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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.
By Yaxue Cao, published: February 21, 2016
Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 19 years in prison for 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets. The judgement named Voice of America and Radio Free Asia “foreign hostile websites,” an absurdity that affronts the very idea of law. — The Editors
Appeal proceedings began on February 18 for the sentence of rights defender Zhang Haitao (张海涛) to 19 years imprisonment in Xinjiang, on charges of “inciting subversion of state power,” according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an authoritative source for news on rights activists in China. The report cited the efforts of Guangdong lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), who, accompanied by Zhang’s relatives, met with a Judge Wang who agreed to submit the dossier to the higher court and facilitate the review of files by lawyers.
Zhang Haitao was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 15 this year for the first charge — “inciting subversion” — and then another 5 years for “providing intelligence to foreign organizations.” He received a combined sentence of 19 years, and was also fined 120,000 yuan (about $18,000). When the judgement was announced there was widespread outrage.
The second instance trial of Zhang will involve a group of lawyers, trying to gain a fairer judicial process for him.
On June 26 last year, Zhang was arrested and had his house raided by Urumqi police on charges of “inciting ethnic hatred,” and was then formally arrested on charges of “provoking troubles.” After he had been locked up for five months, the charges were switched from “provoking troubles” to “inciting subversion of state power.”
The evidence used to convict Zhang of this crime, and put him in jail for 15 years, consists of 69 posts made to WeChat, and 205 posts made to Twitter using the account @xjvisa (including posts he retweeted). Twitter user Chen Chuangchuang, a researcher of Mao’s political campaigns and activist in New York, noted that if Zhang Haitao wasn’t the first to be declared a political criminal inciting subversion by means of speech on Twitter, his punishment was certainly the most severe.
On January 27, Zhang’s wife, Li Aijie (李爱杰), accompanied Beijing lawyer Li Dunyong (李敦勇), to meet with Zhang for about an hour in the Urumqi Detention Center. Zhang was looking gaunt, Li said, and had entrusted him to deliver an eight-page appeal letter to the authorities.
Perjured evidence, illegally-obtained evidence, and nonsensical evidence should all be excluded from the judgement in the case. For instance, he said that the testimony of Yu Xinyong was perjured—either by the procuratorate or a false confession by Yu himself. His own confession, obtained by torture, is an illegal form of evidence; and the one-sided citation of testimony from netizens whom Zhang Haitao barely knows is an unreasonable form of evidence.
He pointed out numerous logical fallacies, or absurdities, in the judgement: for instance, the equation of the Communist Party to China; the equation of opposition to subversion; the equation of having different opinions to spreading rumours and slander; and the equation of peaceful expression to serious social harm, and so on.
Zhang said that calling the act of citizens posting to the Internet information found online “illegal spying,” or “providing intelligence,” is an incorrect application of the law, and moreover is simply unreasonable and preposterous.
In black and white, the judgement named Voice of America and Radio Free Asia “foreign hostile websites,” along with Boxun, Sound of Hope Radio, and Chinese Epoch Times, and this was also used as evidence of Zhang’s crimes (see No. 18).
Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are both news outlets founded and funded by the U.S. government. VOA has since the 1980s to today had journalists stationed in Beijing, and is an established part of the two countries dispatching journalists to the others’ shores. The U.S. government has a responsibility to protest and object to the judgement on this basis, and to protest and object the judgement against Zhang Haitao.
The primary evidence convicting Zhang of providing intelligence consisted of three items: two were essays he submitted to Boxun, and the third was, “providing content to RFA through an interview on July 6, 2014.” Given RFA’s relationship with the U.S. government, Congress and the administration should pay attention to Zhang’s case in the same manner they did with the RFA journalist Shohret Hoshur, whose brothers in Xinjiang were targeted by security forces in order to intimidate him. Congress and the Obama administration should closely follow and make representations to China over the Zhang Haitao case.
Other media outlets noted in judgement are Chinese-language media companies established and operating in the United States. As a normal member of the international community, China must offer legal basis for its declaration that these media entities—private companies operating legally and exercising freedom of speech in the United States—are “hostile forces.” They cannot just arbitrarily declare them “hostile” and then use this as a means of severely punishing a citizen in China.
Zhang Haitao also asked in his appeal: “The websites and media companies I shared my views with, which the procuratorate calls foreign organizations, or foreign websites—which one of them has been determined by law to be ‘reactionary,’ ‘hostile,’ or prohibited for citizens to speak to?”
The judgement identifies Zhang as a journalist for Boxun, to which Zhang in his appeal retorts: “When I first encountered the Boxun website in 2010, I looked up its navigation menu and found a place to register an account. A few minutes after I registered I received an email saying ‘Congratulations on becoming a Boxun correspondent.’ There was no job contract, I didn’t get a cent, no one from the website contacted me, the website gave me no assignments to complete, and I received orders from no one. How is this any different from establishing an account on any other website?”
His appeal also notes: “Xinjiang is a violent place. I hope that the procuratorate will not employ this extremist logic into its implementation of the law, which is supposed to protect the rights of the citizenry. Public opinion will inevitably take into consideration the relationship between your behavior and the violent trends in Xinjiang.”
“You’re the disgrace of the nation, going the opposite way of where our time is heading to,” Zhang wrote, addressing the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court. “This is heading down the road of North Korea, and our silence facilitates it. I used my keyboard and computer mouse to express myself—I’m content in my innocence.”
Zhang Haitao is from Nanyang, Henan Province. After being laid off from state employment in the 1990s, he moved to Xinjiang and began trading in electronics. Since 2009 he’s been an active participant in rights defense activities, exercising his right as a citizen to express his views. For this, he has been regularly harassed and threatened by police.
Zhang has yet to see his infant son, born just a couple of months ago; his wife, Li Aijie said that Zhang is deeply worried about her and the boy. Zhang hopes that international human rights organizations as well as people from all walks of life, will help to keep an eye on his wife and son now that he has lost his freedom.*
The Chinese government’s “strike hard” campaigns in Xinjiang deal shockingly harsh and gratuitous punishment to Uighurs and to dissidents, both Han Chinese and Uighurs. In September 2014 the Central Minzu University economics professor Ilham Tohti was, on groundless charges of “splitting the country,” sentenced to life imprisonment. Last year the Xinjiang-based activist Zhao Haitong (赵海通) was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for attending rights defending activities in Guangzhou and Hefei with other activists.
*Those who wish to make donations for the welfare of Zhang Haitao’s wife and child can send a check, or make a PayPal donation, to the Bay Area-based NGO Humanitarian China, specifying “For Zhang Haitao’s wife and son.” Humanitarian China was founded by the June 4th movement student leader Zhou Fengsuo and friends. Since 2007 it has been providing financial relief and aid to Chinese prisoners of conscience and their family members. The administration of Humanitarian China is performed entirely by volunteers.
Disclaimer: Yaxue Cao, editor of China Change, is a board member of Humanitarian China.
Activist in Xinjiang Sentenced to 19 Years for Online Writings and Rights Activities, by Yaqiu Wang, January 21, 2016.
Update 1: Cheng Wanyun’s legal name (name on ID) is Cheng Aihua (程爱华).
Update 2: Telephone numbers: PSB State Security Office of Nanchong Municipality (南充市公安局国保办公电话): 0817-2803084. PSB of Xichong County (西充县公安局值班电话): 0817-4200085. State security chief of Xichong PSB Zhao Yanlin (西充县公安局国内安全保卫大队负责人：赵晏林主任): 0817-4202969.
Update 3: Cheng Aihua’s father is willing to speak to the media and the public about his daughter’s case. His home number is 0817-4224168.
Update 4: This is believed to be the post that got her in jail: “This is gonna be fun to watch. All manners of ugly bootlicking to please the emperor. We on the other hand would work harder to seek justice for all who have died in earthquakes, school-bus accidents, floods and brutal abortions.”
Update 5: On Chinese New Year’s Eve, AP managed to write a story that everyone is talking about but no one appears to believe: the mysterious “Study Xi Fan Group” account that has garnered nearly 800,000 fans in less than three months and posted real-time, close-up pictures of XJP is owned by a migrant worker who decorates walls in the city of Wuxi (无锡).
Update 6: Cheng Aihua is freed around noon on Monday, Beijing Time, subversion charge against her being revised to “administrative detention.”
Updates 7: The exact words that landed her in jail: “Where is the sniper? Get him for me!” (“狙击手在哪儿？给老子干掉他！”) Mimicking what XJP might say to his security details, she was poking fun at the mysterious fan who seemed to follow XJP closely wherever Xi goes. The case illustrates how ubiquitous, and efficient, internet surveillance is in China.
According to news found on Tencent Weibo and brought to Twitter, on February 6, activist Cheng Wanyun (程婉芸) in Nanchong, Sichuan (四川南充), was detained shortly after she made a comment under a post by Xi Jinping fan club (http://t.qq.com/txuexifensituan/). Well-known activist Liu Shasha (刘沙沙), who spoke to Cheng shortly after the latter arrived at the police station that evening, confirmed the cause of Cheng’s detention. It’s unclear what exactly her comment is, but she apparently didn’t think it was a big deal at all at the time.
Cheng Wanyun posted the following message in her Tencent account “ensslin之梦” before she went to the police station: “My sister-in-law just called, saying the police came all of a sudden taking away my younger brother and the computer in the store. Because it’s the same computer we use both in the store and at home, I don’t know whether it was because something I had said online. My brother didn’t have his cellphone with him, so I am going to the police station right now to find out. My cellphone number: 13488860702.”
That number has since become unreachable.
Cheng’s father told an “information collector” working for Weiquanwang (维权网) that the family received Notice for Criminal Detention (刑事拘留通知书) on the 7th, and the stated allegation is “inciting to subvert state power.” She is currently detained in Xichang Detention Center (西充看守所) in Nanchong, Sichuan.
The family visited Cheng yesterday, and Cheng merely asked her parents to send a few books to her.
Cheng Wanyun’s mother, a Christian, said she didn’t want to trouble her daughter’s friends; instead, she would wait for God to rescue her.
Veteran activist Hu Jia pointed out on Twitter that, in China, public security on district/ municipality level is not authorized to initiate subversion charges, so charge against Cheng Wanyun had to be recommended by Sichuan provincial Committee of Politics and Law (政法委) and Public Security Department (公安厅), and approved by the Party secretary of Sichuan province (四川省委书记) and State Security Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security (公安部国保局).
There have been no words about legal representation yet. But it is expected to be arranged soon. Meanwhile, the phone number of Xichong Detention Center (四川西充看守所) is: 0817 4229837
Cheng Wanyun is a Christian too, an accountant divorced with a college-going daughter. In 2011, she was detained for months, along with hundreds of others across China during the brutal, wide-spread crackdown on activists whom the government suspected of organizing Jasmine gatherings. She has been very active online, and for a period was a volunteer with the equal education rights campaign in Beijing. Her probation was lifted only a few months ago.
Fellow dissident and activist Hua Ze (华泽) tweeted that “On August 17 and 23, 2012, I interviewed Wanyun for total 4 hours. She recounted what happened to her during the Jasmine crackdown and her participation in defending rights. She’s been in jail twice in less than two years. I’m saddened.”
Over the last few days, Xi Jinping has been inviting “sharp criticism” of the Party and urging the Party to be tolerant. He shouldn’t be surprised that his calls are met with ridicules.
(The XJP fans club link is incorrected; I have corrected it in my post. –Yaxue)
First published by Human Rights in China in New York as a part of its press release, which also includes a translation of Chen Pingfu’s Indictment.
On Tuesday, September 4, a 55-year-old man was on trial for “inciting subversion of state power” in Lanzhou, the capital city of northwestern province of Gansu, China, and the evidence cited in the indictment (see below for translation) consists of a long list of blog posts and nothing else. So it is a case of the crime of self-expression. The sentence hasn’t been announced, and at the end of the trial, the court announced that he would continue to be “residing under surveillance” (监视居住) until the sentence comes.
His name is Chen Pingfu (陈平福). He was 20 years old when China, under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, reinstituted national college examination. He excelled in the exams, and entered Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou majoring in mathematics. Upon graduating he was assigned a teaching job at the vocational school of Victory Machinery Factory of Capital Steel (首钢胜利机械厂) in Gaolan (皋兰) on outskirts of Lanzhou. There he taught math for more than two decades.
In May 2005, he suffered a heart attack and was sent to a hospital. His employer, a Mao-era state-owned enterprise on the brink of bankruptcy, was unable to help him with funds needed for surgery, nor could he afford it himself. He had to leave the hospital. His father gathered his younger siblings, pleading help from them for their older brother. They pulled together more than 50,000 yuan [about $6,000 at the time] and Chen Pingfu underwent a successful heart bypass surgery.
He was anxious to pay the debt, losing sleep sometimes, not because his siblings were pressuring him, but because none of them were well-off. One of his younger sisters, a cleaning woman in a small town making 150 a month yuan [about $20], gave him what was likely her life’s savings: 10,000 yuan [about $1,212].
With few means to make money, Chen Pingfu decided to play violin on the street. On Saturdays and Sundays he traveled 30 miles from Gaolan to downtown Lanzhou to do that. It wasn’t easy for an educated Chinese man with a keen sense of “face.” On his first trip, he chose a site but paced for an hour before taking out his violin and spreading a sheet on the floor that read: “Employee of Victory Machinery Factory, deeply in debt due to heart surgery, have to perform on street for alms.”
He played the famous Butterfly Lovers’ Violin Concerto (the musical retelling of the Chinese classical tale of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the so-called Chinese Romeo and Juliet) and Robert Shumann’s “Träumerei,” among other pieces. To those who thought he was a fraud, he gave his employer’s phone number for verification. But mostly he met with compassion, encouragement, and generosity. Once, a five-year-old girl pulled her mother to a stop, listened, and handed him a 1 yuan [about $0.15] bill with both hands. Another time, a man stopped and listened, then disappeared into a hotel but sent a porter with 50 yuan [about $6]. Other musicians gave him tips on how to play better. Along the way, he improved his playing.
It went well, so well that Sohu.com, a major Internet service provider in China, interviewed him about his “success” and the positive social aspects of his story. It is from this interview, now available on Youtube, and the articles listed in his indictment that I learned his story.
In 2009, as his factory prepared for bankruptcy and he had no job to go to, he played violin on street in the afternoons. For one reason or the other, he didn’t talk about the dark side of his street experience in the interview. On the street he was scolded and threatened by liuguan (流管, migrant population administration) and jiuzhu zhan (救助站, relief station) workers who came not to lend him a hand but to get rid of him. They told him, “The government forbids performing on street for money!” They pressed him onto the ground to subdue him. An officer from the relief station shouted at him, “I’ll send you to your death if you dare be a nuisance! Who do you think you are? Making you die is nothing for us! Go with us if you dare, and see how we will tidy you up!” (Quoted from his blog post “Fight against Brutality and Pursue Civilization.”)
One time, a group of men from the Relief Station seized him and threw him into a truck with metal bars. In the heat of the summer, after struggling with the thugs, his heart beat faster and his chest tightened. He begged his captors to let him out, but they laughed at him, and one of them told him he was out of his mind.
On the street, he also witnessed other cruelties. A woman’s basket of peaches was snatched away from her by a chengguan (城管, urban management) officer; a middle-aged shoeshine man was chased away.
As he played violin on street, he also set up several blogs, pouring out his anger, his frustration, and his thoughts on the ills in Chinese society. Not surprisingly, he was summoned and warned by the authorities.
As 2011 began, Chen Pingfu found a teaching job in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Still in Chinese New Year holiday season, he took a flight, for the first time in his life, to Yunnan, some 1,500 miles away. He had had enough trouble playing violin on the street and writing blogs. His plan was to give up both and to teach children math and science and music. After all, he said, he needed to live first. Three days after he arrived in Yunnan, his former employer called, asking where he was. Soon after, the school’s principal, an old friend of his, received a call from police department in Gansu Province. The local police summoned the principal and interrogated him about Chen’s activities and their relationship. The principal pressed Chen about what he had done, and he didn’t want to be ruined for “hiding away a criminal.” Chen said again and again that he was not a criminal. The Yunnan police asked the principal to fire Chen and send him away within 24 hours.
He was back in Gansu Province in less than a week at his new job. This, despite repeated promises he had made to “relevant organ” that he would not write any more blog posts once he started working. Back in Lanzhou, he called the “relevant organ” to protest, and the person on the other end of the line burst out laughing.
In his blog posts, he told his stories, the humiliation and brutalities he had been subjected to. He reflected on the fundamental ills of the system, the lack of rule of law, and the abuses of power around him. He cheered the democratic revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. He expressed deep gratitude toward the ordinary Chinese who had helped him in one way or the other. He voiced his intense disgust for an education centered on tooling children according to the Party’s design. He hoped China would transition peacefully into a democratic country where traditional Chinese culture can be restored and a constitutional political system established, and where he can make a living and play violin freely without being persecuted by the authorities. Chen was determined to continue to speak out. He said in one of his blog posts: “As long as they don’t have an explanation or justification for me, I will continue to tell my story, expose the inhuman crimes perpetrated by the so-called people’s servants, and condemn this lying system.” (Quote from “I May Be Beaten to Death by Thugs, but I Will Not Be Cowed to Death.”)
On June 27, 2012, he was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for his blog posts and subjected to residential surveillance. He would have been jailed if not for his coronary heart disease.
“At the hardest time of my life when I had to give up treatment and go home to wait for my death…when I needed relief the most, there was no government to be seen. But when I was deeply in debt, and jobless, and had no choice but to play violin on the street to help myself, the Relief Station of Lanzhou’s municipal government came with a barred jail truck,” Chen Pingfu wrote in one post. (Quoted from “Weasels Serve Chickens.”)
In another, he wrote, “Looking back at my life thus far, I found that I had lived meaninglessly for all these years without doing one worthwhile and meaningful thing. I cannot swallow the humiliation in silence; I have kept thinking and reading to break the cultural dictatorship so that my mind can go to a farther and wider world.” (Quoted from “I Cannot Bear the Humiliation in Silence.”)
But instead of a farther and wider world, he has found himself in jail—in China.