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Economics Professor Expelled for ‘Politically Harmful’ Expressions, Including Estimate of Staggering Cost to Maintain the Communist Party Apparatus
China Change, August 21, 2018
Yang Shaozheng (杨绍政), a couple of months shy of 49, was for 11 years a professor of good standing in the College of Economics at Guizhou University. He taught game theory and advanced microeconomics, focused his research on optimization theory and mechanism design theory, and managed numerous provincial- and state-funded research projects. On August 15, however, Guizhou University made a decision to expel him for “long-running publication and spreading online of politically mistaken speech, writing a large number of politically harmful articles, and creating a deleterious influence on campus and in society.” He was also guilty of “being unrepentant” and refusing to accept “educational help.”
Prior to this, last November, Yang was suspended from teaching and banned from advising graduate students. According to a personal statement he published online, Yang repeatedly approached the administration and the university’s Party Office to demand a formal statement of reasons for the sanctions. In each case he was fobbed off or refused. His written appeal to the university president was ignored.
Around the same time, Yang’s WeChat account and his blog were shut down, leaving him cut off from all public communication channels to express his views.
Last November, Yang submitted to New Tang Dynasty Television, a station affiliated with Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual practice, a short article titled: “Can We Really Leave the Party Out of Our Economic Research?” (《我们经济研究中政党真的可以被忽略？》) The essay said: “Party personnel as well as the staff of some non-Party mass organizations are sustained by the taxes of the citizenry plus the state’s revenue. They are across the government, the military, mass organizations, state enterprises, educational and cultural institutions, and the organs responsible for Party Affairs. Their number exceeds 20 million; the cost to maintain them, including the loss of wealth caused by maintaining them, is estimated at 2 trillion yuan annually, with every Chinese carrying a burden of roughly 15,000 yuan each.”
Yang published the more detailed analysis, with the full title: “How the Estimate of All of Mainland China’s Government, Party, Mass Organization and State Enterprise Annual Costs Coming to 2 Trillion Was Calculated,” though it has since been deleted from his Sina blog.
In the article, he wrote that in two different economic systems — with all else being equal — one of them that had to “provide for that many regime officials would become increasingly impoverished. As long as nothing changes, the society that has to sustain the more government officials will ultimately collapse.”
Yang Shaozheng pointed out that despite the problem being so important for the future of the country, in China it is a forbidden area of enquiry and a blindspot in the public realm. Interestingly, in the article Yang described how several scholars pointedly avoided the topic at an academic conference he attended on political economy. During the tea break he brought up the question of Party expenditures to other scholars. Fudan University professor Zhang Jun (张军), gave no response; Zhejiang University professor Zhang Xukun (张旭坤) said he was worried that there may be State Security (国保) officers on site; Chongqing University professor Pu Yongjian (蒲勇健) said: “You understand what’s going on. If you’ve got the courage, go research it.”
In 2005, a researcher named Mu Zhengxin (穆正新) published an essay, which was widely disseminated, titled “The Chinese Communist Party is the Most Expensive Political Party” (《最昂贵的政党是中国共产党》). Mu calculated the expenditures on maintaining the Party apparatus, which he narrowly defined as Party organs and projects that have been set up just for the Communist Party and that are operated with funds from state revenue. The organs included in his calculations are: 1) The Party Committees, disciplinary committees, and consultative conferences at every level of government; 2) The specialized Party organs in schools and universities; 3) Organizations set up by the Communist Party, including the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the All-China Women’s Federation, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, as well as the Party’s youth organizations and numerous, countless other variants; 4) Party organs in police, military, and paramilitary systems, as well as courts and procuratorates; 5) The Party Affairs units inside state-owned enterprises; 6) The Party organs and expenditures for propaganda projects that go on inside Party mouthpiece media; 7) Overseas united front and propaganda work.
Mu Zhengxin’s calculations indicate that the Party’s annual expenditures on the above, just to sustain the Party, came to about 226 billion yuan. Ten years later, all signs indicate that such expenditures have, rather than decreasing, expanded enormously, possibly well beyond that dedicated to the educational system — and certainly far outstripping the budget dedicated to healthcare. Inquisitive readers are invited to examine the Chinese government’s budget for themselves.
Yang Shaozheng’s figures included not merely the costs of sustaining the Party apparatus, but also the loss associated with the constant drain of these costs (including the massive corruption that takes place).
As to Communist Party expenditures, in 2012 the Peking University professor of law He Weifang (贺卫方) wrote on Weibo: “The Party’s treasury cannot be confused with that of the country. Party cadres cannot derive their income from the national treasury, and instead should be supported by the Party’s own fees. Taxpayers pay their taxes to a secular national government, not a Holy Party.” (Professor He’s original post has likely been expunged entirely; the only online traces of it are in forwarded messages like this.) On March 27, 2016, He Weifang proposed on Weibo that national budgetary support be withdrawn from the Communist Youth League.
These demands are of course feeble without a transformation of the political system. The effect they do achieve, however, is to remind the public and the scholarly community to consider these issues. We look forward to Professor Yang Shaozheng and other Chinese or foreign political economists engage in detailed studies and calculations on this issue.
Prior to the Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress in October 2017, Yang was twice called in for ‘chats’ by the Public Security Bureau in Guizhou Province. He told Radio Free Asia in an interview: “The first was on September 19. They said that during the 19th Party Congress I had to keep my mouth shut. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t write anything online, and couldn’t say anything political during class. I said to them at the time: what you’re doing here is illegal according to our national constitution. The second time they came to me was the very evening of the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress, at about 9:00 p.m. They first accused me of spreading rumors. I asked them where I was supposed to have spread rumors and demanded that they present the facts. They had no facts to present. In the end they told me explicitly that I had to shut up, and then asked whether I’d do so or not. I told them clearly that I wouldn’t be quiet. They froze my Weibo account. I told my students about what happened.”
Yang Shaozheng’s writings on websites inside China have been blocked or purged, and now only a few of his articles are available on some sites outside the country. In 2012 when Yang’s personal page “Statecraft for the People” (经世济民) on KDNET, a popular Chinese-language website, was deleted without prior notice, he wrote to the website administrator: “Today it was my website that was unconstitutionally disappeared; tomorrow I myself may be, unconstitutionally and without reason, also disappeared; and you, among many others, may also have their websites or books disappeared, or be disappeared yourselves.”
An overseas human rights activist told China Change that, over the weekend, Yang Shaozheng and his family were attempting to travel to Hong Kong when they were intercepted at the border. China Change has been unable to contact Yang so far.
Over the last few years, numerous university professors have been expelled, pulled from classes, sacked, or had their Party memberships rescinded, among other punishments, for their transgressions of thought and speech. A sampling of such cases over the last two years includes:
- Deng Xiangchao (邓相超), the vice dean of the School of Art at Shandong Jianzhu University, who was forced to retire in January 2017 after he forwarded a number of posts making fun of Mao Zedong on Mao’s birthday;
- Zhai Jiehong (翟桔红), associate professor in the law school at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, who in May 2018 had his Party membership cancelled and was suspended from teaching after criticizing the constitutional amendment (to remove the tenure limit on the head of state in China);
- You Shengdong (尤盛东), a professor of international trade at Xiamen University, who in June 2017 was sacked after being informed on by students for making statements in class that were “opposed to the socialist value outlook”;
- Li Mohai (李默海), an associate professor and director of the political department in the political-law school of Shandong Institute of Business and Technology, who was sacked in July 2017 for “publishing incorrect speech online”;
- Shi Jiepeng (史杰鹏), an associate professor of classical Chinese at Beijing Normal University who in August 2017 was expelled for “publishing incorrect views online over a long period of time,” “crossing the red line of ideology management, violating political discipline, and causing severe damage to the reputation of the university”;
- Xu Chuanqing (许传青), an associate professor at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture who in September 2017 was subject to administrative punishment after being informed on by students in his Probability Theory class for “making inappropriate comparisons between Japanese and Chinese people and giving free reign to his personal dissatisfaction.”
Liu Shuqing (刘书庆) and Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠), two university professor who are also human rights lawyers, were also deprived of their teaching qualifications. Liu Shuqing was disbarred from practicing law, and while Zhang Xuezhong has managed to keep his license, he’s been unable to practice due to the university’s concerted interference. Recently Zhang, a law professor, received a harsh warning from the police for publishing a proposal for drafting a new constitution by citizens that aimed to help create a modern political system in China.
In July, the Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun (许章润), in Japan as a visiting scholar, published a lengthy essay titled “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes” which carried out a thoroughgoing critique of — and expressing his deep concern about — Chinese political and social life. In writing the essay, he seemed to have made preparations for whatever would come to him, again showing that in China today, the freedom of expression of intellectuals is deeply imperiled.
In early August, Sun Wenguang (孙文广), a retired professor from Shandong University was set upon and dragged away by half a dozen police officers, who barged into his home while he was in the middle of an interview with Voice of America. The recording cut off live as he was hauled off. He was illegally detained for several days before being allowed to return home, and since then hasn’t been able to speak with journalists. A VOA journalist and news assistant who visited him previously were also temporarily detained.
In September 2017, Professor Yang Shaozheng, no place to publish, no blog to write, and unable to have a social media account inside China, came to Twitter. Few knew who he was. He posted screenshots of his writings and published them on his feed as though speaking to himself. His inaugural tweet reads, “The more I think, the more distressed I become. It’s hard to pursue the truth; it’s hard to speak the truth; and it’s hard to be a truthful person. Being able to freely express ourselves, without terror, is our dream.”
Xu Zhangrun’s China: ‘Licking Carbuncles and Sucking Abscesses’, China Change, August 1, 2018
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China Change, December 22, 2017
Around 4:30 p.m. on December 19, dissident writer Li Xuewen (黎学文) got off Guangzhou subway’s No. 5 line at the Guangzhou Train Station. Before he swiped his card to exit, two plainclothes officers approached him, flashed their IDs, and told Li Xuewen that he was wanted by the Ministry of Public Security for allegedly “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” This refers to Li’s participation in a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.”
Li Xuewen told his lawyer Ge Yongxi (葛永喜) in a meeting on Friday that the police then handcuffed him and took him to the nearby police station where he was also shackled, despite his loud protest. At 9:00 p.m., Li was taken to a hospital for a physical and then sent to the Guangzhou Railway Detention Center. Later he was taken to the Xinhui Detention Center.
Li Xuewen believes that he was recognized by China’s sophisticated surveillance and facial recognition system.
Police interrogations focused on the details of the seaside memorial of Liu Xiaobo. Li Xuewen told his interrogators that:
- I have not committed any crime;
- It’s wrong to detain me;
- I will face all the consequences of my actions.
Li Xuewen thanked friends for their concerns and wished everyone a happy winter solstice. Winter solstice, he said, is when the night is the longest and after that, darkness will wane.
Below is Li Xuewen’s pre-written statement on October 31, 2017, in anticipation of the arrest that has now taken place.
Personal Statement by Li Xuewen
I was one of the participants in the July 19, 2017 seaside commemoration of Liu Xiaobo held in Yamen, Xinhui, Guangdong. From July 22, when Guangzhou police began nightly raids and arrests of participants, a total of 9 attendees of the event have been arrested one after another; most were later released on restrictive bail conditions.
In late August I got news that police in my hometown in Hubei had, armed with photos of the commemoration event, sought out my elderly parents and demanded that I turn myself in and accept punishment. I had become a national fugitive. Over the last few months I’ve been through an extraordinary period of hiding and changing locations, which has worried my family, girlfriend, and friends.
I’ve also gone through a process from utter terror in the first few weeks to no fear at all now. I’ve decided to put an end to living like a fugitive. I’m now willing to openly face arrest. If I’m arrested, I hope that my friends do everything they can to advocate on my behalf.
I make the following brief statement:
- As someone who began reading Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s works as a teenager, I’ve been deeply affected by his ideas and his spirit. I went to grieve Mr. Liu Xiaobo’s death of my own accord, as a way of paying respect to, and fondly recalling, one of my mentors in life. I also wanted to protest the authorities’ persecution of Liu Xiaobo. No matter how the authorities persecute me, I don’t regret my participation, and I firmly believe that I’m innocent.
- I will not write a repentance statement, and I will not accept any illegal or inhumane persecution I’m subjected to. I’m healthy in mind and body, and if I should be damaged in either regard in detention, it will be purely due to torture and persecution. This long period of misery and suffering we’re going through will end one day!
October 31, 2017
Mural Censored at the Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture, ArtAsiaPacific, December 18, 2017.
From Sea to a Sea of Words: Poet Ensnared as China Shuts Down Commemoration of Liu Xiaobo, Yaxue Cao, September 14, 2017.
Yaxue Cao, November 1, 2017
Li Aijie (李爱杰) is from Henan province, China’s central plains. She married a man named Zhang Haitao (张海涛) in Urumqi, Xinjiang, who moved from Henan to the far northwestern region in the 1990s seeking job opportunities after being laid off from a state-owned enterprise. He made a living trading in electronics. The couple were very much in love.
Embittered by personal injustices in the hands of authorities, he was attracted from 2009 onward to the thriving rights defense activism around the country. He partook in online forums that discussed democratic ideas; he volunteered for the human rights website Human Rights Campaign (“权利运动”); he signed a petition urging the Chinese government to abolish the extra-legal Reeducation Through Labor detention system; he gave interviews to Voice of America and Radio Free Asia on what he had observed on the streets of Urumqi. And so on.
He was arrested in 2014, and on January 15, 2016, he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and “prying into and illegally supplying intelligence abroad” (为境外刺探、非法提供情报罪) and sentenced to 19 years in prison by the Urumqi Intermediate Court. The judgment cited 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets of others’ tweet, as evidence of inciting subversion, and named Voice of America and Radio Free Asia as “hostile foreign websites.”
Li Aijie was pregnant when her husband was arrested. She gave birth to a little boy whom the father named “Little Mandela” (小曼德拉). She has since moved back to Henan to seek refuge in her hometown among relatives.
On April 19, 2017, with the help of activists, Li Aijie embarked on a journey of over 2,000 miles to visit her husband, who had been serving his sentence in Shaya Prison in the heart of Xinjiang on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert. She visited him again in late July after many calls asking permission from the prison, even though by Chinese law, prisoners are allowed only one family visit each month.
Her requests for visits since September have not come to fruition.
Zhang Haitao was jailed in solitary confinement to receive “education.” He described to his wife that the cell has a window that can let in air and a bit of sunlight. He stays in there all day and all night, and is not allowed yard time.
The first time she visited, the prison didn’t allow her to show and give him photos of his son. The second time they let her.
For the thousands of miles she traveled, they were allowed 30 minutes only at each of the two meetings.
Over the summer, she traveled to Beijing. She wanted to ask the Central Leadership to transfer Zhang Haitao to a prison in Urumqi for humanitarian reasons: to make her journeys to the prison one third shorter and easier to travel. At the Ministry of Justice, she said she never got past the gate. A person came out telling her to go to the Bureau of Calls and Letters (国家信访局). She went there and didn’t succeed in getting past the gate either.
On October 8 when Li Aijie visited her parents’ home, she was assaulted by her eldest brother and an older sister. They punched her on the face and the head. “Do you know how many times the police have talked to me?” the brother shouted at her according to her account. “What good is it to wait for Zhang Haitao? What does the future hold for you? Cut your relations with him! Stop going to Xinjiang!” “Look at the man you married!” The sister let out her anger. “You ruined yourself, now the whole family suffers from it, and you refuse to listen!”
They pushed her on the floor and kicked her. The elder brother was about to throw a chair at her when another brother stopped him.
Local authorities threatened the jobs of Li’s siblings if they don’t “rein her in.”
She wrote: “Am I wrong to love someone and wait for him? Visiting Haitao is my legal right. My son and I are the hope that Haitao lives for togets out of prison alive. I can’t leave him at a moment like this. I really can’t.” She said she’s never going to leave her husband, and asked those who interfered with her relationship to cease.
China Change has made considerable effort to bring Zhang Haitao’s case to the attention of our readers and the State Department. Among other things, we translated the entirety of the court decision to facilitate the evaluation of Zhang’s case. We argued that the U. S. government is obliged to defend its institutions when VOA and RFA—both funded by Congress— interviews are used as criminal evidence to imprison Chinese citizens.
A Call for Help
I spoke to a human rights lawyer in Henan, and Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁)—the founder and board director of Humanitarian China—spoke to Li Aijie herself for permission, which she gave, to raise money for her and her child to help cover her travels to Xinjiang.
If you want to help, you may make a donation to Humanitarian China stating the purpose of your contribution. Humanitarian China is a 501(c)(3) based in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Humanitarian China has been providing financial support to political prisoners, their family members, and civil society activists in China since 2007. In the last few years it raised money for Uighur scholar Ilham Tohti, independent journalist Gao Yu, the wife and children of Zhao Changqing, and the 709 human rights lawyers.
If you are a human rights organization with relief fund, please extend a helping hand to Li Aijie and her baby son.
Disclaimer: Yaxue Cao, editor of this website, is a board member of Humanitarian China.
Activist in Xinjiang Sentenced to 19 Years for Online Writings and Rights Activities, Yaqiu Wang, January 21, 2016
Appeal Begins of Harsh 19-Year Prison Term Given Xinjiang-based Activist Zhang Haitao, Yaxue Cao, February 21, 2016
U.S. Government Must Intervene in Zhang Haitao’s Case, China Change, November 21, 2016
A Long Journey to Visit My Husband Zhang Haitao in Shaya Prison, Li Aijie, April 23, 2017
A Long Journey to Visit My Husband Zhang Haitao in Shaya Prison, Part Two, Li Aijie, April 29, 2017
Zhang Haitao Court Decision, a Full Translation by China Change
Zhang Haitao’s Appeal, a Translation by China Change
Yaxue Cao, October 3, 2017
Early in September the Justice Department of Shandong province notified Zhu Shengwu (祝圣武), a 36-year-old lawyer in Jinan, the provincial capital, that his “anti-Communist Party, anti-socialism” expressions online had “threatened national security,” and he was disbarred. Mr. Zhu requested a public hearing.
Zhu Shengwu heads the Shandong Xinchang Law Firm (山东信常律师事务所) which he founded about a year ago. He has been practicing for only five years, specializing in intellectual property rights, particularly online copyright disputes. Beginning this year, however, he began taking on so-called “sensitive cases” – i.e., involving human rights. Among others, he represented Wang Jiangfeng (王江峰), a man from Shandong who was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and sentenced to two years in prison last April for calling the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping “Steamed Bun Xi,” and the late Mao Zedong “Demon Mao” in online chat rooms. Zhu believes that his defense of Wang — in which he made a “systematic, thorough and determined defense of freedom of expression” — is the real motive for his punishment.
Apart from defending his clients, Zhu began exercising his own freedom of expression on Weibo, which he began using in March. The account, with around 2,000 followers, was shut down in August. On it, Zhu had described China’s judicial system as “a meat grinder that churns out wrongful convictions,” and said that “China is ruled through terror and lies.” He also mocked the talks he had been summoned to with Justice Bureau officials.
In the Chinese system, Justice Departments or bureaus at different levels of the governments have an office whose job it is to “regulate lawyers,” and it uses annual reviews — in which licenses can be suspended or revoked — as a way to rein them in. For human rights lawyers, the annual review is a Damoclean sword hanging over their heads, and some of China’s bravest and best known human rights lawyers have had their licenses revoked over the years.
One of the Justice Department officials in Shandong asked Zhu Shengwu repeatedly whether he’d like to keep his license. Zhu replied: “All I’ve done is represent a sensitive case, write a defense systematically arguing for freedom of speech, and voice a bit of political criticism. For that you are going to revoke my license. Who’d dare keep a license like that?”
While the Lawyers’ Associations across the China are supposedly professional organizations looking out for the interests of their members, in reality they are designed to ensure that lawyers fall in line with the government and the Communist Party (indeed a large number of China’s 300,000 lawyers are Party members). The Lawyers’ Association functions like other mass organizations for what would otherwise be independent individuals or groups, including the Writers’ Associations for writers, or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement for Protestant Christians. So it is no surprise that, on September 8, the chairman of the Lawyers’ Association of Shandong Province, a man named Su Bo (苏波), issued an angry statement on China’s popular social media WeChat denouncing Zhu Shengwu, and voicing support for the actions taken by the Party “after Zhu refused to repent and correct his wrongdoings.”
“I don’t know about lawyer Zhu Shengwu,” one of China’s most famous human rights lawyers Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) wrote, who was himself sentenced to three years in prison with a three-year reprieve for his activities and expressions, and whose license was revoked by Beijing Justice Bureau last year. “But Su Bo was a schoolmate of mine at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law. On the morning of April 27, 1989, we students gathered at the university gate, undecided as to whether we should to go out and protest.” The President and department chairs tried to stop the students. “I remember the sky was shaking and the air seemed to be on fire. Su Bo, shouldering a large sign with China’s Constitution written all over it, was at the forefront of the student procession. I heard him roaring, his voice hoarse: ‘If not today, when? Are we going to tolerate it forever?’ He was all sound and fury then. Twenty-eight years later, I appreciate this statement for giving me information about his whereabouts and achievements.”
Another well-known human rights lawyer, Sui Muqing (隋牧青), also recognized the chairman of the Shandong Lawyers’ Association, his classmate twenty-eight years ago. “He gave an inspiring speech in front of us all before the big protest procession on April 27, 1989. And I was so impressed, because I too wanted to speak to the crowd but when I got the mic, I was overcome by shyness and passed it on.”
Sui Muqing, who was held in secret detention from July 11, 2015, to January 6, 2016 as part of the 709 crackdown, offered to represent Zhu Shengwu at the hearing.
The hearing to revoke Zhu Shengwu’s license “for allegedly making expressions that threatened national security” was held on September 21. Even though a hearing is a public event, it was filled with people sent by the Shandong Justice Department….to fill the spots. Zhu’s friends were stopped outside.
The hearing went on for three hours. Zhu and his two lawyers were allowed to speak, and they mounted a vigorous defense, questioning the authority of the Justice Department and the Lawyers’ Association to censor a lawyer for his private expressions. They disputed the preposterous notion of speech being a “national security threat,” and gave a rousing defense of freedom of expression.
The next day, on September 22, the Justice Department of Shandong province issued a decision to revoke Zhu Shengwu’s license to practice law. “Upon investigation: Since March 2017, lawyer Zhu Shengwu frequently posted on his Sina Weibo account ‘祝圣武律师18668936828’ expressions that negate the fundamental political system and principles established by our country’s Constitution, made insinuations against the socialist system, and used the internet to instigate dissatisfaction with the Party and government, resulting in egregious social effects. [His behaviors] seriously damaged the image of the legal profession.”
Zhu Shengwu and his lawyers will appeal the decision through administrative review, and if necessary, bring administrative litigation against the Justice Department of Shandong province. But it will likely to be a resistance in the court of public opinion, because the law does not rule in China.
In a self-introduction, Zhu said he grew up in a faraway mountainous village in Hunan; he was the first in his village to go to college and the first to gain a graduate degree. He studied law at Shandong University and has never been the subject of complaints by clients or peers.
I was asked the other day whether, after the 709 Crackdown, the pressure on human rights lawyers will abate. First of all, the 709 Crackdown isn’t over. Wu Gan (吴淦), Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) are still in custody. Wang Quanzhang has been held incommunicado for over 800 days. It is possible that Wang has been tortured to the point of disability — this is one of the few explanations as to why he still hasn’t been allowed to see his lawyers. Those who have been relieved on bail or on reprieve have been under surveillance and regularly threatened to keep silent about their experiences while they were in secret detention. National TV stations had human rights lawyers on camera confessing that their defense of human rights was illegal, and that they had been brainwashed by “Western concepts of human rights and the rule of law.” Probably because the government really didn’t benefit from the 709 crackdown, in recent months and weeks, it has been employing softer but still insidious tactics to corner human rights lawyers: denying their annual renewals, reviewing the accounts of law firms, forcing some lawyers out of their jobs, and in Zhu Shengwu’s case revoking his license altogether.
“Did you see Su Bo at the hearing?” I asked lawyer Sui Muqing.
“No, he was not in the room,” he said. “But I ran into him during the break. He praised my defense. I asked how he knew. He said someone told him. I think high-level officials of the Justice Department, and Su Bo himself, were in an adjacent room watching the video feed.”
“What else did you say to him?”
Lawyer Sui Muqing made no response.
Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @yaxuecao
Li Aijie, April 29, 2017
This is the second and last installment of Li Aijie’s account of her trip. Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years for “providing intelligence to foreign organizations.” He’s currently imprisoned in Shaya Prison in remote western Xinjiang. He believes that he is innocent, and has retained an attorney to represent him for a petition for retrial (申诉). — The Editors
On April 22, 2017 I took a train from Urumqi, and arrived in Aksu on the morning of April 23 at around 8:00 a.m. Human rights volunteer Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏) was already waiting at the train station. After breakfast the four of us—Huang, attorney Ran Tong (冉彤), a driver and I—drove in the cold drizzle. We arrived in the Shaya county seat soon after 5:00 p.m.
After we arranged accommodation, on the morning of April 24 we set off for Shaya Prison. Because we weren’t familiar with the road, we went the wrong way and had to turn back midway. At about 10:30 a.m. we finally arrived at the prison gates. My uneasiness and insomnia due to worrying whether the meeting would take place made me even more exhausted and nervous.
Upon seeing our IDs and paperwork, the guard told us that more procedures were necessary. Attorney Ran Tong and Teacher Huang argued, negotiated, and mediated on the basis of reason and law. The prison guard told us that he needed to ask for instructions from his supervisor. We waited anxiously. After inquiring with his supervisor twice, the guard slowly walked toward us and said: “Your paperwork isn’t complete, and today isn’t a visiting day.” My heart leapt into my throat. He continued, “But we’ve taken into account that you came such a long way. Remember to bring complete paperwork next time.”
The stone hanging in my heart finally fell. I was excited, and silently said to myself: “Praise the Lord! Thank God!” My ardent morning prayer was answered.
I was put on a prison bus with some visiting Uighur family members. Sitting on the bus, I was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears ran down my face just thinking that I would soon see my husband who I missed so much. The bus passed through an expanse of desert. Red poplar trees gave a sense of vicissitude and decay. Under the bright sunlight, they looked scorched and desolate.
About five or six minutes later, the bus stopped in front of a solitary white building. After we got off, men and women each formed a line and went through a strict security check that required removing our shoes. I took out my ID and money and stored the rest of my documents in a prison locker. I deposited 600 yuan, the maximum permitted, for Haitao. I sat on a stool waiting. The television on the wall was streaming the life of the prisoners.
A staff member led me to an office and explained some rules, such as that talking about politics would result in the termination of the visit, and the visit would only last 30 minutes. I was then taken out of the room. After going a short distance we entered another room.
“Your man is in this room,” a police officer said, pointing to my left. Upon entering, I saw three police officers waiting. I immediately saw Haitao sitting on the other side of the glass partition, with two officers standing behind him. Excited, I quickly walked up and sat down opposite. “Husband, you’ve lost weight!” I said hurriedly. “Wife, you have, too!” Haitao said it with a smile. He looked in good spirits and his complexion was good. He appeared clean and calm, which also comforted me.
“Husband, how are you? How is life in here? Have your foot shackles been removed? Does your stomach still hurt?” I bombarded him with questions, concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to say everything. “I’m not wearing foot shackles anymore. My stomach doesn’t hurt either. When I arrived at the prison I was given a physical exam at Shaya Hospital. Everything is fine. We have a regular routine here. Every morning we get up at 7:30 a.m. After washing, we exercise and then eat. After breakfast, we exercise for another ten minutes or so before we begin studying.” “What do you study?” “We study some traditional culture, such as the teachings of Confucius and Mencius.”
“Do you have a Bible inside? Can you read it? I brought you a Bible the Autumn Rain Church* gave you but I wasn’t allowed to bring it in.” “We’re not allowed to read it inside!” “But you need to pray to God for yourself, your family, friends, for this country, nation, even the police around you. You need to love yourself and love others, okay?” Haitao nodded.
He told me that for meals he has steamed bread, watery gruel, and some small side dishes. If they’re given soybean milk then they get no other dishes. He can have eggs, tofu, even chicken and rice pilaf when it comes time to “improve prisoners’ lives.” “I’m in very good health,” he said.
“Stand up then, walk around and let me see!” I wanted to see for myself. Haitao stood up and walked around. “Okay, not bad. You’re still full of spirit!” I felt relieved and sat back down. “Who accompanied you this time?” Haitao asked. “Huang Xiaomin and attorney Ran Tong. But they’re not allowed to come inside!” “Oh, that makes me feel better. Please thank them for me!” Haitao folded his hands in prayer.
“Before I left, friends all asked me to convey their concern and say hello to you. Sister Wang Yi and her husband Hua Chunhui, and many other friends. Even after I arrived in Shaya County there were still many friends who called to ask me to tell you to exercise, take care of your health, be strong, and hold on, that they’re sure that you will be free soon. We’re all waiting for you!”
Haitao became quiet for quite a while, hands folded in front of him. “Please thank everyone for me. I won’t get discouraged. Please tell everyone not to worry!”
Haitao told me that he will continue to appeal his case.
“I brought our son’s photos, but wasn’t allowed to bring them in. Our son is very naughty, he can’t stop kissing your picture. He also knows how to make calls and he ‘calls’ you. Next time I come I’ll bring him with me.” “Can he talk a lot? Are you all spoiling him too much, and that’s why he’s acting so naughty? Don’t pamper him too much. Can he stand such a long trip? If not, wait until he’s older,” he said, seeming calm. But I saw his eyes getting moist.
I asked Haitao if the prison allowed writing letters to family members. He said he’d mailed two letters. One of them was inspected and rejected by the prison authorities, but the other had been mailed. “You didn’t receive it?” He said he would send me letters every month.
“How are your parents? If you need anything ask my sisters, and tell them I said to do it.” “Okay,” I nodded emphatically.
Presently I heard an urgent voice from behind telling me that I had five minutes left. “Haitao, you must take care of your health. You owe me and our son a lot. When you get out you have to doubly repay us!” I said in a hastened and stern tone of voice.
Thinking that I would part with him soon, I couldn’t help letting my tears flow. A prison guard handed me tissues.
“Wife, I had a dream. It’s so clear I feel it’s real. You’re sitting at the small table where the phone is at home, and you can’t stop calling me. But all you hear is the message that no one is available at the number you’ve dialed. You keep calling, and the phone keeps saying the same thing.”
At this point Haitao was pulled up by two prison guards.
“You’ve gone overtime by almost five minutes!” the prison guard behind me said.
I stood up, putting my hands on the window. Haitao also stretched his hands out and put them against mine on the other side of the glass partition. “Yes, this is true. When you were just arrested I did call you non-stop like this. Husband, you must take good care of your health. Our son and I will wait for you. We will all wait for you!” I choked up with sobs, my tears falling like pearls from a broken thread.
The waiting room door opened. Haitao turned his head toward me, his hands shaking in prayer. Sunlight flooded in, making the whole room very bright, leaving only the corner dark.
I saw Haitao’s smiling face full of brightness and hope, and he was determined and calm. This greatly comforted me.
On my return journey, I thought of the poplar trees that can live for a thousand years. I believe that before long I will be walking freely hand in hand with Haitao.
I can’t help thinking of the suffering Mr. Gao Zhisheng experienced in this prison. It was the unremitting effort and resistance of him and others after him that improved the conditions Zhang Haitao is in now.
This was a long trip. Words can’t express how hard and mentally exhausting it was. A visit like this is also very expensive, something a family like mine can’t afford. I thank all my friends out there for the helping hands you extended to us. It’s your attention, love, and support that give me the strength to go forward. Without you it’s hard to carry on. I would also like to thank Huang Xiaomin for her company and support on this trip, and those who made contacts, arranged drivers and vehicles. Attorney Ran Tong also traveled with us the whole way and gave us free legal assistance. I, on behalf of my husband Zhang Haitao, thank all of you!
Next month I will take my son Little Mandela to Shaya Prison to visit his father whom he has never met. I respectfully invite my friends and people from all walks of life to continue to pay attention. My next visit will be May 25-26. However, the prison told us that we must contact them in advance.
Again, my deepest gratitude to everyone!**
April 25, 2017
*The Autumn Rain Church (秋雨之福) is a large house church in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.
**A note from our translator: “At first it seemed a bit stilted but it grew on me and I found it affecting.”
U. S. Government Must Intervene in Zhang Haitao’s Case, November 21, 2016.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Li Aijie, April 23, 2017
Born in 1971, the Urumqi-based Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was arrested on June 26, 2015 for his online speech: to be precise, 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets of others’ tweets. On January 15, 2016, Zhang was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years in prison for “providing intelligence to overseas [entities].” He was given a 19-year sentence. On November 28, 2016, the Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the lower court’s ruling. On December 2, 2016, Zhang Haitao was sent to Shaya Prison in southwestern Xinjiang to serve his jail term, which ends on June 25, 2034, when he will be 63 years old. He hasn’t met his son, “Little Mandela,” born after his incarceration. On April 19, 2017, his wife Li Aijie (李爱杰) embarked on a journey over 2,000 miles that began from their hometown in central China to visit him. — The Editors
April 19, 2017
Zhang Haitao is a native of Henan Province. He’s a prisoner of conscience in Xinjiang for the crime of inciting subversion of state power. He received a severe sentence of 19 years for his “thought crimes.” His second trial was held on November 28, 2016. The Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the original judgement and sentence. On December 2, 2016 he was sent to Shaya Prison in the desert of southwestern Xinjiang. On April 13, 2017, after four months waiting, Haitao’s second eldest sister finally received a telephone call from Shaya Prison approving a family visit.
I feel like a knight-errant. I packed my luggage and set out on the journey. But I don’t have the chivalrous calm and natural gracefulness of a knight-errant, nor his speed and sharpness.
This trip I didn’t bring Little Mandela to see his father, and felt very guilty! Even though I knew Haitao eagerly awaited seeing his son, and Little Mandela missed his father terribly, the journey is long and I didn’t know if his young body could bear it. I have to go first on my own, experience, feel, and learn from it, in order to know just how arduous the journey is.
First stop: Zhenping county — Nanyang city — Zhengzhou city (Henan Province). On the road it was hard to calm my thoughts. My heart and mind was agitated and sad, to such an extent that just starting the trip made me cry. On November 30, 2016, after almost five months of agony, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region detention center Haitao and I met for a brief 20 minutes. It felt like it had been ages since we last saw each other. It was such a difficult meeting, under what circumstances will we meet again? What condition will you be in?
Setting out, I pretend to be strong and chivalrous, but I know I’m just a weak little bird that can’t stand up to any wind. It’s all you friends that give our whole family selfless love and support that gives me the strength to spread my wings and move forward. Following in the footsteps of Mr. Gao Zhisheng*, I cherish the companionship, concern, and support of all you friends on this long journey to Shaya to see my husband! My deep and profound thanks!
April 21, 2017
Dear friends, yesterday I arrived safely at our home in Urumqi. As the plane was delayed, after arriving I had to do some errands and couldn’t respond to friends’ messages in a timely manner. My apologies.
After arriving back at the home I’d left almost five months ago, everything was the same, except it’s all covered by a layer of dust. Opening the bedroom door, my eyes were met by the sight of Haitao’s clothes I’d brought back from the detention center on November 30, 2016, folded neatly on the bed. I was overwhelmed by sadness. Things remain but people are no more. Haitao’s familiar silhouette appears before my eyes, and past events flash back scene by scene…
Although our home is small, only one bedroom and one living room, it’s suffused with love. After eating dinner you always carried me from room to room, never tiring of it, and calling it: “Losing-weight exercise.”
Returning from our walk after dinner, I’d petulantly say I couldn’t walk anymore because when I had just arrived in Xinjiang I thought living on the sixth floor was too high and there was no elevator. You pledged to me: “Don’t worry, I’ll carry you on my back!” You carried me up from the first floor, huffing and puffing, and I teased you: “Piggy carrying his bride!” Your Chinese zodiac animal is the pig, but you don’t want to live like a pig!
Often when we got to the third floor I would try to get off your back. You wanted to keep carrying me, but I didn’t want to tire you, my sweetheart. I remember our happy laughter and cheerful voices as if it was yesterday.
How I want to lean on your sturdy back, and let you carry me one more time! Until we’re so old we can’t go anywhere…
And the chubby child’s poster on the wall. I remember that day you entered the house in low spirits, I took your hand and pushed open the bedroom door. This cute chubby child’s poster appeared before our eyes and you immediately broke into laughter: We are ready to have a child of our own.
But you were not in a hurry: “The doctor said after taking medicine you should wait at least half a year before getting pregnant!” Yes, I was taking medicine to cure six uterine fibroids, and had only stopped for three months. And a month ago I was still taking anti-inflammatory medication (the doctor also said I should stop taking that medicine four months before pregnancy). And you said that we hadn’t shared enough of our two-person paradise yet. I disagreed: “We’re both getting old, we can’t just have a child whenever you want.”
Having so many uterine fibroids, I worried whether I could conceive. Not long before that you also received calls from your family, they wanted us to return home and adopt a child. Your elder sisters didn’t believe I could have a child of my own.
Whenever I think of our son Little Mandela, I am moved to tears! God had mercy on us and granted us this son. When I had been pregnant for a little more than three months, we were immersed in happiness, and then disaster struck. You were taken from our home. Since then, I’ve searched for you so many times in my dreams and couldn’t find you. Our family of three should be enjoying happiness, but now we’re separated by such a great distance.
Opening up the friend group [on WeChat], messages poured in from so many friends. Their love, support, and encouragement overflowed in their words. Their love moved me to tears. I invite all of my friends to continue this journey to Shaya with me!
Editor’s note: On 21st, Li Aijie told RFA that she was leaving Urumqi on the 22nd, she would arrive in Aksu on the 23rd, and Shaya on the 24th. There has been no updates from Li Aijie since the 22nd.
*Lawyer Gao Zhisheng was imprisoned in Shaya Prison from December, 2011 to August, 2014.