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Q & A with Peter Dahlin, the Swedish NGO Worker Who ‘Endangered the National Security’ of China

January 3, 2017

This Q & A can be read as a companion piece to the Guardian report. It focuses more on Dahlin’s work, the interrogations, and the legal features of his case. Given that China’s Law on the Management of Foreign Non-Governmental Organizationstook effect on January 1, 2017, we hope the conversation offers insight and perspective. – The Editors

 

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Escorted to Beijing airport for deportation. Illustration by Nicolas Luna Fleck.

 

CHINA CHANGE: Peter, you are a Swedish national; on January 3, 2016, you were taken into custody by Chinese national security agents for allegedly “endangering national security.” It was not until nine days later that the international press reported that you had been disappeared on your way to the Beijing airport. Then, on January 15 and 19, the Global Times and the Xinhua News Agency reported your detention. On January 19, in a CCTV news section, you “confessed” that you “violated the Chinese law through your activities here, caused harm to the Chinese government, and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” While it was appalling and a pain to watch, people also laughed because everyone immediately recognized that these were forced words. On January 26, you were deported and barred from entering China for the next 10 years. A lot went on over this 23-day period, and we hope to unpack it for our readers. First of all, please tell us how events unfolded on January 3, 2016.

PETER DAHLIN: I was taken in a raid on my home in Beijing late that evening, not on my way to the airport as reported. The misunderstanding is easy to see, as I had notified a few people in the press- and diplomatic corps that I might not make it out, leading people to assume I must had been taken at the airport.

Earlier that day, I heard that high-up officials in the Beijing domestic security police were inquiring about me, following accusations against me made by individuals who had at that time been held in ‘residential surveillance’ from several months to half a year. Less than 10 hours after I heard about that, State Security showed up at my home, with search and detention warrants for both me and my girlfriend.

For a few weeks we had been in a ‘heightened risk situation,’ knowing that something could happen to me or others. We had been taking precautions, clearing out and processing paperwork, tying up loose ends, and doubling down in IT-measures. I had not only heard stories from those who had been through detentions before, but as a form of preparation also read books like the great but unfortunately-titled In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon with stories on interrogations, secret detention, torture etc. This was of course the first time I myself was taken, but over the years there had been many similar situations, and thus this procedure to prepare had been undertaken numerous times before.

In this case, I took the preparation a bit further than normal. Since similar situations of heightened risks had happened numerous times before, besides our normal organizational procedures, I also had my own. In those cases I would keep a small overnight bag packed next to the bed, with passport, some clothes, medicine, and money, along with shoes and a jacket, and more or less have memorized the night flight schedule out of Beijing – if I ever got the message or call that an action against us was being taken and would need to try to leave the country. In this case I was already scheduled to leave China just a few days after I was taken, but moved my flight up to that very same night, and packed as much as I could – knowing that if something happened and I managed to get away, I would not be able to return and would have to start anew somewhere. In the end, the raid on my home happened just a couple of hours before I was set to leave for the airport.

CHINA CHANGE: I admit that, even though I’ve been a busy human rights and rule of law advocate for the last three or four years, I had barely heard of your organization — Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (中国维权紧急援助组). So there is quite a bit of mystery around it. Can you describe your organization’s activities in China? A New York Times report mentioned seminars, legal aid work, and training sessions. The Chinese state media portray your activities in dark, conspiratorial and menacing terms. Help us demystify them. 

PETER DAHLIN: The Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) was in operation from 2009 until early 2016, and it ran a number of different programs concurrently. It was largely unknown, as we operated quietly, and even though parts of the international rights community, and much of the press and diplomatic corps knew of us, we did not allow anyone to publicly speak about us, keeping our profile as low as possible while still being able to cooperate with others. A few reports linked on our dormant Twitter account are about the only public information available.

Since its founding, China Action has responded to attacks on lawyers, journalists, and other rights defenders, especially women defenders, but perhaps our main focus has been on training and capacity development for rights defenders. We have specialized in barefoot lawyers, with the goal of strengthening the legal movement and civil society, to develop the rule of law and improve protections for Chinese citizens.

Our founding program was the urgent action program, working to arrange lawyers for human rights defenders (HRDs) at risk and to provide needed financial assistance for victims’ families, ranging from support for housing, medical bills, or a child’s education. We paid special attention to women HRDs and grassroots activists who often lacked the network and support of more high-profile defenders. We did this both on our own as well as in partnership with international and regional organizations. Later on, for the last few years, we have also had a subsection of that program to specifically address and arrange help for those with mental health support needs after detentions, kidnappings, interrogations etc.

Although primarily about direct support, through the urgent action program we also engaged in limited advocacy measures around priority cases, which involved ensuring diplomatic attention in Beijing or foreign capitals and communication with relevant human rights special procedures of the United Nations, and participation in the Universal Periodic Review of China, both alone and in collaboration with international organizations.

Many people may not be aware that governments and institutions in the EU and other countries have been offering assistance to Chinese state actors involved in the judicial system, such as police, judges, or prosecutors, in developing the “rule of law” (rule by law really), which is important. At the same time, at least until recently, there was a growing number of international and in particular Hong Kong-based organizations that provide financial assistance and training for licensed rights defense lawyers who work on public interest and rights defense cases. Unfortunately this approach has left a key group without any support. Due to financial or geographic limitations, the majority of rights abuse victims in China must rely on unlicensed barefoot lawyers, and yet this is precisely the group that has been most left out of the majority of rule of law development efforts. This is why we focused on barefoot lawyers, and our work was more preventive than reactive, with focus on training and capacity development to address the gaping hole in access to legal aid, especially among rural or poorer Chinese citizens.

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Arriving at the secret detention compound. Illustration by Nicolas Luna Fleck.

 

CHINA CHANGE: Speaking of barefoot lawyers, Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) immediately comes to mind. Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) was a barefoot lawyer too in his early rights defense activities. Another example is Ni Yulan (倪玉兰). These are citizens who are not licensed lawyers, but who seek to defend rights through legal means. This is fascinating. Tell us more.

PETER DAHLIN: Because they are not licensed, the barefoot lawyers can almost never take up criminal cases. But in China, the main procedures for defending rights against government abuse are administrative laws and regulations, and this is where any citizen can get involved (although legal efforts by the State to limit their ability to take on cases continue). Barefoot lawyers can thus be both self-taught legal activists as well as lawyers who have lost their licenses. The work takes the form of filing lawsuits against government bodies responsible for illegal behavior such as torture, arbitrary detention, or forced evictions and demolitions. Barefoot lawyers have also taken the lead in testing and pushing the use of China’s 2008 Regulations on the Disclosure of Government Information (《中华人民共和国政府信息公开条例》), scoring many successes. As a result, we have witnessed increased use of the Regulations in defending human rights.

In order to improve barefoot lawyers’ knowledge and practice of the Administrative Law, information disclosure regulations, and other procedures, China Action has run a number of different training programs since 2009. For example, our programs ranged from in-depth week-long training sessions in administrative law, shorter trainings on information disclosure, to specific legal issues, depending on the needs of target beneficiary groups.

To maximize the result and output of the main program, we designed the program in what we believe was both an innovative and cost-effective way:

A rights defense lawyer and an experienced barefoot lawyer would be responsible for each in-depth legal training session, selecting a group of participants from a cohesive area, along with guest teachers. Of those trained in these in-depth sessions, which would also include training in freedom of information (FOI) regulations, we would then select from the best of more suitable students, and arrange for them to, on a more local level, arrange their own shorter training in FOI or another specific legal topic. Thus the larger and more extensive trainings would give us a pool of local teachers for such smaller trainings.

When needed, a lawyer or barefoot lawyer in our network would attend those local trainings to assist. Finally, from the group trained in these shorter local trainings, the trainer would select the most dedicated participants and offer support for them to organize their own local trainings at the most grassroots level, to extend the output among the trainee’s friends and fellow barefoot lawyers.

This triple layer system allowed us to not only extend our results to the most local levels in a relatively low key and safe manner, but to ensure significant multiplier effects, all while keeping the costs very low.

Another key aspect of the training activities was about nurturing mutual trust among participants, which is part of the reason our training groups were never larger than 10 people, and always drawn from a coherent geographic area. This is especially important for barefoot lawyers who tend to have experience with only one or two particular legal issues. In this way, drawing a group of 10 barefoot lawyers from, say, Shandong to spend a week of in-depth study together would create new connections and expand their effectiveness, as they can build a mutual support network when dealing with issues outside their area of expertise. Each group would also get a direct connection to both the rights defense and barefoot lawyers arranging the training, greatly expanding networks for us as an organization, as well as for the participants, who would get a direct link to a mentor from who they could seek guidance.

The organization designed its own curriculum for these training and capacity development activities. A large part of that has included creating practical self-study guides with the beneficiaries, pairing the experts with the beneficiaries to create not only practical guides on, for example, information disclosure regulations or administrative detentions, but also manuals that deal with what the beneficiaries actually want. This approach would seem obvious, but looking at a lot of the material available, it often seems it’s produced by experts telling the readers/beneficiaries what they think they should know, instead of developing the material together with the group itself.

Finally, connecting the urgent action program and the training and capacity activities, the organization has also been working, on a small scale, to set up what we referred to as ‘legal aid stations’ around the country run by barefoot lawyers to enhance access to justice. This third core component thus consisted of barefoot lawyers who would receive training in issues ranging from arbitrary detention to information disclosure, alongside minor ongoing financial support, and they would then provide pro-bono assistance to victims in their respective regions. Many of these cases would have clear public interest components to them.

CHINA CHANGE: During your custody, did the Chinese security investigators tell you which of these activities are illegal and endangering China’s national security?

PETER DAHLIN: We always assumed that their key interest would be our work with urgent actions, and they certainly had a very strong interest in knowing which lawyers had been engaged for different cases, but their key interest turned out to be the barefoot lawyers we supported to provide pro-bono legal aid. They wanted to know about our ‘legal aid stations.’ When we first started, each station had several staff and an office, but beyond the very beginning stage, the aid was actually carried out by only one individual lawyer. However, we kept internally referring to them as ‘legal aid stations’, meaning State Security at first assumed that they were local branches of the organization, which of course was not the case at all.

They also had an interest in the various training activities, many of which over the years had been shut down by either local police or provincial state security. They found a few questionnaires from one of those trainings (distributed at all training activities for evaluation purposes), and found that some of the answers were rather anti-Party. That wasn’t helpful.

In general though, my own placement under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ was mostly because of the incompetence of State Security. They had been led, wrongly, to believe that I was personally involved in a list of activities, which I was not, and could easily prove I was not.

A key focus of my interrogations was lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who has now been held in secret custody for over a year. Wang and I worked closely for many years, but we parted ways and haven’t worked together since early 2014. Our work was regarding holding trainings, offering informal mentoring to local lawyers, providing criminal defense for those facing trial, and developing training materials. It would be a stretch even for the State Security to argue that any of these was bad for China, let alone being illegal.

CHINA CHANGE: You said that Chinese security organs had been monitoring your organization’s activities before your detention. Can you expand on that? How did they do so?

PETER DAHLIN: Beginning in 2013, a co-worker was repeatedly summoned by another branch of State Security for long sessions of questioning. Using carrots and sticks, State Security tried to make this person a ‘mole,’ who would continue working with us but report to the police on me, my co-founder Michael Caster, and lawyers we worked with, or any others who worked with us. State Security asked this co-worker to make copies of documentation the person had access to, and any work I gave this person to do. On several other occasions we found that either I or Michael Caster had come up in police questioning of rights defenders we had worked with.

 

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The patted cell. Illustration by Nicolas Luna Fleck.

 

CHINA CHANGE: You were detained in what’s essentially a black jail for 23 days, and you said you were interrogated every day. I’m always interested in knowing the questions they asked. Do you think you can go into more detail about your interrogations?

PETER DAHLIN: Overall, the interrogations were made harder by two facts: They found almost no paperwork in their raids, and their disappointment was visible when they raided my home. But they had taken in up to five people in this operation (and I also assumed that these people had been taken, although initially I could not be sure) and they were getting (some) information from them, which they used as leads for their interrogation of me. Three earlier partners had at this point been missing for many months, placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’, and numerous other staff and partners, (then-) current and previous, had been detained and/or questioned throughout the summer, autumn and winter of 2015.

However, all core organizational aspects, details on projects, financing etc., have been the domain of only myself and Michael Caster. Others have been involved only in parts of a project or projects, without details on the organization as a whole. This was not what State Security had assumed early on. Making it clear that this was the responsibility of myself and Michael was imperative to lessen the burden on other staff and partners.

Michael was not in China at the time of the crackdown. I, being a Westerner with, I assumed, strong diplomatic support, felt a much greater sense of security than any Chinese national would. This, alongside with much information, accounts, banking etc., being based outside of mainland Chinese jurisdiction, also gave me a good position.

Thus, claiming to focus only on the administrative aspect of our work, and having poor Chinese language abilities, I could convincingly claim to only know the general outline of our work, but not the specifics for each project, and this approach allowed me to protect others.

I could, and did, also maintain the line, which is also true, that all our work had one thing in common, namely to enhance the practical application of law, that is, improve the enforcement of law, which is lacking greatly in China. We did not even involve ourselves in advocacy to improve the law itself, but focused on simply bringing practice in line with the law, especially on provincial and local levels. Even though the law is not meant to be followed to some extent, having this focus should logically decrease how and to what extent we are seen as a threat.

Despite this approach to limit what I needed to say, they did utilize extensive technical forensics on phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, USBs, etc. Everything stored is done so in encrypted form, and they never got the passwords to access those. On the other hand, using file recovery programs they could access parts of documents that had been worked on, deleted, etc. What they could get was limited, but they were able to gain access to some new documents or parts of documents every day.

This meant that I had to plan my interrogation keeping in mind to limit information, remove details such as names, locations etc., while at the same time make sure not to say anything that might be contradicted by the document they might have the next day. Keeping this in mind late at night after hours of questioning was perhaps the hardest part, but due to preparation it went fairly well. Basically, I had to make sure not to directly lie, but also make sure to not give out information that could be used against me or others.

The first 24 hours, I was under detention and not residential surveillance, they asked about my background, family and education, a few coworkers, and they also brought up the names of Wang Quanzhang, Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) and Su Changlan (苏昌兰). The first three days were handled by a ‘bad cop’ interrogator, who overplayed his hand and made me uncooperative, since I don’t respond well to being forced. After that, a ‘good cop’ took over most interrogations. All along I knew my girlfriend, who has no connection to my work, was sitting in the same facility somewhere, unable to give them anything, which at least at first I assumed State Security would think of as being uncooperative and possibly take measures to try to force non-existent information out of her.

For the first two weeks there was, on average, one session per day, lasting usually five to six hours, often held throughout the evening and night, with some minor variation. Later on they would accompany those with what I came to think as ‘fireside chats,’ with the ‘good cop’ coming into my cell, opposite to the interrogation room, to have informal chats. He’d offer cigarettes and an occasional Nescafé. These fireside chats would allow for more philosophical discussions, and for me to offer more extended explanation on why I disagreed with this or that.

Later on, one interrogation session would also double as a lie detector test, or ‘psychological test to enhance communication’ as they framed it. They attached electrodes to my fingers and used specialist cameras on the pupils, asking me a combination of test and real questions. The guy brought in to administer it couldn’t quite get it working, and in the end they didn’t seem to get anything from it, and stopped it for the last part of that interrogation session.

They used an interpreter at the interrogations, but as time went on they started to shed that charade, since the interrogators had far better English than the interpreters.

Two weeks into my detention, they realized that neither I nor China Action was related to the alleged crimes of Xing Qingxian and Su Changlan. They also realized we did not work with Fengrui Law Firm (锋锐律师事务所), and had had no partnership with Wang Quanzhang for years. On top of that, upon learning that the activities I developed and worked on with Wang were related to provision of legal aid, training lawyers, and developing training materials, they must have realized that these would not be all that useful to smear him or convict him of any national security crimes.

They also became aware of my medical condition and just how serious it was. Not wanting to have a dead Western human rights activist on their hands, they paid close attention to my condition for the rest of my custody, which limited what methods they could use against me. I also knew that media broke the story after the first two weeks, and it was quickly gaining momentum, as I had expected it would. I realized that media had broken the story because the interrogator asked me one day about the reporter, Megha Rajagopalan at Reuters who first wrote about it. The annoyance and anger was very clear.

It must be around this time that they decided to eventually deport me and move on. For the remaining days, they tried to get from me as much information about how NGOs work and about civil society in general. Of course I would also be used as a propaganda tool against foreigners, civil society, and NGO work. For the last week or so the amount of interrogations dwindled, and besides some more “fireside chats” I was just killing time waiting for the next step in the process. This mostly consisted of staring into the suicide padded wall, spending time doing some basic calisthenics, and trying to remember Bob Dylan lyrics. His song “Love minus zero / no limit” was especially helpful to keep my mind occupied for a few days. Each day and every minute was feeling longer, not shorter, and it started getting to me.

Many people who talk on the subject of solitary confinement mention that at some point your thoughts turn to suicide. It was never a serious consideration for me, but yes, at some point I spent hours analyzing the room and considering the possibilities for committing suicide. The padding and setup was so meticulous, though, that I realized it was not going to be possible even if I wanted to.

CHINA CHANGE: The reports said that your organizations received grants from various sources, the largest donor being EU, but the Chinese seem to have a fixation on NED – the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. How is that?

PETER DAHLIN: The EU was by far our largest donor, but my interrogators had almost no interest in this fact. Instead their focus was on NED, whose support to us, being crucial for one of our key programs and the organization as a whole, was nonetheless limited to a few hundred thousand dollars through the five years the program ran. To some extent they were also interested in rapid response assistance groups like Front Line Defenders. Me pointing out that the EU had supported numerous training activities for Chinese state actors, and that we were basically just doing the same for barefoot lawyers perhaps made them realize focusing on the EU angle would be more difficult in terms of painting it as a crime, a threat to national security, or in general play the ‘anti-China forces’ card. At this point they had also stopped trying to paint me as an EU spy.

Specifically, they wanted me to admit that NED was guiding us, that they were the ones giving orders on what we should do. I think this was partially because it’d fit their narrative, but also (to a lesser extent) because they don’t understand the grantmaker and grantee relationship. Likewise, they liked to refer to the barefoot lawyers we support as our ‘branches.’

Naturally they also inquired about other organizations, like International Service for Human Rights, who provides training on international law related issues (outside of China), and various groups based in Hong Kong. They however had very little information on our work with such groups, and it passed as a topic of conversation.

State Security became aware of our ‘legal aid station’ work from an internal NED document they somehow had access to, but the document did not contain names or exact locations, so a fair amount of time was spent on interrogating me about who these lawyers were. The names of some of the lawyers were provided by coworkers, and later documents they retrieve through file recovery work on hard drives etc. provided the legal aid station lawyers’ names. In the end, State Security gathered enough information about it, and it was the first program to be shut down as we started closing the organization after my deportation.

CHINA CHANGE: I have read a fair amount of interrogations of Chinese human rights defenders, and the interrogators always want to know whom they are connected to. I imagine they want to know every single person you have worked with or known in China.

PETER DAHLIN: They seemed to place a lot more interest on people than the work. They asked about a long list of people — some appeared in documents they had found, and others whose names had come up during interrogations of someone else. They wanted to know who attended our trainings, but they seem to accept that, due to the breadth and amount of our work, I could not have retained names of attendees of various trainings in my head, or even which teachers had been involved in what trainings. They also asked me about people simply because they are well known HRDs, key rights defense lawyers, and NGO workers. But I maintained, as I had done earlier, that my work focused on administrative issues and, having poor Chinese, I had very limited knowledge of most of these people, except for a few which they already had evidence that we had worked with directly.

They assumed that we would have connection with domestic NGOs, but that was in fact not the case. Likewise, our cooperation with international groups is limited to a handful of groups. They spent considerable time trying, but got very little on that topic. Same with the Fengrui Law Firm and people like Wang Yu and Li Heping, with whom we have had only limited contact.

They spent considerable time trying to convince me that some coworkers had ratted me out and I should respond in kind and come clean, basically that all blame was being placed on me, and if I didn’t defend myself my fate would be far worse. This mostly just triggered my Churchillian instinct. When they realized after repeated attempts that I would do nothing but defend them, they gave up. I remember repeating the same line over and over again: These people “not only constitute the best China has to offer, but people any nation should be proud to have as their citizens.”

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“I’ve violated the Chinese law through my activities here; I’ve caused harm to the Chinese government; and I’ve hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”

 

CHINA CHANGE: The television confession — tell us what that was like.

PETER DAHLIN: Toward the end, when it became clear that deportation was likely, a late night final deposition was made in the interrogation room which basically summarized the key points they had learned from interrogations of me and others.

The focus was to try to find an angle to smear Wang Quanzhang. Considerable time had been spent on calling Wang a criminal, despite me pointing out almost daily that his case had not even been transferred to prosecutor, let alone having resulted in a conviction. Similarly, they refused to point out any activity by Wang that was actually a crime, except saying his work threatened national security, and that he has defended ‘evil cult’ practitioners and used his social media to highlight his work as a lawyer.

The next day, in the early evening, the ‘good cop’ walked into my cell. Cigarettes and small talk. He said a panel of judges would decide on my fate, whether bringing charges or deportation. The best way, he said, would be to record an interview on camera for them to review. Knowing that they already finished the active investigation and would not get any more information by an interview, that my girlfriend would be kept for as long as I would, and that only with my deportation would she be set free, and also knowing that time was ticking in terms of my medical condition (by that time I had already lost some 5-6 kilos), I said yes.

What followed is easy to imagine. He came back with a paper with both questions and answers written down, which in their mind ‘summarized’ our discussions over these weeks. Some arguments followed as they wanted me to call Wang, Xing and Su criminals, despite none of them having been tried. My refusal was finally accepted and some changes were made.

When I saw the final line on that paper, “having hurt the feelings of the Chinese people,” I realized that the recording was obviously for CCTV, though they had never said so. Later, when I was led into a meeting room, also part of the same secure wing as the cell and interrogation room, I saw the CCTV ‘journalist’ and her cameraman.

The CCTV lady was about my age, perhaps slightly older, not overly friendly, but relaxed and someone with obvious experience as an interviewer. All the key State Security people, maybe 8 of them or so, were sitting in the back behind myself, the CCTV woman and the camera man. We ran through the questions and answers pretty quickly. The only hiccup was saying that final line on hurt feelings. After the 4th attempt the ‘journalist’ said to me, “you really don’t want to say this, do you?”

However, that line on hurt feelings is a key reason I agreed to do it despite knowing it was for CCTV and PR. It’s a well-known meme in the China community, and I knew that everyone would know the true nature of the ‘confession’ when they heard that line. Basically, including that line negated the whole purpose of it, from the point of view of the international community, and to some extent, inside China too.

CHINA CHANGE: Following your deportation, the Beijing-based lawyer and legal scholar Zhang Qingfang (张庆方) penned a commentary, taking issue with the legal procedure of your deportation. He said that the deportation order should have been made by a court if you were guilty of a crime, or by the PSB or national security agency if you were found to have violated an administrative statute but had not committed a crime. Your case had never been brought to a Chinese court, and yet the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced that you confessed to having committed “the crime of funding criminal activities that endanger China’s national security.” She, a government spokeswoman, convicted you of two crimes in one breath! I bring this up because the arbitrariness of the entire episode highlights precisely the importance of your organization’s work and the work of those barefoot lawyers and human rights defenders. It’s so basic – it’s the ABC of ABC of the rule of law, yet it’s not acceptable to the Chinese government and it’s demonized by state propaganda.   

PETER DAHLIN: As far as the law is concerned, I was placed under residential surveillance and investigated for violation of Article 107 — using foreign funding for illegal and subversive activities. But besides accusing me of supporting Su Changlan’s alleged protests and of me being the mastermind behind Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhishun’s alleged crime of taking Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, across China’s borders, they could not really pinpoint any activity that I had undertaken that would be illegal (besides illegal business operations, which is not a national security crime). And I had nothing to do with these two incidents anyway.

Their argument that actions supported by us would challenge national security, based on the National Security Law, is easily dismissible. They did spend time picking on our operating in the mainland without registration, and thus failing to pay tax, but that was not the crime I was accused of and it seemed just a minor issue for them.

In the end, I was deported under the new Espionage Law, but was not allowed to receive any documentation of any kind about any step in the legal process against me: the list of confiscated items, the house search, personal search, detention, residential surveillance, deportation, and the ban from entering China for 10 years — nothing.

Also, deportation under criminal charges would require a court decision, with notification to the embassy, myself, and the allowance of a lawyer, even if only a state-appointed one — but none of those things happened. That would render the process itself illegal, since deportation can only be decided by the police if it’s part of an administrative punishment, and if the latter is true I would first have to be released from criminal detention and moved to an administrative detention facility. Even with the world watching, China’s police and justice system couldn’t even operate, despite having such a wide range of tools and exceptions available, within their own law.

CHINA CHANGE: The way your case was dealt with, the Chinese law is apparently irrelevant despite all the rhetoric of the state media about the law being served. What do you think your real ‘crime’ is anyway? The Global Times said you stepped on a red line, what’s the red line?

PETER DAHLIN: Well, it’s hard to know who claimed I had participated or directed actions that led to “crimes,” as all of these people remain detained and incommunicado. So what led to the action being taken, I don’t know.

What can be said is that nothing that I was doing in 2016 was any different from, say, 2013. What earlier led them to want to monitor and keep tabs on us now meant they wanted to take us down. That would be in line with a general harshening of the climate, a greater focus on “anti-China” or “foreign forces” in their work to counter civil society growth, and also seeing an opportunity to use me as a tool concurrent with the new law and regulations on foreign funding and NGO operation.

CHINA CHANGE: Before and around the year 2008, the international community was euphoric about China embracing international norms. I remember there was a catchy phrase in those years in state media: “China and the World Joining Tracks” (“与世界接轨”), about China’s supposed integration into the world order. Today you don’t hear this phrase anymore and China’s outlook has changed. Many independent NGOs have been shut down over the past couple of years. You came to China almost 10 years ago as a young man, and 10 years later you were expelled as a national security threat. Do you have any final thoughts as we conclude this Q and A? 

PETER DAHLIN: Outsiders are slow to react and adjust their thinking, which I guess is natural. However, it will become harder and harder for outsiders, including politicians, to keep up the charade that China is continuing its peaceful rise and, if only incrementally, developing a system of laws, and therefore creating a better society. The longer Xi Jinping stays in power, the harder it will be to continue to pretend things are developing in the right direction — but few nations want to be the first to reverse course in how to develop ties and interact with China, especially if economic ties are threatened. Luckily, China is so inept at PR that their threats against sovereign nations who seek to change course are becoming clearer, with the UK being a good example. Not even the Tory party can pretend anymore, as seen in the report they released (The Darkest Moment).

Despite having my life’s work, in a professional sense, thrown into the garbage, and the fact that my lifelong medical condition came from my time in China, I’d still say it was worth every bit despite the risks. We cannot publicize the specifics of our work, especially on urgent actions, but knowing the results for myself was enough to motivate me to continue. Even if the positive results we saw as a result of our interventions were cut in half, I’d still say it was worth it all. Sometimes you’ve got to “put your money where your mouth is,” as they say, and I believe I did that.

 

 

 

 

China’s Shattered Dream for the Rule of Law, One Year On

Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016

 

freethelawyers

Photo: @chrlcg

 

Like the rest of us, they traveled around the country through rain and shine and choking smog, assisting the most vulnerable. Like the rest of us, they were exhausted looking after their parents’ health and finding a school for their children. Like the rest of us, they embraced the lofty China Dream, believing in “governing the country according to the law,” and stepping into the role of defending justice and human rights, committed and tireless.

But that dream was shattered on July 9, 2015.  

It began with the arrest of lawyer Wang Yu’s entire family in the early hours of July 9, 2015. Thereafter, the state’s machine of coercion shifted into full gear, raiding the homes of scores of rights lawyers across the country, and disappearing many of them. Hundreds more lawyers, scholars, and activists, known for their efforts in improving civil rights and political rights, were interrogated, threatened, and forcibly silenced. Some family members were punished by being driven from their homes, or prohibited from leaving China…

If this was the mere momentary convulsion of a police state armed to the teeth, perhaps we wouldn’t need be so shocked — after all, in China, this has become a fairly common occurrence. The Chinese people have never been free of fear. In fact, the opposite is the case: we live in a society in which one could become the next Xu Chunhe (徐纯合), or the next Lei Yang (雷洋) tomorrow — and this fear accompanies us every day. But this utterly brazen suppression of human rights defenders, the level of state hierarchy involved, the manner in which it was conducted, the extent of it, and its intensity, shows that it was planned and coordinated at the highest levels, a new development following the establishment of a certain powerful security organ. With this, we are witnessing a transition from spasmodic suppression to a permanent high-pressure state. No doubt, some people will be making history for such “achievements.”  

This year, human rights lawyers and rights defenders have been through six months of forced disappearances under so-called “residential surveillance at a designated place.” After they’re formally arrested for “inciting subversion of state power” or “subversion of state power,” they’re reportedly transferred to the Tianjin First or Tianjin Second Detention Center;

This year, they have not been able to receive legal help from counsel chosen by their families, nor have their loved ones been provided with the slightest information about their physical and mental well-being;

This year, despite complaints by family, protests by lawyers, attention by foreign media, concern and censure by foreign governments and NGOs, Chinese police have been cold-blooded, callous, and cruel. They manipulate the law as they wish, twist them any which way, appropriate the law maliciously, and are always ready to pull out a different marionette whenever the circumstances require it, as a way of cynically deflecting accountability and questioning.

The most bitterly disappointing and appalling characters of all are the other lawyers who have no sense of conscience. They cast aside what they themselves know is right, sell their souls to the devil, and do deals with the perpetrators. On the surface, they’re the defense counsel for the rights lawyers who have been arrested in the 709 crackdown, but in fact they’re the custom-made excuse by the police to explain why lawyers hired by the family had to be dismissed. But these lawyers don’t dare actually contact the family, nor even reveal their real names to the outside world. They don’t dare defend the lawful rights of their clients, but instead hide in the shadows. Though these questionable lawyers occupy high positions in the [government-controlled] associations of attorneys, have incomes to match, dress the part, and enjoy enviable social status, their actual role in this affair has been more like the decorative ceramic tile in a urinal.

One year isn’t long, but if it’s spent sealed up in solitary confinement, it’s enough to destroy a life. But one year isn’t short — it’s long enough for all to see that the pretense of “governing the country according to the law” has now been torn to shreds!

This year, they have been walled off in prison, bearing witness with their own bodies to the lies that lie beneath the gilded surface, and the cowardice of dictatorship. Outside prison, we are pleased to see that Chinese citizens continue to awaken, as incidents of collective protest increase and spread. China has not become quieter and more stable, as expected by the rulers when they tried to suppress human rights lawyers.

This year, their wives and loved ones have grown to understand their work better. Some wives have stood out bravely, declaring, “We’re leaving behind our makeup to beat the gangsters up,” continuing their husbands’ struggle for rights.

This year, they have never left our thoughts: their convictions, their determined actions, their love and grievances, their smiles and their voices… They travel far and wide in China with firm steps, casting a deep gaze around them. They have never left us, and they will never leave. They are human rights defenders who love this land and this people!  

History will remember them. For now, let’s read aloud their names:

Wang Yu (王宇), Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Xie Yang (谢阳), Li Chunfu (李春富), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Hu Shigen (胡石根), Bao Longjun (包龙军), Liu Sixin (刘四新), Wu Gan (吴淦), Zhao Wei (赵威), Lin Bin (林斌), Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Tang Zhishun (唐志顺), Xing Qingxian (幸清贤), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Liu Xing (刘星), Zhang Weihong (张卫红), Li Yanjun (李燕军), Yao Jianqing (姚建清), Yin Xu’an (尹旭安), Wang Fang (王芳)……
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group

July 8, 2016

 

 

The Chinese 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.
Contact persons:
Chang Boyang 常伯阳 18837183338
Liu Shihui 刘士辉 18516638964
Ling Qilei 蔺其磊 18639228639
Tang Jitian 唐吉田 13161302848
Yu Wensheng 余文生 13910033651

 


Related:

Breaking: This Morning in Beijing, One lawyer Gone Missing, Another Lawyer Kidnapped, and Fengrui Law office Visited by Police, China Change, July 9, 2015.

Biographies of Lawyers, Staffers and Activists Detained or Disappeared in the July 10 Nationwide Raid Against Rights Lawyers, July 23, 2015.

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

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu explains why Chinese government is out to get them, China Change, July 23, 2015.

Cataloging the Torture of Lawyers in China, China Change, July 5, 2015.

 

 

 

Activists’ Arrest and Whereabouts Confirmed After Forced Disappearance for Seven Months

China Change, May 18, 2016

 

Xing Qianxian (幸清贤 )

Xing Qianxian (幸清贤 )

On October 6, 2015, the two Chinese human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) were arrested for attempting to help the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) escape China through Burma, so he could come to the United States to study. Now, seven months after their arrest, the first word of their fates has been heard: Xing Qingxian’s wife was provided with a notice of arrest dated May 5 saying that he is suspected of “organizing human trafficking across borders.” He is currently held in the Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center.

The news is a result of months of fruitless efforts on the part of the lawyers and families, though we have yet to see Tang Zhishun’s arrest notice.

Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou (覃臣寿) wrote on Twitter that “From their arrest last October, this is the first time we’ve learnt where they are being detained. Someone has to take responsibility for this forced disappearance and inhuman treatment.”

As part of the biggest assault on human rights in China last year, police on July 9 detained the husband of Wang Yu, rights activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), as well as their son Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), at the Beijing Airport. Bao Zhuoxuan was set to make his way to Australia for his studies and his dad was accompanying him. At the same time, Wang Yu was taken from the family home, while in the days that followed, several hundred human rights lawyers across China were disappeared, detained, or subject to questioning. It’s already been over 10 months since this took place, and over 20 lawyers and law firm staffers are still being held in secret detention, without access to counsel. It’s been widely feared that they have been subjected to torture.

The “July 9 Incident” highlights the arbitrariness and deteriorating conditions of China’s sham rule of law. Strong and sustained criticism from the international community and human rights groups have fallen on deaf ears.

The 16-year-old Bao Zhuoxuan was released after a temporary detention, but police confiscated his passport and told him that he was forbidden to leave China to study. He was then sent off to the home of his paternal grandparents in Ulaan xot, Inner Mongolia. Last October during the National Day celebrations, friends of Wang Yu and Bao Longjun decided to mount a daring rescue operation and spirit Bao Zhuoxuan out of the country. Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian were responsible for escorting him. Their plan was to take him to Thailand through Myanmar, and then to the United States. But the authorities got wind of the plan, and they were arrested in Mong La, a quasi-independent part of northern Myanmar. Local police made the arrest, and handed them to Chinese authorities for repatriation.

Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan  (何娟), and Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen (高沈), as well as their 8-year-old daughter, are currently in the United States.

After Bao, Tang, and Xing were arrested, Bao Zhuoxuan was again returned to the grandparents in Inner Mongolia and put under strict surveillance.

Tang Zhishun (唐志顺)

Tang Zhishun (唐志顺)

Tang Zhishun’s lawyer Qin Chenshou told China Change that he has been asking about his client’s status for months now, and hasn’t received a single response. Qin said that because Wang Yu and Bao Longjun are being held in the Hexi detention center in Tianjin, that’s the first place he went on December 28 last year to make inquiries. He was told that Tang wasn’t there. The mother and younger sister of Tang told him that after he was arrested, police from Beijing and Inner Mongolia went to his home and carried out a thorough search, taking away several computers. The next day, lawyer Qin Chenshou traveled to Ulaan xot, in the Hinggan League prefecture of Inner Mongolia, and was told that Tang’s case had nothing to do with them. He was also told that the case was a matter of national security. Later, Qin submitted numerous requests under freedom of information rules for information about his client, to the Ministry of Public Security at the central level, and to the bureaus in Tianjin and Hinggan League in Inner Mongolia. He has never received any answer to these requests.  

Lawyer Qin said, the last seven months Xing Qingxian and Tang Zhushun have been subject to “forced disappearance by the government.”

On January 8, when Qin attempted to traveled from Shenzhen to Hong Kong, he was stopped at the border and refused exit. He wasn’t sure whether this denial was related to his involvement in the Tang Zhishun case, he told China Change. Last July and this year during the Chinese New Year, Qin was called in for chats by the Guangxi police, who warned him not to reveal any details of the cases he was handling to the media, or put them online.

Xing Qingxian’s lawyer Ran Tong also made similarly futile efforts for his client.

Xing Qingxian’s wife He Juan attempted to raise awareness about the disappearance of her husband online, but was quickly shut down by the censors. Two blogs she opened on Sina were only around for 20 days before being deleted; the third only survived only two days. “I’ve just been trying to raise awareness about my husband’s disappearance — I don’t know what would work,” she said. Tang Zhishun’s wife Gao Shen, as well as He Juan, went to protest outside the Chinese consulate in San Francisco during the Lantern Festival this year, demanding that the Chinese government immediately release their husbands.

Tang Zhishun suffers high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and other illnesses, while Xing Qingxian has asthma and needs constant medication.

Last October, Gao Shen told Voice of America that before her husband was arrested, Tang was an engineer at a state-owned enterprise, while she worked at an office job—the two of them, and their daughter, were a happy family, and never expected this sort of disaster. Now, their eight-year-old daughter asks where her father is every day. “I have no idea how to answer her,” Gao said. She described her husband as a man eager to help others, and the couple had on numerous occasions donated money and clothing to earthquake survivors in Yushu, Gansu Province, and Wenchuan, in Sichuan. They’ve also helped many victims of forced demolitions.

Xing Qingxian is a human rights defender who has worked in both Chengdu and Guiyang, southwestern provincial capitals. While not a lawyer, he has since 2006 been helping the vulnerable members of the society to defend their rights using legal tools. He also provided free legal consultation to workers on a QQ platform. In 2009, he was sentenced to two years imprisonment on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” after participating in a protest outside the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. After he was released in 2011, Xing Qingxian continued his involvement in rights defense work, and took part people’s representative elections in Guiyang as an independent candidate.

 
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Related:

Breaking: Chinese Citizens Bao Zhuoxuan, Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian Missing in Burma, October 9, 2015.

After 16-Year-Old Is Forced to Flee China, State Broadcaster Spins a Mendacious Tale, October 17, 2015.

Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, January 28, 2016.

 

 

 

After 16-Year-Old Is Forced to Flee China, State Broadcaster Spins a Mendacious Tale

By He Fei, published: October 17, 2015

 

包蒙蒙 漫画

By @badiucao

Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of prominent rights lawyer Wang Yu and activist Bao Longjun, earlier this month attempted to escape China with the help of his parents’ friends, and was apprehended in Myanmar on October 6. His parents have been under secret detention, and denied access to lawyers, since July. The following post is a response to a report by China Central Television (CCTV) which suggested that Bao had been either deceived or forced into leaving China. The author of this post, published under the pseudonym He Fei on Weiquanwang, chooses to remain anonymous for reasons readily understood. The individual is understood to have strong information about the arrest of rights lawyers and the capture of Bao Zhuoxuan. — The Editors

 

On one of its most prominent morning news programs on Saturday October 17, China Central Television broadcast the report “The truth about the flight of human rights lawyer’s son: foreign forces stirring the pot and coercing him to leave China.” The editorial logic of the news item was confused, it contained numerous lies, and it pulled together disparate items to create a chain of so-called facts which entirely covered up the most important things about the situation. The purpose was to mislead the public.

I. Was he taken away, or forced to flee?

On July 9 Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩) and his father Bao Longjun (包龙军) were arrested at the Beijing Capital Airport. Zhuoxuan’s life went from heaven to hell in the space of a day. It was the beginning of the Chinese Communist Party’s mass arrest of rights lawyers, and Bao Zhuoxuan’s parents—Wang Yu (王宇) and Bao Longjun—became among the first targets they lashed out against.

That day, Bao Zhuoxuan and his father Bao Longjun were abducted at the airport, kidnapped and led away with their hands cuffed behind their backs. The 16-year-old Zhuoxuan was locked in solitary confinement for 40 hours, insulted and beaten by public security agents, and not given a meal for over 20 hours. When his aunt came to the Tianjin police lockup to take him home, he was informed that his passport had been confiscated. He was forbidden from going to the family home in Beijing, forbidden from meeting either journalists or friends of his parents, and forbidden from seeking legal counsel for his parents.

This 16-year-old minor was subpoenaed by the police four times within a few days, and each time repeatedly threatened and intimidated. Whenever they menaced him they’d claim “We’re doing this for your own good.”

While he was at the home of his paternal grandparents in Tianjin, anyone who visited was interrogated by police; notices of power of attorney, already signed, were snatched away; and lawyers who visited were given judicial warnings and called in for “a chat.”

Later, the police struck upon an idea: send the kid out to his maternal grandmother in the remote city of Ulanhot (乌兰浩特), eastern Inner Mongolia. It’s not that they cared what Zhuoxuan thought. They simply wanted to make it more difficult for anyone to have any contact with him.

Xing Qianxian (幸清贤 )

Xing Qianxian (幸清贤 )

The Ulanhot police put him under surveillance and made the same threats. Neither Zhuoxuan nor his grandmother were allowed to leave town.

In media interviews, Zhuoxuan is on record saying: “I don’t want to go to school in Inner Mongolia. Our family has planned and prepared for years for me to study abroad; it’s also what I want. We’ve already paid school fees and homestay costs… going abroad for my studies is my own wish… now they deprive me of the right to make my own choice.”

Zhuoxuan wants desperately to leave Ulanhot and go abroad to study.

If the Chinese police didn’t confiscate his passport, and allowed him his own legitimate rights to study overseas, would he be trying to flee the country?

CCTV, Xinhua, and Global Times all ignore these most basic facts in their reporting, and do their utmost to hide the repulsive manner in which this minor has been treated.

II.  Why did he embark on such a dangerous journey? And what was the real danger?

If Bao Zhuoxuan had his passport, would he have embarked on such a perilous journey? This key point was ignored and expunged from the official reporting.

Official media also omitted the most important fact about the journey: what was the most dangerous part of trip? What did Zhuoxuan fear the most?

CCTV’s report includes several cuts to surveillance footage, often showing Tang Zhishun (唐志顺; family friend of Wang Yu and Bao Longjun) walking in front, while Zhuoxuan lingers back a few paces, following him. Both are often wearing hoodies to prevent from being identified.

So just what was Zhuoxuan hiding from?

Anyone with a bit of common sense will be able to tell you: he was most afraid of being discovered by the Chinese police, captured, sent back to Inner Mongolia, and being put under tight house arrest again—along with the regular threats and intimidation that come with it.

Clearly what gave the child the greatest sense of dread was none other than the Chinese government! And this why he made every possible effort to escape China.

III. Was he captured for crossing the border illegally, or because the authorities wanted to hold him hostage?

Tang Zhishun (唐志顺)

Tang Zhishun (唐志顺)

Those who have spent any time on the Myanmar border with China will know that anyone with a Chinese identification card won’t be subject to accusations of illegal immigration. Special Region No. 4 of the Shan state in Myanmar welcomes tourists from China, who come to spend big on gambling. In Jinghong (景洪; a Chinese city near the border) there are even special buses to take you to Myanmar. Once there you can use your Chinese ID card to get a tourist permit. If it was as CCTV would have it, the Myanmar police would be repatriating thousands of Chinese daily.

The Chinese regime has informants throughout Myanmar, especially in the border areas, and once they got word that Bao Zhuoxuan was there they crossed the border to grab him. They’d prefer to do this than let him escape, given that he’s a valuable hostage they can use to blackmail his parents.

After the three were captured, Chinese living in Mong La, and some locals there, found out what happened: the chief of the local tourism bureau is a Chinese government agent, and he passed on the information about Bao Zhuoxuan’s whereabouts. The three of them (Bao Zhuoxuan, Tang Zhixun, and Xing Qingxian [幸清贤]) were then arrested.

Both Myanmar and Chinese police participated in the raid, but official media reports elided this detail—it too deeply contradicts the Chinese government’s much vaunted claims about respecting Myanmar’s sovereignty.

The wives of Tang Zhixun and Xing Qingxian said that both Tang and Xing have got Canadian or U.S. visas, and that if they wanted to go to America they could do so easily—they don’t need anyone to help them.

IV. Why did they initially hide his whereabouts after capturing him?

After contact was lost with Bao, Tang and Xing in Myanmar, overseas Chinese living there and local people began making enquiries about their whereabouts. To this day the families of Tang Zhixun and Xing Qingxian have not received legal notice that they were taken into custody by police.

The Chinese asked police in Myanmar to get rid of all traces of the operation, even going to the hotel the three were staying in and deleting surveillance footage.

Bao Zhuoxuan with grandmothers

Bao Zhuoxuan with grandmothers

This certainly wasn’t a matter of protecting the privacy of a minor, as the official media falsely claimed. Initially, the authorities’ goal was to secretly capture Bao, not let the public know, and not let lawyers get involved. They wanted to force them into submission in a closed information environment.

Later, when the paper bag could no longer contain the fire, they hastily pulled together this report with all the “details” ten days after the incident. And these so-called details were falsely stitched together as a way to retaliate against those who attempted to help the boy.  

V. Why were his parents Wang Yu and Bao Longjun allowed to meet reporters but not their their lawyers ?

Since their arrest on July 9, Wang Yu and Bao Longjun haven’t been able to see a lawyer, and CCTV and other official media now have carried these distorted reports about them. Some of the scenes look as though they were secretly recorded, then cleverly and carefully edited together, with pieces of dialogue and context missing. It’s hard to believe that what was shown on CCTV represents their true attitude and thoughts.

If even defense lawyers have not been able to visit them, why was official media allowed to do so?

[While Wang Yu is presented sympathetically, as a worried mother in the recent item, it is interesting to note that in July CCTV vilified her in another distorted report. – The Editors]

VI. What’s the story behind the teacher?

There was a particularly ridiculous figure in the CCTV report: Meng Fanling (孟凡玲), a school teacher in the First High School of Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia. (After the report was broadcast, Internet users tracked down this person’s name and information.) Meng said that the Bao Zhuanxuan had told her that a mysterious man had furtively approached him on the streets of Beijing and said he’d take him overseas.

Before July 9, Bao Zhuoxuan’s family had already arranged for Bao to go to Australia to study; from July 9 on, Bao never returned to Beijing. Ms. Meng, being a teacher, don’t you have any idea about what you’re talking about when you lie to the world on television?   

Ms. Meng’s evasive glances and stalling speech are telling. How can a teacher, who is supposed to be a role model for others, go against her conscience and spread shameless lies?

VII. What does Bao Zhuoxuan himself want?

The CCTV report emphasized how the wishes of the boy must be respected. But we know that Bao Zhuoxuan, in interviews after his mother and father were arrested, clearly stated that he hopes he can go abroad to study. The police don’t want to give up their hostage, so they’re not letting him leave. After Bao was returned to Inner Mongolia, a journalist went to the house to interview him, but was stopped by the grandmother. Bao clearly expressed the wish to be interviewed, however.

So we must ask: does the child have the freedom to accept interviews? Do other family members have the freedom to accept interviews? If the child is really free like you claim, then please return his passport.

VIII. On the matter of ‘overseas organizations’

This is a recurring theme: it seems that every time the authorities want to blacken someone’s name, they say there are “overseas organizations” or “anti-China forces” involved. The righteous act of individual citizens trying to help a young man attend the school of his choosing gets forcefully distorted into the work of some organization.

Burmese police was seen to be deleting surveillance video at the guest house.

Burmese police were seen deleting surveillance video at the guest house.

After Wang Min (汪泯) and Xu Wenli (徐文立), two veteran overseas dissidents, were reported by Global Times (《环球时报》) to have been involved, and then refuted that they had been, CCTV’s reports simply changed their names to “Wang so-and-so” and “Xu so-and-so.” This is just absurd. Making things up should at least be done with some logic: if Wang Min and Xu Wenli were involved in trying to help Bao Zhuoxuan escape, why would they deny it? They both live safely outside China.

“Overseas organizations” and “anti-Chinese forces” are part of the daily vocabulary for CCTV and other state media. But like encouraging donations to the China Red Cross, or stirring up hatred against Japan, they’re becoming more and more of a joke.

In sum, the practice of the authorities and the official media is that they’ll seize anyone they can, and then force them or cheat them into reading from the script they’ve written. These dirty tricks don’t fool anyone anymore.

 

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Related:

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

A Child Hunted Down by the Chinese State, October 12, 2015. 

81 Chinese Lawyers Make Urgent Statement on Disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and Two Others in Myanmar, October 12, 2015.

Breaking: Chinese Citizens Bao Zhuoxuan, Tang Zhishun and Xing Qingxian Missing in Burma, October 9, 2015. 

 

原文《何飞:16岁少年被迫逃亡,遭中国央视歪曲报道》, translated by China Change.

 

A Child Hunted Down by the Chinese State

By Zhao Sile, published: October 12, 2015

“It’s hard to find a word better than ‘terrorism’ to describe the evil way that systematic violence is being used to turn a juvenile into a hostage.”

 

Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), who goes by the nickname Mengmeng (包蒙蒙), is a 16-year-old who wants to study law when he gets older. They say he’s tall for his age, but he still has a boyish face and is a bit of a “mama’s boy.” In the eyes of the Chinese state, however, he’s known simply as “hostage.”

Late on the night of July 8, 2015, Bao Mengmeng and his father, human rights activist Bao Longjun (包龙军), went to Beijing Capital Airport on their way to Australia, where Mengmeng was preparing to continue high school. His mother Wang Yu (王宇), a human rights lawyer, went to the airport to see the two of them off. That was the last time Mengmeng saw his mother.

Wang Yu was last in touch with Bao Longjun and Mengmeng just after 1 a.m. on July 9. At 4:17 a.m., Wang Yu sent a message to a friend saying that the electricity and Internet at her home had both been cut and that someone was attempting to pry her door open. That was the last time Wang Yu made contact with the outside world.

The sweeping arrests of lawyers formally began a day later. In all, 288 lawyers, legal assistants, and human rights defenders were brought in for police questioning, of whom more than 20 were charged with crimes like inciting subversion, endangering state security, or provoking a serious disturbance. None has been granted access to a lawyer, and their whereabouts still remain unknown. Before they’ve even been tried by a court, several state media outlets began publishing accounts describing them as criminals. This is what the world has come to refer to as the “July 9 Mass Detention of Lawyers.”

After two days in custody, Bao Mengmeng was sent to Inner Mongolia to live with his maternal grandmother. His passport was confiscated, and police announced four things he was prohibited from doing: hiring a lawyer, contacting the foreign media, making contact with people trying to help his parents, and going to study overseas. Bao Mengmeng later said in an interview with Hong Kong media: “I’m suffering, but I’m not afraid.”

On October 9, as Wang Yu and Bao Longjun marked their 100th day in detention, news emerged that Bao Mengmeng had disappeared in Burma. The Hong Kong-based China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said that Mengmeng and his traveling companions, human rights activists Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Xing Qingxian (幸清贤), were all taken away from Room 8348 of the Huadu Hotel in the Burmese city of Mong La on October 6. The owner of the hotel said that around a dozen people came to the hotel, showed their Burmese police identification, and searched the room before taking three people away. On October 7, friends and lawyers went to make inquiries at the local police station, where they were told that the police had not taken anyone into custody. Afterwards, they went to make inquiries with the local legal authorities, but there was still no news of the three. At 11 p.m. on October 8, police officers from the Chengdu Public Security Bureau carried out a search of Xing Qingxian’s Chengdu home in association with police from the Xing’an, Inner Mongolia, where Mengmeng’s grandmother lives. In the course of their search, police gave verbal notice that they had taken Bao Mengmeng into custody.

A person familiar with Bao Mengmeng’s situation said: “Bao Zhuoxuan could no longer endure the way that the secret domestic-security police used long-term and continual harassment, intimidation, and mind control (including towards family members). He took advantage of the extended National Day holiday to evade police control and wanted to go via Burma to continue his studies overseas. The loss of contact probably means that those who had been monitoring him became aware of his disappearance, and that means that he is most likely in the hands of the police in Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia.”

Bao Mengmeng is only a 16-year-old teenager. The only reason why he would become the target of this type of “cross-border arrest” is because he’s the son of political prisoners. As such, he can be locked up and used as a hostage to “negotiate” with Wang Yu and Bao Longjun. Outside China, he’s likely to become a focus of the international media. His existence is a lasting indictment of the Chinese human rights situation. It’s hard to find a word better than “terrorism” to describe the evil way that systematic violence is being used to turn a juvenile into a hostage. The Chinese and Burmese governments have come together to carry out this truly international act of terrorism.

 

Zhao SileZhao Sile (赵思乐) is a Guangzhou-based freelance writer and feminist journalist.

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Related:

More Details Emerge About the Disappearance of Three Chinese Citizens in Myanmar, China Change, Oct. 11, 2015.

Bao Zhuoxuan, Son of Detained Rights Lawyer, Is Said to Disappear in Myanmar, the New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015.

Detained Chinese lawyer’s 16-year-old son disappears while trying to flee to US, the Guardian, Oct. 10, 2015.

68 Chinese Lawyers Make Urgent Statement on Disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and Two Others in Myanmar, China Change, Oct. 11, 2015.

 

中文原文 《赵思乐:被国家追捕的孩子》

 

 

81 Chinese Lawyers Make Urgent Statement on Disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and Two Others in Myanmar

October 11, 2015; updated on October 12

 

Beginning on July 9, 2015, human rights lawyers in China came under cruel assault. Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), the 16-year-old son of disappeared rights lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and activist Bao Longjun (包龙军) has been subjected to extralegal and inhumane treatement.

On July 9, Bao Zhuoxuan was intercepted and prevented from leaving China at the Beijing Airport, while witnessing his father being arrested. After that, he was put under surveillance at his grandmother’s home in Tianjin. Then he was sent to Inner Mongolia by the police, where he was made to study at a school the police designated, and monitored by local police while he did so. With his freedom limited and passport and other identification seized, he was unable to go to Australia for his study abroad program. Nor could he return to Beijing and live in his own home. He was even warned by police not to hire defense counsel for his parents.

Bao Zhuoxuan is not suspect of any crime, nor is he a criminal. The illegal measures taken by the Chinese police against this minor have violated the most basic human principles. Article II of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which the Chinese government is a signatory and ratifying party, says: “States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.” The police of China have followed, surveilled, and restricted the freedom of Bao Zhuoxuan. This not only violates international law, as well as China’s own provisions in the “Law on the Protection of Minors,” but also involves in the crime of abuse of power.

On October 6, Bao Zhuoxuan, along with Xing Qinxian (幸清贤) and Tang Zhishun (唐志顺), friends of Bao’s parents, disappeared in Myanmar, in a region along the border with China. Numerous signs indicate that China’s police have an unshirkable responsibility for the disappearance of Bao and his companions.

For this reason, we the undersigned lawyers now make the following demands:

  1. That the Chinese government, as a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, guarantee the personal safety of Bao Zhuoxuan and others, assist the Myanmar government in expeditiously tracking their whereabouts, and notifying their relatives or guardians;
  2. The Chinese police, as one of the parties responsible for the disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and his companions, should ensure that the individuals inside the police force responsible for the incident be subject to the appropriate legal sanctions;
  3. Chinese police should immediately cease the harassment of Bao Zhuoxuan and the family members of other lawyers disappeared during the ongoing crackdown on lawyers that began on July 9. They should also cease illegally obstructing Chinese human rights lawyers and activists, and their family members, from leaving the country, and guarantee the right of Chinese citizens to exit and enter their homeland;
  4. The United Nations, governments around the world, and human rights organizations should express strong concern over the disappearance of Bao Zhuoxuan and others. They should fulfill their international obligations and protect the personal freedom and safety of Bao Zhuoxuan and his companions in Myanmar, and after they’ve left the Chinese border, so as to prevent unlawful infringements against them.

Signatories:

Yu Wensheng (Beijing) 余文生(北京)

Zhong Jinhua (Shanghai) 钟锦化(上海)

Teng Biao (Beijing) 滕彪    (北京)

Tang Jitian (Beijing) 唐吉田 (北京)

Zhang Tingyuan (Chongqing) 张庭源  (重庆)

Lin Qilei (Beijing) 蔺其磊 (北京)

Ma Lianshun (Henan) 马连顺 (河南)

Jiang Yuanmin (Guangdong) 蒋援民  (广东)

Chang Boyang (Henan) 常伯阳 (河南)

Feng Tingqiang (Shandong) 冯延强 (山东)

Ge Wenxiu (Guangdong) 葛文秀 (广东)

Ge Yongxi (Guangdong) 葛永喜 (广东)

Li Weida (Hebei ) 李威达 (河北)

Lan Zhixue (Beijing) 兰志学 (北京)

Tan Chenshou (Guangxi) 覃臣寿 (广西)

Ren Quanniu (Henan) 任全牛 (河南)

Wen Donghai (Hunan) 文东海 (湖南)

Wu Kuiming (Guangdong) 吴魁明 (广东)

Chen Jinxue (Guangdong) 陈进学(广东)

Tan Yongpei (Guangxi) 覃永沛 (广西)

Lü Zhoubin (Zhejiang) 吕洲宾 (浙江)

Li Jinxing (Shandong) 李金星 (山东)

Huang Hanzhong (Beijing) 黄汉中 (北京)

Li Fangping  (Beijing) 李方平 (北京)

Tan Weijin  (Guangxi) 覃玮进  (广西)

Zhang Lei (Beijing) 张磊 (北京)

Huang Zhiqiang  (Zhejiang) 黄志强  (浙江)

Deng Linhua (Hunan) 邓林华 (湖南)

Wang Xing (Beijing) 王兴 (北京)

Wang Qiushi  (Heilongjiang) 王秋实  (黑龙江)

Xu Hongwei (Shandong) 徐红卫 (山东)

Liang Xiaojun (Beijing) 梁小军  (北京)

Ran Tong  (Sichuan) 冉彤  (四川)

Fu Ailing  (Guangdong) 付爱玲  (广东)

He Weimin  (Guangdong) 何伟民  (广东)

Gao Chengcai (Henan) 高承才  (河南)

Wang Qingpeng (Hebei) 王清鹏  (河北)

Yu Quan (Sichuan) 于全  (四川)

Liu Shuqing (Shandong) 刘书庆 (山东)

Chen Nanshi (Hunan) 陈南石  (湖南)

Lü Fangzhi (Hunan) 吕方芝  (湖南)

Xiong Dongmei (Shandong) 熊冬梅  (山东)

Tian Yuan (Hunan) 田园(湖南)

Qu Yuan (Sichuan) 瞿远(四川)

Jiang Tianyong (Beijing) 江天勇  (北京)

Wu Liangshu (Guangxi) 吴良述  (广西)

Me Minfu (Hebei) 么民富(河北)

Liang Lanxin (Hebei) 梁澜馨  (河北)

Li Dawei (Gansu) 李大伟  (甘肃)

Liu Shihui  (Guangdong) 刘士辉  (广东)

Sun Qiang (Hunan) 孙强  (湖南)

Chen Zhizong (Beijing) 陈智勇  (北京)

Xi Xiangdong (Shandong) 袭祥栋  (山东)

Zhang Chongshi (Hunan) 张重实(湖南)

Zheng Enchong (Shanghai) 郑恩宠  (上海)

Zhang Jiankang (Shanxi) 张鉴康  (陕西)

Li Yuhan (Beijing) 李昱函  (北京)

Yang Hong (Zhejiang)杨红 (浙江)

Wang Guofang (Guangdong) 王国芳  (广东)

Zhao Xianfeng (Shanxi) 赵险峰 (陕西)

Liu Changzhong (Hunan) 刘长中 (湖南)

Wang Fengming (Hebei) 王凤明 (河北)

Fan Guogang (Jiangsu) 范国刚  (江苏)

Chen Jiahong  (Guangxi) 陈家鸿   (广西)

Shu Xiangxin (Shandong) 舒向新  (山东)

Liu Zhengqing  (Guangdong) 刘正清  (广东)

Liu Wei (Henan) 刘伟  (河南)

Tong Zhaoping (Beijing) 童朝平  (北京)

Chen Jiangang (Beijing) 陈建刚(北京)
Luo Qian (Hunan) 罗茜(湖南)
Luo Lizhi (Hunan) 罗立志(湖南)
Chen Yixuan (Hunan) 陈以轩(湖南)
Chen Keyun (Guangdong) 陈科云(广东)
Wang Zhenjiang (Shandong) 王振江(山东)
Zhang Wenyou (Yunnan) 张文有(云南)
Zhang Dongshuo (Beijing) 张冬硕(北京)
Liu Yan (Shandong) 刘彦(山东)
Wei Liangyue (Heilongjiang) 韦良月(黑龙江)
Guo Lianhui (Jiangxi) 郭莲辉(江西)
Xu Guijuan (Shandong) 许桂娟(山东)
Li Yanchao (Shandong) 李延朝(山东)

The declaration was made by the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, a voluntary and open platform composed of over 280 Chinese human rights lawyers. We welcome more colleagues to join us to sign this statement. Please send your name and location where you practice to yws818@163.com.

Since its establishment on September 13, 2013, the group has organized joint petitions, aided lawyers in joining rights cases or incidents, and made a variety of similar efforts to protect human rights and promote the development of the rule of law in China. Any Chinese lawyer who share the same human rights principles and are willing to defend citizens’ basic rights are welcome to join the group.

Contact persons (in the order of Pinyin):

Chang Boyang 常伯阳 18837183338

Liu Shihui 刘士辉 18516638964

Tang Jitian 唐吉田 13161302848

Wang Cheng 王成   13616501896

Yu Wensheng 余文生 13910033651
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Related:

More Details Emerge About the Disappearance of Three Chinese Citizens in Myanmar, China Change, Oct. 11, 2015.  

Bao Zhuoxuan, Son of Detained Rights Lawyer, Is Said to Disappear in Myanmar, the New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015.

Detained Chinese lawyer’s 16-year-old son disappears while trying to flee to US, the Guardian, Oct. 10, 2015.