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The China Human Rights Lawyers Group: Statement Upon the 2nd Anniversary of the 709 Incident

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 9, 2017

 

In the early hours of the morning on July 9, 2015, the Beijing-based lawyer Wang Yu and her husband and son, Bao Longjun (包龙军) and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), were suddenly illegally arrested by the police. Before long, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Xie Yang (谢阳), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Li Chunfu (李春富), Xie Yuandong (谢远东), Liu Sixin (刘四新), Gao Yue (高月), Zhao Wei (赵威), Li Shuyun (李姝云) and dozens of other lawyers and their assistants were also arrested. At around the same time, Wu Gan (吴淦 known online as “The Butcher”), an activist who was in Nanchang protesting the Jiangxi High Court’s refusal to allow a lawyer to examine the case files surrounding the “Leping Wrongful Imprisonment” case, was arrested, along with Li Yanjun (李燕军), Liu Xing (刘星), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Wang Su’e (王素娥), and others, a total of 17 citizen activists in Weifang, Shandong Province. This was a prelude to the mass arrests of the July 9 sweep. Later, there were also the arrests, one after another, of Hu Shigen (胡石根), Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Wang Fang (王芳), Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) and other rights defenders. After July 9, over 360 lawyers and citizens around the country were summoned and subjected to coercive, high-pressure interrogations. The family members of lawyers and rights activists were also implicated and subjected to constant threats and intimidation. About 40 lawyers were prevented from leaving China.

This campaign of mass arrests of lawyers began on July 9, 2015, and so is known as the “709 Incident.” After it began, those detained have for the most part been disappeared — held in secret detention (officially known as “residential surveillance at a designated place”). In January 2016, when the term of “residential surveillance at a designated place” expired, the majority of the lawyers were then formally arrested on the criminal charge of subverting, or inciting subversion of, state power. The authorities attempted to forcibly sever the legal contracts between those arrested and their own lawyers and then, entirely exceeding any legitimate power they held, assigned lawyers they controlled to the cases. In early August 2016, the Tianjin Second Intermediate Court began rapidly prosecuting and pronouncing pro forma sentences against Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Gou Hongguo, and Zhai Yanmin on charges of “subversion of state power.” The four were given prison sentences of between three and seven years. In November 2016 lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who had been working indefatigably to try to rescue the 709 detainees, was himself put under secret detention in the Changsha 1st Detention Center.

Separately, beginning in September 2016, but particularly from February to May 2017, mass arrests of citizens in Shenzhen began. Those targeted included Gu Yimin (顾义民), Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Lu Guoying (陆国英), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang Jun (王军), Ding Yan (丁岩), Ma Zhiquan (马志权), Li Nanhai (李南海) and others. Their arrests was said to have been connected with their advocacy on behalf of 709 victims — a continuation and escalation of the campaign.

In January 2017, lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) was released on probation. The long-term torture and abuse he was subjected to in custody, however, left him mentally broken. Only through the care, company, and guidance of his family did he gradually begin returning to health. Xie Yang’s lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), after visiting him in custody, published the inside details of the extreme torture that Xie Yang was subjected to. In April 2017, Li Heping (李和平) was given a suspended sentence for “subversion of state power”; when he returned home, his face was thin and pallid. He explained that he had suffered systematic, long-term psychological and physical torture in custody. The Chinese phrase “nine deaths and still alive” (九死一生) would describe it. In May 2017, Xie Yang was released on probation. When in the detention center, Wu Gan wrote a letter of complaint against the authorities, describing the torture he was put through. Nothing at all has been heard from Wang Quanzhang since his arrest two years ago; the lawyers hired by his family have yet to see him, and no one knows whether he’s even dead or alive.

In the post 709 Crackdown period, some people believe that the community of human rights lawyers had been dealt with a destructive blow. Some have been delighted at that prospect, some withdrew, and others have changed course. The 709 incident itself, however, has become the occasion for a number of human rights lawyers to shine through. Those who stuck through when besieged with crisis and danger on all sides are benchmarks for legal professionals in China — they’re the group who most care, most pursue, and are most willing to exert themselves for freedom, democracy, rule of law, fairness, and justice in China.

The 709 incident has also revealed a number of legal scholars and professionals, both embedded in the state system and outside it, who wear the garb of “men of the law” but who in fact trample the rule of law, helping to suppress democracy activists, and who hamper China’s democratization. Doing so, they’ve now become obstacles, trying to block up the wheels of history’s progress. Among them are some “experts,” “professors,” and “scholars” who, in their ivory tower, act like kept propagandists for those in power, defending the Party’s anti-democratic, anti-liberty, and anti-rule of law behavior. They sell out their consciences for money; they’ve abandoned the basic ethics of human beings, and they’re simply washing up after the evildoers. There are also a group of official lawyers who work at the command of the security apparatus. They too cloak themselves as “men of the law,” but the role they play is that of the stability maintenance agent, defending those trampling on the rule of law. History will testify the truth about them, and their names will put to shame in the course of China’s democratization.

History will also remember another group of people from the 709 incident: the family members of 709 victims. Especially the wives of Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang, Xie Yanyi, Gou Hongguo, Zhai Yanmin and others. Their images of carrying bright red buckets with names of their husbands  impressed all of us. The work of these wives on behalf of their husbands persisted throughout the 709 crackdown.

The 709 incident was a premeditated, large-scale, coordinated attack by the authorities on the human rights defense movement, the most severe over the last several years. The daily withering of civil society in China under such repression is a fact — but as long as there are abuses of human rights, human rights lawyers will not be absent. We believe that those who’ve been through the 709 test won’t give up on defending human rights. Instead, they will more tenaciously, wisely, and fearlessly assume the mission that the era demands of them.

The 709 incident shows that when the ignorant and powerful come to confront human rights defenders, they act without mercy or feeling or any restraint. The forced confessions they extract simply reflect their apprehension and guilty conscience in the face of the law, and in the face of a citizenry that is waking up every day. They desperately need human rights lawyers to acknowledge allegiance and openly confess guilt so they can then use that to further repress the rest of the citizenry.

The international community, lawyers, the family members of victims, citizens, and people of conscience throughout society, have always been supporters of 709 victims. Those ensnared by the 709 crackdown have borne witness to the false promise of the rule of law in China with their suffering. The awakening of citizen consciousness and the development of civil society are inevitable parts of the road to a modern democratic civilization; lawyers are a crucial force on this path toward the rule of law. They should not become the targets of attack, elimination, and persecution.

The human rights lawyers who have been arrested are not the troublemakers in Chinese society, but instead the people who seek out solutions. They assume it upon themselves, and they summon up their own courage, to put the questions that plague Chinese society on the table and hope for a lawful path to their resolution. History makes clear that liberty, democracy, and the rule of law don’t fall from the sky; those in power won’t limit it of their own accord, nor will they proactively let go of their own vested interests. Using the law to resist, to strive for freedom, promote democracy, and realize the rule of law is an effective path. In this process, the sacrifices and exertions of the resistors are worth it.

Upon the second anniversary of the 709 incident, we thank the attention of everyone on the 709 incident, and we thank everyone who has worked to free the persecuted. We won’t be discouraged; we’ll continue striving to defend human rights. We hope that everyone continues to pay attention to the cases of Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, and Wu Gan, among others. We also express our concern over the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Constitutional democracy has not yet been realized, and citizens must continue to strive. Before the arrival of dawn, there will be harsher suppression and worse persecution, but they will not stop the sun from rising, and the light of constitutional democracy will radiate everywhere in China and heal this wounded land.

 

July 9, 2017

 
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The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Ji Tian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651

 

 

 

Two Years on: An Update on Lawyer Wang Yu, the First 709 Detainee

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.  

 

Wang Yu hooligan sparrow

In the documentary Hooligan Sparrow, lawyer Wang Yu is shown handing out the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in2013.  Photo: Hooligan Sparrow website

 

 

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.

Wang Yu visit_709

Left to right: Li Yuhan, Wang Yu, and Wen Donghai

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.

 

 


Related:

A Human Rights Lawyer’s Notes on the ‘709 Incident,’ Two Years on, Wen Donghai, July 6, 2017.

To American Bar Association With Regard to ABA Human Rights Award to Wang Yu, August 6, 2016.

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

 

 

 

 

 

A Human Rights Lawyer’s Notes on the ‘709 Incident,’ Two Years on

Wen Donghai, July 6, 2017

 

 709 

 

With the second anniversary of July 9, 2015 approaching, and as someone who has witnessed it first hand and served as the defense lawyer for one of the prominent 709 detainees, I’ve racked my brains about what to say. I feel that I have so much to say — but at the same time, it seems that only being as quiet and still as a mountain could truly encompass the full meaning of the 709 Crackdown.

Naturally, the first people I was worried about when the crackdown began were my client Wang Yu (王宇) and her family. Prior to 709, she was extremely active as a human rights lawyer, gaining the nickname “Goddess of War” (战神) for her fearlessness. The 709 incident seemed designed to shatter this legend, and so in the early hours of July 9, 2015, the shocking, flagrant conspiracy that was the 709 incident began to unfold, with Wang Yu bearing the brunt of the impact as the first to be snatched away. Wang Yu 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.

In the month that followed, Zhou Shifeng (周世峰), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Xie Yang (谢阳), Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and another few dozen human rights lawyers lost their freedom one after another. I myself was one of the 300 or so lawyers and activists around China who were summoned, interrogated, and temporarily detained. I was warned away from paying any attention to what happened to Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, or anyone else.

Fortunately, after the majority of the lawyers overcame the initial sense of terror, they bravely announced that they wouldn’t be cowed. Other lawyers also began joining the ranks of those willing to defend their persecuted colleagues, and thus began the tenacious work of rescuing detainees. The obstacles facing the lawyers were formidable: many were unable to even see their clients from beginning to end; they were illegally told by police that they’d been fired; the atmosphere of terror was constant and nagging; the 709 defense work required groping in the dark given that little information about the detentions was available; and the 709 detainees’ wives and children were swallowed in anxiety by the unfathomable unknown. But despite all this, the 709 defense lawyers and their families didn’t shrink from the fight. From the beginning they were awaiting the arrival of dawn. It’s this persistence that will stand as a monument to the honor of China’s human rights lawyers as a whole.

Every step in the resistance of 709 lawyers and activists has been a trial, and it’s far from over. There is still no news about Wang Quanzhang, and his safety is now our greatest concern; Jiang Tianyong has been given a brutal lesson: the mercy he hoped to receive from the police through a confession led instead to harsher criminal charges, again proving that it’s futile to harbor any illusions about the authorities. Wu Gan (吴淦) set a courageous precedent by refusing to give quarter, adding more dignity to the last part of the 709 resistance. Then there is the long list of others – Zhou Shifeng, Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, Li Heping, Xie Yanyi, Xie Yang, Zhang Kai (张凯) — who have either been sentenced to actual prison, or been given suspended sentences under strict control, or been let out on a “probation” that amounts in fact to house arrest…

Although there’s often a great deal of disagreement in the Chinese legal field about how to categorize a human rights lawyer, there is simply no doubt that 709 lawyers are the true heirs to this title. Their efforts give real meaning to to the vocation of a human rights lawyer, and their comportment in the face of power shows the strength of character of those in their field. Because of the 709 lawyers, China’s human rights lawyers now have clear values to pursue.

With this understanding in mind, I begin to imagine that, in the years to come, there won’t be such a thing in China as a “human rights lawyer,” because as soon as the values pursued by human rights lawyers are internalized by China’s legal community as the universal standard of professional conduct, every lawyer will have become a human rights lawyer. The only distinction will be whether or not a lawyer has the fortune of coming across a case in which rights must be safeguarded, and whether they discharge their responsibility to see it to the end.

Human rights lawyers are guardians of fairness and justice. Their success in this role comes for their proactive involvement in public affairs and the positive leadership role they play. Some people have said that lawyers are manufacturers of public incidents — but I disagree. Public incidents don’t need lawyers to manufacture them; they arise naturally in society. The key is that lawyers can get involved in public affairs, and through their professional activities, knowledge, and experience, to a certain extent guide public discussions. Or to put it another way, lawyers are creators of public discourse — but they don’t manufacture public incidents. It’s precisely through participating in matters of public interest that they’re able to guide the discourse, and thus truly safeguard fairness and justice.

To an extent, human rights lawyers are dispute resolvers; strictly speaking, however, the resolution of disputes should ultimately rely upon the healthy operations of an independent judicial system — not merely the skill of lawyers. In actuality, the correct designation for lawyers is “a defender of the interest of the client,” and in this regard human rights lawyers are no different. There are particular circumstances under which lawyers, in order to safeguard the interests of their client, are forced to create a certain level of dispute so that the process of resolving the dispute results in a reparation to the party whose interests were harmed.

Human rights lawyers are entirely worthy of the title of human rights defenders. The rights of the lawyer, indeed, come from the basic rights accorded to any specific individual; and if the fundamental rights of the individual aren’t protected, the rights of the lawyer won’t be respected. But the defense of human rights is the responsibility of all people; lawyers are at the forefront of this defense of rights, as a result of the nature of the profession itself. Just as in the realm of environmental protection, which in the same fashion requires a group of experts getting involved to protect the environment.

Mostly, human rights lawyers defend personal rights, so they are inevitably on guard against the power of the state. Most of the attacks against human rights come from the abuse of state power. The 709 lawyers are worthy of the title of human rights lawyers because of their fearless exertions in balancing against the power of the state, and for their attempts to establish anew the proper balance between the state’s rights and individual rights in China.

Human rights lawyers should be the advocates of policies and the proponents of democracy. If they do so, of course, they will have entered the realm of politics — at which point they won’t merely be lawyers. This is just the same as how many social activists are also journalists, writers, scholars, or even regular citizens, simply adopting different roles in different contexts. In the case of lawyers, however, the law in which they believe and the political system are necessarily connected, making them natural-born politicians. Lawyers are often more apt than other professionals to take an interest in political affairs, and to use their knowledge and natural political acuity to get involved in public and political matters.

China’s human rights lawyers have gone through a stage of significant growth and transformation in the roles they play. Before the 709 incident, the majority of them avoided from commenting on political affairs, or kept away from them, whether deliberately or subconsciously. Indeed, lawyers would often try to turn political questions into legal ones, legal questions into professional ones, professional questions into procedural ones, and then engage in the minute analysis of procedure.

The initial form of human rights lawyers in China was the “diehard lawyer” (死磕律师). Even though the majority of “diehard” lawyers didn’t particularly want to touch cases that officialdom had designated “politically sensitive,” they were willing to walk into the Communist Party’s courts and use the Communist Party’s laws to hold forth a robust and courageous resistance. Through this, they won widespread social approbation. This circumstance was possible because at the time there was still a limited space for legal resistance. But after the 18th Party Congress, and in particular in the post-709 China, the Communist Party has severely rescinded the space for so-called “legal resistance,” replacing it instead with violent repression and power. This, conversely, led more lawyers to see clearly for themselves the true face of the slogan that the Party is “ruling the country according to the law.” They began to think over the root cause of all this. And as this took place, human rights lawyers began to slowly emerge into the view of the public. While the Party tried to besmirch their reputations and persecute them, they won the recognition of a wider and wider swathe of the public, and the number of supporters continued to swell. Even though the activities of human rights lawyers have been severely restricted by the authorities, the persecution has helped them reach a far greater audience, and has enhanced their reputations across society.

The direction taken by human rights lawyers in China will test how civilized the country becomes. If China undergoes a democratic transition in the near future, a portion of these lawyers will inevitably be set on the path of professional politicians, while others will continue in their role as lawyers, becoming even more professional. Moreover, they’ll increasing depart from being “human rights lawyers,” because a truly civilized country doesn’t require that many rights lawyers — only a country that engages in constant human rights abuses, and which also maintains a minimal degree of social openness, leads to the proliferation of human rights lawyers as a professional group.

Upon the occasion of the second anniversary of the 709 crackdown, this article is offered merely as a call to remember. I continue to believe that the steadfast pursuit of values will become the direction towards which China’s lawyers develop, and only that attitude is appropriate to lawyers in a civilized country.

I give my respect to Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, Wu Gan, and the many, many other 709 lawyers and activists, as well as all the older generation of human rights lawyers!

 

Wen Donghai (文东海)

July 6, 2017

 

Wen Donghai latestWen Donghai is a human rights lawyer based in Changsha, Hunan province.

 


Related:

To American Bar Association With Regard to ABA Human Rights Award to Wang Yu, August 6, 2016.

The Vilification of Lawyer Wang Yu and Violence By Other Means, July 27, 2015.

14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, August 19, 2015.

 

Translated from Chinese by China Change.

 

 

 

 

 

Announcing the Inaugural China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day

July 4, 2017

 

709群像 2017 big black big

Cartoon by @baduicao

 

 

China’s human rights lawyers have since 2003 become one of the most active and effective forces in the country advancing the ideals of universal values, because of their unique role and professional positions. Their work defending the civil rights and liberties of Chinese citizens extends from the internet to the streets, from courtrooms to jails. They’ve fought hard to promote the rule of law and democracy in China.

As prominent representatives of Chinese lawyers, human rights lawyers have been the target of the Chinese government’s persecution since the beginning of the rights defense movement. They’ve had their licenses to practice law revoked, they’ve been followed, threatened, publicly slandered by state media, abducted, disappeared, sent to forced labor camps, imprisoned for lengthy periods, and tortured. Persecution has become commonplace.

The persecution of rights lawyers in China reached its peak on July 9, 2015, when hundreds were detained and interrogated; the crackdown is now known as the “709 Incident.” The barbarism, cruelty, and absurdity with which the Chinese Communist Party began persecuting 709 lawyers and activists, and the torture and humiliation they suffered, has shocked the world. The 709 lawyers’ own defense attorneys and supporters have put up courageous resistance. The unyielding support and advocacy by the wives of human rights lawyers, through smiles and tears, have become iconic images.

The 709 Incident isn’t over, yet it has already left a profound mark on the development of Chinese civilization. It’s far reaching political and historical significance will become clearer in time.

The date of July 9 must become one that we remember and mark from now on. For this reason, we call for the establishment of July 9 as “China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day.” To inaugurate the occasion we will hold an event in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the bravery, wisdom, and will to resist exhibited by human rights lawyers in China. We’ll recall their suffering and sacrifices, demand accountability for the crimes committed against them, whether by the regime or individuals, and call for the international community to continue monitoring their plight and advocating on their behalf.

We firmly believe that someday in the future, in a constitutionally-governed, democratic, and free China, we’ll mark July 9 as a day to honor and celebrate human rights lawyers, and it will become a day that belongs to all of China’s lawyers.

Plans for the Inaugural Chinese Human Rights Lawyers’ Day are as follows:

Location: 1701 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(Taipei and Hong Kong events to be announced later.)

Time: 10:00 a.m. July 9 (Eastern U.S. time)

Format: Exhibition of photographs, screening of a new documentary film about Chinese human rights lawyers, luncheon, discussions, and a march — broadcast online to the world

Social media tags: #709lawyers  #中国人权律师节

Organizers:

Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (Hong Kong)
China Change (U.S.A)
Committee to Support Chinese Lawyers(U.S.A)
Taiwan Support China Human Rights Lawyers Network (Taiwan)
China Aid  (U.S.A)
Initiatives for China (U.S.A)
International Association of People’s Lawyers(Netherlands)
Humanitarian China (U.S.A)
Institute for China’s Democratic Transition (U.S.A)
Day of the Endangered Lawyer (Netherlands)
Taiwan Association for China Human Rights (Taiwan)
New School for Democracy (Hong Kong)
The International Observatory for Lawyers at Risk (OIAD, Europe)
Visual Artists Guild (U.S.A)

Contacts:

Teng Biao:       Tel: (617)396-6099     Email: tengbiao89@gmail.com
Yang Jianli      Tel: (857)472-9039    Email: yangjianli001@gmail.com

 


关于举办首届“中国人权律师节”活动的通告

 

中国人权律师群体,自2003年来已经成为中国大陆民间最活跃的抗争力量之一。从法庭到监狱,从网络到街头,他们为捍卫公民自由和人权,为推动中国走向法治和民主,付出了艰苦的努力。

作为中国律师群体的优秀代表,人权律师从维权运动之初开始,就一直受到中国政府的各种严厉打压:吊销律师证、跟踪、威胁、公开污名化、绑架、秘密失踪、劳教、长期监禁和酷刑,无日无之。

以2015年7月9日为标志的709事件,将对人权律师的迫害推向了一个顶峰。中共当局对人权律师镇压之野蛮、残酷、荒谬,“709律师”和活动人士所承受的酷刑、羞辱和磨难,震惊世界。“709律师”、他们的辩护律师和支持者们,进行着勇敢的抗争;尤其是709律师的妻子们的奔走呐喊,她们的微笑与泪水,在无数关注中\国命运的人们心中,已定格为这个时代最令人动容的形象。

709事件还未结束,就已经在中国文明进程上写下浓重的一笔。其深远的政治意义和历史意义,将随着时间的推移,愈加彰显。

7月9日这个日子由此也必将成为一个不可磨灭的纪念日。我们在此倡议将7月9日设立为“中国人权律师节”。2017年7月9日,我们将举办“首届中国人权律师节”系列活动,庆祝中国人权律师的勇气、智慧和抗争;记住他们的苦难和付出;记录和追究政府和个人所犯下的罪行;推动国际社会对中国的人权状况予以持续关注和支持。

我们坚信,在未来的某个7月9日,我们将在一个宪政法治、自由民主的中国,庆祝这个不仅仅属于人权律师、也将属于全体中国律师的节日。

“首届中国人权律师节”活动计划

【时间】2017年7月9日 美东时间上午10点

【地点】美国华盛顿 1701 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(香港、台湾活动计划另行通知)

【形式】图片展、纪录片放映、聚餐、讨论会、游行、全球连线与直播。

【社交媒体标签】#中国人权律师节 #709lawyers

【主办】

中国维权律师关注组(香港)
改变中国(美国)
声援中国律师委员会(美国)
台湾支持中国人权律师网络 (台湾)
对华援助协会(美国)
公民力量 (美国)
国际人民律师协会 (荷兰)
人道中国 (美国)
中国民主转型研究所 (美国)
国际危难律师日 (荷兰)
台湾关怀中国人权联盟 (台湾)
华人民主书院 (香港)
危难律师国际观察(欧洲多国)
视觉艺术家协会 (美国)

【联系】

滕   彪  电话:(617)396 6099;  Email:tengbiao89@gmail.com
杨建利  电话: (857) 472 9039;  Email: yangjianli001@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Approaching the ‘International Day in Support of Victims of Torture,’ a Request to OHCHR and IBA to Address the Torture of Chinese Human Rights Lawyers in the 709 Crackdown

China Human Rights Lawyers Group, June 23, 2017

 

This year, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is partnering with the International Bar Association (IBA) to mark the annual International Day in Support of Victims of Torture” on June 26. Through storytelling, social media campaigns, and a panel discussion, they hope to advance their “shared ambition for the absolute prohibition of torture.” This year and the year before, we have begun to learn, with horror, about the torture of Chinese human rights lawyers during the 709 Crackdown. Below is a letter from the China Human Rights Lawyers Group addressed and delivered to OHCHR and IBA. — The Editors

 

To the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the International Bar Association:

In the early morning of July 9, 2015, Chinese police began a campaign of mass arrests, interrogations, and warnings against human rights lawyers and rights defenders. Dozens of rights lawyers and other activists were detained; hundreds of lawyers, scholars, and citizens were called in for “chats” and warnings by the police; dozens of lawyers and citizens were prevented from leaving the country.

Whether they were charged with the crime of “subversion of state power,” “inciting subversion of state power,” or the more pedestrian “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” all were subjected to the coercive criminal penal measure known as “residential surveillance at a designated place,” based on the claim that they were a threat to national security.

Residential surveillance at a designated place is a compulsory criminal procedure that was specified, codified, and integrated into China’s “Criminal Procedure Law,” modified in 2012 and implemented in 2013. In the implementation of this procedure, Chinese police have been abusing the relevant clauses, using it to put subjects under completely secret control, torturing them, and acting without accountability and restraint.

The torture that 709 lawyers have been subjected to during residential surveillance at a designated place has been made clear in the transcripts of interviews of lawyer Xie Yang provided by his defense counsel Chen Jiangang. One can also listen to the accounts by Li Heping’s family and friends who visited him after he was given a suspended sentence. One can infer it from the psychological breakdown suffered by Li’s brother, Li Chunfu, after he was released on probation. One can observe it from the articles published by lawyer Li Shuyun and legal assistant Zhao Wei. One can can get a sense of it from the few choice descriptive phrases used by lawyer Xie Yanyi after he was released on probation.

Wang Quanzhang, another lawyer arrested in the 709 Crackdown, has been in detention for nearly two years now, and not a single piece of news has emerged about his condition. Even whether he’s dead or alive is unclear — and those who care for him are extremely concerned that he has been put through, or is now being put through, extreme torture. Lawyer Jiang Tianyong, who worked hard to try to gain the release of his colleagues and rights defenders detained in the 709 arrests, has been denied access to legal representation for over seven months now. Reports that he is being tortured emerge periodically. In late May 2017 a statement bearing Jiang’s signature stated that Jiang had dismissed his defense counsel, causing grave concern that Jiang had been, and was now being, subjected to torture.

Chinese police have never actually established that these human rights lawyers and rights defenders are guilty of any crime whatsoever. The authorities have force-fed them medication, tortured them physically, devastated them psychologically, and gone after their loved ones, solely for the purpose of breaking their will, making them confess guilt on national television, accepting the judgement against them, and thus completely driving them away from the rights defense field in China.

The human rights lawyers and rights defense activists targeted in the 709 Crackdown should be protected by all the safeguards afforded by the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The plight of rights defenders in China, in particular human rights lawyers, has become more and more grim in recent years. With a series of new laws being rolled out — including the State Security Law, the Foreign NGO Law, the Charity Law, the Criminal Law Amendment (No. 9), and the Anti-Espionage Law — they have been completely hemmed in and trapped. Now, they could lose their freedom at a moment’s notice, be spirited away to a secret detention facility, and put through brutal torture.

No individual, nor any country in the world, is an island unto itself. Concern for others is the same as concern for oneself. Protection of human rights, opposition to torture, and concern for victims of torture, should be extended across ethnic and racial boundaries. These were precisely the founding principles behind the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture.

As Chinese human rights lawyers, we respectfully request that you convey concern for the Chinese human rights defenders who have not yet been detained and tortured; that you monitor and speak out about China’s violations of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture; and that you follow the news of regular violations of human rights in China, and help the human rights lawyers and other rights defenders who have been put in danger.

                  

China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团)

June 23, 2017

Contact persons:

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338

Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964

Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639

Tang Jitian (唐吉田) 13161302848

Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651

 

 

Attached: A brief introduction to the China Human Rights Lawyers Group

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was established on September 13, 2013 as an open platform for lawyers to connect and work together. Since its founding, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group has used joint public statements, involvement in specific human rights cases, and a range of other means to protect human rights and promote the rule of law. Chinese lawyers who support the ideals of human rights and are willing to safeguard the basic rights of Chinese citizens can join the group through an existing member by making a statement affirming these commitments. Promoting the rule of law and safeguarding human rights are the tireless pursuit of the China Human Rights Lawyers Group. We look forward to working together with you.

 

 


Related:

Letter to World Leaders by ‘709’ Family Members Includes Emerging Details of Horrific Torture, March 1, 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

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (4) – Admit Guilt, and Keep Your Mouth Shut, January 22, 2017

 

 

 

Wang Qiaoling, Wife of Lawyer Li Heping, Reflects on Life, Faith and the 709 Crackdown

Wang Qiaoling, May 26, 2017

This interview was conducted on May 5, 2017, three days before lawyer Li Heping returned home. – The Editors

 

wang qiaoling and li wenzu

Wang Qiaoling, left, and Li Wenzu (wife of  lawyer Wang Quanzhang)

 

Host: Hello everyone and welcome to “Surveying China,” (放眼大陆); I’m Huang Juan (黄娟). From July 9, 2015, for the next two months, about 300 lawyers, rights defenders, and dissidents were subject to mass disappearances; they were summoned by police, detained, and some have eventually been sentenced and jailed. This became the “709 Crackdown” that shocked the world. It’s been almost two years. Some victims have been imprisoned, others have been released on probation, still others have been given suspended sentences. It would seem that what family members want most is for the victims to be released, no matter what the circumstances. However, almost everyone who was released has fallen off the radar — they weren’t in fact truly freed. How can this be?

Today, we’re interviewing Ms. Wang Qiaoling (王峭嶺). Wang Qiaoling’s husband Li Heping (李和平) was disappeared about two years ago. On April 25, the Tianjin Second Intermediate People’s Court suddenly staged a secret trial of Li; they announced the verdict on April 28: Li Heping had been found guilty of subversion of state power and sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for four years, with deprivation of political rights for four years. From the verdict to May 5, eight days have passed, yet Li hasn’t been set free and allowed to return home. Lawyers hired by the family have gone to the court and the detention center, but Li was nowhere to be found. Wang Qiaoling, what was your reaction to the sentence?

Wang Qiaoling: First of all, I never expected they would carry out the trial in secret, and I never expected that the charges against my husband would be upheld. I heard from the secret police, the security police (国保), that he’d been sentenced. Then they told me that this was “the best news.” “A suspended sentence means he can return home.” But when I heard it, I was enraged.

As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t any sort of good news! I know exactly what sort of man my husband is. If one were concerned with enduring humiliation to save one’s skin, then of course it’s a good thing that he can come home. But he’s not merely an innocent man. He’s someone who goes out of his way to help others, to help those who are even more innocent, and tries to secure justice for them. It’s as though, if he went out and helped up an elderly person who’d fallen in the street, and for that was falsely accused of subverting state power — would you say his being sentenced in that case shouldn’t make me mad?

So I was really furious about it. With the entire 709 case from its inception to today, we’ve personally experienced China’s rule of law. It’s as worthless as a rag. There’s no rule of law. So we’re working as hard as possible to expose the truth. Myself and the other wives of 709 lawyers dearly hope that our husbands will be declared innocent and come home free. But the secret police tell me that he’s been convicted of the crime, given a suspended sentence, and then try to say it’s good news. They’ve used so many perverse, twisted methods to torment my husband, force-feeding him drugs, and all sorts of other cruelties. For 22 months his lawyers have been unable to see him. There’s been no news. So their declaring my husband a criminal makes me really mad.

Host: International observers were also rather astonished about this: Why was Li Heping put on trial without his family even knowing about it?

Wang Qiaoling: Exactly. It’s not only the trial we didn’t know about. We hadn’t even received the bill of indictment beforehand; and afterwards they didn’t show us the judgement. It was conducted in total secrecy. In other words, 22 months after my husband was arrested, we know nothing, and then at the  end they tell us he’s a criminal.

Host: Though we did see the official news that they had designated Wen Zhisheng (温志胜), of the Tianjin branch of the Beijing Zhonglun Law Firm (北京中伦律师事务所), as Li Heping’s lawyer. But he didn’t inform the family of Li Heping’s trial or what was going on. Have you met this Wen Zhisheng?

Wang Qiaoling: The first time I met this lawyer named Wen Zhisheng was on April 28, the day that my husband was found guilty. Wen Zhisheng, though he was Li Heping’s defense lawyer, wasn’t with his client in the courtroom when the sentence was read, but was instead with the secret police waiting outside my apartment building, waiting for me to come downstairs. They didn’t dare come up, because they knew I wouldn’t let them in. So they just waited for me to come down, then stopped me, surrounded me, and prevented me from leaving. At this point Wen Zhisheng told me: “I’m your husband’s lawyer.” I said, “So you’re Wen Zhisheng? I call you and you don’t answer; I sue you and you don’t dare show your face.” He closed in on me and said: “I have a handwritten note from your husband to you.” I said: “You people have fabricated so many things, including letters to family members from prison.” We’ve been through too much over these 22 months. They’ve fabricated letters, signatures, and video recordings. They even came and told us family members not to appeal on behalf of our husbands, because they’ve already confessed. But when the victims emerged they said that they had never made those video recordings.

So when Wen Zhisheng gave me the letter, I simply didn’t believe him. I’ve never acknowledged that Wen Zhisheng actually represents my husband. We can pay for a lawyer ourselves, and we can get the best in China. I myself notified the court that I’ll be acting as Li Heping’s defense counsel. Li Heping and I studied law together at university, in the same class, so I’m entirely qualified to serve in that capacity. But my husband has been deprived of any news from outside, and the authorities forcibly assigned this lawyer to him. So when I saw this Wen Zhisheng, I told him: “I don’t believe you, and I don’t accept you as my husband’s lawyer.” I didn’t look at the letter he gave me. Then he went over and snatched the phone from another 709 wife, because she was taking photos of the encounter.

Host: What did it matter that someone was taking photos of him? Did he want to hide the fact that he had been assigned to be Li Heping’s lawyer?

Wang Qiaoling: I think he tried to seize her phone because he was terrified of being exposed. From when I learned that he was made my husband’s lawyer, I had tried to see him, but he never took my calls. So I sued him; the day before yesterday I received a response from the Tianjin Higher People’s Court, ruling that they would not accept my case. So I gave Wen Zhisheng a nickname: “The running dog of the Zhao family Wen Zhisheng,” “the Zhao family’s running dog.” He’s a disgrace to the term lawyer. Even though I don’t acknowledge his role, as the officially-appointed lawyer to Li Heping, how could he not be in Tianjin on the day that Li Heping is being sentenced? Amazingly, at 11:00 a.m. when I go out, he’s there outside my door. He must have had to get up early, at least, and spend three hours traveling from Tianjin to my home in Beijing. So from that you know just how he goes about acquitting himself as a lawyer.

Host: It’s quite strange. Given that he’s the officially-assigned lawyer, why not just follow the procedures and be in the court when the verdict is delivered?

Wang Qiaoling: He came to my house with the police to do one thing: fool me into going with them back to Tianjin to meet my husband. That way, they could put us both under house arrest. I would have lost contact with everyone, and there would have been no opportunity for the truth to be exposed. From the beginning of 2016, of everyone who has been released on probation — including those who were given suspended sentences in August, as well as those even later released on probation — there’s not a single one who has been truly free. This is the “709 Model.”

Host: You mean to say that everyone who has been released, to this day, has not really been free to speak?

Wang Qiaoling: That’s exactly what I mean.

Host: Has anyone gone to meet with them?

Wang Qiaoling: There have been meetings. People have definitely gone to visit them in secret, but no one dares take photos, or if photos were taken, no one would dare publish them. It’s got to that point. They were subjected to unimaginable torture inside. After they’re released they’ve not dared to speak to their own family members or society at large. When the police came on April 28, if they had succeeded in taking me away they would have brought me to my husband in Tianjin, and then used coercive measures to completely cut us off from any contact with the world. Without a phone, I wouldn’t be able to go online, and I’d have lost contact with the world. This is the 709 model. Every family has been dealt with in this manner. Look at the case of Wang Yu (王宇). No one has seen her.

Host: I haven’t heard any news.

Wang Qiaoling: Zhao Wei [赵威, Li Heping’s legal assistant] is the same; no one I know has seen her. Another assistant of my husband’s, Gao Li (高丽), has not been seen either. Over these last two years we’ve seen just too many family members who’ve been tricked when going in to visit. The relatives think that after they see the detainee, they’ll all be able to go home together. That’s what the police tell them. But then they go, and the result is that all contact is lost.

Host: You mean family members also get put under house arrest?

Wang Qiaoling: When we can contact them, the most we dare do is just ask how they’re getting on. They say “alright,” and don’t dare say more than that. When they get entrapped like this we really have no idea what has befallen them. Consider the entire 709 Crackdown — how many victims have really dared to come out and speak the truth? This leads me to Li Heping’s current circumstances. According to Chinese law, Li Heping has been given a suspended sentence. On that very day he should have been released to come back home. Why, at this point, have we heard nothing? Today Li Heping’s former defense attorney Ma Lianshun (马连顺) was commissioned by me to go to the Tianjin Procuratorate, the court, the detention center, and the Guajiasi (挂甲寺) police station to ask them: “Where is Li Heping?” They all say: “We don’t know. He’s gone.” So now you see what sort of situation Li Heping is in. He’s been disappeared. A new round of disappearance.

Host: Goodness — he’s been given a suspended sentence and they still won’t let him go.

Wang Qiaoling: Right. This is the 709 model.

Host: It’s been eight days now. What are they playing at? In the case of Li Heping, whether he’s given a suspended sentence as in this case, or if he was released on probation, if the authorities were determined to keep him detained, why bother going through the trial?

Wang Qiaoling: If they simply kept him detained indefinitely, it would set the Chinese government against the democratic countries around the world that cherish universal values and liberty. This is why, under intense international scrutiny and pressure, they have no choice but to release some people, let them out on probation, or give suspended sentences — as though these were really light punishments. It’s a show for the world, because the pressure was getting too much. It’s as if someone was abusing his children and wife. In front of other people, he’d say: “Look, I’m not hitting them anymore!” But now they’ve switched their methods of tormenting those they’ve detained. Just look at those who’ve been released on probation and are home now, or those given suspended sentences — who dares speak freely? This is to say that imprisonment has now become house arrest, so you can’t speak, can’t have any contact with the world, and it puts the victims under intense psychological pressure. That pressure falls not only on them, but the entire family. By giving Li Heping a suspended sentence, their goal is to use house arrest to stop him from helping those victims around him who need help. He’s also lost his license to practice law, because he’s been convicted. And now for the next four years, any move he makes will be scrutinized, and if the authorities think that he’s trying to “subvert state power,” they’ll haul him in and make him serve three years in jail.

 

Wang Qiaoling_李和平吃面

Finally returned, Li Heping enjoyed a bowl of noodles, a simple pleasure unthinkable during his 2-year detention. 

 

Host: This method actually seems to closely resemble what they’ve done to Gao Zhisheng (高智晟).

Wang Qiaoling: Yes, it’s very like the approach they used before on Gao. In wrapping up the 709 cases, the Chinese authorities, on the surface, have adopted a lenient approach — but in actual fact they’ve used more underhanded, devious tactics to harm these lawyers and activists. None of the 709 victims dares to speak freely about what they went through. This itself is a huge psychological torment. On top of that, almost every day they’re going around frightening this lawyer and that — arresting someone while they’re on vacation, grabbing others when they’re in the middle of a meal. They’re continuing to foster an atmosphere of terror among human rights lawyers.

Host: I assume you’re referring to the recent detention of Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) in Yunnan, and the arrest of a number of human rights lawyers in the middle of a meal in Chengdu?

Wang Qiaoling: Right. And actually if you think back to Jiangang’s involvement in Xie Yang’s (谢阳) 709 case, all he did was his duty as a lawyer. If your client has been subjected to savage torture and you pretend like nothing happened, are you doing your job as a lawyer? In that case the authorities should simply scrap the entire legal profession and be done with it. If you’re a lawyer, then you have to defend the rights of your client — you expose the facts of the torture that your client was put through; this is one’s professional duty. If the authorities have the nerve to carry out this sort of torture, then they shouldn’t complain when it’s exposed. If they’ve got the nerve to act like scoundrels, then they should at least dare to proclaim themselves as scoundrels. You can’t act like a thug and simultaneously pretend like you’re a good person. I’m holding back on speaking too harshly in order to spare their feelings a bit.

Host: In these 709 mass arrests, there was another lawyer who received a lot of attention, Xie Yanyi (谢燕益). He was released a little while ago, but I don’t know what his circumstances are like now. It seems difficult to get any information about him.

Wang Qiaoling: Right — this is the “709 model” that I was talking about. Lawyer Xie was released on probation around the same time as Li Chunfu (李春富, Li Chunfu’s younger brother). Their families are really happy that they were allowed home. But they found that even after they came back home, they were unable to enjoy life in any normal fashion. Once home they made some announcements like “We need to rest,” etc. But have you heard anything about what they went through? No. What you’ve heard privately, or heard from so-and-so’s wife, hasn’t been verified by the person themselves, so you can only say that privately the news is that this or that happened. This is the 709 model. The authorities changed up their tactics, continuing to keep detained those they’ve “released.” If they dare to speak publicly about what happened to them in prison, the security police will appear once more and begin harassing and disturbing the family. So they can’t really live free lives.

Host: You just mentioned Li Chunfu, Li Heping’s younger brother. The news seemed to be that soon after he was released, his family found that he was mentally disturbed, but I haven’t heard the details of the situation now.

Wang Qiaoling: He indeed experience enormous mental suffering, and when he got out his mind seemed muddled and confused. He couldn’t identify his family members, and didn’t know whether he could trust and rely or them or not. He thought that the friends dropping by to visit were police. At the time, this was truly agonizing to behold. He said himself: I remember the day I left the detention center very clearly; the procedural aspect of the case had reached a decision-point: either I was going to sue the court, or else they were going to release me. But on that day the police were adamant to take me out of the police station.” He’s a lawyer; he said to them: “Firstly, you’re not my family; secondly, you’re not my lawyer, and you’re just taking me away like this. The detention center is under surveillance, but you taking me away like this means I can’t be certain of my personal safety.” So he was forcibly removed from the detention center, and even his signature on the probation documents was added later — the police forced him to sign them. There was also a bail bond of 1,000 yuan for the probation. He found it very strange, saying: “I don’t have any money. Who paid this?” The police said that his family paid it, but there was no family there, and no one knows where this money came from. So whether it’s Li Chunfu or anyone else arrested in the 709 crackdown, from their arrest to their release, there has been all manner of trampling on due process, official procedures, and the law. The police themselves say it: “There’s no law. There’s nothing you can do but confess.”

Host: It sounds like all these cases were blackbox operations. Ms. Wang, your husband has been locked up for nearly two years and has been unable to meet his lawyers. As his wife, how have you gotten through this?

Wang Qiaoling: I’m extremely concerned for his safety. Who can bear their husband’s absence, disappearance and separation for so long? Li Heping was vanished on July 10, 2015; when we received the notification of his arrest on January 20, 2016, my first reaction was: He’s alive; thank God that he’s still alive. Over the next grueling year or so, we received not a skerrick of news about him, until a few days ago when the police told me that my husband had been found guilty and was given a suspended sentence. My first reaction was again: He’s still alive. In China, detention centers are at least better than “residential surveillance at a designated place,” basically secret detention, where deaths can happen easily. I was very concerned that his body wouldn’t be able to take it, or that there’d be some sort of accident. My feeling on both these occasions was to thank God that he’s still alive.

How did I get through these last two years? I’m greatly fortunate because I’m a Christian. In the times of greatest trial, I pray. The most difficult times have been when I haven’t heard word about my husband. At these times, I’ve myself received a knock on the door and been taken to the detention center. Last August I accompanied another family as they went to apply to observe their husband’s court case. On the road in the middle of the night I was taken away by about a dozen men who shoved me into their car. No one knew who had taken me. I was locked in a room in the detention center for 24 hours. At this most difficult time, I got through it with prayer. As a Christian, I know that our human lives aren’t in our own hands — but in the hands of God. If one day, as I’m rushing about my business, I die — I believe that this will have been allowed by God. I know that upon death I’ll certainly be going to Heaven. That’s not because I’m so great, but because I have faith — we’re formed by our faith in God. So over these past two years, during the days of greatest torment, I’ve relied on prayer and faith in God to overcome. I know that God is a God of kindness and compassion. The 709 Crackdown over the past two years has pushed many families to the verge of destruction — but I always try to look at these affairs as they must appear in the eyes of God. In the midst of unrighteousness, you can often see love between people emerge and grow, and this love is conferred by God.

I remember some time ago that a foreign friend told me that China’s birth control policies are a horrendous violation of human rights; but because of these birth control policies, many baby girls are abandoned, and he and his wife adopted and raised three Chinese girls. Now he has three great loves in his family. And precisely in the midst of injustice, I found that my husband’s work was precisely about showing compassion toward and helping those around him — especially those at the bottom of society, like peasants, or those who have been wrongly sentenced to death, and so on. After my husband was arrested I met so many strangers who respected him, believed in him, and because of this loved our family. I also saw my children, throughout all this turmoil, go from being jealous of one another to showing concern and love for one another. I also saw that as our family went through these collective trials and tribulations, we not only withstood what was hard to face, but we were also willing to reach out a helping hand and support those around us. I have witnessed all these things over the last two years. When God opened my eyes and let me see all this, I felt that the burden of living became easier to bear.

Host: I remember there was a wife of one of the 709 lawyers — I think it was Li Wenzu (李文足, the wife of Wang Quanzhang)? — who said she cried for a long time, all the way until you reached out with a helping hand, wrote her a letter, and she finally had an ally and no longer felt isolated and helpless.

Wang Qiaoling: That was roughly what happened. In early 2016 when I received the notice of my husband’s arrest, I thought: God, what is it you want me to do? Right then, I said to myself with great clarity: Don’t linger in your own pain; you need to help those around you who are suffering in the same way. So during that Chinese New Year, I gave it a go, driving around to check in on the other family members of 709 victims. What we’re able to do is so feeble, minimal, and limited, but when you’re willing to do that little bit, you’ll find that love is like a seed that, when placed in the soil, can grow and grow. In the nearly two years since the 709 incident we’ve all been supported by one another. This is so precious. I feel that for all families — whether or not they fell victim to this shocking 709 incident — we all need to learn to not just look after ourselves, but look after those around us.

Host: When a lonely individual steps outside themselves, it creates a greater power. Over these last two years, in fact, the model of resistance we’ve seen from 709 families is completely different to the impressions we have and the circumstances of the past. Back years ago in Taiwan it was also like that — the families of those persecuted would display the tragicness of all, and thus gain international sympathy. Of course, this sort of suffering is indeed worthy of sympathy. But the way you went about resisting was original and creative, adopting a lot of new approaches, and this was what drew a lot of attention. I think in the future this will become a model that is worthy of study.

Wang Qiaoling: Someone will actually study this? Hah.

Host: I hope it won’t need to be studied much more!

Wang Qiaoling: For us it camel very natural — it was natural to go about it this way. That people want to study it, I think that’s quite amusing. I suffered clinical depression 17 years ago. I had just given birth to our eldest son and was suffering post-partum depression and was receiving treatment for in hospital. When I began believing in Jesus, and was in an environment where everyone was kind to one another, in a church, I gradually underwent a complete recovery. When I lived out in my own life the teachings of the Bible, I found that they brought benefits both to myself and the people around me. I experienced this as the work of God. You might have found that we’re very optimistic, proactive, and we don’t play the victim or indulge in sadness — this is just our normal manner. We’re just really optimistic people. If it wasn’t for so many years of the church helping me, I wouldn’t be like this.

 

 


Related:

In China, Wives Fight Back After Their Activist Husbands Are Jailed,  May 18, 2017.

China’s Hero Lawyers, WSJ editorial, May 22, 2017.

In China, torture is real, and the rule of law is a sham, Washington Post Editorial, January 26, 2017.

‘My Name is Li Heping, and I Love Being a Lawyer,’ interview with Ai Weiwei in 2010.

Transcribed and translated by China Change.