Du (野渡) in Guangzhou. The number of those put under such arbitrary detention can be big over the next month or so.
During the seminar, attendees said that, while people may have different views about the June 4th movement, one thing is for certain: it is not a riot and nothing justifies opening fire on unarmed citizens.
Some attendees expressed their views that the June 4th military crackdown sowed seeds for today’s social ills in China. While power abuses, mistreatment of ordinary people, tolerance of corruption, and disregard for justice are inherent in China’s political system, they have become rampant and uncontrollable since the June 4th crackdown.
The attendees emphasized that there is no need to ask the authorities to clear name for the June 4th movement, for people are the judges of right and wrong, not the authorities. What they ask the Party to do, and what they themselves are doing, is to find and restore the truth and build fairness and justice through a political transition.
Liang Xiaojun, July 23, 2012
This is the second article about Song Ze’s case following Dr. Xu’s, and it is by Song Ze’s lawyer Xiao Xiaojun (梁小军). — The Editors
I first met Song Ze (宋泽) in late April. The weather was still cool, and he showed up following a call from Xu Zhiying, a bashful, quiet boy in a black leather jacket. Xu introduced him as a citizen volunteer, and I failed to remember his name. Later that day we went together to a dinner party of the Citizen team (e.g. OCI, the NGO Xu Zhiyong and others founded), and several well-known people at the table seemed very familiar with him. I became curious about him, wondering what he had done to endear himself to these online celebrities. All through the evening, he sat on the side and said little.
Then in early May I learned on Twitter that he had been criminally detained. Such an event had become so common an occurrence among friends of mine that I didn’t think too much of it. After all, I hardly knew him.
However, I became his attorney soon afterward. It was decided, over a similar dinner gathering that I should represent Song Ze because I lived close to Fengtai District detention center where Song Ze had been held. Xu Zhiyong believed that Song Ze was apprehended simply because he had visited black jails and helped petitioners. “They have no bottom line whatsoever!” Xu was indignant about authorities detaining Song Ze over these actions.
On May 14, the day I received the Power of Attorney Form signed by Song Ze’s parents in Hunan and his identification document, I went to Fengtai detention center to request for a meeting with Song Ze. I was referred to the officer in charge of Song Ze’s case, but he wasn’t there. An expressionless young female clerk told me to “come back tomorrow morning.” Helpless, I left after depositing 1,000 yuan for Song Ze.
I arrived next morning as soon as the Public Security Bureau opened. I found the officer behind a computer screen. When I said I was here to meet Song Guangqiang (宋光强, Song Ze’s original name), he found my request form with signed approval on his desk and motioned me to go to the meeting room without evening raising his head.
All the windows were occupied in the meeting room. So I waited. Song Ze had been taken out of his cell to meet me, now standing against a wall waiting too. He wore an orange prison garment. For some reason he didn’t have his glasses on. He looked sad.
Around 10 o’clock, we had our turn. Close, he recognized me and smiled a faint smile. I too took a good look of him. Though tired and listless, he was a good-looking young man.
I asked how he had been taken to custody and what the interrogation had been like. He spoke fast and clear: He was seized by policemen in the morning of May 4th while waiting in Beijing South Railway Station for a petitioner who had called and asked for his help in what now looked like a premeditated trap. He was then interrogated by policemen from Fengtai District Public Security Bureau and Beijing Headquarters respectively from the afternoon to early next morning. And as Xu Zhiyong predicted, it was about his visit to the black jail in Beijing set up by Chenzhou municipality, Hunan (湖南郴州) and his rescue of petitioners there, but also his online posts to help the petitioners. He was also asked his relationship with Xu Zhiyong—how he met him and how he became a volunteer for Citizen. On May 5, he was charged with “provoking disturbances” (寻衅滋事罪) and transferred to the Fengtai detention center.
When I told him about visiting his parents and getting them to sign the Power of Attorney Form, he smiled to my surprise. He said what he was afraid most was his parents’ knowledge of the event. He didn’t want his mother to worry about him. I tried my best to alleviate his anxiety.
Our meeting ended before 11am when policemen announced the morning hours were over.
After that I was taken up by other obligations. I felt that Song Ze would be released soon, because, legally I couldn’t think of anything that he could possibly be convicted with. His detention was based on charges of “provoking disturbances” (寻衅滋事) as defined by Article 293 of China’s Criminal Law. They refer to the followings: beating another person at will; chasing, intercepting or hurling insults to another person; forcibly taking or demanding, willfully damaging, destroying or occupying public or private property; creating disturbances in a public place. As far as I could see, Song Ze had simply done what a citizen should have done, and he displayed no behaviors punishable by law.
Looking back now, I was too optimistic.
Later on, Xu Zhiyong published an open letter to Fu Zhenghua (傅政华), director of Beijing Public Security Bureau, making Song Ze’s case known to the public. More people online have paid attention to the case.
Late May, Xu Zhiyong asked me to visit Song Ze again. He was afraid that Song Ze could be secretly sentenced to reform-through-labor. On May 28, I went to Fengtai District detention center again, and was received by the same expressionless female clerk. Once again, she told me that the officer in charge of the case was unavailable, asking me to leave my forms. But she didn’t say when I should return for the meeting. She requested my phone number and said she would call if a meeting was approved.
I waited for a whole day on the 29th, and nobody called.
In the early morning on the 30th, I went to the detention center again. The officer in charge of the case was there. Upon hearing my request to meet Song Ze, he asked who had sent me and how, while recording information about me on a notepad. Then he left the room with the approval form. When he returned shortly, he told me the lieutenant, whose signature was required, was unavailable, and I couldn’t meet Song Ze on that day. He told me to come back tomorrow.
I argued that, according to China’s Lawyers Law, meeting with client required no approval. He said, the new criminal procedure law wouldn’t take effect until next year, and it was good for a lawyer to obtain approval.
It’s impossible to conduct a conversation like that. So I said I would wait for your lieutenant. He said, well, do as you please. He then left the room, and I stayed in the hallway to wait while reading.
The lieutenant’s office was wide open with people coming in and out of it except for the lieutenant himself. At 10:30, as the hope for a morning meeting faded, I called the officer in charge of the case again, reiterating my right to see my client. He said he would arrange it as soon as he could.
The next day I went again. This time the lieutenant was there. He smiled broadly, saying he was busy yesterday but he had approved my request. With the approval form, he took me downstairs to the meeting room.
Song Ze was quickly brought out, and, without waiting for long, we had a window. Song Ze’s beard had grown, but otherwise he looked better than last time I had seen him. He was very happy to see me too. When we starting talking, the lieutenant pulled a stool and sat next to Song Ze to listen to us.
Song Ze told me that, over the last two weeks or so since our last meeting, he was interrogated four more times, the longest one lasting five hours. They asked the same questions they had asked before. They were rude and barbaric some times, but other times they played nice.
After talking about himself, he began asking me legal questions concerning his fellow inmates. The lieutenant interrupted him, “Just talk about your own case; don’t worry about others’ business.” To this, Song Ze said, “I have no more questions about my own case, nor do I worry about mine,” and went on asking me more questions.
Song Ze and I had a decent exchange even with the lieutenant present. Song Ze felt that it was a pity that he got himself arrested without even doing anything worthwhile; he worried about his parents, asking me to tell them that he committed no crime, and they shouldn’t feel bad for him.
We bid each other goodbye without a heavy heart. I would see him again whether he would be charged, given reform-through-labor, or released on probation. That was how I believed anyway.
Another week or so passed. The end of 30-day detention period, plus a 7-day review period, was approaching, but I had heard no words about Song Ze.
On June 12 I went to Fengtai District detention center again. The officer in charge of the case told me that Song Ze had been switched to residing under surveillance and taken away by people from Beijing PSB a few days ago. He said he didn’t know which department of the PSB they were from, nor did he know where they had taken Song Ze. All he could tell me was that Fengtai District was no long on the case anymore.
The officers said repeatedly that they were just implementers, and there was no use for me to argue with them. At that point I knew that Song Ze had been disappeared!
As a coercive measure, residing under surveillance is laxer than detention, mostly carried out in the residence of the suspect. If it is carried out in a location designated by the law enforcement, family or attorney should be promptly notified of the location. But since last year, residing under surveillance in designated location has become the authorities’ weapon of choice against rights defenders and dissidents. This year’s revision of the Criminal Procedure Law provides for more extensive stipulation on residing under surveillance. Article 73 in particular legalizes residing under surveillance without notification of family.
So I twittered that day that Song Ze had been Article 73ed in advance. (The revised Criminal Procedure Law takes effect January 1, 2013.)
We could not accept, nor tolerate, Song Ze’s forced disappearance. Xu Zhiyong and I planned to go to Beijing PSB to inquire about it, but on that day he was blocked at home by security police and couldn’t leave. So I went myself.
Beijing PSB is located in Qianmen East Avenue (前门东大街), enclosed by high walls and guarded by armed police. The reception window told me that this was the headquarters of the Bureau; to make inquiry about individual case, I must go to the specific unit in charge of the case.
The ball was kicked out, but nobody would receive it.
After that I went to Fengtai District PSB again, and they told me they no longer had any knowledge about the case.
Police break the law at will. Nothing safeguards citizens’ rights. Citizens themselves can be disappeared any time. Such is the state Chinese citizen rights defenders have to face.
All these days as I have looked for Song Ze, I feel helpless as a legal professional and as a citizen. I am deeply worried about Song Se’s status. My only hope is that he will stay strong in face of all these, and I pray for his early release.
By Ge Xun, published: February 8, 2012
A Chinese-American activist’s kidnap.
I came to the United States to study physics in 1986 and stayed and became an American citizen. I believe in universal values such as freedom and basic human rights. I admire the best of humans wherever I see it, and I do what I do openly with nothing to hide.
My mother died at 83 on January 24, 2012, in Beijing. I flew back on the 28th for her funeral. By the 31st my siblings and I had taken care of everything and made arrangements to put my parents’ remains together.
For the rest of my stay I planned to meet a few people, among them, Ding Zilin (丁子霖), or the “Tian’anmen Mother” (天安门母亲) as she has been known. She is a retired professor, and her son, a high school student, died during the June 4th crackdown in 1989. For more than two decades, she has been working hard, against harsh and persistent obstruction by the government, to preserve the memory of the event, recover more truth, and help families of other victims. Without her own son by her side, I wished to bring her perhaps a little bit of comfort and love. I called and made an appointment to visit her at 3pm the next day.
With a bouquet I had bought on my way, I arrived outside the entrance of her residential community 40 minutes early on Wednesday, February 1. I had called to get directions for the cab driver, and wondered whether I would disrupt her afternoon nap, if she took one.
It was a sunny day but the sky was fogged by pollution. Cars were parked along the sidewalks, and not that many people were around.
At the entrance, a man in his 40s descended in front of me all of a sudden.
“Are you Ge Xun?” he asked.
“I am. What’s the matter?”
“Come with me. I have to ask you something.”
“I am sorry,” I said. “I don’t have time.”
He started pulling me. Two more guys joined him, pushing me toward a light brown sedan. Both doors on the right side were open, and a woman stood by the front. I knew then I was in trouble. I had never been in circumstances like that either in China or the US, and I didn’t know what to do. Without shouting or trying to break free, I asked to see their IDs. One of them said, “A little later.” Then I asked to call my family and the US embassy. “Not now,” I was told. I resisted a little by saying “All I want to do is to pay a visit to Teacher Ding. Why are you doing this to me?” While pushing me hard now, they kept saying, “Don’t move. Cooperate. Or it’s going be bad for you.” I was pushed into the back of the car, and all the while, I was asking to see their IDs. Inside the car, I was forced to sit in the middle of the back seat with one man on each side of me.
Still I was asking to see their IDs. The man who first approached me pulled out and showed me a little book. State Security (国安). Wang Jie (王杰). I thought, well, at least he showed me his ID. Perhaps we could be reasonable with each other. I would soon find out how wrong I was.
Now I saw, in the front, on top of the radio, a picture of me and Sheng Xue [盛雪, a Chinese Canadian journalist and out-spoken activist] taken when she interviewed me last fall in San Francisco. I had seen it before in her blog.
The car drove off. Now they wanted my cell phone. When I resisted, Wang Jie grabbed it from my right trouser pocket by force. “I borrowed it from my brother!” I protested.
All the way I kept mumbling, “How can you do this? All I want is to visit Teacher Ding!”
After a short drive, we went into a compound, but pulled out as soon as the car stopped. Another short drive, we pulled into a courtyard with buildings on three sides. When I asked where we were, Wang Jie said it was their “unit” (“我们单位”). I was led into one of the buildings and, by stairs, onto the second floor. No one was in the hallway. We entered a room. It looked like a cheap hotel with a three seat sofa, two single beds, a longish coffee table, and an old-fashioned TV set. I would learn later that there was an inner room and, beyond that, a bathroom.
I asked why they took me here. Wang Jie said to interrogate me. I had done nothing wrong, so I protested. I asked them to show their warrant, they said they would later but they never did. Throughout my forced disappearance, they never showed me the warrant, or any legal documents for that matter.
They asked me to surrender everything I had. In my bag was a camera, a recording pen, two passports (my old, expired one and the new one I got just before I left home), my wallet (with my driver’s license, credit cards, RMB and US dollar, scraps of paper with friends’ contact information). I had more cash than the wallet could hold, so I put some in an envelope (RMB3,000 and USD500). They took everything, and said they would give them back to me later.
I was thinking: Let’s get this done and get out of here quickly. Teacher Ding is still waiting for me.
I asked to call Teacher Ding, my family and the US Embassy. Again, they denied me. I was forced to sit in a small sofa further in the room.
During the entire custody, as I was to learn, I would meet five people: Wang Jie was the main interrogator, present at all the important moments, the only person who showed me his ID; a rotund driver who only appeared when driving was needed and who helped the others to control me; a female clerk who later said her family name was Pu (普). She was small and looked around 30 years old. She appeared to be writing down everything and she repeatedly browbeat me for answers. There was a short man with big eyes and I later learned his family name was Gao (高).
The last person was a tall man perhaps not yet 40. Small eyes. Name unknown. He was the man who would beat me. I will call him “the Violent Man.”
As they came in and went out, I saw there was another room across the hall with its door open. It looked like their command post. All the time there were two people accompanying me, even when I used the bathroom.
“What do you do during this visit?” The interrogation began.
I told them I came for my mother’s funeral, and now that it was done, I was going to visit friends and relatives.
He started asking about the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the US. It was a student organization formed after June 4th, 1989, in support of students in China and their cause. I attended the inaugural meeting in Chicago. In December, 1990, when the prominent student leaders Wang Juntao (王军涛) and Chen Ziming (陈子明) were tried in Beijing, I flew to China on behalf of the Federation to attend the trial. Because of the media attention on the cases and my trip, I was named “Person of the Week” by ABC.
I did what I did because I cared deeply about China’s human rights status. From 1991-1992, I chaired the council of the Federation. But after 1994, I withdrew my involvement due to family matters. I was not, and have never been, a partisan (not that there is anything wrong with it), nor was the Federation regarded by the Chinese government as an “organization of democratic movement” (民运组织).
When I visited China in 1997, the State Police asked me about it. They ended up telling me everything about it, because I didn’t even know who the chairman was at the time. In my subsequent visits to Beijing, they didn’t bother me anymore. In July 2009, I re-connected with some of my old friends, and because of the human rights deterioration in China, I decided to take action and do what I could to be useful.
Then the interrogaters asked who sent me to Beijing to interview Ding Zilin.
“Nobody did and it was not an interview!” I said.
In my recording pen and my camera, they found records of my recent activities, including the “Outstanding Person Award” to Teng Biao (滕彪) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), two courageous, widely-respected rights lawyers in China, given by the Chinese Democracy Education Foundation (中国民主教育基金会); a dinner party with the recently-exiled writer Liao Yiwu (廖亦武) in the bay area; conversations with various people about the Free Wang Lihong website (“自由荔蕻”) that I maintained; pictures and messages for the “Sunglass Portrait of Chen Guangcheng” campaign; Sheng Xue teaching me how to edit sound file, etc.
They insisted I was sent by Sheng Xue. But Sheng Xue had nothing to do my visit and she didn’t even know I was in Beijing!
They had to know how I knew Sheng Xue. So I told them.
Then they asked me about money. Where do you get so much RMB? How much are you going to give to Ding Zilin? Whose money is it? Who sent you to deliver it? Who reimburses your expenses in Beijing?
“The money is mine. My wife reimburses me, all right? I haven’t decided whether to donate some; if I do, I haven’t thought about how much and to whom. Nobody sent me.”
They asked and asked and asked, wrangling on and on and on about money. They forced me to “admit” the money in the envelope was for donation.
It had been taking so long, and I was getting more and more impatient. So I said, “I will make you a personal affidavit.”
Wang Jie said, “Write it down.”
I wrote, “The money is my own. No one sent me. I have not decided whether I will donate some or not.”
They were not satisfied. They insisted that I must write the money in the envelope was for donation. Or there would be no end of it.
This went on and on.
I gave up, and wrote what they forced me to. I said to them, “You forced me to do this; it was not of my own will.”
Then they asked me to sign and to press my finger print on it. I hadn’t done finger printing for a long time. It was absurd.
They asked what prompted me to “come back (to activism)” in 2009. I told them because the human rights situation in China was deteriorating badly, and I wanted to do something to be useful.
They asked me what other organization(s) I had joined apart from IFCSS. Any organization having to do with Tibetans overseas?
I realized they were asking about the Bay Area Chinese and Tibetan Friendship (BACTF). I joined in 2010. It’s a young organization for mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and Tibetans in the bay area. I was elected Secretary.
“Why did you join this? Who is the Chairman? What does it do?”
I joined to learn about Tibetan culture and I cared about the human rights situation in Tibet too. And you could find everything you wanted to know in BACTF’s press releases.
As for activities, I attended the annual Tibet Day for two consecutive years. Their sand paintings (沙画) were fascinating. I also bought picture albums of the Dalai Lama. I believe in peaceful, respectful co-existence of different ethnic groups. Activities at BACTF were infrequent to begin with; I later reduced my involvement to focus on individual human rights cases in China.
It was getting late. I didn’t know exactly what hour it was without a watch. But I knew it must be sometime around midnight.
“It’s pretty late. You can make a call to your family,” said Wang Jie, handing me my cell phone. “You can only speak one sentence: simply say we need to know something from you and you are fine.”
So I called my brother. He was obviously very concerned. “Call me back in 20-30 minutes!” he said. They took the cell phone right away. Later my brother told me that he was in the middle of calling the US embassy when I called and he was disrupted. 20 or 30 minutes later, Wang asked me to call my brother again to tell him that I was not going back for the night, and I would see him tomorrow morning.
The interrogation continued. Back to the Free Chen Guangcheng website they had already asked about.
Interrogator: “What is it all about? You are the initiator, correct? Who are the members? How much money have you spent on it? Who gave you the money?”
Me: “I set it up to collect everything about Chen Guangcheng in Chinese or other languages. The purpose is to get more people to know about him, raise awareness of the plight of him and his family, and call for his freedom. It needs no money, nor did anyone give me money. It’s built on a free blogging platform. Members are netizens whom I don’t personally know.”
Interrogator: “Where did you find them? Who are they? How do you contact them? How do you direct them?”
Me: “I invited all the editors from Twitter. We’re all volunteers. Whoever sees something, as long as it concerns Chen Guangcheng, re-publishes it on our site. We don’t originate content. I am not a leader, and there is no need for us to contact each other.”
Interrogator: “That’s not possible! How can a website belong to no organization, no leader, not spending money? Impossible!”
“Believe it or not, nobody leads,” I said, thinking, Where do these people come from? Do you have to have a leader to call for freedom?
Interrogator: “All right, who are these participants? How do you find them?”
“I read tweets,” I said. “If someone is also concerned about Guangcheng, I send a tweet asking for his or her email, and then I send an invitation. That’s all.”
Interrogator: “Since you said you found them on Twitter, tell us your Twitter account and password.”
“No,” I said. “That’s my private information, I can’t tell you.”
“You must tell us.”
“No way. These days even parents won’t read their children’s journal. I am a grown man,” I said. I wasn’t worrying about the tweets—they are public anyway. What I worried most was that they would use my account to send phishing links. Then there were the Direct Messages.
“You give us whatever we ask. We get what we must get,” said the interrogator, motioning me. “Stand up, move to that side, and think about it.”
I didn’t stand up. Nor did I answer.
“Do we have to solve this by force?” said they.
“I don’t believe in violence,” I said. “I will not fight back, but I protest against what you do.”
Now the Violent Man, swearing and cursing, walked toward me on the small sofa. Wang Jie began to pull my coat. The Violent Man struck me with his fist. I raised my left arm and his fist fell there. Quickly I held my head with both hands. One fist after another, the Violent Man struck me, all on my head. He hit many times, three of them I failed to fend off, one of them hitting the back of my head. I almost blacked out. My glasses had long fallen off. Another fist hit my forehead, then another on my left temple. I fell on the floor, my left face numb, panting for air. The Violent Man and the short man name Gao began to kick me. Still I was conscious. I wanted to see how they beat me. Gao pulled my winter jacket hard, trying to cover my head with it. Suddenly I remembered the “black head cover” I had read in a number of accounts of brutality in the hands of the state police! I grabbed my jacket with all my might and threw it toward a gap on the right side of the small sofa.
A foot struck hard on the back of my right leg, giving me painful cramps. I panted lying on the floor. The room seemed to be turning and the florescent lights flashing. Pah! Pah! Pah! A figure swung in front of me. A few more kicks fell on me. Not so heavy. I thought about my bouquet, turning to see it. It was still good laying on the TV stand. I thought, After it’s all over here, I can try again to visit Teacher Ding. As my thoughts wandered, I began to utter, “I’ve got to go… I’ve got to go…”
It was like that for a long time.
“Tell us your Twitter password.”
I didn’t answer. They pressed me again. Still I didn’t answer.
Then Wang Jie said, “Okay, how about we give you a laptop, you put it in for us, and we take a look?”
“Will you let me go after that?”
So they fetched a laptop for me. My right leg was still cramping, my right hand shaking. I typed in my password. They all pored over it, reading my direct messages.
“What’s your email password?”
I told them they couldn’t get into my email—it requires two-step verification and I myself couldn’t even access it from here.
“Nonsense! We’ll get in. Just like Twitter, type the password in for us.”
When the verification number was asked, I told them my number. But they don’t seem to have broken in.
Around this time, Gao got my camera and started fiddling with it. He asked me about each picture in it, I told him as I said earlier. He asked me to write down how I got to know two people in it, especially Fang Zheng (方政). I briefly described each. They didn’t bring my recording pen to me at all for questions.
(Yaxue’s note: Fang Zheng was a college senior running away from Tian’anmen Square in the night of June 4th, 1989, and a tank chasing after the students ran over his legs in Liu Bu Kou (六部口, Six-Ministry Crossroad), west of the Square on Chang An Avenue. For 20 years after 1989, he struggled for a livelihood and a place to settle in China, and was visited upon every now and then by state police to make sure he wasn’t “making trouble.” A few years ago, he immigrated to the US, living in the Bay Area. Ge Xun helped him to settle and learn how to drive.)
After a while, Wang Jie came back in. “You have to write a guarantee about your activities in China. I dictate, you write”:
- Abide by China’s laws;
- Will not meet sensitive people;
- Will not go to sensitive places;
- Will not accept media interviews;
- Will not talk about sensitive issues in public.
Except he couldn’t define what constitutes “sensitive” in each case. “It all depends,” he said. These were the rules for when I was inside China. For overseas, there was only one:
- Will not do anything that’s damaging to China’s image.
I had tried to argue about a few things. I offered to write a separate guarantee that I would not participate in violence against Chinese government. Gao said, “Non-violence against Chinese government is unacceptable as well. Just write what we tell you.”
I wrote, signed, and pressed my finger print again. I asked to have a copy of my “guarantee.” Gao promised in the presence of the others. But when I asked for my photocopy in the morning, they said, “Who said we would give you a photocopy?”
At three or four in the morning, Wang Jie went out and, after a short while, came back with a document. All four men were in the room. It was a “Confidentiality Notification”, rather long, with the letter head of “北京国家安全局” (National Security Bureau Beijing). Inside it said something like: According to such and such articles of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets, the interrogation was a national secret.
I wanted to laugh: Gosh, I’ve became a national secret of China.
“From when we met to when we separate,” said Wang Jie. “The entire process is a national secret. You are not allowed to tell it to anyone, not even your own family. Or you will be revealing a national secret, and will be punished severely.”
I wanted to read it through carefully. But he kept talking, I couldn’t focus, so I began to read aloud. The punishment for violation amounts to a 15-day detention and a fine of a few ten thousand yuan. I was relieved: Not a big deal, I can handle that. In the form they didn’t fill in why I was interrogated. So I asked them to. They put down “IFCSS”, “Donation to Tian’anmen mother”, “Free CGC website.” I signed and again pressed my finger print on it.
Wang Jie went out with the document, and when he came back, he told me I was to leave China that day. Then he said crap about how his boss cared about me. I would not be seeing Teacher Ding. I would not be visiting friends of my mother. And I had no choice. I protested.
Now we were going to get some sleep. Gao was soon snoring in the inner room. I laid down for a while, couldn’t sleep, and got up to have a smoke in the outer room. The Violent Man, dozing off 0n the sofa, woke up. I asked him a few questions, then he started unloading about stuff like nationalism and American conspiracy. That was too much for me. Finally I just said, human rights have no borders, and even Burma is changing.
The day broke. Traffic was picking up outside the window. Wang Jie came and we all went downstairs in the courtyard, the same sedan was waiting. Honda Accord, P-CA106. We were to go get my luggage.
At home, my brother helped me get ready, gave me some crackers to eat (I hadn’t eaten anything since they took me). On our way to the airport, before we got on the third beltway (三环), they asked for my laptop. They pulled over to get it from the trunk. It was a Chromebook without a hard drive. Everything was online. They fiddled with it for a while and said they had never seen it before. All along, we drove past other cars with screaming sirens.
At the airport, they pulled up at the curb. “We still have to check your laptop,” they said. I grabbed it and said, “No!” They tried to pull me into the car. I resisted. The Violent Man kicked hard on my right thigh. I fell on the ground, clutching my laptop. They kept kicking me, taking the laptop, and pushed me into the car. A few armed police came over, and they flashed their cards to them. “Do you want your things or not?” They threatened me. “Do you want to stay a few more days with us?”
“I protest!” was all I could say.
Wang Jie and the Violent Man took my luggage and left, leaving me with my bouquet and Gao and the fat driver in the car. After a while, Gao received orders and took me to the terminal building. I was in pain and had to walk slowly. Gao suggested we eat something. We stopped at a café, and I ordered a coffee and a sandwich. I didn’t have any money, so he paid for it.
While sitting, I said I had wanted to visit Chen Guangcheng in Shandong. Gao said, no way, you wouldn’t be able to leave Beijing. Then we met Wang Jie at the airline desk. At the security check, he finally gave back all my belongings with all my pictures and recordings deleted. He also gave me a scrap of paper with an email address on it. “Email us first next time you visit,” he said.
Here is the email: email@example.com, and I’ll help them publish it here.
I went in. It was 11:30am, February 2, my 21-hour nightmare ended. The flight was at 1:40pm. I asked someone to take a picture of me with my bouquet in front of E26.
Before taking off, I tweeted: “On board UA888 to SF, waiting to take off, 2 days before schedule. Had a terrible experience.”
(Translated by Yaxue Cao)