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February 16, 2017
Torture has long been a chronic disease plaguing China’s judicial system. It is not only that nearly every case of judicial injustice in China is attended by torture, but that torture is much more widely applied than merely as a means of extracting a confession during the criminal investigation process. It’s often used as a form of humiliation, a torment of the flesh and the spirit simultaneously, with an array of methods that are unrestrained and completely unscrupulous. The goal is to have the captive or internee surrender their minds to the authorities, and so prisons and extra-judicial detention facilities — like Legal Education Bases (or centers), brainwashing classes, and shuanggui facilities — make widespread use of torture. Torture aimed to humiliate is used in a particularly concentrated way on prisoners of conscience.
In particular since the 709 arrests in July 2015, human rights lawyers and defenders have been held in “residential surveillance at a designated location,” the essence of which is identical to forced disappearances. The ad hoc nature of these internment facilities, on top of denial of access to legal counsel, has led to a rapid increase in reports of torture over the last year. When rights lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) was released on a form of bail recently, he exhibited clear symptoms of mental breakdown; news has also emerged of cruel electric baton torture applied to Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋); Wu Gan (吳淦) has also made a criminal complaint, through his lawyers, of torture suffered in custody. The human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), in particular, has narrated the details of atrocious torture he suffered through transcripts made by his legal counsel. The veracity and detail of the cruelty on display is without question, and has caused outrage inside China and abroad. Law societies and human rights groups in dozens of countries have issued denunciations, and the European Union, as well as diplomats from multiple countries stationed in China, have expressed their concern and demanded that the Chinese government conduct an immediate investigation.
What happened to our colleagues can happen to any of us, or any Chinese citizen, for that matter, hence our anxiety, grief, and rage. These human rights defenders represent the conscience of China, and yet in the 18 months of their detention, they’ve been subjected to a dozen types of torture by their own countrymen, a team of over 40 special agents who work in rotation — we simply cannot fathom it: what way is this to treat a country’s own citizens? The fact that the inhuman torture has been simply allowed to take place by the police, openly and without compunction or obstruction, begs the question: what kind of system of justice is this? What kind of political system forces humans into this depravity? What kind of political system allows these criminal torturers to act so wantonly, outside of any restriction or law?
In the face of this blatant torture, our conscience does not allow us to remain silent. We must stand up to censure it, to conquer our own fears and cowardice, and defend basic human dignity.
Together we reiterate the following articles from China’s own Constitution:
Article 33 (paragraph 3): “The State respects and preserves human rights.”
Article 35: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”
Article 41: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints or charges against, or exposures of, any state organ or functionary for violation of the law or dereliction of duty, but fabrication or distortion of facts for purposes of libel or false incrimination is prohibited.”
By implication, the Chinese Constitution prohibits torture. In addition, the National People’s Congress in September 1988 ratified the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“United Nations’ Convention Against Torture”) and on November 3, 1988, that convention became effective in China.
It is thus clear that preventing and punishing torture is an unshirkable duty of the government, and a responsibility it must assume.
We believe that prohibiting torture is not only for the purpose of preventing cases of judicial injustice — it is also to grant citizens the protection of not fearing for their lives, and to accord basic dignity towards, and integrity of, their own body and minds. If, for whatever reason, torture is tolerated, then everyone in China — including police, prosecutors, judges, and currently serving or former Party and government officials — are themselves also at risk of becoming victims.
We believe that the torture of one is the torture of all, and that to strike terror in one is to strike terror in all.
We believe that every individual, including those who have truly committed crimes, should be treated with humanity and not be subject to torture. The prohibition of torture is the fundamental ground of a modern, civilized judiciary, and is a basic dividing line between civilization and barbarism.
For all these reasons, we the undersigned, on the basis of China’s Constitution, the UN Convention Against Torture, and a sense of common justice for Chinese citizens and humanity, hereby establish the “China Anti-Torture Alliance.”
The Alliance will be a community based on the aforementioned shared beliefs, without a formal organizational structure. It is open to all, without respect to nationality or other attachments, and may be joined or withdrawn from at will.
All kind and upstanding citizens inside or outside China, who cherish peace and seek to safeguard human rights, are welcome to join our ranks, and to reject torture wherever it appears. Our goal is to promote and supervise the actual implementation of the United Nation’s Convention Against Torture in China.
Those who wish to join the Alliance can express their wish to do so to any of the founders of the initiative, or by sending an email to the official electronic mail address of the Alliance. Please include your first and last name, your occupation, location, and other contact information, to facilitate contact.
February 7, 2017
Teng Biao (滕彪), lawyer, United States
Yu Wensheng (余文生), lawyer, Beijing
Liu Shihui, lawyer (刘士辉), Guangdong
Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), legal activist, United States
Hu Jia, (胡佳), citizen, Beijing
Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), lawyer, Beijing
Yuan Xiaohua (袁小华), citizen, Hunan
Chen Jianxiong (陈剑雄), citizen, Hubei
Sun Desheng (孙德胜), citizen, Hubei
Liang Bo (梁波), reporter, United States
Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), lawyer, Beijing
Wang Zang (王藏), poet, Beijing
Alliance email address:
Editors’ note: As of now, over 800 Chinese lawyers and human rights defenders have signed to join the Alliance. Check out the signing sheet here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/14jjifjhzVdSZ1IhqYTvXjlk02ithQ15PdvCgaOBB8aw/pub
Translated by China Change.
Elliot Sperling, February 5, 2017
In memory of Elliot, who passed away last week. I recovered this from my email archive, dated September 17, 2016, the day after Ilham Tohti was nominated for the Sakharov Prize. It is published here for the first time. – Yaxue Cao
The nomination last week of the imprisoned Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is welcome recognition of the role this courageous individual has played in working for the fundamental rights of a beleaguered people, a people subject to one of the harshest regimens that China visits on any nationalities or collective groups within its borders. But the persecution of Ilham Tohti serves as an example of how China’s repressive policies create damage and danger that go far beyond its own borders. There are good reasons for international concern and outrage over Ilham Tohti’s imprisonment.
On the heels of recent attacks in Europe, and concern about new ISIS-aligned actors outside the group’s core Middle East area, a recent report from the New America think-tank has revealed, among other things, that China’s treatment of its Muslim population is boosting radicalization: over 100 Turkic Uyghurs, Muslims from the region of Xinjiang in China’s northwest were recruited into ISIS response to the harsh state repression visited on them as Muslims and as Uyghurs in full disregard of common human rights norms. But the particularly harsh persecution of Ilham Tohti demonstrates a terrible dynamic in that process: the one-party Chinese state, by targeting moderates effectively nurtures extremism as the outlet for legitimate grievances over China’s policies.
On January 15, 2014 Ilham Tohti was spending the afternoon resting with his two young sons in his apartment on the campus of Minzu University where he taught economics. When a large contingent of police and state security agents burst through the door, suddenly and unexpectedly, waking the napping professor, his life changed forever. He was dragged from his apartment and has spent all of his subsequent days behind bars. As for legal formalities—such as they are for an outspoken liberal Uyghur intellectual in China—his trial on charges of supporting separatism, advocating violence among his students, etc.—took all of two days and produced a life sentence. And what had he really done? He had written about what had been happening in Xinjiang in a way that was markedly different from the official line; he circulated word of what he had found openly and on his own website; and perhaps most dangerously, he invited response and discussion. Though fluent and literate in Uyghur, he constituted his website as a Chinese-language venue so as to initiate dialogue between Uyghurs and Chinese. In retrospect that, as well as Ilham’s charismatic teaching, was intolerable. And so he was taken from his family and months later subjected to a kangaroo court (witnesses he asked for were not called; in contravention of Chinese law he was tried in a venue hundreds of mile from Beijing, his place of residence and the place in which his supposed crimes had allegedly been committed).
The intrinsic merit in Ilham’s activities and the egregious injustice of his imprisonment have been acknowledged internationally: he was the recipient of the PEN American Center’s Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award and just recently named one of three Finalists for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. And now he is a nominee for the Sakharov Prize.
One might be inclined to see in Ilham Tohti’s case just one more sad instance of Chinese authoritarian repression and hostility to free thought. But in the present climate of anxieties about extremism, about Islam and about terror, his case is especially significant. Given China’s record of cynical misuse of the terrorism issue to attack dissent among Uyghurs and Tibetans, observers are rightly concerned that the state’s adoption of a new, broad anti-terrorism law just this past December has set the stage for actions that will exacerbate China’s problems.
By any measure, Ilham Tohti is a moderate person. A Muslim, he is liberal in his practice and entertains close friendships across lines of nationality and religion. But from the perspective of the authorities, moderates such as Ilham—non-violent critics who operate openly—are threats and are targeted for severe repression. The ills and abuses they bring to the surface are ignored and fester. Thus, the persecution to which Uyghurs are subjected continues. Bans on beards and head scarves in public venues, coercion to violate religious prohibitions concerning food and drink, violence and incarceration as a response to dissent: this is precisely the kind of abuse that, in the absence of a moderate core seeking dialogue, lends itself to exploitation by extremists. Indeed, China seems to go after the moderates because they can be seen: they operate in the open and call for dialogue and honesty about what the state is doing. Their imprisonment leaves the field to extremists who operate below the radar; they become the only ones articulating to an aggrieved population anything contrary to the official line. For all its propaganda about fighting extremism China is actively abetting its rise: in this instance among a population that has previously been noted for its moderation and restraint. Given current anxiety about Islamist extremism, the international community ought to be horrified by what China is doing. The Islamic world, wherein this extremism is wreaking the greatest havoc should be even more alarmed—and should make the persecution of writers and intellectuals such as Ilham Tohti a prominent issue in its relations with China.
The original sin, so to speak, in modern China’s dealings with Uyghurs as well as Tibetans was its annexation of these peoples without any regard to what they wanted. (And for most it was unwanted.) This original sin and the brutal periods of Chinese rule that followed have fostered a situation in which a free, open discussion of the history of Uyghurs and Tibetan under PRC rule cannot be entertained without severe damage to the myths that are enforced as the official line. Thus, when discontent surfaces the Party finds itself structurally incapable of asking what it is doing wrong. Instead, the question becomes “Who is doing this to us?” And it answers the question by seeking scapegoats. Not long ago Tibetan disgust at the appearance in the media of fake “Chinese Lamas” produced an incoherent and irrelevant response from official quarters denouncing Tibetan separatism, something that only exacerbated Tibetan frustration at their concerns not being taken seriously. Matters in Xinjiang have brought no serious questioning of the repressive Chinese policies. When French journalist Ursula Gauthier questioned China’s deployment of the terrorism narrative to defend its actions there she was expelled from China. And Ilham Tohti, who tirelessly pursued a principled quest for dialogue and change, languishes in a prison in Xinjiang. The injustice inherent in Ilham’s case is symbolic of the way China is making extremism the only option for the disaffected in Xinjiang. It should be a primary concern of the international community.
Elliot Sperling is the former chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and formerly the Director of its Tibetan Studies Program. He is the author of “The Tibet-China: History and Polemics.”
Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang, January 22, 2017
[The interview began at 9:47:50 a.m. on January 6, 2017]
Chen Jiangang (陈建刚, “CHEN”): Let’s continue our conversation. What happened after you refused the attempts by Yin Zhuo (尹卓) to get you to implicate others?
XIE: I tend to be constipated and need to eat fruit; otherwise the condition can get rather serious. I couldn’t even drink water while I was locked up, so my constipation got very serious and I was in extreme pain. I asked them to give me some fruit to eat. They didn’t give me any at first, but later they wanted me to trade. I would have to write a statement according to what they wanted, and in exchange they’d give me some fruit. Or they’d give me fruit if I signed the transcripts they wanted me to sign. I had no choice—I wasn’t allowed to sleep and I was in physical pain. Eventually, I wrote whatever they wanted me to write and signed whatever they wanted me to sign. By that time, I was completely broken.
CHEN: Please continue.
XIE: On October 24, I inexplicably began to shiver all over and broke out in a cold sweat. I was terrified and said I wanted to get myself checked out in a hospital. They reported the situation to Ye Yun (叶云, political instructor with the 6th Division of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit). Ye Yun came and said they couldn’t let me go to the hospital, but if I was sick they could arrange for someone to come and examine me. I didn’t trust their doctors.
I was afraid that I was going to die there and that my wife and child wouldn’t know [begins to sob]. I began to shout from the window: “This is Lawyer Xie Yang! I’m being held here by the Changsha Domestic Security Police! No one has notified my family! Please let my wife know that I’m ill and need medical treatment!” There were some people outside walking around. I shouted and told them my wife’s name, work unit, and telephone number and asked them to call my wife.
That evening at 9:46, Ye Yun used his mobile phone to dial the emergency rescue hotline. While we were waiting for an ambulance to arrive, a man came in wearing civilian clothes. He was big and strong, and with one hand against my chest he pushed me up against the wall so that I couldn’t move and could barely breathe. With his other hand he slapped me back and forth several times across the face. I was in great pain from the pressure on my chest. I couldn’t speak and the blows to my head left me semi-conscious.
About 20 minutes later, the ambulance arrived. At first they didn’t let the paramedics examine me; instead, they took them outside to give them instructions. Then a young guy by the name of Wang examined me very briefly. He didn’t give me any treatment or medication. He told them to continue observing me and then he left.
CHEN: I noticed that you were placed under residential surveillance on July 12, 2015, but that your interrogation records only start on July 19. How do you explain that?
XIE: There are a lot of records of interrogations from the first seven days, but they don’t note the sequence. I asked that they mark the transcripts clearly, but they said it was none of my business. None of those transcripts are in the case file, because I still hadn’t surrendered to their torture yet. So they haven’t brought out any of those records. The interrogation on July 19 was certainly not the first. From the early morning of July 11 I wasn’t allowed to sleep. After three days of that treatment, I broke down. The things I wrote were all written under that kind of coercion.
CHEN: What’s your assessment of the transcripts you personally signed and the documents you wrote, all of which are in your case file?
XIE: There are generally two types. The first type is made up of documents concerning basic facts, in which there are some inaccuracies. That’s because they didn’t accept the facts as I stated them and insisted that I make a record according to what they wanted. So, I can’t guarantee that the factual parts are entirely factual. The second type are the “reflections.” These are wholly untruthful, as they were written under coercion. If I hadn’t written them, hadn’t signed my name, I would have died there in that guesthouse.
They deliberately tortured me past the point I could bear it. I wanted to kill myself. To prevent me from doing so, they increased the number of “chaperones” (陪护人员) from two to three. The three of them surrounded me, watching me carefully lest I try to kill myself. After the first seven days, they interrogated me during the daytime and stopped at night. After about 20 days, they were afraid I’d kill myself and the number of chaperone shifts increased from three to four, with the number on each shift increasing from two to three. They watched me closely every minute, afraid that I would try to kill myself by ramming my head against the wall. In that state of wanting to die but not being able to do so, if I didn’t follow one of the three options they gave me and say in my statements that I acted for fame, for profit, or to oppose the Party and socialism, I would have been tortured to death. I had no other choice.
CHEN: In the interrogation transcripts there are a lot of statements where you say detrimental things about yourself and say that you opposed the Party, socialism, and the current political system. What’s your opinion of those documents?
XIE: I didn’t say any of those things and I would never use such language. Those transcripts were typed up by the police; I was only forced to sign them. Folders of transcripts without a single correction or amendment—could that possibly be for real? I read the transcripts and said that those weren’t my words. I asked for an accurate record and requested changes. Yin Zhuo said: “We don’t allow changes to transcripts in our public security unit.” So I could only sign. They didn’t let me sleep for the first seven days and tortured and tormented me until I agreed to sign. So that’s how there came to be so many transcripts from the 19th on.
CHEN: Let’s end the interview here for now. Have you told the truth in these interviews the past few days?
XIE: Yes, it’s the truth. This is how I was treated during residential surveillance.
CHEN: Please read the transcript carefully. This afternoon I’ll bring you a typed version for you to check and sign.
XIE: All right.
[Signed by Xie Yang and his lawyer]
I have read the transcript above and it matches what I have said.
January 6, 2017
CHEN Jiangang [lawyer]
Date: January 12, 2017
Location: Interview Room 2W, Changsha Number Two Detention Center
Interviewee: Xie Yang (谢阳, “XIE”)
Interviewer: Lawyer Chen Jian’gang (陈建刚, “CHEN”)
Transcription by Chen Jiangang
[The interview began at 2:45:48 p.m.]
CHEN: Hello, Xie Yang. Let’s continue where we left off last time.
CHEN: First, I want to convey greetings and concern from many friends on the outside who urge you to take good care of yourself.
XIE: Thanks, everyone [quietly chokes back tears].
CHEN: Can you recall whether the police who interrogated you ever gave you a formal summons notice or any other legal documents while you were being held in residential surveillance in a designated location?
XIE: No. They took shifts around the clock. I had police around me all the time, but they never gave me any summons notice.
CHEN: When did you get to the detention center? Did things improve once you got here?
XIE: I was brought to the detention center on January 9, 2016. There was no improvement, and the coercion continued.
Before I was brought to the detention center, while still in residential surveillance, Yin Zhuo (尹卓) and the others became very deliberate and obvious in their questioning. Because time had run out and I had to be sent to the detention center, they wanted some records showing me saying that they had not tortured me. They wanted to get me on the record admitting that no one had tortured me and then get me to sign the transcript, but I refused to cooperate.
In my case file, the transcript of the interrogation on December 21, 2015, shows them asking me whether my legal rights had been protected during the period of residential surveillance in a designated location, to which I answered that they had been “basically protected.” That’s the record I signed. By “basically protected,” I mean that they ensured that I stayed alive and didn’t torture me to death—that’s all. That’s the most I could say. Had I said that they tortured me into confessing, they wouldn’t record my words on paper and they’d keep on tormenting me. They were very unhappy with this interrogation record and wanted me to state clearly that no one had ever used torture against me and protected my rights 100 percent. But I refused.
In the last period right before leaving the Yitian Guesthouse (颐天宾馆) where they’d held me, they repeatedly came to get me to record a statement. They had only one goal: to get me to inadvertently confirm with my signature that they hadn’t tortured me and that they’d protected my rights. But I didn’t fall for their tricks. So, there are a lot of records that didn’t get put in the case file.
The procuratorate issued its arrest decision on January 8, 2016, and I was shown the arrest warrant on January 9. But actually, this was only a formality as the detention center had already started preparing my cell on January 6.
CHEN: How do you know that the detention center had already started preparing your cell?
XIE: I found out after I got here. Each cell at the detention center houses more than 25 people, sometimes as many as 30. Every cell is like that. When I got here, they put me in Cell 10 on the 4E Block. Originally, there were 28 people in there, but on January 6 they suddenly transferred 14 people to other cells and installed a high-definition camera inside. To this day, there are still 15 people in our cell—a unique situation in the detention center. The high-definition camera is also unique. Everyone in the cell knows that it’s there for me. They prepared the cell on January 6 and issued the arrest warrant on January 9. It was clearly only a formality.
CHEN: Can you describe your situation since coming to the detention center? Are your fundamental human rights being protected? Or have they continued to coerce you?
XIE: After arriving at the detention center on January 9, I was initially rather well taken care of. But they had their objectives. My counselor is named Yuan Jin (袁进) — make a note of that name, because he’s done lots of terrible things to me. At first, Yuan Jin treated me well, continually urging me to admit guilt and cooperate with the police. But I wasn’t guilty of anything and hadn’t committed any crimes, so of course I wasn’t going to go against my conscience and admit guilt. These admonitions went on for three months. Then in March 2016, Yuan Jin saw that I wasn’t listening to him and so he started tormenting me.
CHEN: You say Yuan Jin tormented you — how?
XIE: First, he got my cellmates to shun me by clearly prohibiting others from having any interaction with me. They weren’t allowed to speak to me, lend me anything, or play cards or chess with me. Anyone who dared have any interaction or communication with me would be transferred to another cell to become the “new boy.”
CHEN: What does that mean, “new boy”?
XIE: This is jailhouse lingo. Someone who’s been in a cell for a long time is called an “old boy.” A new arrival is called the “new boy.” “New boys” all get bullied and are given more work, while “old boys” have prestige and aren’t bullied on account of their status as veterans. Plus, they get special treatment. So no one wants to go to a new cell and become a “new boy” again.
CHEN: Besides getting cellmates to shun you, were there other methods?
XIE: Yes. Officer Yuan Jin cut off my right to spend money. In jail we get 260 yuan each month for living expenses, but this is far from enough and you have to spend your own money to buy things. That’s the money that gets deposited in your account by family and friends. Everyone can use their own money to purchase some food, otherwise you don’t get enough to eat. Yuan Jin prohibited me from spending money, from purchasing any daily-use items. I didn’t get enough to eat and had no vegetables. I wasn’t allowed to buy daily necessities like toothpaste or toilet paper. I was deeply distressed—everyone had been threatened not to speak with me or lend me anything. I didn’t even have toilet paper when I went to the toilet [chokes with sobs]. But I still didn’t give in and didn’t admit guilt.
CHEN: What happened then?
XIE: It’s been over a year since I was brought to the detention center on January 9, 2015. During this year, all the police, procurators, detention center counsellors, and officials who’ve come to see me all have had a single goal: to get me to admit guilt. I have some notes [searches through notes] . . . I’ve made note of the times. Let me tell you about them one by one.
My case is a political case. I anticipated that they would stretch the time limits in this case to the maximum limit possible under the law. Six months of investigation during residential surveillance plus two months under arrest, extended first for one month, then another two, and finally two more months. They stretched the investigation phase of the case as far as they could, to August 9, 2016.
On July 21, 2016, Li Feng (李峰) of the Hunan Domestic Security Unit and Zhu Heng (朱恒) of the Sixth Division of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit came to see me together with Zhang Zhongshi (张重实), the lawyer my family had hired on my behalf. They had also come to urge me to admit guilt. Li Feng said he’d come on behalf of the provincial public security department and hoped I’d admit guilt. I asked if this was a meeting with my lawyer. They said it was. I said, if that’s so please excuse yourselves. But Li Feng and Zhu Heng didn’t leave and stood right outside so that Lawyer Zhang and I couldn’t even exchange a few words with each other.
For a few days in early August 2016—before the 9th, someone from the Domestic Security Unit of the Hunan Provincial Public Security Department: Li Kewei (李克伟), head of the Changsha Public Security Bureau’s Domestic Security Unit, and Wang Tietuo (王铁铊), head of the Sixth Division of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit, came together to see me—there were five or six of them in all. The detention center officials arranged for them to meet with me in the detention center office.
CHEN: Wait a minute. They met with you in the office, rather than in an interrogation room?
XIE: They don’t have to obey any laws or institutional rules! They came to get me to admit guilt. At the time, I thought that if admitting guilt would lead to lenient treatment that would ensure I could continue to work as a lawyer after I got out, I could discuss it. They were happy to hear that and immediately reported my answer up to their superiors and got someone to look up the regulations. What they found was that commission of an intentional crime would mean that I’d be unable to be a lawyer. Under those circumstances, I refused to admit guilt, since I’d committed no crime to begin with. We discussed it for three or four hours, but ultimately I still refused to admit guilt. They said over and over that I shouldn’t make things difficult for myself, that I mustn’t waste this opportunity, that I shouldn’t turn my back on their good intentions.
Li Kewei had promised Yuan Jin, my counsellor at the detention center, that if Yuan could help get me to give in and admit guilt, then Li would help him get a transfer to a police station in Changsha’s Gaoxin District.
CHEN: You say Li Kewei made a promise to Yuan Jin—how do you know that?
XIE: Yuan Jin said so himself. He once told me that he hoped I’d hurry up and admit guilt. He said: “Admit your guilt—once you’re gone, I can get a transfer to work at that police station in Gaoxin District.” I’ve forgotten which police station exactly.
CHEN: What next?
XIE: August 9, 2016, was the last day the public security bureau could hold me. Once they transferred the case for prosecution they had no more control over me and they’d have no power to prevent me from meeting with my lawyer. The date on the Changsha Public Security Bureau’s prosecution recommendation is August 5, 2016, but on August 4 they’d already delivered me notice that my case was being reviewed for prosecution. I thought that this meant that the lawyers my family had hired could now come meet with me. But my persecution shifted from the public security bureau to the procuratorate. The procuratorate fully cooperated with the Changsha Public Security Bureau to continue treating me badly.
[A police officer enters to say that time is up.]
CHEN: That’s all for today. Let’s continue tomorrow.
[The interview concluded at 4:29:39 p.m. on January 12, 2017.]
[The interview resumed at 9:30:38 a.m. on January 13, 2017.]
CHEN: Let’s continue where we left off yesterday. You said that the procuratorate and the public security bureau were working together to treat you badly. Why do you say that?
XIE: I later met with my lawyer, Zhang Zhongshi. He told me that he and my other lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) had been coming to the detention center every day in order to meet with me. Morning, afternoon—it didn’t matter. The detention center said they couldn’t meet with me because I’d been taken for questioning by the prosecutors. I had, in fact, been taken for questioning. But the law says that they have to arrange for lawyers to meet with a detainee within 48 hours. To the detention center, the procuratorate, and the public security bureau, the law was nothing but a piece of scrap paper.
CHEN: Why do you say that?
XIE: Those days, the procurators from the Changsha Procuratorate took me out for questioning every day from 9 a.m. until the detention center offices closed at 4:30 p.m. Every day they came to question me like that, just so they could refuse to let my lawyers meet with me.
There were eight procurators in all who came to meet with me. For an entire week, they took me out for questioning every day. After the week was over, they sent the case back for additional investigation. The case was then back in the hands of the public security bureau. They’d successfully used the excuse of questioning me to obstruct my lawyers from meeting with me.
Write down these names: Duan Xiaolong (段小龙), Jiang Bin (姜彬), Li Zhiming (李治明), Wang Zhiyong (王志勇), Fang Hui (方惠), Hu Yongchao (胡勇超), and Li Weining (李维宁). There was also a deputy division head surnamed Jin whose full name I don’t know. Li Weining is the head of the Second Public Prosecution Division at the Changsha Procuratorate (长沙市检察院公诉二处处长). He’s not in charge of this case and only came to see me with one objective: to get me to admit guilt. He hinted that I shouldn’t say anything about the public security bureau’s torture of me. He also said that public security and the procuratorate had gone to officials at Hunan University to speak to my wife and ask her to cooperate. They put pressure on her to stop going around to proclaim my innocence.
The other prosecutors were more reserved in their attempts to get me to admit guilt. But Duan Xiaolong was relatively blatant. He had two objectives in his discussions with me: one was to intimidate me, the other was to try to get me to admit guilt. Duan Xiaolong said: “You have to admit guilt. There are some things you can’t go around saying, some things you can’t say to the prosecutors.” He meant I couldn’t go around telling people on the outside about how I’d been subjected to torture. What kind of prosecutorial review by the procuratorate was this—it was all a sham! The public security bureau and procuratorate were working together against me to manufacture this political miscarriage of justice. There’s no balance of powers, only cooperation!
CHEN: What happened after your case was sent back for review?
XIE: On August 16, 2016, the case was sent back to the public security bureau and my lawyer was still prohibited from meeting with me. Actually, there was no real additional investigation. The two consecutive periods of additional investigation were only about one thing: extending the legal time limit to its furthest extent in order to get me to give in and admit guilt.
On September 28, 2016, Li Weining of the Changsha Procuratorate came to see me again and get me to admit guilt and to not go around talking out of turn—by which he meant talking about the way I’d been tortured and mistreated. Li came again on October 9 to tell me to admit guilt and keep my mouth shut. Li came once again on October 17, with the same mission. He never came to discuss the details of the case. There were only two objectives: to get me to admit guilt and keep my mouth shut.
On October 26, 2016, during the last period of additional investigation, domestic security police Hu Yunfeng (胡云峰) and Ye Yun (叶云) came to see me and get me to admit guilt and keep my mouth shut. Hu Yunfeng explicitly told me that they had all of the audio and video recordings from my time in residential surveillance. All the investigators knew that they had the video. There’s a transcript of that conversation, but it’s not in the case file. Take a look at the interrogation records; if there’s a record of the interrogation, they should have a record of that conversation. But I can’t guarantee that the procuratorate or the detention center will give those documents to you as a defense lawyer.
The following day, October 27, 2016, Wang Tietuo of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit and Ye Yun came to see me again to try to get me to admit guilt and to tell me to keep my mouth shut. They didn’t make a record of that.
On November 4, Li Kewei of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit came by himself to see me. The detention center arranged for him to meet with me in the office, like they’d done at the beginning of August. Li Kewei had the same two demands: admit guilt and shut mouth.
On November 14, 2016, Li Kewei met me alone in the detention center office. He hoped I’d seize the opportunity, admit guilt, and keep my mouth shut.
On December 7, 2016, the head of the Second Public Prosecution Division of the Hunan Procuratorate, Li Xiaohong (刘晓红), came together with Li Weining of the Changsha Procuratorate to meet me at the detention center and express the hope, on behalf of the provincial procuratorate, that I would seize the opportunity, admit guilt, and keep my mouth shut.
CHEN: Has anyone come to speak with you since I became your defense lawyer?
XIE: Yes. When you were prevented from meeting with me on the morning of January 6, 2017, officials from the detention center came to see me. The gist of their message was: “Don’t trust your lawyer. Lawyers can’t save you. Your only path is to trust the party and the government. The only way you’ll get to go home early is by admitting guilt and submitting to the law’s judgment.” I just listened. I knew that my lawyers had already arrived and they were preventing them from meeting with me.
Then there was another time on January 11. Three people came: my brother, Xie Yangde (谢扬德), Wang Dehua (王德华), deputy head of the Changsha Domestic Security Unit, and Xie Leshi (谢乐石), head of the Dongkou County Domestic Security Unit. Wang Dehua and Xie Leshi explicitly said that they had no power to seek a meeting with me during this phase of the case but explained that they’d come to see me at the request of my brother and did not represent their respective units. Xie Leshi threatened me, saying my posts on WeChat and Weibo would get me a sentence of at least five years with no cap—the sentence could run as high as 15 or 20 years.
CHEN: What do you make of the fact that so many people from the police and the procuratorate have come to see you so many times in order to try to get you to admit guilt?
XIE: I’m innocent, completely innocent. Even though I signed some self-incriminating statements after being tortured to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore, those aren’t the facts and they don’t prove that I’ve committed a crime. I have freedom of expression and the statements I made on Weibo and WeChat were my right. How can that be inciting subversion of political power?
CHEN: Are you going to admit guilt? Or, put another way, if the authorities come and say they’ll release you or grant you bail if you admit guilt, will you do so?
XIE: I haven’t admitted guilt up to now. Trying to get me to do so is kind of a ridiculous idea. Am I guilty just because I admit guilt? Isn’t that how things worked during the Cultural Revolution? If I admit guilt, don’t you have to consider the law and the evidence?
But there’s one thing I need to make clear to you. As of today, I haven’t admitted guilt. I tell you now—I declare of my own free will, that I, Xie Yang, am innocent. If, at some point after today, January 13, 2017, there were to appear any document or audiovisual recording of me admitting guilt, it would not be the truth and would not reflect my real inner thoughts. Even if I admit guilt, it doesn’t make me guilty. That depends on the law and the evidence.
Even if I were one day to admit guilt, it would be because I was forced to make some deal or forced to do so because I was tortured. I am completely innocent, but because of some of the things I’ve posted and because I’ve taken part in some rights defense cases, the Changsha Public Security Bureau is out to get me. They are the real criminals and murderers. If, in the future, I were to make any admissions of guilt, it would be a kind of trade. I know my family wants to see me very much and my parents are advanced in years and miss me very much. If I admit guilt, it will be in exchange for preserving my life. Today [January 13, 2017], while I am allowed to express myself truthfully to my lawyer, I want to say clearly that I am innocent.
CHEN: Do you want or agree to authorize me to release the record of our interviews to the public?
XIE: I authorize my defense lawyers, Chen Jiangang and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), to decide to release the record of our interviews to the public at a certain time.
[The end of the transcript.]
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
Wang Qiaoling, January 17, 2017
Since Li Chunfu was released from the custody of China’s security forces on January 12, his family has been providing updates on his condition to the outside world. Their notes make clear that Li was left a broken man, suffering both physically and mentally. China Change calls on the United Nations to investigate the treatment of Li Chunfu in custody, and we call for immediate access on the part of legal counsel to Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang, as well as Jiang Tianyong who has been held in secret detention since November 21, 2016. The circumstances of all these individuals are now of grave concern given Li Chunfu’s condition. — The Editors
These last few days I’ve been staying at Chunfu’s (李春富) house, worried that he might have another episode and hurt his wife. Last night we followed the doctor’s orders and invited Chunfu to sit on the sofa with us to chat about his treatment. Chunfu had sustained serious damage to his neck vertebrae and spine in custody, and his neck is a bit twisted. If the doctor hadn’t pointed this out, we wouldn’t have realized.
As we sat on the sofa and finished talking over medical treatment, Chunfu suddenly screamed: “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me!” I was struck dumb. I could only look upon Chunfu’s face, twisted up with a sinister expression, and his eyes, full of ominous glint.
I finally understand what my sister-in-law was referring to about his outbursts. Anxious, I mimicked his cry: “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me!” The doctor suggested that family members may repeat what the patient says. I felt highly insecure, but kept my eyes fixed on him: “Tell me! What are you hiding from us!” The malice in Chunfu’s eyes began to slowly dissipate.
Chunfu’s wife Bi Liping (毕丽萍), sitting beside us, was crying. “Chunfu, when I saw you at the police station I suspected right away that you had physical problems. I could have turned and left and not brought you home. But I brought you back, and that proves that we don’t want to hurt you. Why don’t you ever trust us? Sister-in-law and Yang Bo (杨波, nephew of the Li brothers) put aside their own affairs to stay with us, just so they could help with your treatment. You have to believe us.” Chunfu got that vicious look in his eyes again and started staring at me. I felt so crushed. I roared out once more: “Tell me! What are you hiding from us!” The menace in Chunfu’s eyes again slowly disappeared.
We told him to go wash his face and brush his teeth so he could go to sleep, but he was absent and confused, and asked: “Why do I have to brush my teeth?” After he finished brushing, he again queried his wife: “Which one’s my toothbrush?”
Before nodding off he called Bi Liping into the room, twice, in order to ask: “Are you sure you’re not hiding anything from me?”
The whole night at Chunfu’s was spent in fitful sleep. I was thinking over: why haven’t Heping and Quanzhang been allowed access to a lawyer? Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wu Gan (吴淦) can see lawyers now. Is it because Heping and Quanzhang are now the same as Chunfu? I tossed and turned through the night, and only got a few winks of half-conscious sleep in the morning. When I again saw Chunfu looking at me, with that tortured, fierce expression fixed on his face, I finally understood what my sister-in-law meant about his episodes, and why she’s been unable to sleep and now constantly wakes in fright.
709 lawyer family members,
Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭, wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (李文足, wife of Wang Quanzhang)
Bi Liping (wife of Li Chunfu)
January 16, 2017
Addendum by lawyer Chen Jiangang: Li Chunfu is in a state of paranoia, dread, and alarm. He’s always fearful. Fearful of something going wrong, fearful of people coming to take him away. When he sees an old friend he’s a little better, but even when it’s a friend talking to him, he’s still full of suspicion, foreboding, and dread. For example, when we went to eat a meal together, someone asked him to order. He responded: “What’s that mean? Is something going to happen?” When asked whether he wants to eat dumplings or noodles, he responded by repeatedly asking what that question was supposed to mean, and “why are you making me choose?”
*Translator’s note: Several human rights lawyers and activists reported that “Tell me! What are you still hiding from me?!” is what interrogators frequently yell during interrogations.
An Update on Lawyer Li Chunfu’s Condition, January 14, 2017
A Third Update on Lawyer Li Chunfu: He Was Drugged in Custody, January 15, 2017
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Wang Qiaoling, January 14, 2017
Latest on January 14: Li Chunfu has been diagnosed today as having symptoms of schizophrenia and hospitalized. We learned from relatives that he was subjected to severe torture during his six months of “residential surveillance at a designated place,” China’s term for secret detention. More details to come. Once again, we urge the international human rights community to immediately begin an investigation into the extreme abuse that Li Chunfu, Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Jiang Tianyong, and others targeted in the 709 arrests have suffered. – The Editors
Hours ago China Change posted Wang Qiaoling’s first report of her brother-in-law, lawyer Li Chunfu, who was released “on bail” after being detained incommunicado for 18 months as part of the sweeping “709 crackdown.” This is her update. – The Editors
Yesterday, January 13, at 2:00 p.m., Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭) and Li Wenzu (李文足) — the wives of arrested lawyers Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) respectively — as well as a number of lawyer peers, rushed to the home of Li Chunfu (李春富) and his wife. Chunfu was able to recognize them, but couldn’t form coherent sentences.
Within an hour he had muttered to his wife over 20 times: “Bi Liping, don’t hide anything from me!”
He recognized that I was his sister-in-law and tried to talk to me, but he trailed off before finishing the first sentence, hanging his head low as though in pain. He kept saying that he had a pain in his heart. His wife told us: “Last night he was saying that he felt like insects were biting his body inside, that his heart had been eaten away by bugs bit by bit, and there wasn’t much of it left!” The sadness we felt as we heard this while gazing on his lifeless face is difficult to put into words.
Later on I asked Chunfu: “Have you called your mum and dad back home?” He turned to me blankly, and, after a long pause, muttered to himself: “How could I have forgotten that?”
A relative who took him on a small walk through the residential compound said: “Chunfu didn’t dare leave the apartment. I had to promise him repeatedly that I’d definitely accompany him back before he agreed.”
As they walked, Chunfu would dart his eyes in all directions as he spoke: “We have to make sure that we stay within the surveillance perimeter when we walk. We can’t go outside the area.”
This wasn’t the lawyer Li Chunfu of 18 months ago. That Li Chunfu dropped out of school at age 14, went south for work, got stabbed, slept in a cemetery, then managed to become a lawyer after six years of gruelling self-study. He had been taken into custody because of the human rights cases he had taken on — he had been locked in a steel cage, battered, and threatened, but that hadn’t changed him. I never imagined that 18 months of jail would torment him to the point of a mental breakdown, leaving him broken and paranoid.
Come evening when we were due to leave, he gripped his lawyer friend who came with us in a tight hug, saying: “Please, keep an eye on what they do to me!”
I thought that these were his true thoughts.
Shortly after we left, he discovered his wife’s conversation with us and was scared, shouting at her: “Who said you could tell them that I’m back? The police said no!” Before his wife was able to offer an explanation — “I didn’t” — he slapped her in the face!
Finally I must correct a detail in my initial report of Chunfu’s return: Chunfu was not brought home by the police. Instead, his wife was called to the neighborhood police station at Jiaowang Village, Tongzhou District (通州区焦王庄派出所) to take him home. Why did I make this mistake? Because that was what Chunfu’s friend told me, and his family was sternly warned by public security authorities not to tell the world what happened, including how he got home…
Family of the 709 lawyers:
Wang Qiaoling (wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (wife of Wang Quanzhang)
On the morning of January 14, 2017
An addendum by China Change:
Several lawyer friends took Li Chunfu to a hospital in Beijing for a check up Saturday morning. This is some of what Chunfu said to them:
“I thought I’d never seen you all again…”
“What place is this? I hope nothing will go wrong.”
“Will something go wrong if we’re seen together? Are you sure?”
“Will the police show up?”
“Please don’t leave me alone.”
“Jiangang, I really want to cry.”