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China Change, April 21, 2017
Since the publication in early January of the “Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang,” made by lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), detailing a series of meetings with Xie Yang (谢阳) at the Changsha 2nd Detention Center, the Xie Yang case has taken many bizarre turns.
The revelations of torture in the interviews, the first meticulously-recorded and lengthy account of the abuse meted out to a human rights lawyer, offer a shocking view of the “709 crackdown” since mid-2015. As of now, four human rights lawyers and a number of activists are still in detention, and in the case of lawyer Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), have been denied access to their lawyers for well over 600 days.
The torture of Xie Yang was perpetrated during the six months of secret detention, known as “residential surveillance at a designated location,” in the second half of 2015. After being exposed this year, it took the media by storm and provoked waves of strong reaction from the international legal community, governments, UN specialists, and human rights NGOs. On February 27, ambassadors of 11 nations wrote to the Chinese Minister of Public Security seeking answers to the reports.
Two days later, on March 1, Chinese state media, both print and broadcast, launched a smear campaign accusing the lawyers of colluding to fabricate the claims and catering to foreign media. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who was abducted in Changsha on Novmeber 21, 2016, after visiting Xie Yang’s wife and children and posing for a photo outside the Changsha 2nd Detention Center, was made to appear on TV “confessing” that he had made up the torture details. An “investigative report” by the Hunan Procuratorate, which made a blurry, half-page appearance on CCTV, denied that torture had occurred. It was later reported that a few of the 11 ambassadors were subsequently summoned by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and shown the “conclusions” of this report.
Stunned by the boldfaced denial, lawyer Chen Jiangang posted articles and videos (with English subtitles) refuting the official media’s shabby narrative and questioning the Hunan investigation in its entirety. He was then was summoned for a talk with officials in Beijing, and menacing hints were made that he was under some sort of investigation…
Meanwhile, defense lawyers have been denied the right to meet with Xie Yang since February 28, a violation of Chinese law.
In recent weeks it seems that authorities in Hunan and Beijing have been negotiating a “resolution” of the case with Xie Yang. He was appointed an officially-sanctioned attorney. Yesterday, we heard the news that Xie Yang will be tried on April 25.
We don’t know what’s in store for Xie Yang. His wife, Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), a professor of environmental science at Hunan University, recently arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum. Today, she issued the following statement:
In December 2016 lawyers Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) were commissioned by the family of Xie Yang to be his defense attorneys; they were then allowed by the Changsha 2nd Detention Center to meet Xie Yang, and obtained his signature confirming their power of attorney. This made Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing Xie Yang’s official defense lawyers.
Following this, the two lawyers met with Xie Yang on multiple occasions, and came to learn of the extensive torture he was subjected to. They also began filing complaints against his torturers. The outcome of the submission of these complaints, however, was not that the torturers were investigated and held responsible, but that on February 28, 2017, the two lawyers were suddenly prevented from meeting with their client at the detention center. Why were the lawyers hired by family and the defendant prevented from working on the case?
Earlier this month, representatives of the Justice Department of Hunan Province met with Liu Zhengqing in Guangzhou and then Chen Jiangang in Beijing, saying that on March 31 Xie Yang had dissolved the contractual relationships with them as attorneys and instead turned around and commissioned He Xiaodian (贺小电) in Changsha as his defense lawyer.
Why have the Hunan authorities gone to such lengths to alter Xie Yang’s legal representation?
Now I am shocked to learn that on April 25, 2017, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court will be trying Xie Yang for “inciting subversion of state power” (煽动颠覆国家政权罪), and “disrupting court order” (扰乱法庭秩序罪), and that his defense lawyer at court will be He Xiaodian.
Xie Yang’s family, defense lawyers, and his friends in China and overseas are anxiously watching and waiting for what the authorities will do.
Chen Guiqiu, wife of Xie Yang, in the United States
April 20, 2017
China’s Extraordinary Response to the 11-Nation Letter Over the Torture of Human Rights Lawyers, Yaxue Cao, March 28, 2017.
Chen Yunfei, March 31, 2017
The Sichuan-based activist was arrested in April, 2015, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” He was tried on December 26, 2016, a six-month delay from the scheduled trial in June. On March 30, the court sentenced him to four years in prison. He attended yesterday’s hearing in pajamas, and upon hearing his sentence, called out, “I will appeal; it’s much too light!” — The Editors
Dear lawyers and crooks of public security apparatus, procuratorate, and court,
I’ve been tormented for two years now, to the point that I’ve started to feel like the Monkey King (孙悟空) trapped in the searing flames of Lao Zi’s crucible — exceedingly comfortable. The persecution, the beatings, the shackling, have all turned into mathematical problems for me to solve. The harder they get, the more interesting it is, the more meaningful it feels to unravel them. I must once again give thanks to you crooks in the public security, the procuratorate, and the court systems — it’s you who made me what I am. I’m grateful to you for turning me into a brand ambassador for freedom of speech and opposition to violent tyranny! That sort of international renown has almost overwhelmed even my vaingloriousness, because I’m actually not that great or brave.
My case is pretty typical, actually. Anyone with an ounce of common sense and conscience knows that I’m innocent. You crooks, with your baseless accusations, are the ones flagrantly guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Everything I’ve ever said and done has been entirely within the framework of the law: lodging complaints against, exposing, and criticizing Zhou Yongkang (周永康), Li Chuncheng (李春城), and Li Kunxue (李昆学), all of them imposters and tyrants. There are only two possible reasons for the crooks in Chengdu city, Sichuan province, and the Central Politico-Legal Commission, to get involved in this sort of naked attack on a dissident: either they’re lackeys of Zhou and Li and they want to get in some payback, or else they’ve taken the political terror tactics of the Zhou Yongkang era — surveillance, threats, beatings, black jails, kidnappings — and are now plainly and flaglantry regularizing them.
Put another way, you crooks in the public security, the procuratorate, and the court systems are now even more poisonous, even more diseased than ever. In both the Zhou and post-Zhou eras, I used to earnestly, from my heart, tell those officials hanging about outside the jailhouse: “Before you is an endless abyss; behind you is the shore, a way out.” But they didn’t listen. Later, they themselves got investigated and jailed one after another: from Zhou Yongkang to Li Chuncheng, then to Li Kunxue. Netizens joked that I was able to put the hex on people.
Right now, given the present circumstances, everyone’s asking me to give a closing statement at the end of my trial. I can only say this: even if you crooks yank back the reins right now, you’re still going over the cliff, and the dictatorship with it. After Wen Qiang (文强, a top judicial official in Chongqing, executed by Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun) it was Wang Lijun (王立军); after Li Kunxue, who will it be? I pray once again: Lord, forgive me my sins (not the “sins” the crooks accused me of). I pray that you also forgive these crooks, for they know not what they do. This prayer is made in the name of Jesus, Son of the Heavenly Father.
Stated by: Chen ‘Criminal’ Yunfei (advanced amateur beast tamer)
Title: In the process of being upgraded
March 30, 2017
Tamer of Beasts, Tamer of Despots, Liao Yiwu, May 24, 2015
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Yaxue Cao, March 28, 2017
When on March 1 Chinese media launched a sudden and all-out smear campaign claiming that the torture of human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) was a fabrication, and that Western media coverage of it was “fake news,” many of us wondered what this outburst was all about. A UN Human Rights Council meeting? The German Chancellor’s planned visit?
Now we know. On February 27, diplomatic missions in Beijing from 11 countries wrote a letter, expressing their “growing concern over recent claims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in cases concerning detained human rights lawyers and other human rights defenders.” The letter also urged China to abandon the practice of secret detention known as “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL). The 11 countries are: Australia, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and seven European Union member nations: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Looking back, one has to marvel at China’s response.
The Smear Campaign: A Lightning-Fast Mass Production
On March 1, two days after the 11-country letter was delivered, the smear campaign began. Global Times (《环球时报》) led the charge with the article “The Truth about ‘Xie Yang Torture’: It’s a Fabrication Catering to Western Media”. It was quickly reposted by other print media and on major news portals such as Sina, Tencent, Netease, China National Radio, China.com, etc. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who was disappeared on November 21 last year and subsequently placed under RSDL, was shown on camera “admitting” that he was involved in the fabrication of Xie Yang’s claim to have been tortured, and that Xie Yang’s defense lawyer (Chen Jiangang) supplied further embellishments.
On March 2, CCTV broadcast (on at least two channels) a segment titled “The investigation into the truth about Xie Yang’s torture – a concoction of storytelling and imagination”. A prosecutor from the Hunan Procuratorate claimed that a team of prosecutors conducted an investigation in mid-February and concluded that the torture allegations were not true. CCTV failed to show a single full page from the “report,” except for what appeared to be the final page signed by three names.
The same day, Legal Daily, Procuratorate Daily, Southern Metropolis Daily and other papers joined the chorus of attack: that Xie Yang’s torture is a lie that has been rebuked by an investigation by the Hunan Procuratorate. The official website of the Ministry of Public Security and the official website of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate served up the same articles.
Also on March 2, the Weibo account of the Communist Party Youth League posted a 4-minute video called “The Truth About Xie Yang Torture Hyped up by Overseas Anti-China Media” (China Change subtitled the video). In addition to repeating the same smears, it made cynical deployment of several one-liners from President Donald Trump to add a veneer of legitimacy to the attack.
On March 2, Phoenix Television, a pro-Beijing broadcaster, showed two segments repeating similar content to CCTV (here and here). These video segments were reposted by provincial public security Weibo accounts.
On March 2, Xinhua’s English news website has this story: “Investigation reveals fake ‘torture stories’ about lawyer Xie Yang.”
Implicating Lawyer Chen Jiangang and his Firm
First off, Jiang Tianyong’s two defense lawyers were shocked to see their client on national television. They promptly asked: We have been denied meeting with our client for months on grounds of national security — how could a CCTV reporter, a camera crew, and God knows who else trudge in and film him? They demanded an answer but have received none.
In mid-February, the Beijing Municipal Justice Bureau and the Chaoyang District Justice Bureau summoned the 38-year-old lawyer Chen Jiangang — one Xie Yang’s two defense lawyers and the author of the detailed torture transcripts published on January 19 — and berated him for disclosing case information and giving interviews to foreign media. He was told to keep his mouth shut.
Following the massive smear campaign on March 1 and 2, Chen Jiangang published a long article detailing his meetings with Xie Yang and how the transcripts came about, questioning the Hunan Procuratorate’s so-called “independent report.” On March 5, he sent a formal letter to Hunan prosecutors, but has heard nothing back to this day.
He also posted Xie Yang’s own statement on January 13 affirming the fact that he was tortured. Sensing that he too is in danger of being retaliated against, Chen posted a statement: “I take complete responsibility for every character in the two transcripts I made of the meetings with Xie Yang, as well as for any other transcripts that have not yet been made public.”
Meanwhile, he has received a flow of nonstop calls and messages from municipal and district justice bureaus. “You made big troubles for us,” he was told. “The Center is extremely furious.” The authorities, he learned, approached some of his former clients and attempted to get them to smear him – an indication that the retaliation campaign is well underway.
His law firm was “inspected” earlier last week and the principals were told that they needed to “tighten management.” It’s all about intimidation.
Since February 28 both defense lawyers have been unable to meet Xie Yang despite repeated requests.
Angry Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Lashes Out
“China is always opposed to the efforts of any country to disrupt the normal case handling by Chinese judicial authorities at the excuse of human rights,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said on March 21, responding to the February 27 letter by 11 countries.
“You mentioned this expression of opinions by 11 missions in China. I believe this in itself is violating the spirit of rule of law. All sovereign states enjoy the independence of judicial affairs, and no country has the right to interfere with the independence of their judicial affairs,” Ms. Hua said in response to a question from The Globe and Mail.
The letter seems to have really rattled China and ruffled feathers in Beijing.
New Warning: ‘Be Aware, Diplomats!’
For Washington Post, the news on March 22 was that the United States abstained from signing the letter, conspicuously and inexplicably. Some suggested the omission was due to the still-unfilled senior positions and the chaotic nature of the transition, while others believed it was a decision most likely made by Rex Tillerson, the new Secretary of State.
The Chinese government apparently relished the fact that the United States didn’t participate. Global Times took a screenshot of the Post’s headline, though in their Chinese-language summary only drew attention to the U.S. absence, while neglecting the part about “lawyers” and “torture.”
They also had a field day co-opting Trump with images and soundbites like “very fake news” and “you’re fired!”
Global Times criticized western governments for inflating the number of lawyers who were subject to persecution, pointing out that the “Hunan People’s Procuratorate has issued a formal investigation report over allegations of ‘Xie Yang being tortured,’” and concluding that they are not true. It warned Western governments not to misjudge the Chinese judiciary due to “political bias.”
Is There An ‘Investigation’?
No, there isn’t. They know perfectly well that everything about Xie Yang’s reports of torture is true. The CCTV report on March 2 showed only half a page from the much vaunted Hunan Procuratorate investigation. Of the half page there is the title, the “Conclusion,” and in between nothing more than ellipses.
Lawyer Chen Jiangang lobbed a barrage of questions about this report, which I sample here:
- Why wasn’t Xie Yang’s defense counsel asked to join the investigation?
- Why haven’t you published the report? Publish the report!
- The torture was first reported in October 2016, but you didn’t “investigate” it until mid-February — what took you so long?
- How is it legal to place Xie Yang under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’?
- Why not publish the surveillance video/audio recording of Xie Yang’s interrogation to prove, in the most straightforward manner, that there was no torture? By law, the authorities should have recorded every minute of it.
- The Xie Yang torture transcripts names scores of torturers. Why not ask them to state to the public that they didn’t torture Xie Yang?
- Why didn’t CCTV ask Xie Yang himself on camera whether he was tortured?
- Can you all come out and debate with me about your investigation?
What’s at Stake
China has to be seriously rattled to have launched such a furious and massive counterattack. It came right after the 11-country letter, but I suspect the letter was merely the last straw in a period of prolonged media coverage and governmental and NGO reaction to the torture revelations — not just of Xie Yang, but of Li Chunfu, and privately, of other 709 Incident detainees.
Indeed, we have yet to learn the whole extent of the 709 torture. In a letter to world leaders, four wives summarized what they had learned from talking to those who had been released and who have yet to speak out openly about their experiences in custody:
“Whether the internees were in good health or not, they were all made to take medication. ….The most they were forced to take was 20 pills per day, including barbiturates and antipsychotic drugs, along with other unidentified drugs. The victims were either forced to consume the drugs or tricked into doing so, and afterwards often felt dazed and stuporous.”
“….Prisoners were also put in cages submerged mostly in water, and left inside for seven days, the entire body underwater with a space to breath at the top. As they stood in the water and tried to sleep, rats would scurry about outside the cage, biting their nose and ears.”
Concurrent with the arbitrary detention and torture that began on July 9, 2015, China has been propagating a narrative where an evil force, led by the United States and its allies, is working to destabilize the world for its own gain: in Iraq, in Syria, over the South China Sea, and inside China. The establishment of THAAD in South Korea is also seen as a finger in China’s eye. One of the many videos Chinese authorities have disseminated on domestic websites included stealthy shots of U.S. embassy vehicles and personnel, and a French diplomat, during the first four 709 trials last August in front of a Tianjin court. All this was fitted to nefarious music and a sarcastic, hectoring voiceover. Human rights lawyers and defenders are depicted as agents of China’s subversion in a U.S.-led color revolution.
The revelations of the torture of Xie Yang were an extraordinary act of courage by both Xie Yang and his lawyer Chen Jiangang. The broader meaning of it was laid bare by they two lawyers during their long conversations at the No. 2 West Meeting Room at Changsha 2nd Detention Center. Chen related in a home recording on March 7:
“But Xie Yang refused to admit any guilt because he is innocent….. His thought was that he wanted to maintain the final dignity for Chinese lawyers as a whole. He also thought that right now a nationwide crackdown and persecution of human rights lawyers — and any lawyer who dares to resist the authorities — is taking place, and that he would spare no effort to fight his case and push back against the persecution. If they succeeded easily in Xie Yang’s case, they would unscrupulously harm and persecute other lawyers in the future. He was willing to use himself to ‘test the tiger.’ I’m not saying how wonderful he is. I know him too well, he has many flaws. But on this point, he said he wanted to use his own case to fight back and to prevent them from persecuting lawyers as a whole in the future.” [26’03”-27’36”; subtitled by China Change]
You too, diplomats and policymakers, have to hold your ground and push back. You must not be beaten off or scared away, or you will be crushed and overrun.
Bill of Indictment Against Human Rights Lawyer Xie Yang, January 11, 2017.
China Change, March 25, 2017
When one of the two defense lawyers for Pastor Yang Hua (仰华) of the Living Stone house church in Guiyang traveled to the Nanming District Detention Center (贵阳市南明区看守所) to meet their client on March 20, he was surprised to see Yang almost carried into the meeting room by three sturdy cellmates. Yang Hua’s face showed he was full of pain, seemingly on the verge of paralysis. The lawyer discovered that, three days previously, Yang’s legs suddenly became inflamed and ulcerated, and the festering was spreading fast, with the burning pain keeping him up at night. The physician on duty at the detention center treated it as nothing more than a superficial skin infection and administered painkillers. Yang’s condition has been rapidly deteriorating since.
On March 24, the lawyer again met with Yang Hua and found that earlier in the day he had been given a physical examination at the Guizhou Provincial People’s Hospital. Yang Hua also explained the following about his condition. In his words:
“On March 17, 2017, ulcers began to appear on my legs. I reported it to the detention center, but the staff said they had seen this many times before, and that it was nothing more than ‘impetigo’ [an infectious, superficial bacterial skin infection]. On March 18 the resident doctor gave me some medication. By March 19, after the festering had spread, I again requested that the detention center provide proper treatment, such as injections or an IV. On March 20 and 21, the physician on duty put me on an IV drip. The burning pain was so much at this point, however, that I couldn’t sleep for several nights. From around 3:30 to 4:00 a.m. on the 22nd, the agony was truly unbearable. I rang the alarm to report to the cadres on duty. Officer Luo, on watch that night, was furious at being disturbed and screamed some truly awful obscenities at me. No one else in the cell was able to sleep, so in the end the physician on duty gave me two painkillers. I haven’t been able to walk or go to the toilet by myself during this period.
“On the morning of March 22, the detention center brought me to the department of dermatology at the Guiyang Sixth Municipal Hospital for a physical inspection. The doctor diagnosed me with a form of allergic vasculitis [an inflammation of the blood vessels], and said that if no treatment could be found one outcome might be high-level amputation [i.e. above the knee]. He recommended high doses of penicillin for a fortnight. The detention center clinic, however, does not have penicillin.
“At 2:30 p.m. on March 22, the detention center gave me a blood test for HIV/AIDS. On March 23, I was again brought to a hospital designated by the authorities, this time the No. 368 People’s Armed Police Hospital, for a physical inspection. Five physicians were involved but couldn’t come to a final diagnosis. They did, however, recommend that I be taken to a regular hospital for treatment. They also indicated that the cost of treatment might be extremely high.
“That day I submitted a written request for hospital treatment, asking the detention center authorities to quickly arrange it. On the morning of March 24 I was brought to the Guizhou Provincial People’s Hospital to have a blood and urine test. Though they had the results that morning, the guards refused to inform me of them except to say that the HIV/AIDS test had come back negative.”
Yang Hua’s lawyers wrote to the Guiyang Procuratorate asking for a review of the continued necessity of detaining their client. Two prosecutors told one of the lawyers that Yang Hua’s case is highly “sensitive,” and they could only make a decision in consultation with the judge handling the case, as well as the Politico-legal Commission.
The lawyers believe that Yang Hua’s condition is urgent and serious and that he needs to be admitted to a hospital qualified to deliver appropriate treatment as soon as possible. Failing that, the relevant departments will have to assume responsibility for delaying treatment and thus exacerbating Yang Hua’s condition.
On March 24, Yang Hua’s wife Wang Hongwu (王洪雾) accompanied a lawyer for a visit, and happened to arrive just as Yang Hua was coming back from a test at the provincial hospital. It was the first time that husband and wife had seen each other one year and three months, after Yang Hua was detained in December, 2015. They were only able to exchange a few words before the police officers intervened. After Yang Hua and his lawyer met, the police asked the Pastor’s wife to accompany them to the No. 368 People’s Armed Police Hospital.
Yang Hua’s wife, in a letter to fellow parishioners calling for prayers on Yang Hua’s behalf, summarized what the chief physician told her: “The provincial hospital diagnosed it as ‘anaphylactoid purpura’ [a kind of blood vessel inflammation]. I saw that both of Yang Hua’s legs were covered in rashes and spots of necrosis. Around the shins on both legs, in particular, there’s a large area of necrosis and seeping wounds. The feet are swollen up to the ankles. The doctor said they’d use large doses of hormones and anti-inflammatory drugs to treat it. Because the illness came on so ferociously and rapidly — around a week — the hospital gave me a notice of severe illness and told me that Yang Hua might develop a range of other symptoms, including septicemia, hemorrhaging of the digestive tract, kidney damage, and more.”
Pastor Yang Hua (birth name Li Guozhi 李国志), who just turned 41 years old, was arrested on December 9, 2015, and was tried on December 26, 2016 on charges of “deliberately divulging state secrets” (故意泄露国家机密罪). The so-called “state secrets” in question referred to a circular about the establishment of the “Municipal Command Center for Dealing With the Living Stone Church According to the Law” (贵阳市依法处置贵阳活石教会指挥部). The notice said: “Dealing with the Living Stone church according to the law is a high-priority political task. Work unit leaders must personally grasp the issue, join the city’s overall deployments, and earnestly mobilize to carry the work out to completion.” Yang Hua was sentenced to 2.5 years imprisonment in January this year.
The Living Stone church of Guiyang is an emerging urban house church that grew rapidly beginning in 2008. It has been subject to constant suppression and surveillance by the authorities. Zhang Xiuhong (张秀红), the chairman of the Board of Deacons and church accountant, was arrested in July 2015 and, after being detained for an extended period without trial, was sentenced to five years imprisonment in February 2017. The charges against her, of supposedly “illegal business operations,” were completely absent any criminal conduct.
At the same time Yang Hua was arrested, the authorities announced that the Living Stone church was banned. The 600 square meter office space, on the 24th floor of a new office building in downtown Guiyang, that it used as its place of congregation was sealed and guarded by security personnel hired by the local authorities.
The authorities persist in their claim that the suppression of the church is nothing more than a criminal matter and is thus not a case of religious persecution. But as the Procuratorate revealed to the lawyers, the Living Stone case is “sensitive,” and they would need to consult the Communist Party’s Politico-legal Commission about how they handled it.
The Shepherds of Living Stone Church, Yaxue Cao, December 25, 2017
Living Stone: A Portrait of a House Church in China, Yaxue Cao, December 21, 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)
China Change, March 9, 2017
On March 1, Chinese state-run print and television media launched a massive campaign to discredit reports that human rights lawyer Xie Yang was severely tortured during his detention, from July 11, 2015 to the present. The propaganda apparatus paraded on camera Jiang Tianyong, another human rights lawyer kidnapped by state security in November 2016, “confessing” that he had fabricated the details of torture to capture the attention of Western media and governments, who are said to be implacably biased against China. Jiang Tianyong is believed to have been tortured to subjection. The next day, the official Weibo account of the Chinese Communist Party’s Youth League trotted out a four minute video that, in addition to repeating the same smears, made cynical deployment of several one-liners from President Donald Trump to add a veneer of legitimacy to the attack. China Change uploaded the video to YouTube for preservation, and added subtitles so viewers can examine Party propaganda in its rawest form.
Since last August, the Chinese propaganda apparatus has pumped out a series of similar video productions that have reached tens of millions of viewers on domestic social media platforms. Such videos have charged that the goal of the United States is to incite a color revolution in China to topple the Communist regime. The conspiratorial anti-U.S. narrative used to be dismissed by China watchers as hawkish cries from the Party’s radical fringe, but by now it should be clear that this discourse in fact lies at the core of Party ideology.
These videos include:
After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, China Change, July 15, 2016
The torture of Xie Yang:
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 (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation
Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others
World media reports about the torture of Xie Yang following the publication of the transcripts:
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.
Abogados chinos se movilizan contra el Gobierno tras conocerse torturas, EFE, January 22, 2017.
‘Your only right is to obey’: lawyer describes torture in China’s secret jails, The Guardian, January 23, 2017.
China must respect lawyers’ human rights, a letter by 29 international lawyers, judges and jurists, The Guardian, January 23, 2017.
Un avocat chinois révèle des tortures subies en détention, Le Monde, January 24, 2017.
“Te haremos sufrir de la manera que nos apetezca”, El País, January 24, 2017.
In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post editorial, January 27, 2017.