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War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice
China Change, May 14, 2018
Following the ‘709 crackdown’ — a large-scale attack against human rights lawyers that began on July 9, 2015 — China has continued to target this small group (about 0.1% of China’s 300,000 lawyers) who have taken on cases to defend basic human rights and other forms of social injustice. While torture and imprisonment have failed to cowe them, the government is now resorting to simple disbarment, or more subtle techniques, like preventing them from getting work so as to force their licenses to lapse, in order to take human rights lawyers off the field. The government regards this group of lawyers and those they defend a threat to communist rule; their determination to eliminate them is meeting with success, and the onslaught appears likely to continue and deepen.
China Change has reported several recent cases of disbarment, such as that of Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Yu Wensheng (余文生) and Zhu Shengwu (祝圣武). The following is an overview of 16 more cases of lawyers who are facing imminent disbarment or forms of harassment that prevent them from practicing law.
This campaign to remove lawyers who defend human rights, or any lawyer who is outspoken or rejects governmental control through the Lawyers’ Associations, appears to be deliberate, coordinated and sweeping. As we prepare the following list, more cases of threatened disbarment have continued to emerge; we will keep our readers updated.
Meanwhile, we are reminded by lawyers we correspond with that many human rights lawyers who face neither disbarment nor inability to practice also face increasing obstacles to doing their jobs: the justice bureaus have demanded that lawyers must report to the bureaus the cases they take on; recent news says that judicial bureaus want to implement a ‘grid-style’ control system over lawyers; Party cells are being set up in law firms; and lawyers are required to disclose to the judicial bureaus their religious beliefs, social media accounts, and other personal information.
As the authorities set about their rectification campaign against rights lawyers and strip them of their right to practice law, plaintiffs in human rights-related cases are having a difficult time finding defense attorneys, a circumstance that is likely to get worse as time goes on.
Lawyers Who Have Been Arrested During the 709 Crackdown
Xie Yanyi (谢燕益)
In April 2018, lawyer Xie Yanyi found that his license to practice law had been marked ‘void’ on the website of the Beijing Bureau of Justice — though he had personally received no such notice. On May 4, the Beijing Lawyers’ Association informed him that a hearing would be held on May 16 regarding his alleged violation of regulations. The notice said that Xie was being investigated for suspicion of violating regulations during his representation of a client in Yinchuan, Ningxia, who was being charged with ‘using an evil religious organization to undermine the rule of law’ (the legal terminology used by the courts in Falun Gong cases).
The authorities have been using the excuse of ‘conducting an investigation into violating regulations’ on a past case simply to provide some pretext for cancelling a lawyer’s license to practice. Xie is the latest victim of this method.
In January 2017, not long after Xie was released on bail, he continued taking on cases at his original law firm, including the well-known case of the Canadian citizen of Chinese heritage and Falun Gong practitioner Sun Qian (孙茜).
On Sunday, Xie Yanyi requested postponement of the hearing, stating that his oral and written requests for copying materials that support the so-called ‘violations’ have gone unanswered, and that he is thus unable to defend himself during the hearing.
After being released from prison, Xie penned a “Record of 709” in which he described being tortured while in custody, as well as the authorities’ threats against his wife as a form of psychological torture.
Li Heping (李和平)
During a detention of nearly two years, Li Heping was subjected to an inconceivable degree of torture, including hands and ankles being chained together for over a month. He got through by silently reciting passages from the Bible and thinking how much his six-year-old daughter needed a father. On April 25, 2017, the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court held a secret trial on Li Heping’s alleged subversion of state power. Three days later he received the sentence to three years imprisonment, suspended for four years, as well as the deprivation of political rights for four years. Li declined to appeal. On May 9 the same year, after the appeal period had expired, Li was released and allowed to return to his family.
Li Heping is one of China’s earliest human rights lawyers, having been harassed and beaten by police for his work since 2007. Before the 709 crackdown he worked with a foreign NGO documenting cases of torture in custody and conducting anti-torture training classes.
On April 25, 2018, Li received notice from the Beijing Bureau of Justice that his law license was to be revoked — they said that according to Chinese law and regulations, lawyers who have deliberately committed crimes and been sentenced must have their professional licenses cancelled. Li rejected this explanation and demanded that a hearing be held about his case. On May 7, a man came to Li’s house to sever the notice, and Li scrawled the following on the receipt: “This is a great injustice. This is a false case, a case of political persecution. The truth will ultimately see its day!”
The hearing about Li’s law license will be held at 3:00 p.m. on May 17 at the Sunshine Halfway House (阳光中途之家), a community corrections center in Chaoyang District, Beijing.
Claiming that the case of Li Heping involves state secrets, the authorities announced that the hearing will be held behind closed doors. Nevertheless, we encourage the public, including foreign journalists and diplomats, to attend and observe in solidarity.
Li Chunfu (李春富)
In April 2018, Li Chunfu’s law license, like Xie Yanyi’s, was marked as ‘void’ on the website of the Beijing Bureau of Justice. However, Li has revealed that his law firm is currently handling his social security and medical insurance paperwork. This means he remains an employee of the firm, and the government has no reason to annul his law license.
On August 1, 2015, Li Chunfu was arrested after speaking out on behalf of his brother, Li Heping, who had also been detained during the 709 crackdown. In January 2017 after Li Chunfu was released on bail, it quickly became clear that he had been terribly abused in custody and was suffering a mental breakdown.
Wang Yu (王宇)
In April 2018, Wang Yu found in a search of the records held by the Beijing Bureau of Justice that her professional status was marked as ‘unregistered.’ Her previous employer, the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), had been disbanded as a result of the 709 crackdown, and Wang Yu had been unable to find a subsequent law office with which to associate herself.
Wang Yu has had difficulties finding a firm to accept her — some law firms have received warnings not to employ her, while others tactfully decline to employ her. In China, a lawyer without a firm is unable to practice; and if they have not found a firm within six months, their license is automatically annulled.
In Wang Yu’s case, as in that of several others, this is a method to disbar a human rights lawyer.
Zhang Kai (张凯)
On March 27, 2018, Zhang Kai of the Beijing Xinqiao Law Firm published the news that his firm had been forced by the authorities to fire him. “If nothing unexpected happens, once I’m laid off there will be no other law firm who accepts me, and in a matter of a few months my law license will be annulled.”
He added: “I will continue to proactively communicate with my peers and the judicial bureaus and do my best not to make trouble for anyone, but if communication truly breaks down, I will be left with no choice but defend my own rights.”
Zhang Kai represented a number of churches in the Wenzhou area during the campaign to tear down crosses from 2014 to 2015. On August 25, 2015, Zhang and two assistants were taken away by police while at the Xialing Church (下岭教堂) in Wenzhou, and two days later placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated place’ (指定居所监视居住) on suspicion of ‘organizing a crowd to disturb public order,’ and ‘stealing, spying, buying, and illegally providing state secrets and intelligence to foreigners.’ Zhang was released on probationary bail in March 2016, upon which he was forcibly taken back to his hometown in Inner Mongolia. In March 2017 his probationary bail was extended another year.
Huang Liqun (黄力群)
Huang Liqun, a lawyer with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, was arrested during the 709 crackdown and released in early 2016. In May 2018 on the website of the Beijing Bureau of Justice, his professional status was shown as ‘practicing,’ while his employer remained the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm which had already been shut down by the authorities.
In March 2017, the lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said that after Huang Liqun’s probation was finished, he requested a transfer of employer but was rejected. The authorities said that he was a party to an ongoing case, and that only after the entire case was finished would his status be modified.
Bao Longjun (包龙军)
Bao Longjun is the husband of Wang Yu and only passed the bar exam and received his law license a few months prior to July 9, 2015, when he too was taken into custody on the same day as his wife. In August 2016, he and Wang Yu were released on probationary bail. He was still technically a legal intern at the time, and is currently unable to find a new law firm to employ him so that he can finish his internship and become a formally credentialled lawyer.
The Defense Lawyers of the 709 Detainees
Wen Donghai (文东海)
Wen Donghai, a lawyer from Changsha, Hunan, was the first lawyer to brave the atmosphere of terror after the 709 crackdown began and act as defense counsel for Wang Yu. He then began taking one sensitive case after another. On October 30, 2017, the Changsha Judicial Bureau dispatched a ‘Notification’ (《告知书》) to Wen, informing him that he had been investigated for “suspicion of disrupting court order and disrupting the normal operations of lawsuit activities,” found guilty, and would be subjected to administrative punishment.
On April 29, Wen made a freedom of information request to the Hunan Department of Justice, demanding that they disclose the work instructions received from Minister of Justice Fu Zhenghua related to the 709 crackdown, as well as information about the meetings held by Hunan judicial authorities about disciplining lawyers. The freedom of information request that Wen crafted included “the specific circumstances of meetings held by your department prior to the Chinese New Year that invited the participation and coordination of individuals in the Public Security Bureau, the Procuratorate, the courts, and the politico-legal commission, regarding the suppression of human rights lawyers.”
On May 10, Wen received notice that the Hunan Provincial Department of Justice was planning to annul his law license, and informing him that he had a right to request a hearing. However, hearings of this nature are merely a formality, have no substantive content, and are designed primarily to provide cover for what is in essence a political punishment.
Li Yuhan (李昱函)
Li Yuhan was arrested in October 2017 in Shenyang, Liaoning province. She was charged with provoking quarrels and stirring up trouble, and fraud. This April Li Yuhan was brought before the court and faces the prospect of a prison sentence and the loss of law license. Li Yuhan has represented Wang Yu during the 709 crackdown and secretly traveled to Inner Mongolia to visit the family with another of Wang Yu’s defense lawyers, Wen Donghai.
Liu Shuqing (刘书庆)
On January 4, 2016, Liu Shuqing, simultaneously a lawyer and a professor of chemistry at Qilu University of Technology (齐鲁工业大学) in Shandong, had his law license cancelled in the aftermath of the 709 arrests. Liu had been a lawyer for seven years, and had taken on cases the authorities consider sensitive, like that of Henan petitioner Gong Jianjun (巩建军) accused of killing a private security contractor; the case of Zhejiang dissident Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) accused of ‘subverting state power’; as well as Wang Yu and others. Liu believes that it’s his involvement in these cases that led to the annulment of his law license. In April 2018 the Qilu University of Technology announced that Liu had “repeatedly made inappropriate expressions,” and his teaching career of 16 years was put to an end.
Cheng Hai (程海)
Beijing-based Cheng Hai is the defense attorney for Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), another 709 lawyer who is still in detention. Cheng also took part, unsuccessfully, in the people’s deputy elections in Beijing in 2016 as an independent candidate. On February 5, 2018, the Beijing Bureau of Justice cancelled the license of Cheng Hai’s law firm, the Beijing Wutian Law Firm (北京悟天律师事务所), on the grounds that it had “refused to participate in the 2017 annual assessment.” Thus, if Cheng Hai does not find another law firm to employ him by August 5, his law license will be automatically annulled.
Huang Simin (黄思敏)
Huang Simin, a lawyer from Wuhan, Hubei, took on the case of Li Tingyu (李婷玉) among others; most recently the authorities have cancelled her license on the basis that she had failed to complete her transfer from one law firm to another. The truth is, Huang had been forced to leave her firm in Wuhan. Her plans to enter a firm in Guangdong didn’t materialize because orders were sent to firms not to accept her. She was then accepted by a firm in Changsha, Hunan. The local authorities there forced that firm to fire her. Currently Huang is currently seeking a solution to keep her license.
Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原)
Liu Xiaoyuan is a partner at the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm. Since the 709 crackdown in 2015, though the Beijing Bureau of Justice stated on its website that Liu was ‘practicing’ law, in fact he had been unable to do so for the last three years, and nor was he able to transfer his employment from Fengrui, because, as the authorities say, they’re still investigating Fengrui, and until their investigation is over, no one will be allowed to move onto another employer. This means that Fengrui’s lawyers who have not been otherwise detained during the 709 crackdown will need to wait at least until the case against Wang Quanzhang is finalized.
Wang Quanzhang has been in detention for over 1,000 days now. His wife in February 2017 was informed that he had been formally charged by the Tianjin Municipal Procuratorate with incitement to subvert state power, but his lawyers have not been allowed to see him, and no trial has been conducted. Sources say that Wang has been tortured so badly that he can’t be “shown,” and that this is the real reason the case has yet to be tried, judged, and that Wang is denied access to his lawyers.
Zhou Lixin (周立新)
Zhou Lixin is another partner with the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm. Since the 709 crackdown, he’s been listed by the Beijing Bureau of Justice as ‘practicing,’ but is in the same situation as Liu Xiaoyuan: unable to work for the last three years, and no indication of when this situation may change.
Peng Yonghe (彭永和)
Peng Yonghe is a Shanghai-based lawyer. On May 2, 2017, he publicly announced that he was quitting the officially-run Shanghai Lawyer’s Association. After that, he was forced to change law firms, but was prevented from getting new employment, and thus unable to work. The authorities told him on several occasions that as long as he took back his resignation from the Shanghai Lawyer’s Association, he’d be able to go back to practicing law.
In early May 2018, Peng announced that his wife applied for three jobs within the space of around a month, but that ‘relevant departments’ interfered and no one would hire her. Most recently, they’ve been unable to rent in Shanghai, also due to political interference.
Yu Pinjian (玉品健)
Yu Pinjian, based in Guangzhou, has a PhD in law. In September 2017 the authorities demanded that his law firm force him to find another employer. But, in a similar pattern to the other cases, once he left his first employer to transfer to another, the process was interfered with and he was unable to complete the procedures, and it now appears that his law license could be revoked as a result.
“I didn’t do anything,” Yu Pinjian has said on the record, “except for posting a few articles. I didn’t delete them as was told to, and the authorities then wanted to teach me a lesson.” (Yu Pinjian’s article on his public WeChat account, ‘Righteous Person of the Law’ [正义法律人] has already been deleted by censors anyway.)
Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱)
On May 14, the Changsha-based lawyer Yang Jinzhu received a four page Notification from the Hunan Provincial Justice Department of his planned disbarment for “alleged expressions that threaten the national security, using inappropriate methods to influence the handling of cases, disrupting court order, and using malicious language to defame others.”
The first accusation refers to Yang’s article posted in a WeChat group, titled “Lawyer Yang Jinzhu Angrily Fucks the 18 Generations of Ancestors of the Chinese Judicial System,” in which he vented his frustration. “This government ignores the law. The judiciary ignores the law. And when they see lawyers who defend personal rights, they put you in stocks, tie you up, fetter your hands and feet — this, right now, is China’s judicial system!”
A Record of 709， Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017.
The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017
‘My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer’, Li Heping, Ai Weiwei, August 21, 2016.
Cataloging the Torture of Lawyers in China, China Change, July 5, 2015.
The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, Matthew Robertson and Yaxue Cao, July 27, 2015.
January 25, 2017
Lawyer Li Heping (李和平) is one of China’s earliest human rights lawyers and no stranger to torture. In an interview with the artist Ai Weiwei in 2010, he recounted how he was abducted one day in 2007 by Chinese domestic security police, beaten savagely, and thrown onto a hill outside Beijing in the middle of the night. In recent years he ran an anti-torture education program in Beijing, which was likely the reason for his arrest, along with scores of other lawyers, in July 2015, in what is now known as the “709 Incident.” Last week, lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) published his interviews with lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) detailed horrific torture the latter was subjected to during a period of “residential surveillance at a designated place” and at the detention center, yesterday the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Concern Group said that it learned from sources that Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) were tortured by being shocked with electricity. Both have been in custody for over 500 days without access to family or their lawyers. We asked a colleague of lawyer Li Heping to tell us more about the anti-torture work Li engaged in, which has now likely brought torture upon Li himself. The author of the article wishes to remain anonymous. — The Editors
China, among all countries, has one of the longest histories of the use of torture. In contemporary China, torture is most often understood as merely a part of the interrogation process in criminal cases. This is directly related to the fact that the concept of “torture” as defined in the international criminal context has no clear domestic legal definition in China. In fact, the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which China ratified in 1986, defines torture broadly: it includes the application of physical or psychological torture by public officials for the purpose of gaining information or confessions, and it also includes torture for the purpose of threatening, menacing, or discriminating against victims. All these forms of torture can have severely negative impacts on the body and minds of victims. So in China, many people — including lawyers who are steeped in the law — have a limited understanding of torture.
In recent years it has become known to the public that torture has been employed in many criminal cases to procure confessions. Public reports of exonerations — including in the Hugjiltu case in Inner Mongolia, the Nie Shubin case in Hebei, the Yang Ming case in Guizhou — show that in every single case of this kind, torture was used. Clearly, the use of torture is one of the key reasons for these false convictions and grave injustices. If torture is reduced, then the number of unjust and false convictions is also likely to decrease commensurately.
As a way of helping more lawyers better understand torture and equip them with more information about torture, Li Heping and a number of criminal defense lawyers took a leading role in promoting the idea of “Prohibition of Torture” (禁止酷刑). From around 2009, Li and a few other Beijing-based lawyers, began to work with the UK-based NGO The Rights Practice, advocating and promoting inside China the idea of prohibiting torture. This work included organizing small-scale legal salons, large-scale law symposiums, drafting anti-torture handbooks, raising the profile of specific cases of torture, and more.
We began at a fundamental level, discussing the definition of torture in small group setting, then the key articles of The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We compared the clauses in the convention to China’s own laws, and in doing so, discovered the problems with Chinese law, and proposed means and strategies for dealing with them.
Through a few years of work, many lawyers who attended these discussions gained a much deeper understanding on the prohibition of torture. The lawyers were able to provide numerous ideas for judicial reforms that would prohibit torture, including changes to the detention center system, the right for lawyers to be present at interrogations of their client, exclusion of illegally-obtained evidence, audio-visual recording of suspect interrogations, and many other institutional safeguards and reforms. Some of these suggestions for reform have already been implemented, while others — like the right for lawyers to be present at interrogation, or the exclusion of illegally-obtained evidence — still require a lot of work at the procedural and practical levels.
Lawyers need to pay constant attention to these issues and continue to promote them. What is gratifying, however, is that many individual cases of convictions obtained via torture in custody ultimately resulted in a commutations or amended, non-guilty judgements, after lawyers began advocating around them.
Of course, the project has not been entirely smooth going. Li Heping and other main participants were subject to long-term pressure from the authorities, and the police regularly called them in for “drinking tea,” threatening and intimidating them. Sometimes the police would warn the lawyers off attending a particular event, or prohibit them from meeting a visiting foreign dignitary, among other demands.
In early 2011, a number of lawyers were among scores of activists who had been forcibly disappeared across the country, and when they were released a few months later, they exposed how they were tortured during their disappearance.
In July 2015, a nationwide campaign targeted human rights lawyers, and Li Heping was among those taken into custody. To this day he still has not been tried. According to publicly available information, a number of lawyers, after being arrested, were put under residential surveillance at a designated location (指定居所监视居住), during which time they were subjected to extremely severe torture. The Hunan lawyer Xie Yang, for instance, was beaten by police and put through exhausting interrogations and sleep deprivation. Li Heping’s younger brother, Li Chunfu (李春富), was detained for 530 days, during which time he suffered severe psychological damage. These cases make clear that torture remains an extremely serious problem. Everyone needs to pay attention to the issue, including, of course, the international community.“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We believe that while advocacy for the prohibition of torture will remain full of risks, more and more lawyers will stand up and say “no” to torture. Through the efforts of lawyers, torture in China will occur less and less, and those who have carried out the torture will receive the punishment they’re due.
Punches, Kicks and the ‘Dangling Chair’: Detainee Tells of Torture in China, New York Times, January 20, 2017.
Document of Torture: One Chinese Lawyer’s Story From Jail, WSJ China Real Time, January 20, 2017.
A broken lawyer and a hawkish judge cast deep pall over China’s legal system, Washington Post, January 21, 2017.
Beijing Breaks Lawyers, Wall Street Journal editorial, January 22, 2017.
‘Your only right is to obey’: lawyer describes torture in China’s secret jails, the Guardian, January 23, 2017.
In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post editorial, January 27, 2017.
Cataloging the Torture of Lawyers in China, China Change, July 5, 2015.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Wang Qiaoling, January 17, 2017
Since Li Chunfu was released from the custody of China’s security forces on January 12, his family has been providing updates on his condition to the outside world. Their notes make clear that Li was left a broken man, suffering both physically and mentally. China Change calls on the United Nations to investigate the treatment of Li Chunfu in custody, and we call for immediate access on the part of legal counsel to Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, as well as Jiang Tianyong who has been held in secret detention since November 21, 2016. The circumstances of all these individuals are now of grave concern given Li Chunfu’s condition. — The Editors
These last few days I’ve been staying at Chunfu’s (李春富) house, worried that he might have another episode and hurt his wife. Last night we followed the doctor’s orders and invited Chunfu to sit on the sofa with us to chat about his treatment. Chunfu had sustained serious damage to his neck vertebrae and spine in custody, and his neck is a bit twisted. If the doctor hadn’t pointed this out, we wouldn’t have realized.
As we sat on the sofa and finished talking over medical treatment, Chunfu suddenly screamed: “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me!” I was struck dumb. I could only look upon Chunfu’s face, twisted up with a sinister expression, and his eyes, full of ominous glint.
I finally understand what my sister-in-law was referring to about his outbursts. Anxious, I mimicked his cry: “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me!” The doctor suggested that family members may repeat what the patient says. I felt highly insecure, but kept my eyes fixed on him: “Tell me! What are you hiding from us!” The malice in Chunfu’s eyes began to slowly dissipate.
Chunfu’s wife Bi Liping (毕丽萍), sitting beside us, was crying. “Chunfu, when I saw you at the police station I suspected right away that you had physical problems. I could have turned and left and not brought you home. But I brought you back, and that proves that we don’t want to hurt you. Why don’t you ever trust us? Sister-in-law and Yang Bo (杨波, nephew of the Li brothers) put aside their own affairs to stay with us, just so they could help with your treatment. You have to believe us.” Chunfu got that vicious look in his eyes again and started staring at me. I felt so crushed. I roared out once more: “Tell me! What are you hiding from us!” The menace in Chunfu’s eyes again slowly disappeared.
We told him to go wash his face and brush his teeth so he could go to sleep, but he was absent and confused, and asked: “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” After he finished brushing, he again queried his wife: “Which one’s my toothbrush?”
Before nodding off he called Bi Liping into the room, twice, in order to ask: “Are you sure you’re not hiding anything from me?”
The whole night at Chunfu’s was spent in fitful sleep. I was thinking over: why haven’t Heping and Quanzhang been allowed access to a lawyer? Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wu Gan (吴淦) can see lawyers now. Is it because Heping and Quanzhang are now the same as Chunfu? I tossed and turned through the night, and only got a few winks of half-conscious sleep in the morning. When I again saw Chunfu looking at me, with that tortured, fierce expression fixed on his face, I finally understood what my sister-in-law meant about his episodes, and why she’s been unable to sleep and now constantly wakes in fright.
709 lawyer family members,
Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭, wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (李文足, wife of Wang Quanzhang)
Bi Liping (wife of Li Chunfu)
January 16, 2017
Addendum by lawyer Chen Jiangang: Li Chunfu is in a state of paranoia, dread, and alarm. He’s always fearful. Fearful of something going wrong, fearful of people coming to take him away. When he sees an old friend he’s a little better, but even when it’s a friend talking to him, he’s still full of suspicion, foreboding, and dread. For example, when we went to eat a meal together, someone asked him to order. He responded: “What’s that mean? Is something going to happen?” When asked whether he wants to eat dumplings or noodles, he responded by repeatedly asking what that question was supposed to mean, and “why are you making me choose?”
*Translator’s note: Several human rights lawyers and activists reported that “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me?!” is what interrogators frequently yell during interrogations.
An Update on Lawyer Li Chunfu’s Condition, January 14, 2017
A Third Update on Lawyer Li Chunfu: He Was Drugged in Custody, January 15, 2017
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Wang Qiaoling, January 15, 2017
Li Chunfu, a rights lawyer arrested during the 709 incident and the younger brother of lawyer Li Heping, was released “on bail” on January 12, mentally disturbed and physically frail. He has been diagnosed as having symptoms of schizophrenia and hospitalized. We learned from relatives that he was subjected to severe torture during his six months of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention, including being locked up in a bed-sized metal cage for several stretches of time. More details to come. Once again, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Jiang Tianyong, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. – The Editors
Yesterday on the fourth floor of the Huilongguan Hospital (回龙观医院) in Beijing, sitting outside the examination ward, Bi Liping (毕丽萍), the wife of rights lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富), received a phone call from Officer Yang of the Tongzhou District, Jiaowang Village police station.
My sister-in-law is always calm and soft-spoken — but this time she roared into the phone. “Officer Yang, I’ve been cooperating with you people for 18 months now. You told me not to speak out, not to work with my sister-in-law, and I’ve followed what you said. But now look what has happened to Chunfu! His mind is shattered! Just what did you people do to him?! What did you do?! We’re not through with this!”
Sitting outside the clinic, Chunfu’s eyes would fix on whoever he was looking at, and he had trouble communicating with people smoothly. At one point he blurted out to the lawyer friends with us: “By the first six months of residential surveillance I’d already gone mad. I was shouting and screaming.”
I felt a cold sweat when I heard those words come from Chunfu’s mouth all of a sudden. I didn’t question him further. I just fixed my gaze on him, not daring to think or speak. He continued: “On January 5 they took me out of the detention center. They didn’t go through any procedures. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs! They did everything to me. But I didn’t do anything illegal; all I did was, once, stand outside the public security bureau in the Northeast with a placard demanding my right to see my client. They wanted me to write a confession, but I wouldn’t do it no matter what. I knew that if I did it they would capture it on camera behind me, and my brother Li Heping and other lawyers would all be harmed!” He paused for a moment, then added: “Don’t tell anyone this. A lot of people will be hurt.” These are Chunfu’s exact words, and I’m not sure everyone understands what he means.
Later that evening, Liping saw that Chunfu’s nerves had calmed down a bit, and she took him by the hand and asked him gently: “Have you not had medicine for a few days?”
Chunfu hesitated for a moment, then responded: “They gave me medicine every day. I haven’t had any the last few days. It’s unbearable…”
Chunfu did not have high blood pressure, and yesterday at the hospital the doctors said that his blood pressure was normal. But in the detention center the doctor forced him to take medicine every day, saying it was for his high blood pressure. And the “hypertension” medication began the first day he was arrested.
Liping and I couldn’t hold back anymore — tears welled up.
This morning we took Chunfu out for a walk. He asked in fright: “Will the police take away our whole family?”
Family members of the 709 lawyers,
Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭, wife of Li Heping [李和平], brother to Li Chunfu)
Li Wenzu (李文足, wife of Wang Quanzhang [王全璋])
Bi Liping (wife of Li Chunfu)
January 15, 2017
Addendum: A letter of thanks from Bi Liping
I want to thank all our friends! I also want to tell all family members of the 709 rights defense lawyers: don’t be kind and silent like me, or you’ll end up in the same situation I’m in. Stand up, expose the crimes of the Tianjin police. Show them to the light of day! I thank everyone again for their care. Your concern and love has given us the energy to persevere through this.
Bi Liping, wife of 709 lawyer Li Chunfu
January 15, 2017
An Update on Lawyer Li Chunfu’s Condition, January 14, 2017
Wang Qiaoling, January 14, 2017
Latest on January 14: Li Chunfu has been diagnosed today as having symptoms of schizophrenia and hospitalized. We learned from relatives that he was subjected to severe torture during his six months of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention. More details to come. Once again, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Jiang Tianyong, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. – The Editors
Hours ago China Change posted Wang Qiaoling’s first report of her brother-in-law, lawyer Li Chunfu, who was released “on bail” after being detained incommunicado for 18 months as part of the sweeping “709 crackdown.” This is her update. – The Editors
Yesterday, January 13, at 2:00 p.m., Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Li Wenzu (李文足) — the wives of arrested lawyers Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) respectively — as well as a number of lawyer peers, rushed to the home of Li Chunfu (李春富) and his wife. Chunfu was able to recognize them, but couldn’t form coherent sentences.
Within an hour he had muttered to his wife over 20 times: “Bi Liping, don’t hide anything from me!”
He recognized that I was his sister-in-law and tried to talk to me, but he trailed off before finishing the first sentence, hanging his head low as though in pain. He kept saying that he had a pain in his heart. His wife told us: “Last night he was saying that he felt like insects were biting his body inside, that his heart had been eaten away by bugs bit by bit, and there wasn’t much of it left!” The sadness we felt as we heard this while gazing on his lifeless face is difficult to put into words.
Later on I asked Chunfu: “Have you called your mum and dad back home?” He turned to me blankly, and, after a long pause, muttered to himself: “How could I have forgotten that?”
A relative who took him on a small walk through the residential compound said: “Chunfu didn’t dare leave the apartment. I had to promise him repeatedly that I’d definitely accompany him back before he agreed.”
As they walked, Chunfu would dart his eyes in all directions as he spoke: “We have to make sure that we stay within the surveillance perimeter when we walk. We can’t go outside the area.”
This wasn’t the lawyer Li Chunfu of 18 months ago. That Li Chunfu dropped out of school at age 14, went south for work, got stabbed, slept in a cemetery, then managed to become a lawyer after six years of gruelling self-study. He had been taken into custody because of the human rights cases he had taken on — he had been locked in a steel cage, battered, and threatened, but that hadn’t changed him. I never imagined that 18 months of jail would torment him to the point of a mental breakdown, leaving him broken and paranoid.
Come evening when we were due to leave, he gripped his lawyer friend who came with us in a tight hug, saying: “Please, keep an eye on what they do to me!”
I thought that these were his true thoughts.
Shortly after we left, he discovered his wife’s conversation with us and was scared, shouting at her: “Who said you could tell them that I’m back? The police said no!” Before his wife was able to offer an explanation — “I didn’t” — he slapped her in the face!
Finally I must correct a detail in my initial report of Chunfu’s return: Chunfu was not brought home by the police. Instead, his wife was called to the neighborhood police station at Jiaowang Village, Tongzhou District (通州区焦王庄派出所) to take him home. Why did I make this mistake? Because that was what Chunfu’s friend told me, and his family was sternly warned by public security authorities not to tell the world what happened, including how he got home…
Family of the 709 lawyers:
Wang Qiaoling (wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (wife of Wang Quanzhang)
On the morning of January 14, 2017
An addendum by China Change:
Several lawyer friends took Li Chunfu to a hospital in Beijing for a check up Saturday morning. This is some of what Chunfu said to them:
“I thought I’d never seen you all again…”
“What place is this? I hope nothing will go wrong.”
“Will something go wrong if we’re seen together? Are you sure?”
“Will the police show up?”
“Please don’t leave me alone.”
“Jiangang, I really want to cry.”
Wang Qiaoling, January 13, 2017
Li Chunfu (李春富) is a human rights lawyer and the younger brother of the well-known rights lawyer Li Heping (李和平). On August 1, 2015, he was taken into custody (less than a month after his brother was also detained on July 10) and put under residential surveillance for six months. In January 2016 he was formally arrested on charges of “subversion of state power.” On January 5, 2017, he was granted China’s version of bail awaiting trial, and on January 12 returned home by police. Following is the first report by Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Heping’s wife, of the homecoming. We know from multiple cases of personal testimony, both published and privately relayed, that the 709 detainees have been subjected to extreme torture in custody. Given the mental and physical condition Li Chunfu was left in after nearly 18 months in police custody, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. — The Editors
When the human rights lawyer Li Chunfu was delivered to the front doorstep of his family home in Beijing at 5:00 p.m. on January 12, his wife was stunned by what she saw: Li’s body was emaciated, his complexion wan, his eyes lifeless — like he’d just aged to a 60-year-old-man.
The police told Li’s wife that he was being released on “bail,” then turned on his heel and left. But Li stood, hovering at the door, refusing to enter. His wife began to weep.
When she tried to pull him in by the hand, he was terrified and pulled away. Relatives who lived nearby heard that he’d been dropped off and rushed over, but rather than greet them Li became agitated and upset, jumping up and pushing them away, yelling “Get out of here! Danger!” Friends and family could do nothing but back away and sit at a distance from him.
Today (January 13), Li is still in a state of terror and confusion. When he saw his wife making a phone call, he shot his arm out and gripped her tight around the neck, growling: “Who are you calling?! You want to harm me!” As he yelled, he dug his fingers in, strangling her. Luckily, a relative was there and took control of the situation, pulling him away.
Li’s relatives can’t bear it and called his sister-in-law, Wang Qiaoling, to explain the situation. The security police (国保) had warned Li’s wife that she was allowed no contact with Wang Qiaoling, or else Li would be taken away again.
Our hearts were seized when we heard that Li Chunfu was in this state. And now what about Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) — are you still alive?
Signed: Family members of 709 victims
Wang Qiaoling (wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (李文足, wife of Wang Quanzhang)
Addendum: The Story of Li Chunfu
The following is note written by Wang Qiaoling, the wife of Li Heping, in August 2015, and posted to a number of dissident websites. It narrates Li Chunfu’s journey from a village boy who wasn’t able to finish high-school due to poverty, to a rights lawyer. — The Editors
Actually, the most inspiring story from the Li brothers isn’t Li Heping, but his younger brother Li Chunfu.
Heping’s family was poverty-stricken. After we got married in his hometown, there was no mattress on the bed — instead, we laid a coarse sheet atop rice straw and slept on that.
Years earlier, Heping was in the first year of college and Chunfu was entering his third year of middle-school — but the family couldn’t afford tuition for them both. Chunfu, despite his excellent grades, was the one who had to sacrifice. My mother-in-law once told me that Chunfu lay on his bed for a few days, but in the end simply accepted the reality, got up, and headed south to work and earn money to support the family and his older brother.
His experience was harsh and unforgiving — he once slept in a cemetery, often went hungry, got stabbed in the stomach, had his wages held back, and went through all the typical experiences of the hapless, downtrodden migrant workers. One day in a factory he saw a work demonstration by one of the technicians, and was mesmerized: he decided that he also wanted to do that. Diligent and keen on learning, he eventually became the head of the technical team.
He eventually saved up about 10,000 yuan. The year was 1998. His plan was to go back to the village and build a house. But his brother Heping told him to forget it, encouraging him to use the money to study toward a degree. He recommended studying for the bar and become a lawyer.
Chunfu was struck by the idea, and in 1999 decided to take the biggest risk of his life. He moved to the provincial capital of Henan, Zhengzhou, hired a small flat next to Zhengzhou University, and began a regime of self-study in the law. It was a process of six years of gritty perseverance and countless setbacks, economic as well as academic.
Few expected that he would be able to persevere to the end. Those six years he withstood, to finally triumph in the end, led the whole family to look upon Chunfu with renewed respect and admiration. Another consequence of the grueling years of study to obtain his law license, however, was obvious: it seemed that he’d aged far more than a mere six years. His hair started to go grey and fall out, and what should have been the head of hair of a 30-year-old started to look like that of an old man.
In 2005 Chunfu went through a series of exams for a position of judge in the Zhengzhou court system, which he passed smoothly. But before he went for the interviews, a lawyer friend* urged him not to do it, describing the broad picture of China’s legal field and the pivotal role of attorneys in bringing about the rule of law. Chunfu was convinced and abandoned the idea of being a judge — but in hindsight, perhaps the two of them were too hopeful about the prospects of the rule of law in China and the place of lawyers in it.
I remember that it was also in 2005 that Chunfu formally started practicing law. He cherished every case that came his way. A few days ago I told my son that “If one day it gets so bad in China that people can’t even go to school, don’t give up: we can study ourselves. Uncle Chunfu is a case in point!”
*The lawyer who talked Chunfu out of being a judge was Jiang Tianyong. Jiang was disappeared in the evening of November 21, 2016; he is in the custody of Chinese public security personnel and has been charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
“My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer”, Li’s 2010 interview with Ai Weiwei.