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China Change, July 7, 2017
“Wang Yu (王宇) was at home by herself that night, having just seen off at the airport her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军), and their son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓軒). A group of men began idling about outside her home, and when she yelled out asking who they were, they shrank away and kept quiet. About an hour later, when she was unable to raise her husband and son on the phone, and just beginning to get anxious, the lights in her apartment suddenly went out. Her internet was also cut. The harsh buzz of an electric drill shattered the silent darkness and within a few minutes the lock had been drilled out, falling to the ground. A gang of men rushed in, shoved her onto the bed, and snapped a cold pair of handcuffs on her hands, twisted behind her back. She was hooded and hauled out into a waiting vehicle, then taken to a facility whose location is unknown to this day. There, they drew a circle around Wang Yu’s spot on the bed: for several weeks, she had to sit with her legs crossed in the circle, and if she left it would be screamed at or beaten.”
— Lawyer Wen Donghai describes how Wang Yu was taken away on July 9, 2015.
When China Change reported lawyer Wang Yu’s disappearance in the small hours on July 9, 2015, two years ago, little did we know what was to follow. She was the first of over 300 human rights lawyers and activists across China who, in the coming days, would be detained, disappeared, temporarily rounded up, and interrogated. Eventually more than two dozen were placed under the notorious “residential surveillance at a designated place,” (指定居所监视居住) and over the last two years they have gone through torture and family trauma, and some have been released. At least three more — Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Wu Gan (吴淦) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) — remain in custody. None, whether released or not, have been truly free. The campaign is known as the 709 Crackdown.
Wang Yu and her husband Bao Longjun were released on probation in August 2016. They live in Beijing, but they’ve now been sequestered in a public housing block in Ulan Hot, Inner Mongolia, and are being held under tight control. For nearly a year, until recently, no one has seen Wang Yu or her husband in public. It’s like they’ve disappeared from the face of the earth.
In late June, Wang Yu’s defense lawyers Wen Donghai (文东海) and Li Yuhan (李昱函) were able to visit Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, along with their son, in Inner Mongolia. After of nearly a year of probation, the whole family’s freedom is still severely restricted. There are three surveillance cameras set up in the corridor outside their door, and bugs have been planted throughout their apartment (they’re aware of this because the Security Police immediately know what they’ve been saying to one another). There are also guards on duty outside their building, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever they leave home, at least two security agents follow them. Their range of activities in Ulan Hot is highly limited — they leave home either to buy groceries and basic supplies, or else to visit Wang Yu’s parents who also live in Ulan Hot.
If they want to go to Beijing (where they actually live) or Tianjin (where Bao Longjun’s parents live), they have to submit an application to the Security Police. When they get there, the local Security Police follow them around, and keep them under extremely tight control.
Legally, Wang Yu and Bao Longjun are still on “probation”; Wang Yu’s probationary period ends on July 22, while Bao Longjun’s expires on August 5. The law states that during the period of probation they are required to report to the local public security bureau to account for their movements. The measures taken against them, however — house arrest, 24 hour surveillance, being followed wherever they go — are all illegal.
Neither Wang or Bao are currently allowed to work, and their subsistence is paid by the Security Police.
Their son, Bao Zhuoxuan, was a high schooler in Beijing when his parents were detained. Over the past two years, he was also put under short-term house arrest and long-term surveillance, and forced to live with his maternal grandmother in Inner Mongolia. In October 2015, after two family friends tried and failed to spirit him out of China, the young man was put under even tighter control. Bao is 18 this year and still in senior high-school. His parents still hope he can go overseas to study, but they are not sure how long their son will continue to be barred from moving freely. This is notwithstanding the fact that all the measures taken against him are simply illegal and immoral.
In their meeting with Wang Yu, both lawyers secured a new signature from her authorizing them as her official legal representatives.
On March 30, 2016 when she was in prison, Wang Yu underwent surgery for breast cancer. Last August she was awarded the inaugural International Human Rights Award given by the American Bar Association.
We are certain that Wang Yu, like many others ensnared in the 709 Crackdown, was tortured in custody, and we have yet to hear the details of the horror.
A Human Rights Lawyer’s Notes on the ‘709 Incident,’ Two Years on, Wen Donghai, July 6, 2017.
The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, July 27, 2015.
She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Washington Post, July 18, 2015
China Change, April 28, 2017
Late Friday, evening time Beijing, Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Li Wenzu (李文足) issued the following video statement. China Change offers our audience a translation:
Statement by Wang Qiaoling and Li Wenzu
Wang Qiaoling: This morning at 11:00 a.m. I was walking out the first floor entrance of our apartment building with my daughter when I found myself surrounded by a large group of state security agents. Among them were Beijing state security agents, Tianjin state security agents, chief of the Tianjin Jiaguasi (挂甲寺) police station, and the neighborhood property management people. As they closed in on me, the state security officers demanded that we discuss Li Heping’s case. I thought it was a standard attempt to threaten us and asked them to present their ID badges. They refused. As we were arguing and haggling over this point, they told me that Li Heping had already been given a suspended sentence. I was extremely shocked. This meant that Li Heping had already been tried in secret.
[The paper says: Why try him in secret?]
[709 case, the 659th day]
As far as I know, in Li Heping’s ten year career as a lawyer he has opposed torture, defended the rights of religious believers, and appealed on behalf of those suffering injustice. Everything he has done can be discussed openly, and it is all transparent and upright.
[The paper says: My husband Heping is innocent and aboveboard.]
My husband Li Heping was tried and judged in secret on April 25, and this morning the sentence was announced. At the moment he was being sentenced, the lawyer appointed to him by the authorities, Wen Zhisheng, was instead at my house with state security agents, waiting since the early morning for me to appear. At one point during all this he dashed up to me and tried to snatch away my cell phone, and also tried to hit me, until he was dragged away. This Wen Zhisheng is more of a state security agent than the agents themselves — he’s a volunteer security agent, effectively. The conduct of this lawyer — working with the authorities to frame his colleagues — is utterly shameless.
The state security agents said that the result — three years imprisonment, suspended for four years — is something that everyone worked hard to achieve, and is to the delight and satisfaction of all. They told me to immediately pack up the kids so they could take us all to see Li Heping.
Screw your delight and satisfaction. For Li Heping, who’s now a political offender, a three year sentence with a four year probation means that his personal freedom will be restricted for seven years. Over the last two years I’ve seen so many kind-hearted family members of 709 lawyers who’ve been hoodwinked by state security agents and taken to Tianjin — and then the whole family is cut off from the outside world. What on earth happened to them? We have no way of knowing.
Today, many journalists asked me: How do you feel about Li Heping gaining freedom? I told them that Li Heping is not free. According to Chinese law, Li Heping was given a suspended sentence, so he should be at home with us right now. But instead of that, a big gang of state security agents came to our door and tried to take me and my daughter to Tianjin. This shows that Li Heping is still being locked up by the authorities — simply under different auspices.
Li Wenzu: Today, state security told me very explicitly that Wang Quanzhang would be next. They told me to be a bit more obedient and Wang Quanzhang might be able to get a suspended sentence too.
Wang Qiaoling: Screw your suspended sentence.
Li Wenzu: Exactly.
Li Wenzu: For 659 days, we look forward to their return each every day, hoping for their true freedom.
Wang Qiaoling: So, the 709 cases are far from coming to an end. We still have a very long road ahead.
Continue reading (some redundancy) for more details and also comments from human rights lawyers:
After 22 months in captivity, Li Heping (李和平), one of the remaining “709” human rights lawyers ensnared in the mass arrests beginning July 9, 2015, stood secret trial on April 25 in Tianjin. Three days later on Friday April 28, his wife Wang Qiaoling was told that Li was given a three-year prison sentence with a four-year probation. Wang firmly maintains that Li is innocent, and said the sentence is absurd.
Wang Qiaoling said that state security agents in Tianjin and Beijing, together with the officially-designated lawyer Wen Zhisheng (温志胜) — dozens of people in all — traveled to Wang Qiaoling’s home in the Daxing district of Beijing, informing her that Li Heping had been given a suspended sentence. They said that they were prepared to take her and the couple’s young daughter to Tianjin to “reunite” with Li. Wang Qiaoling immediately rejected the invitation.
Wang Qiaoling told Radio Free Asia that the state security agents were trying to bring her to Tianjin in order to put them under house arrest and make sure they can’t speak to the press.
“The scene outside our apartment was a spectacle,” Wang said. “Dozens of them had come just to tell me this news: first, that Li Heping had been given a three year sentence, with a four-year probation; and second, that I absolutely had to read a letter Li Heping had written, and speak to him on the phone.”
In a video from the scene, Li’s officially-assigned lawyer was seen to brandish this letter, trying to give it to Wang.
She rejected all of it. “They’ve lied far too many times already,” she said.” “They told me that I should be happy with this outcome, because ‘your husband can come home.’ You lock someone up and torture them for nearly two years, and now you come and tell me that this is the best outcome? Why didn’t the family even know about the trial? If the sentence was pronounced today in the court in Tianjin, why was his lawyer there? You come here trying to make me buy this story, but all you want to really do is make sure our whole family is under house arrest and that Li Heping stays in captivity, and that I stay silent.”
While Wang Qiaoling was squaring off with the security police — led by Sun Di (孙荻), a senior security officer at Beijing Public Security Bureau and a human rights perpetrator who took part in Gao Zhisheng’s torture, and was involved in the cases of many dissidents, such as those of Hu Jia (胡佳) and Ai Weiwei (艾未未) — she suddenly received a telephone call from a Tianjin phone number. It was Li Heping speaking over a noisy background. He said that it’s inconvenient to speak on the phone, and that he wanted Wang to come to Tianjin to be with him. Wang, however, demanded that Li instead be allowed to come home. “It’s not that I don’t miss you,” she told him. “If I go, we will all lose our freedom.”
Human rights lawyers closely watching the latest developments think that the goal of the authorities was obvious: to bring Wang Qiaoling to Tianjin and put her under house arrest. This would also be a way of dismantling the 709 family members who have banded together to support each other. They believe that this, if achieved, will pave the way for the trial of Wang Quanzhang.
Much earlier on in the 709 saga, the families of Zhao Wei (赵威, Li Heping’s legal assistant) and Ren Quanniu (任全牛) were given the opportunity to “reunite,” but in the end got trapped under house arrest.
Meanwhile, the Tianjin 2nd Intermediate Court published a message to its official Weibo channel saying that the April 25 trial was closed because Li Heping’s case relates to state secrets, that Li’s sentence was announced on the morning of April 28, and that he was guilty of “subversion of state power” and would be sentenced to prison for three years with a four-year probation. According to the announcement, Li Heping said he would not appeal; some members of the public were able to observe the sentencing.
The news has also been published by the official media Global Times, as well as to the websites of every major news portal.
Wang Qiaoling told RFA that she understands any decision her husband might make after being jailed and put through an ordeal for nearly two years. She also wishes he would come home. But the judgement against him was simply preposterous.
Wang Qiaoling: “Just earlier someone asked me: ‘Do you think this is a bit lighter than what happened last August?’ I’ll speak from my heart. My husband is innocent. What we want is for him to be released as innocent so he can come home. Only then would it be clear that the rule of law actually governs China. You’ve gone and turned an innocent man into a criminal, and then suspended the sentence so it seems really humanitarian. But this is absurd. I don’t acknowledge it, and I don’t recognize it.”
Security police on Friday also sought to “persuade” Li Wenzu, wife of Wang Quanzhang, another 709 lawyer still in custody. They said that Wang’s case is almost completed, and that Li should maintain a calm and restrained attitude.
Hunan attorney Wen Donghai (文东海) represented Wang Yu (王宇) before her “release” and had made many trips to Tianjin. Drawing from his experience and reflection, he told RFA that the 709 case has been playing out for two years now, and the official attempt to concoct criminal charges against the lawyers has failed. Now, under constant international pressure, the authorities are trying to quickly wrap things up and save face.
“If they still want to save a bit of face,” he said, “they should immediately release Xie Yang, Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, and Wu Gan. This is the best option. They’re not only innocent of any crimes, but the ones who’ve committed crimes are in the public security organs, the procuracy, and the courts. These sentences simply bring shame to the authorities themselves, and will deal even more damage to their legitimacy.”
‘My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer’, interview with Ai Weiwei in 2010, August 21, 2016.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
As China Blocks Xie Yang’s Own Lawyers Following the Torture Revelation, Wife Reprimands the Lawyer Who Met Him Without Consent
Chen Guiqiu, April 9, 2017
Since February 27, four weeks after the much-reported torture of Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). who has been imprisoned since July 2015, the two family-appointed lawyers of Xie have repeatedly been denied meetings with him. The last time they saw him was February 6. According to Chinese law, lawyers are free to meet their clients any time during the trial stage. Rattled by the coverage of torture and responses by international legal professionals as well as foreign governments, China took extraordinary steps in early March to deny the torture and attempt to discredit the report, in an all-out propaganda assault. They forced lawyer Jiang Tianyong to confess to the “fabrication” on national television, and threatened Xie Yang’s lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), responsible for publishing his transcript of meetings with Xie Yang as the latter recounted the torture he was put through in heart wrenching detail. Recently, without the family’s knowledge or consent, a lawyer named He Xiaodian (贺小电) visited Xie Yang in custody at least once, apparently at the bidding of the authorities, in an attempt to get Xie to appoint lawyers who will cooperate with the government. Xie Yang’s wife Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), a professor of environmental science at Hunan University, wrote the following letter to Mr. He Xiaodian. This is an important development in the Xie Yang story, and China Change here offers an unauthorized translation of the letter. — The Editors
To the honorable Director He,* greetings:
Director He, as you can tell from the salutation, I continue to treat you respectfully.
I was shocked to learn that you led a group of people to visit Xie Yang in the detention center. Did you know that for the last month Xie Yang’s own defense lawyers, Liu Zhengqing (刘正清)and Chen Jiangang, have been prevented from seeing him? Their legally stipulated rights have not been protected, and yet you were allowed to pay a visit. Can you tell me why?
Do you know the details of how Xie Yang has been tortured for over more than a year? Did you know that, because we exposed the details of the inhumane torture he was subject to, I was summoned, interrogated, and threatened at the end of last year? Did you see the reports vilifying Xie Yang run by CCTV, Phoenix, and Global Times in early March this year? Did you know that lawyer Chen Jiangang has been investigated, intimidated, and threatened? Did you know that he is currently having trouble in his practice and that he has two young children to provide for? Did you know that lawyer Liu Zhengqing has attempted to visit Xie Yang on numerous occasions, including many personal trips to the detention center, whereupon he has simply been rudely told to go away?
We have already clashed once before over this, last September. At the time, Xie Yang had been locked up for 16 months and hadn’t once been able to see his defense lawyers, yet you managed to see him several times! How strange, given that I had never hired you, or met you — yet you were somehow able to enjoy the extralegal privilege of meeting with my husband. And now, without even asking me for a cent or seeking my signature on a Power of Attorney letter, you’ve happily gone to the detention center to see Xie Yang, while the lawyers that I myself hired to defend him, who traveled long distances to Changsha, couldn’t see their client? As a lawyer, why is your allegiance aligned with certain people, and not the law?
Though it’s nothing unusual in today’s society, your eagerness to do the government’s bidding still gave me a shock. This is because I know that many years ago you left your post as a judge and were determined to become a lawyer. You seemed to be one of those who knew where the future of China was headed, and knew how to maintain a basic sense of human decency. You’re over 50 years of age, yet you still allow yourself to be led by the nose. Is it that you need to help frame up Xie Yang so you can bolster your political credentials? Or is it that they promised you a huge cash reward for cooperating? While you grieve for the recent passing of your own mother, have you considered that Xie Yang too has aging parents who are hoping for their son’s return? And that his brothers and sisters are all waiting to be reunited with him?
What is the purpose of your meeting Xie Yang, anyway? Did you go to try to force him to sign papers commissioning you as his lawyer? Why are you willing to be the scapegoat for these people? Do you want to become Xie Yang’s lawyer, enter a guilty plea on his behalf, and send him to jail? What I’m thinking is: even though you may be gaining benefit from doing this, and gaining illicit privilege, you may not be able to enjoy peace for the rest of your life. Surely you’ve heard of the many cases where ordinary people fight back against the injustice inflicted on them. I personally have no way of guaranteeing that, in Xie Yang’s case, there’s no relative or friend who won’t take excessive measures in his defense.
The right and wrong in this case is so clear that a four-year-old would understand! Perhaps in your heart you do understand, but you are bound by mutual interest with the relevant organs, have to do what they ask you to, and get rewarded for doing so, in the face of overwhelming public condemnation.
I heard that you don’t like to go online, so I’m going to ask one of your colleagues to share with you the reports from the three media mentioned above, accusing us of fabricating the torture, so you can watch them together and exercise your meticulous legal reasoning, of which I think you’re still capable. You can see for yourself how how the top-tier state media outlets of the country represent the twisted logic of the relevant departments handling the case; see for yourself the pure idiocy of it all; and realize how you are becoming part of this web of lies they’re weaving. You could still back away from this travesty, unless you believe that the sun can rise in the west if the people in power say so, and everyone else in China are deaf, dumb, and blind.
I’d like to think your actions thus far are a slip of judgment after a talk, or a drinking party, with certain people. But when it comes to Xie Yang’s case, we won’t let this happen. Please, think it over carefully.
Xie Yang’s wife, Chen Guiqiu
April 5, 2017
*He Xiaodian is the head of Hunan Gangwei Law Firm (湖南纲维律师事务所) in Changsha where Xie Yang was once an associate.
How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light: Lawyer Chen Jiangang Rebuts China’s Smear Campaign, Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017.
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation, January 20, 2017.
Wu Gan, March 24, 2017
Well-known human rights activist Wu Gan (吴淦) was arrested in May 2015. After a brief period of custody in his home province Fujian, he was taken to Tianjin as part of the 709 arrests. According to a complaint filed by his lawyer, on August 1, 2015, Wu Gan was forced to participate in a video interview with CCTV host Dong Qian (董倩) in which he was supposed to confess his guilt. He refused to follow the script. Yesterday his lawyer posted online Wu Gan’s letter to Ms. Dong Qian, dated March 8. — The Editors
Dear Ms. Dong Qian,
I write this letter to you because I still have a thin thread of hope in your basic humanity. I hate all dictatorships, as well as those who help dictators, but I’m an optimist when it comes to human nature. For example, this is what the public thinks about the organization your work for: when the auxiliary building of CCTV headquarters, known as “big underpants,” went up in flames, people were ecstatic. When one of your evening news hosts got throat cancer, the public delighted in his misfortune — it seems fitting that a throat used to broadcast untruth everyday should become cancerous. Netizens nicknamed CCTV a den of debauchery where the likes of Li Dongsheng (李东生, former minister of public security) plied his trade as a pimp, sending CCTV women up to Zhou Yongkang (周永康, former security boss) to have his way with. The prime time Evening News is such a bore that netizens have turned it into a template for endless spoofing. When one day one of your own, Bi Fujian (毕福剑), made wicked fun of Maoism in his off-time, it shows what a schizophrenic place it is! I cite all of these to remind you just how CCTV is perceived by the people.
CCTV is despised not because people’s values are warped, but because this system has warped everything. It’s this system that has turned the media you work for into a tool for keeping the people ignorant, making it an accomplice for the worst evil. It’s now become a byword for lies and propaganda and a spokesperson for evil.
The only way to wash away the stain of associating with it, and to gain your own integrity and personal esteem, is to flee as soon as possible. When the anchor Du Xian (杜宪) demonstrated her own humanity after the June 4 massacre — wearing black, showing her tears on television — she received a silent national applause and respect from all. The public sees things clearly. I respectfully ask you: for such a beauty, why be a villain?
I have applied for you to be a witness in my case, and I hope you will appear in court and testify. I want you to tell the world about how I was hauled, a black hood covering my head, in front of you for an interview on August 1, 2015. Please gather your courage and conscience, and tell the public what you saw on that day. Tell everyone how I rebuked and exposed An Shaodong (安少东, security agent and interrogator) who sat diagonally from me. Tell the public what he did to me. Tell them about my back injury.
Tell them how actors were brought in to act out a script for the televised confession. I trust that you’ll show the kind-hearted side of your nature. I’m sorry that you didn’t get what you had come for because I refused to act according to their script. For my disobedience, I was punished badly by An Shaodong after being taken back to detention center.
An Shaodong sat diagonally from me to intimidate me. I experienced for myself the inside process by which CCTV makes its news pieces, and how the station and the public security organs work hand in hand to create the news they need. Amazing country, amazing media, amazing public security agents; together they produce amazing journalism.
Finally, allow me to express my gratitude to your television station. I am very grateful that CCTV joined in when People’s Daily and Xinhua slandered me with Cultural Revolution-style propaganda while I had no freedom to speak for myself. On the other hand, thank heaven I was slandered, not praised. Or it would truly have been a stain on my reputation. How could I have lived with my head up high if mouthpieces like you said nice things about me? In 2009, when your television station and a media under People’s Daily tried to interview me about the Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) case, I rejected it due to my germophobia. A man doesn’t keep company with evil, and this is the line I draw while going about being a human being.
Wu Gan (Super Vulgar Butcher)
March 8, 2017
Wu Gan: Urgent Request to Meet the Residential Prosecutors at the Tianjin Second Detention Center
I am Wu Gan. For over a year since my transfer to the Tianjin Second Detention Center on January 8, 2016, I have made countless requests to meet with you, the residential prosecutors from the Second Branch of the Tianjin Municipal Procuratorate. The detention center told me that they had passed on my requests but that they could do nothing as you kept declining to see me.
I need to see you, not because I want to have nice chats with you about the beauty and meaning of life, but to complain about police violations in handling my case, including torture. There is something even more important: I want to report leads about a possible voluntary manslaughter case. But you are nowhere to be found. I am not the only detainee who has trouble meeting you; other detainees have the same problem.
You are supposed to carry out your duty, which is to meet with each detainee and learn if they have been subjected to illegal treatment. But you have abdicated your legal responsibilities. This is not a matter of being lazy, but a matter of negligence.
I’m requesting this urgent meeting because time is running out, and the death row inmate in question could be executed soon. For those who are sentenced to death for something they didn’t do, the truth can never be restored. So you must meet with me as soon as possible to hear my complaint. As for whether you investigate or not, or whether or not I will suffer retaliation, you may do as you please.
I will expose more details of these matters in the future, showing the public just how prosecutors in China go about their jobs.
March 24, 2017
Lawyer Ge Yongxi: Meeting with Wu Gan
Yesterday afternoon and this morning, I twice met with Mr. Wu Gan, who is being charged with “subversion of state power.” After we had discussed the case work, Wu asked about people and events outside, and he asked me to pass on his thanks to friends.
We also talked about the issue of compromising and admitting “guilt.” Wu Gan said that, during the Two Sessions (political meetings earlier this month), the government sent two female mental health counselors to speak with him. Over and over again, they attempted to coax him into admitting guilt. Wu Gan asked the Tianjin Second Detention Center to tell the authorities that they needn’t waste their resources by sending anyone else, because these two women had failed to convince him, with facts and universal values, that what he did was wrong. He said that the fact that they were using coercion and deception to make him admit guilt is enough to prove that what he did was right — that it was good for the country and the people, and could stand the test of time.
Wu Gan reiterated his two guiding principles: first, he would never do anything unscrupulous; second, he would never sack his own lawyers and retain lawyers designated by the government.
Wu Gan said that he has gained more than he has lost during the ordeal of the past nearly two years. He was able to reflect on many aspects of his past experiences; he learned how to triumph in the midst of devilish cruelty; he learned how to live close quarters and long term with all sorts of criminal suspects, but not sunk to their level.
We both enjoyed our conversation and wished we had more time. Around lunchtime we said our goodbyes and ended our meeting at the repeated urging of several police officers.
Ge Yongxi (葛永喜)
March 24, 2017
Bill of Indictment Against Rights Activist Wu Gan, January 12, 2017
Wu Gan the Butcher, a profile by Yaqiu Wang, July 22, 2015
‘The Ball Is in Your Court!’ Questions for the Hunan Procuratorate Regarding Its ‘Independent Investigation’ into Xie Yang’s Torture
Chen Jiangang, March 22, 2017
The public didn’t know until yesterday that ambassadors from 11 countries wrote a letter to China’s Minister of Public Security on February 27, 2017, expressing their grave concern over recent reports of torture of human rights lawyers, and China’s use of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). In light of our knowledge of this letter, China’s massive smear campaign beginning on March 1 — two days after the letter was received — becomes much more disturbing. China made lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) “confess” on camera that he had made up the reports of Xie Yang’s (谢阳) torture; Jiang was forcibly disappeared on November 21, 2016, and subsequently placed under RSDL, and thus could not have made those statements of his own volition, raising the concern that he has also been tortured. Chinese state media further hinted that Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), Xie Yang’s defense lawyer, worked with Jiang to further the fabrication. Since then, lawyers Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) have been denied several requests to meet their client Xie Yang, and Chen is worried that Xie Yang may be tortured again. Meanwhile, Chen himself has been under significant pressure to keep his mouth shut, and officials from the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau and the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau have frequently warned of trouble, and requested talks. Today they are conducting an “inspection” of his law firm. “If I can only use my mouth for eating but not for speaking,” Chen said, “you may as well ask me to be a pig or a dog.” We are concerned about lawyer Chen Jiangang’s safety and the reprisals that will inevitably befall him. We remain concerned about Jiang Tianyong and Xie Yang’s circumstances and that of the 709 lawyers and activists still in custody in Tianjin. — The Editors
On March 3, China Central Television published a story titled “The Truth Behind Lawyer Xie Yang’s Claims of Torture: An Intricate Fabrication” (《律师谢阳“遭遇酷刑”真相调查 酷刑是故事加细节想象出来的》) in which Yang Zhizhong (杨志忠), a prosecutor in charge of internal supervision of criminal enforcement in the Hunan Procuratorate, was quoted saying that no torture of the Chinese human rights lawyer Xie Yang have taken place during his time in custody.
“The entire mission of our criminal enforcement supervision division is to protect the legal rights of detainees, so we took it upon ourselves to form this eight-person investigation team to conduct an independent investigation,” he said on camera. “Through our investigation, we found that these four claims of ‘torture’ can be said, absolutely, to be false.”
As Xie Yang’s defense counsel who published the transcripts of Xie Yang’s torture, I submit the following points of fact, clarification, and questioning to the Hunan Procuratorate, which I hope it will examine and respond to.
- Xie Yang’s Defense Counsel Has Not Seen the Report
The official China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast briefly flashed an image of the Hunan Procuratorate’s report, titled “Investigative Report Regarding Claims by Xie Yang and His Defense Attorney of Torture, Forced Confession, and Abuse During Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location and in Custody at the Detention Center” (《关于谢阳及其辩护人反映谢阳在指定监视居住和看守所羁押期间受到刑讯逼供、虐待等问题的调查报告》, henceforth “the report”). Judging from the title, the Hunan Procuratorate opened an investigation into the reports of torture of Xie Yang as a result of Xie Yang’s complaint and that of his defense counsel. In that case, shouldn’t they contact Xie Yang’s defense counsel, the individuals who made public the transcripts? Shouldn’t the conclusion of the report be communicated to Xie Yang’s defense counsel? Xie Yang’s two lawyers, Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), have not received either oral or written notification concerning the investigation or been subject to questioning by the Hunan Procuratorate. Neither have they even seen a single complete page of the final report.
The Hunan Procuratorate claims that it produced its report to refute allegations by Xie Yang’s defense lawyers, yet it hides the report from those lawyers. Why? Did you go to all that trouble just to flash half a page for one second on CCTV?
- How Was the Report Independent?
From Xie Yang’s case file that I read, Xie Yang was charged with “opposing the Party and opposing socialism.” The indictment of Xie Yang accuses him of publishing “many speeches attacking and defaming the government, judicial organs, and the state justice system.” That is to say, Xie Yang is the attacker, the criminal suspect, and the Communist Party, government departments, and judicial organs, are the victims. The two stand in an oppositional relationship. Thus, the following questions arise:
i. The Hunan Procuratorate is lead by the Party, is it not?
ii. The individuals who participated in the investigation are Party members, are they not? (If any prosecutor at the Hunan Procuratorate is not a Party member, please come forward and refute me.)
iii. The Hunan Procuratorate is a judicial organ, is it not?
If the answer to any of the above three questions is in the affirmative, then there can be no such thing as an “independent investigation,” because the Hunan Procuratorate and its prosecutors are all parties to a dispute with Xie Yang. You don’t get to be a referee when you are a competing athlete.
- Please Publish the Report
The official broadcast says that Western media began reporting on the prosecution of Xie Yang in October 2016, that Xie Yang’s defense lawyers published two “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang” on January 19, 2017, and that the Hunan Procuratorate began its own investigation on February 17. But as of today, this investigative report has not been published as far as I know.
Please publish the entire text for public scrutiny. The ball is in your court!
Regarding the Western media reports: in its video, CCTV only showed a few reports by overseas Chinese-language media outlets around October 11, 2016. But mainstream media organizations in the United States, England, France, and Spain only began to report on Xie Yang torture following my transcripts published on January 19, 2017. Perhaps it’s precisely because of the massive international response that the government has gone all out attempting to irrationally and speciously refute it.
- Please Clarify the Legality of ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’
Given that the Hunan Procuratorate has produced an “independent” investigation which exculpated the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau, please make public your findings of the legal grounds on which the Changsha public security authorities held Xie Yang in the National University of Defense Technology’s (国防科技大学) guesthouse for retired cadres, at 732 Deya Road, Kaifu district, Changsha.
Please also provide the legal basis on which Xie Yang’s family members were not notified during this period of captivity.
Please also provide the legal basis on which Xie Yang was prohibited visitation from his family members, and access to his legal counsel, during this period of captivity.
What’s also interesting, and suspicious, is CCTV’s brief shot of some brand new small plastic stools — the kind elementary school students use — in the supposed room in which Xie Yang was held during the “residential surveillance” period. Was the room featured in the shot the same room in which Xie Yang was held? Were those plastic stools the same ones used in the “dangling chair” torture that Xie Yang described? Xie Yang was never asked anything on camera.
For my rebuttal on this question, please consult item 11 in my article “How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light.” It needn’t be rehashed here.
- Please Make Public the Interrogation Video Made During Residential Surveillance
According to Article 19 of “SPC, SPP, MPS, MSS, MoJ, and the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPCSC Regulation on Several Questions Concerning the Implementation of the CPL” (《最高人民法院最高人民检察院公安部国家安全部司法部全国人大常委会法制工作委员会关于实施刑事诉讼法若干问题的规定》), and Article 121 of the “Criminal Procedure Law” (《刑事诉讼法》), as well as Article 203 of the “Public Security Criminal Complaint Regulations” (《公安刑诉规定》), as well as the fact that Xie Yang stood accused of the crime of “subversion of state power,” all interrogations of Xie Yang are required to have been fully recorded. Moreover, this audio and visual recording must be “from beginning to end, with no interruptions or alterations of integrity. It is not permitted to selectively record, or to edit or redact the film.”
As public prosecutors with the Hunan Procuratorate, you are surely aware of these regulations, and surely you know that the most direct way of ascertaining the truth of the matter is to directly consult those interrogation recordings.
Have you watched and listened to the recordings?
If you have not accessed the recordings, why not?
If the public security authorities said that they do not have the recordings, then this would be a serious violation of the law. How do you intend to deal with it?
In your report, did you include discussion of whether or not you have examined the full recordings of the interrogation sessions?
- Have You Questioned the Potential Torturers?
I will repeat once more that it seems, judging by the headline of your report, that you began the investigation after reading the transcripts. Thus, please answer this: of the nearly 50 individuals accused of torture — including Li Feng (李峰), Li Kewei (李克伟), Wang Dehua (王德华), Hu Yunfeng (胡云峰), Wang Tieta (王铁铊), Zhu Heng (朱恒), Ye Yun (叶云), Xie Leshi (谢乐石), Zhou Liang (周浪), Yin Zhuo (尹卓), Qu Ke (屈可), Li Yang (李旸), Zhou Yi (周毅), Zhuang Xiaoliang (庄晓亮), Yuan Jin (袁进) — did you perform any investigation of any of them at all?
You are determined to tell the public that the torture of Xie Yang was fabricated, but to this date you have not provided the text of the report you wrote.
The CCTV report included nothing about the investigation of these individuals, but instead included remarks by his cellmates. Xie Yang was not transferred to the detention center until January 9, 2016. How would his cellmates have knowledge of torture that took place earlier?
- Would the Procuratorate and its Loyal Journalists Please Consult a Calendar?
The CCTV report notes that Xie Yang “sleeps nine hours a night,” does physical exercise, and that he’s perfectly healthy. The detention center even gives him physicals. The journalist remarks: “Our reporter observed that Xie Yang walks with a steady stride and climbs stairs without difficulty.”
I advise the Hunan Procuratorate and the obedient CCTV journalists to pick up a calendar with one hand and grope around for your conscience with the other.
i. Regarding the time and location
The torture and forced confessions reported by Xie Yang and his legal counsel took place between July 12, 2015 and January 8, 2016. Xie Yang was being held in the retired cadre guesthouse of the National University of Defense Technology. The “investigation” by the Hunan Procuratorate and its journalists took place in the latter half of February 2017 — over a year later. The two locations are also dozens of kilometers apart. Does the fact that Xie Yang was able to “walk with a steady stride and climb stairs without difficulty” in February 2017 somehow prove that a year ago he was not savagely beaten, suffocated with cigarette smoke, forced to sit on a stack of stools with his legs dangling until they swelled up, deprived of sleep through endless questioning, deprived of water, and so on?
ii. The injury to Xie Yang’s legs
During his torture, Xie Yang’s legs suffered severe swelling. But he has been out of that black jail for 13 months now. When the Hunan Procuratorate and the CCTV journalists saw him, he could walk normally. How can that logically result in the conclusion that he was not tortured?
iii. The improvement in Xie Yang’s conditions
The first time lawyer Zhang Zhongshi (张重实) met with Xie Yang at the Changsha No. 2 Detention Center, he heard with his own ears the disciplinary officer Yuan Jin berating and slugging Xie Yang before the meeting. Zhang then lodged a complaint against the detention center and Yuan Jin, and the authorities transferred the officer out. Xie Yang made clear on many occasions that his conditions began to improve once he was allowed access to a lawyer. Even so, he still suffered unjust treatment. For instance, he was limited to spending 600 yuan a month to buy food and daily necessities, a restriction not placed on other detainees.
We are very happy to know that Xie Yang is now allowed to sleep and is in good health. But that does not prove that he was not tortured and beaten in a black jail a year ago.
- CCTV Journalists: Please Let Xie Yang Speak
In the CCTV interview, Xie Yang is permitted to say only a few sentences: “I’m wearing a wool sweater,” “I’m in good health,” “I sleep nine hours at night, and the detention center gives us health checkups,” “I called ‘120’ [China’s emergency number] because I was sick,” and so forth. Nowhere does he deny that he was tortured.
Hunan Procuratorate and CCTV journalists, please ask Xie Yang on camera: “Were you tortured to give a confession? Are the transcripts published by your defense lawyers accurate?” These are the two fundamental questions you should actually be investigating.
- There is a True Version of Events
CCTV, Phoenix TV, QQ TV, Hunan TV and other media outlets have been running headline reports about “fake news” in the Western press, using Cultural Revolution-style language. Good journalists report truthfully wherever they are. If media purposefully fabricates news, conceals the truth, deceives the public, and dumbs-down the public, then they’re shameless media whose journalists have little dignity or conscience.
I look forward to the response of the Hunan Procuratorate and of the media organizations that have attempted to blot out the truth.
March 5, 2017
How Xie Yang’s Transcripts of Torture Came to Light: Lawyer Chen Jiangang Rebuts China’s Smear Campaign, Chen Jiangang, March 3, 2017
Co-opting Trump, Chinese State Propaganda Brands Torture Revelations ‘Fake News’, March 8, 2017 (with English subtitle)
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.