Date: May 22, 2017
(Washington, D.C.—May 22, 2017) The wives of several prominent Chinese human rights activists testified to the abuses China’s government enacted against their families in front of a congressional subcommittee on Thursday, spotlighting some of the most significant human rights violations over the last few years.
Lee Ching-Yu, wife of jailed Taiwanese NGO leader Li Ming-Che; Chen “Gloria” Guiqiu, wife of human rights attorney Xie Yang; Jin Bianling, wife of lawyer Jiang Tianyong; and Wang Yanfang, wife of attorney Tang Jingling, exposed the atrocities their families experienced after authorities cracked down on their husbands’ human rights work at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on May 18. Wang Qiaoling, the wife of recently-released human rights lawyer Li Heping, and Li Wenzu, wife of human rights advocate Wang Quanzhang, also delivered testimonies via a pre-recorded video. The hearing was organized by long-time human rights champion U.S. Representative Chris Smith, who also chairs the subcommittee.
U.S. Representative Ed Royce, who invited the women to the hearing, said the purpose of the gathering was to “examine the torture, disappearances, and detention of human rights lawyers and democracy advocates in China.”
The women were in the U.S. capitol as a part of a ChinaAid delegation and met various other government officials, such as Representative Randy Hultgren, Representative Joaquin Castro, Representative Mike Conaway. Additionally, the delegation convened with White House personnel on Friday.
The transcripts of the women’s testimonies are included below.
ChinaAid hosts delegations such as these in order to bring the injustices China attempts to hide to the doorstep of influential politicians and urge them to publicly stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom, human rights, and rule of law.
Honorable Chairman Chris Smith, honorable Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your attention to my husband Jiang Tianyong’s suffering. The Chinese government forbids its citizens to comment on events concerning human rights; therefore, the support and attention from the international society is crucial to suppressed individuals and groups.
Jiang Tianyong is a Chinese human rights lawyer. He began to advocate for human rights in 2006, representing hepatitis B patients, AIDS patients, and numerous Falun Gong practitioners. In order to promote the legal rights of lawyers, he contributed to the direct election of the Beijing Lawyers’ Association and exposed corruptions within the Beijing judicial system, such as blackmailing and racketeering. Jiang Tianyong is willing to take all kinds of risks to represent the weak and improve human rights conditions in China.
On Oct. 29, 2009, Jiang Tianyong participated in a U.S. Congressional hearing and spoke on the main theme, which was “The Problem with China’s Legal System and Religion.” This time, I am bearing witness to how the national security police retaliated against our entire family. From November 17-18, 2009, former President Obama visited China. It was a sensitive period for the Chinese Communist government, because the officials feared that the human right activists would get in contact with Mr. Obama. Jiang Tianyong was therefore put under house arrest. Our child was in first grade at the time. We all thought that Tianyong could regain freedom once Mr. Obama returned to the United States. On the morning of Nov. 19, 2009, four police officials in casual clothes grabbed Tianyong and threw him to the ground when he accompanied our child to school. My child was so scared that she began to cry out loud. National security policeman Wang Tao also pushed me to the ground when I arrived at the scene. The police detained Tianyong at the Yangfangdian Police Station in Haidian District, Beijing for 13 hours. During the evening, my child told me after school that two national security police officials went to her school on that day, asked her about what had happened in the morning without the consent of her guardians, filed the conversation, and asked her to sign the record. Tianyong was detained for 13 hours and released after he had reached an agreement with policeman Wang Tao. The agreement between Jiang Tianyong and Wang Tao can testify to the aforementioned event.
Ever since, Tianyong was forced to stay home on “sensitive” dates, such as meetings of the National People’s Congress, the Political Consultative Conference, June 4 [Editor’s note: This is the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre], or during important political leaders’ visits to China. He could only get out of the house by taking their police cars. I have videos to verify all of this.
|U.S. Representative Chris Smith (far left) listens to the
testimony of Christian human rights attorney Li Heping, who
phoned in from China.
Beginning on Feb. 15, 2011, Tianyong disappeared for two months during the Jasmine Revolution. He was brutally beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to watch CCTV News, sing songs and recite patriotic articles to praise the Chinese Communist Government, and write thousands of pages of repentance letters. The videos can serve as evidence.
On May 3, 2012, five national security agents from Haidian District, Beijing, represented by Du Yuhui, beat Tianyong up when he attempted to visit the barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng at the hospital. Tianyong temporarily lost his hearing due to the perforation of his left ear’s tympanic membrane, but the police prevented him from going to the doctor. After protesting, Tianyong had his ear checked at the Shijitan Hospital in Beijing, and the doctor claimed that there was nothing wrong with it. A few months later, Tianyong went to a hospital in Zhengzhou, and the doctors there diagnosed him with perforation of the left ear’s tympanic membrane. The medical certificate issued by the hospital can prove what I said.
The police repeatedly took Tianyong away for questioning and threatened him, saying that our child could not go to school if he refused to cooperate; they also said that I as his wife could be affected as well. The long-term harassment and threats consumed me. I even thought of suicide. My child’s mental condition was severely disrupted. Desperate, I brought my daughter to the U.S. in May 2013.
On March 20, 2014, the local national security agents arrested Tianyong again in Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang, while he was representing Falun Gong practitioners. The police broke eight of Tianyong’s ribs during the 16 days of detention. I have the diagnosis from the hospital as proof. In July 2015, the 709 crackdown occurred. Many lawyers and citizens were arrested. Tianyong was ready to rescue the arrested human right activists; he had to change residences every day in order to hide from the national security agents.
On November 21, 2016, Jiang Tianyong disappeared on his way back to Beijing after visiting the family members of Lawyer Xie Yang. Now, the government has already banned him from meeting with lawyers for 178 days, and we do not know where he is detained. Tianyong’s parents have been put under surveillance; the national security agents follow them wherever they go. According to news on May 12, 2017, Tianyong has been tortured, and his legs are too swollen to walk.
In order to safeguard human rights and the universal worth of defending legal rights, I strongly hope the honorable President Trump and the U.S. Congress can immediately and effectively urge China’s central government to investigate the actual facts behind the torture of those arrested in the 709 crackdown—simultaneously enacting legal sanctions against those who practiced torture—and request that China clearly ensures that other incarcerated prisoners of conscience do not continue to receive harm. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act sheds some hope into the miserable condition of China, and I hope President Trump helps supervise the enforcement of the Act. Meanwhile, I hope President Trump will meet with the victims’ family members before going to China, express his concerns about the deterioration of human rights conditions and the freedom of religion, and publically provide the Chinese government with a list of prisoners of conscience during his visit to China.
In addition, I want to mention that Tianyong has already received a letter confirming his political asylum in the United States. I hope that President Trump can negotiate with the Chinese government during his visit and let Tianyong reunite with me and my daughter.
May 19 BST is Tianyong’s 46th birthday. I hereby make a wish on behalf of Tianyong and our family: I hope he can regain freedom, so his aging parents would not have to worry constantly and his daughter could have her wish fulfilled and embrace her father. I hope I can forever set aside my heart, which anxiously worries about Tianyong, and a tranquil and merry life can come to our household.
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
Honorable Chairman Chris Smith, honorable Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Wang Yanfang, wife of human rights lawyer Tang Jingling. I’d like to express my gratitude to Representative Chris Smith, Senator Marco Rubio, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and many other representatives, as well as Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid Association, for your attention and support of my husband Tang Jingling and many other victims of human rights abuse in China. As the situation of religious freedom, rule of law, and human rights continues to deteriorate in China, support for the victims from the international community is very valuable and precious. This is also an important milestone in joint endeavors to maintain universal values all over the world.
In the past a few decades, people of many countries terminated their seemingly powerful and long-lasting autocratic regimes through non-violent resistance and fulfilled the transition from autocracy to democracy. My husband, Tang Jingling, is a well-known human rights lawyer. He is also the initiator and a keen advocate of the civil disobedience movement. He is dedicated to promoting the civil disobedience movement, hoping to bring forth a democratic and free China.
In 1995, the national security police began to monitor Tang Jingling after he expressed his life-long mission to promote democracy in China. In 1999, he published an article on China’s democratization in Guangzhou. Then, he was forced to leave the big law firm he was working for. As a human rights lawyer, he has been involved in many major cases of human rights abuse, political rights abuse, and worker’s rights abuse. For example:
In 2003, a petition was initiated to abolish the internment and repatriation regulations and cancel the temporary residence permits policy after college student Sun Zhigang’s death. Tang Jingling served as the legal counsel. In 2004, he was the defense lawyer for the two people charged in the Xingang labor unrest case in Dongguan. In January 2005, he defended the newly elected village head in the Shibi third villagers’ campaign to remove old village officials. In August 2005, he was one of the key lawyers in the case of the Taishi villagers’ campaign to remove village officials. Due to his involvement in human rights cases, the authorities forced his law firm to terminate his employment and suspended his lawyer license. In 2006, he planned to attend an event in the U.S, but he was stopped at customs and his passport was confiscated by the police. He is still not allowed to leave the country to this day.
After losing his lawyer license, he participated in many human rights cases as a citizen, including the poisonous vaccine lawsuit, the investigation of Li Wangyang’s death, and many other cases involving land property, forced demolition, and so on.
My husband graduated from Shanghai Jiaotong University in 1993. He began to practice in law in 1998. His lost his lawyer license in 2005 due to his work in human rights protection. During the Jasmine Movement in February 2011, he was charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and was detained in a “black jail,” where he was threatened and tortured, including extensive sleep deprivation for 10 days in a row. He was allowed to sleep for 1 to 2 hours a day after he began to have some dangerous symptom, like trembling all over, numbness in both hands, and heart discomfort, until he was released on August 2, 2011.
He initiated and promoted the civil disobedience movement to seek justice for people at the bottom of society, but his wife was forced to lose her job in May 2008. During his detention in February 2011, I was forcibly brought to Conghua and detained. They took my phone, bruised my arms, and didn’t allow me to notify my family and lawyer, which caused my severe depression and poor health. Then the police tricked my mother to go to Guangdong to take care of m,e and I was put under house surveillance for a long time. I was not allowed to meet with my family and friends. I was not even allowed to leave my home. More than 20 people took turns watching me. I was completely isolated from the outside world for almost five months. When my husband was released, my physical and mental health had been severely damaged.
On May 16, 2014, Tang Jingling was criminally detained on the charge of “picking quarrels & provoking troubles” and was arrested on June 20 with the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” On September 23, his mother passed away on hearing of his arrest. His lawyer and I applied bail him out to attend his mother’s funeral, but the authorities ignored everything on legal, moral, and humanitarian levels and rejected our request. They didn’t notify him of her death until October and caused deep sorrow. The authorities forbade his lawyer to meet with him for six months while his case was being transferred to the procuratorate. During the two years in the detention center, all communication was banned. There was no way to guarantee his rights. On January 29, 2016, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment with the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” He is serving the sentence in Huaiji Prison, Guangdong province.
Since he was arrested in August 2013, I was put under 24-hour surveillance, which brought huge emotional pressure and fear to me. However, I have been appealing for my husband and request that the release him. On July 1, 2014, I went to Hong Kong to attend a demonstration and appealed in the media to urge people to pay attention to Tang Jingling and other prisoners of conscience, like Yuan Chaoyang and Wang Qingying. I was threatened by the police after returning to Guangdong, and my freedom was restricted during the so-called “sensitive” period.
After the massive arrest of human rights lawyers on July 9, 2015, I got in touch with families of arrested human rights lawyers and went to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate with them. In August, I was not allowed to leave home.
Since Tang Jingling worked as a lawyer more than a decade ago, he participated in many human rights cases and promoted civil disobedience movement. Consequently, he lost his lawyer license, he was detained, monitored, arrested, tortured, and sentenced, and his wife lost her job, was harassed, summoned, monitored, and detained.
Today other 709 case lawyers are still suffering from such torture. Many prisoners of conscience are still unable to meet with their lawyers and families. Christian churches and still being shut down. Christians are still being detained and sentenced.
Thus, I sincerely plead with President Trump and U.S Congress to urge the Chinese government to guarantee Tang Jingling’s right to meet with his lawyer and his rights to reading, communication, medical treatment and food with enough nutrition as well as ensure that Tang Jingling, Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, Wu Gan, Yuan Xinting, and the other 709 case lawyers and prisoners of conscience have their basic human rights in prison, and make certain that they are not being tortured and are released to reunite with their families. I hope President Trump can meet with family of the victims in the U.S before his visit to China, talk about his attention to China’s worsening religious freedom and human rights situation during his visit, and give the list of prisoners of conscience to the embassy. I believe this is also an important action to maintain universal values all over the world.
[Editor’s note: The following is a letter written by Tang Jingling while in prison, in which describes his experiences with the Communist government. It was originally published and translated by China Change.]
“I can’t help but sigh over how much more civilized the South African apartheid regime of 50 years ago was compared to the Chinese Communist regime of today.” – Tang Jingling
“Other people don’t know better than the Chinese people about the human rights condition in China and it is the Chinese people who are in the best situation, in the best position to have a say about China’s human rights situation.” – Wang Yi, China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, June 2, 2016.
Recalling his nearly 30 years in prison, Nelson Mandela wrote in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom: “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones—and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals.” Having now spent 22 months in Chinese Communist prisons, I’d say that, based on what I’ve witnessed and experienced, the Chinese Communist Party treats prisoners who don’t enjoy special privileges even worse than animals. And those who are imprisoned for seeking their political rights or defending freedom of religion and other human rights are repressed with particular brutality.
Based on my observations, my impression is that the different levels and standards of prisoner treatment reflect the bureaucratic hierarchy of the country. People who have risen to higher levels of the bureaucracy will be held in a better detention facility or cell or will otherwise receive better treatment. Then there’s the principle that originated with the Empress Dowager Cixi: “Better it go to the foreigners than to my slaves.” Generally speaking, in other words, foreigners are less likely to be compelled to engage in forced labor, and their religious beliefs are granted a certain degree of respect.
And then there’s a large group of prisoners who try to curry favor and build “connections” with people inside the prison in order to enjoy all sorts of special treatment and largess. This leads to an abundance of unfathomable corruption and shady deals. The subjective arbitrariness of prison regulations, the excessive deprivation of prisoners’ rights, and the lack of transparency and external oversight have all contributed to this sort of abnormal economy of cash and power within China’s notorious system of detention.
Of course, these different classes of treatment are relative among prisoners themselves. On the whole, all prisoners are living under inhumane conditions. It’s like one detainee said after being transferred from Guangdong Provincial Detention Center (which mainly holds high-ranked officials) to Baiyun District Detention Center (BDDC): “The moment I stepped foot into the Provincial Detention Center, it was like I’d fallen from high up in the heavens into the depths of hell. I never imagined until I got here that there was an even deeper level of hell!”
The ugliness that exists outside detention facilities is often hidden behind various veils. But inside the wall of the detention center, that ugliness reveals itself unadorned, 24 hours a day. In conditions unfit even for animals, a person must be extremely disciplined to avoid being overcome by hatred and maintain his humanity to avoid being swallowed up by wild beasts. It truly is a very difficult challenge. When it’s impossible for us to eliminate evils directly, we must not condone these evils with our silence. Even though I now find myself behind bars because of my efforts on behalf of human rights and democracy, I too am unable to remain silent. For me, this report is my attempt to bear witness to injustice and evil so that I can avoid taking any part in such evils myself.
Below, I will describe seven different aspects of the evil in China’s detention centers.
I. Inhumane and degrading treatment, including rampant beatings and torture
On the day I arrived at BDDC, I was kicked by one of the center’s auxiliary police officers for refusing to squat down when he ordered me to do so. Within the jail’s heavily guarded walls, detainees still wear manacles and shackles around the ankles. When guards escort a detainee from place to place, they often order him to squat as a completely unnecessary way of degrading him. When I got to Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center, I saw this kind of thing much less frequently, but there were still quite a few prisoners who were treated this way.
I have never seen guards beat any detainees at Guangzhou No. 1, but beatings were not at all uncommon at BDDC. As the guards patrolled the cell block, they would call a detainee to come out of his cell into the passageway. (According to veteran detainees, there weren’t enough security cameras to monitor the passageway fully.) First, he would be subjected to a stream of verbal abuse. That was followed by the sound of blows raining down on his body before the injured detainee was returned to his cell. I saw this kind of thing with my own eyes.
At Guangzhou No. 1, I’ve seen only one detainee—a Uyghur—beaten up like this, and it seemed like that was a common occurrence for Uyghurs like him. Even though the beatings were being carried out by investigators, rather than detention center guards, authorities at the jail and the procuratorial official stationed at the center never made any factual record of those detainees’ injuries, let alone file any reports or hold anyone accountable. Han Chinese detainees were no different: the detention center allowed investigators to interrogate detainees for 24 hours straight, with no breaks, until they were finally able to force out the confessions they were looking for.
There was one detainee who entered Guangzhou No. 1 the same month as I did who was interrogated continuously like this for nearly a month and only allowed back in his cell for a short time every day around nightfall. This is a technique commonly used by Communist Party discipline inspectors, and many “official detainees” experience this kind of thing as well. It’s just that for them it happens in the illegal private jails set up by the Party’s committees for disciplinary inspection. After those “official detainees” offer up their forced confessions there, they get sent to the detention center.
In the cells, each of the cement slabs on which we sleep is fitted with two fixed iron rings. These “fixed shackles” are used by the detention center as a means of disciplinary punishment. A person forced to wear ordinary shackles is still able to move about on his own and take care of many of his daily needs. But once fettered to these fixed shackles, routine daily tasks like eating, getting dressed, or using the toilet all mean that the detainee has to rely on others for everything, making it a terribly agonizing experience.
There’s an even more “advanced” and perverse technique, which is to shackle a detainee’s hands to the fixed iron rings as well. In this way, even sleep requires one to curl up like some poor shrimp. This type of punishment generally lasts anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. In 2014, I saw this in action in Cell 1309. There was a young man clearly suffering from psychological illness and intellectual impairment. The Communist judicial authorities diagnosed him with anti-social personality disorder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Because he couldn’t control his actions, he was shackled for around a week.
Anyone sentenced to death, regardless of whether or not there’s any cause for disciplinary punishment, will also be given the fixed shackles up until the time when he is sent to be executed. One Pakistani man entered the detention center in 2009 and has been subjected to fixed shackling since 2014. Under this long period of suffering, he was forced to write several letters to the Guangdong High Court and the Supreme People’s Court begging either to be unshackled or put to death. Wang Qingying (王清营), who was detained along with me, was given the fixed shackles a number of times and suffered even more serious tortures as well.
I don’t know how much longer this kind of inhumane torture will be allowed to continue. Scenes like this serve as a metaphor for the lives of our enslaved people. So much of our agonizing struggles are attempts to break free of these shackles of our bondage. Despite all of their efforts, our people continue to suffer deprivations because those efforts are focused on digging themselves out of the pit associated with their enslavement. Does our generation plan to sit still and remain as slaves, destined to be forgotten by history while the dictatorship flourishes? Or will we make a place for ourselves in history by parting the Red Sea and walking that path out of the desert and into the land of freedom?
An even more common form of inhumane treatment is the overcrowded and confined nature of the cells. Out in the real world, even pigs raised for slaughter aren’t treated like this because everyone knows that this will cause serious harm to the pigs. But for months, even years at a time, prisoners are locked up together in these dark, damp, and cramped spaces with no sunlight or fresh air. This in itself causes suffering and is the root of many human rights and humanitarian problems in the detention centers.
For example, it’s normal at BDDC to lock up 20 or even 30 people in a space of 20–30 m2. The detention center often has a large number of empty cells, so I don’t understand why they need to fill cells beyond their capacity like this. Much of the work burden for guards is already being handled by detainee labor and hired security guards, so adding more cells shouldn’t be all that difficult.
At BDDC, detainees are typically forced to sleep lying packed together, with one person’s feet next to another person’s head and vice versa. It’s common to be awoken from a deep sleep with a kick in the face from the person next to you or even find your cellmate’s toes rubbing up against your mouth. At Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center, we have to sleep all the way from the cell entrance to right in front of the toilet. The irony is that one of the lines of the detention center rules we were forced to recite every day went like this: “It’s forbidden for two people to share a quilt.” These days, the authorities make detainees sleep crowded together far more tightly than two people sharing a quilt.
I had another experience that was even more revolting. When I arrived at BDDC they weren’t issuing toothbrushes or cups and didn’t allow detainees to bring or buy their own. Instead, they forced detainees to use old, discarded toothbrushes and cups and share these among several individuals at once, without any consideration of the fact that many detainees suffered from infectious diseases. Veteran detainees told me that this was not the first time something like this had happened. Fortunately, a clever cellmate of mine fashioned a cup for me out of an old chrysanthemum tea container, which I used until I left that facility. At BDDC, meal trays and spoons were also shared. Guangzhou No. 1 is a bit better in this respect, as each detainee is issued a set of personal items to use upon arrival.
A detainee who had once been jailed in the Tianhe Detention Center told me that detainees there were forced to sit and “meditate” for long periods at a time. I don’t know what the situation is like there now, but BDDC had a rule that detainees were required to “meditate” while the guards were patrolling the cell blocks, about a half-hour each morning and each afternoon. The situation is basically the same at Guangzhou No. 1.
II. Forced labor
My labor assignment here consists of keeping watch on the night shift and some manual piece work. Two inmates in each cell are made to keep watch at night. (Sometimes, even more are assigned to this work—especially when conditions are so crowded that there’s not enough room to sleep. In Guangdong Provincial Detention Center and other jails where there are fewer prisoners, they don’t have this kind of work assignment.) Each shift is made up of two people, who take turns keeping watch for periods of 90 minutes to two hours. Detainees enjoying special treatment don’t have to keep watch or do piece work; instead, they get lighter assignments. In some prisons, they have a small number of inmates who are permanently assigned to the night watch, instead of forcing the majority of detainees to be awakened from deep sleep like they do in the detention centers. I think this is a completely unreasonable measure they use to make detainees’ lives miserable.
As for manual piece work, there’s assembling “red envelopes” and auspicious decorations for Chinese New Year; folding and packing Christmas cards under the brand names “Giftmaker” and “Sue Ryder” (a charity registered in the UK); packing disposable food-service gloves and plastic medical gowns; and affixing advertising stickers for Uni-President Food brands (a Taiwanese company). From what I can see, these jobs are pretty steady, so the detention center must have long-term commercial contracts. Rarely has the piece work that I’ve had to carry out lasted longer than three hours at a time. At BDDC, there wasn’t ever any piece work assigned to my cell. But there are cartloads of stuff coming and going in the passageways outside all the time. At Guangzhou No. 1 I have a cellmate from Chongqing who was arrested together with his wife. When they were able to see each other at trial, she told him that the women’s cell block had been given very heavy labor assignments and were even forced to work overtime every day late into the evening.
From what I’ve seen and experienced first-hand, it seems that labor assignments at detention centers have been decreasing but that not much has changed inside the prisons. Outside the VIP cells holding high officials and foreigners, other prisoners still have to work pretty hard. They generally are engaged in rather intensive industrial labor. In this respect, the Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of Justice are actually operating China’s biggest sweatshop factories. The millions of detainees they have under their jurisdiction far outnumber the employees of any company in the world.
III. Correspondence, Visits, Meetings, Money, and Goods
In the two years I’ve been detained, the only time I’ve been allowed to write a letter was an order form for two books that I sent my wife in March of this year. My lawyer told me that people concerned about me on the outside had been sending me letters and cards, but detention center authorities have been quietly confiscating them all and I haven’t seen the slightest trace of any mail. They use these despicable methods against political prisoners in particular. When Mandela was in prison, he was still able to receive letters after they’d first been inspected and censored by the prison authorities. I can’t help but sigh over how much more civilized the South African apartheid regime of 50 years ago was compared to the Chinese Communist regime of today. The Chinese authorities inspect all mail and guards can restrict access to letters almost at will, without any rational or predictable rules.
According to the provisions of the Prison Law, convicted prisoners may regularly receive visits from family members.* The overwhelming majority of those held in detention centers have not yet been convicted, but without exception they have been deprived of the right to visit with family or friends. Even telephone calls are forbidden! Since many cases drag on for some time without decision, these detainees are completely cut off from their friends and family. The cruelty of this is hard for someone who hasn’t experienced it to comprehend. Another side-effect of this inhumane treatment is that it prevents any information from inside the detention center from reaching the outside world, giving the green light to all sorts of corrupt misdeeds and cruel abuse. Ordinary prisoners may keep up with how their family is doing through letters and photographs, but even this is denied political prisoners.
Moreover, the facilities that detention centers make available for meetings with lawyers are often seriously inadequate, and those for visits with family are even worse. Meetings with lawyers are carried out under the eyes and ears of detention center guards, something that people in normal countries with rule of law would probably find unbelievable. Not long after I and other political prisoners arrived at Guangzhou No. 1, the authorities there made a point of “re-arranging” the lawyer meeting room by moving the fixed round-backed chair on which we detainees sit further away from the the dividing screen, which prevents lawyers from showing clients the prosecution files or verifying evidence.
For those detainees who’ve used their “connections,” deliveries of money and “care packages” become a kind of paradise. They have many opportunities to eat food that’s been sent in by their families, something that ordinary detainees can only look at with envy. Some of the kinder of these privileged detainees will share their food with their cellmates. These are without doubt the easiest moments to remember in the hellish environment.
*Editors’ note: Tang’s wife recently filed a complaint about being deprived of the right to visit her husband.
IV. Indifference to or outright deprivation of religious freedom
The authorities prohibit religious books that are important to me as a Christian, like the Bible, from being sent into the detention center. Quite a few foreign detainees who are Muslim or Christian can receive copies of the Quran, the Bible, or other religious books in their own languages. But I haven’t seen any Uyghur detainees with their own copies of the Quran.
Uyghur detainees are routinely deprived of their religious rights, and though Falun Gong practitioners are deliberately being kept away from where I’m being held, I can’t imagine that their situation is any better than mine. Even when their cases aren’t connected in any way, political prisoners are deliberately kept apart from each other. Perhaps the Communist authorities learned some lessons from the way that the apartheid government in South Africa imprisoned all of its political prisoners together in one place.
Cultural and educational rights aren’t protected either. Not only does the detention center not have a library or reading room, they also prevent detainees from receiving books or subscribing to newspapers or magazines. Political prisoners always want to do some studying on their own, but they’re placed under tighter restrictions than ordinary prisoners. It was over a year after I was jailed that I was first allowed to receive a few books sent by my family, but only books related to law were permitted. I had a young Uyghur man in my section of the detention center teach me the Uyghur alphabet and asked my family to send me a Uyghur-Chinese dictionary to help me study the language further. But those plans never got anywhere because of meddling by the authorities.
For the last several months I’ve again been inexplicably prevented from receiving books. It was only last March that I was finally able to receive two books. And last month was the first time I was able to send out a letter to my family. I’ve heard that many political prisoners, like Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄) or Xu Zhiyong (许志永), have had to go on hunger strike in order to fight for their right to read.
The ridiculous thing is that every day the detention center authorities force detainees to recite from memory the center regulations, which are mainly about rules of behavior and rights and obligations. They make you recite these every day, and each person has to pass muster. The more rational thing would be to have the detention center employees be the ones who had to memorize and recite these rules. Once you memorize the regulations, then they make you recite a bunch of old moral education rhymes like Di Zi Gui (《弟子规》, Rules for Being a Good Student) and San Zi Jing (《三字经》, Three Character Classic). Everything depends on how good or bad the detention center officials or guards are, but they don’t take into consideration the real needs of detainees at all.
Even if there is some benefit in reciting these texts, the way they’re forced on people leads them to become hated. These are just the same old habits of forced brainwashing that the Chinese Communists have always used. Human nature is as easily twisted as the plum blossoms in Gong Zizhen’s famous essay, “The Pavilion for Sick Plum Trees.” In order to accommodate these ridiculous regulations, many detainees who haven’t even been convicted yet already begin proactively copying and memorizing the prison regulations while they’re still in the detention center. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes!
V. Food and drink, sanitation and medical treatment, and buying things
During the month I was at BDDC, I lost 5 kg because the food was terrible, the portions were small, and I wasn’t allowed to purchase any food to supplement. I’m not a fat person to begin with, so a weight loss of 5 kg is no small thing. They only served two meals at BDDC, one at 11 am and the other at 4 pm. Later, after I revealed through my lawyer that they weren’t serving us any breakfast, they again started serving breakfast twice a week—a plain steamed bun one day and the other day a bowl of gruel so thin it should technically be called water. I have no idea whether they continued serving that pitiful breakfast after I left. A veteran detainee at BDDC told me that they’d always served breakfast in the past, and he didn’t know why they’d recently become so stingy.
For our main daily meal, they’d serve a few pieces of leafy vegetable (but because leafy vegetables were more expensive, they only served them a few times). Typically we’d get some bean sprouts of inferior quality or one or two slices of winter melon, pumpkin, or carrot with a slice or two of fatty pork or the kind of thin ham sausage that’s wrapped in plastic. The rice was yellowish and often smelled of mildew. That was pretty much the entire menu. During afternoon calisthenics, I would often feel dizzy because of poor nutrition.
At Guangzhou No. 1, we basically got double what they served at BDDC and the rice was an ordinary white color. They served breakfast of two cold buns or pineapple buns. Both places served winter melon, pumpkin, and white radish with the skin and roots still intact, and they never picked out the yellowed leaves or tough roots of leafy vegetables. At Guangzhou No. 1 for quite a while they gave us frozen duck wings with down still on them that sometimes emitted a terrible odor. According to a jailmate who had worked in the frozen food industry, these likely had been frozen for quite a long time. They were finally removed from the menu only after causing a widespread bout of diarrhea.
Owing to the crowded and confined conditions of detention, sanitation is quite inhumane. Each cell only has a squat toilet, and the water faucet for flushing the toilet is the same one used to get water needed for other daily uses. So when you need to wash bowls and eating utensils, you have to do it right above the toilet. Before they collect the trays after our meals, we have to rinse them very quickly above the toilet before handing them in. Heaven only knows whether or not they wash them again or disinfect them back in the kitchen!
At BDDC, they forced detainees to eat each meal in 3–5 minutes. At Guangzhou No. 1, you get about 10 minutes. According to a detainee who’d been held at the Guangdong Provincial Detention Center, there they have a dedicated washbasin and faucet, separate from the toilet. That proves beyond a doubt that those who operate and manage detention facilities are in fact cognizant of ordinary human needs.
How to dry clothing is also a major problem. There is a row of plastic hooks on the wall of the enclosed courtyard space that’s attached to each cell. This is where we’re supposed to hang our clothes to dry. The door to this courtyard is only opened once in the morning and once in the afternoon, for less than an hour each time. Sometimes it’s even less, not even half an hour. If the weather is rainy, it can take several days for clothes to dry and you have no other clothing to change into. You have no choice but to wear clothes that have grown mildewed from the damp and humidity.
Under these conditions, it’s obviously impossible to air out bedding. When one detainee leaves, the bedding he leaves behind will get assigned to a new arrival. Many quilts never lose their musty and mildewed odor. I’ve heard of some detention facilities where they only close the door to the outside courtyard at night, which is a slightly more humane way of doing things. When I got to Guangzhou No. 1, for some unknown reason the officer who admitted me made a point of giving me the filthiest and most ratty quilt available. Later, I got a newer one from a detainee who was on his way out, and I’m still using that today.
At Guangzhou No. 1, twice a day (excluding holidays) a nurse will distribute medication to detainees who are sick or who suffer from chronic illnesses. Each year, BDDC holds more than 5,000 detainees—several times more than Guangzhou No. 1. During the month I was at BDDC, I never saw any medical care like we have here.
When I got to the detention center, I increased my physical exercise and I could clearly feel my health improving a bit. But I catch colds far more frequently here than I did on the outside. I think that’s obviously a result of the terrible sanitary conditions and nutrition here. We have to bathe with cold water, even in the fall and winter, which is another reason many people get sick.
Generally, the 500 yuan each person can spend each month to purchase items goes to the purchase of daily items (underwear and a limited selection of supplementary foods). This is based on a provision in the Detention Center Regulations that was set many years ago (in 1990). If the food provided by the detention centers didn’t leave detainees feeling hungry, this monthly amount would be sufficient even with today’s prices. Goods are typically bought in group purchases twice a month, with detainees using an order form provided by the detention center to mark down what they want and the desired quantities. I’ve also heard of detention centers where they offer detainees a variety of meals, turning the jail into a kind of restaurant and general store.
Luckily, I’ve never been sick enough to require being hospitalized. Based on what I’ve heard from others who have, the detainee wing at the Guangzhou People’s Armed Police (PAP) Hospital has earned the nickname “Police Beatings Hospital.” What sick people need is treatment and care, but most people’s memory of that place is that it’s even worse than jail itself. Patients are assigned only one set of clothes, and if they want to launder them they have go around naked in the meantime. Patients wear leg shackles the whole time, and quite often some will get shackled to their beds because of some trivial matter and left lying in their own excrement while no one bothers with them.
Security guards beat patients for no reason, and the food is no better than in the detention centers. In the case of Guangzhou No. 1, the food is probably even worse and they don’t allow patients to buy extra food while in the hospital. The medical staff is very curt and brutish. One cellmate I had spent nearly a year in the hospital, off and on, and witnessed many cases of gauze being left in patients’ bodies after an operation. It got to the point where he finally became afraid to admit that he was sick for fear of being sent to the PAP Hospital. It’s said that ill detainees from detention centers all over the province get sent there and that there are more than 500 people being held in the detainee wing.
VI. Disciplinary measures, relief procedures, and sham oversight provisions
Even though the prison uses fixed shackling and other brutal disciplinary measures to punish detainees, I’ve never seen the detention facility carry out any legal procedure in connection with this.
When the officers take such measures, detainees have no chance to defend themselves. What the officers are acting out here is a real-life legal farce. On the surface, the resident procuratorate office is supposed to carry out oversight of the detention centers, but in the two years I’ve been in detention I’ve only seen a single detainee have a meeting with a resident procuratorate official on official business. I’ve never seen anything in writing about how to contact the procuratorate. How can he carry out his duties of oversight of the legal system and protection of human rights?
VII. Detainees with special privileges
In February of this year, as I was being transferred from Cell Unit 5 to Cell Unit 3, I discovered that a single person was being held all by himself in Cell No. 1301. That man (who people said was a former vice governor of Hainan Province) was clearly living in a newly renovated cell that was just like a hotel. He enjoyed quite a few different kinds of special treatment. His cell was kept open for long periods at a time to prevent him from feeling as if he were being held in a confined space. (It was precisely for this reason that we were able to see a bit of the conditions under which he was being held.) They say he receives the same meals that the guards do.
Cell No. 1302, right next door, is also a special-treatment cell where a dozen or so men are held under much lower security. According to other detainees with good sources of information, those detainees also enjoy much better food than ordinary prisoners—each of them might get a raw cucumber or an extra egg each day. Privileged detainees like these are able to enjoy a standard of living far superior to that offered to ordinary prisoners. This is a microcosm of the same distribution gap that exists between ordinary people and the privileged Communist Party elite outside prison.
Many detainees rely on cultivating “connections” to improve their treatment. They’ll get new bedding and clothing. They’ll be given drier and more airy places to sleep. They won’t have to take overnight shifts or do manual piece work. Instead they’ll get light tasks to do or oversee the piece work done by other detainees. Some are even given the job of assigning daily chores among the other detainees, or what is known as being the “jail boss.”
It’s the detention center officers who hand out these assignments. I once heard of a person who spent several thousand yuan each month in an unsuccessful attempt to bribe the guards to give him the position of “jail boss.” Whether ordinary prisoners are treated with basic humanity depends entirely on personal favors from a few detention center guards. As long as the authorities continue to closely monitor and restrict detainees from meeting or corresponding with relatives and lawyers, then it’s wishful thinking for them to harbor any hopes of wiping out this kind of corruption.
I haven’t yet been transferred to prison, where individuals who’ve already been convicted are incarcerated. So, I don’t have much to say here about conditions in China’s prisons. But based on the many cases about which I’ve seen and heard, there are many similarities between prisons and detention centers.
Some might think that what I’ve reported here is based solely on my own personal experience and decide that it’s not a representative enough sample. What I’ve discussed here is mainly based on my personal experience, but for the past two years I’ve been lived 24 hours a day with a total of over 200 other detainees of all types. Many among them have spent time in other detention centers and prisons at different times and in different places. Of what they’ve told me, I’ve only included details that I have been able to corroborate.
I don’t expect the Communist authorities to undertake any reform as a result of this report, but I hope that I myself won’t become numb to these re-occurring atrocities and sink into a kind of degradation. For me, then, this is a way to seek my own salvation.
All men and women of the world who are willing to speak out for justice and humanity: Please listen to what I’ve said here and speak up on behalf of those of us who have already lost our ability to speak for ourselves. I pray that you will be blessed by God’s righteousness!
April 26, 2016
Honorable Chairman Chris Smith, honorable Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
I'm the wife of human rights lawyer Xie Yang.
I would like to thank God, the Trump Administration, ChinaAid Association, and the hardworking diplomats. I also want to express my gratitude toward Representative Smith and Senator Rubio, as well as other politicians and friends who are concerned with the development of human rights and the judicial system in China. With your help, my two daughters and I escaped from the jaws of death and arrived in the United States, the land of freedom. With your help, I am able to stand here and speak on behalf of the victims in China who do not have a voice. I would like to give you a better idea of the human rights conditions in China.
Xie Yang represented dozens of cases on behalf of the downtrodden, including poor Chinese citizens who have had their houses or land seized from them without compensation, dissidents, members of China’s religious communities, and other marginalized and persecuted groups. Due to his work defending human rights, he was jailed and brutally tortured.
In November of 2011, Xie Yang joined many citizen activists and journalists to visit the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who was under house arrest in his hometown of Linyi, Shandong. He was seized by local government-hired thugs and given a savage beating; they stole his personal belongings, ripped the clothes off his back, hooded him, then drove him to a desolate mountain roadside and dumped him in a ditch.
From 2012-2013, Xie Yang lived in the United States for one year. He gained a profound understanding of the American way of life, which made him more enthusiastic for the human rights movement in China.
After Xie Yang was arrested by national security agents in Changsha and placed in secret detention for six months, his captors brutally tortured him in an attempt to make him confess and provide evidence against his colleagues. The methods of torture included: beatings delivered in rotation by a roster of guards, exhausting interrogations for over 20 hours at once, having cigarette smoke blown into his face and eyes, starvation, dehydration, and the refusal of medical treatment for his illnesses. To force him to surrender, his interrogators even threatened to arrange a car accident to injure his wife and children.
He was beaten by a prison guard named Yuan Jin during his detention. On November 21, 2016, his defense lawyer, Zhang Chongshi visited Xie Yang for the first time and witnessed Yuan Jin beating him while he was waiting. Xie Yang’s head swelled up and began to bleed.
Inmates who have been released from his detention center told me that he was not allowed to access money, so he could not even buy toothpaste and toilet paper. Not allowed to communicate with others, he was purposefully singled out. The guards specifically arranged for criminals sentenced to death to live with Xie Yang so that he would be beat up and harassed.
The publication of Xie’s torture account has had an immediate impact both inside China and internationally. To name a few of the many media sources and professional organizations that covered the story or editorialized about China’s lawlessness: The Washington Post, the American Bar Association, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, El País, Agencia EFE, The Guardian, The Irish Times, Brussels Diplomatic, and Le Monde. The European Union issued a rare statement expressing concerns over the reported torture of human rights lawyers. As a result, the Chinese national security agents in Changsha immediately summoned me, threatening and intimidating me.
Xie Yang’s court session was held on May 8, 2017. None of the witnesses showed up. None of the defense lawyers I hired showed up. I did not even receive a notice of the court session. Instead, Xie Yang attended the session with an official lawyer appointed by the government. The friends who planned to witness the court session were seized and arrested by the national security agents. Xie Yang was forced to admit his guilt and deny the torture he suffered in the detention center. Regarding the fact that he was not allowed to see his lawyer for 16 months or communicate with the outside world, he was forced to acknowledge that his rights were protected. He was bailed out after the court session but still had not regained freedom. The national security agents follow him wherever he goes.
I strongly hope the honorable President Trump and the U.S. Congress can immediately and effectively urge China’s central government to investigate the actual facts behind the torture of those arrested in the 709 crackdown—simultaneously enacting legal sanctions against those who practiced torture—and request that China clearly ensures that other incarcerated prisoners of conscience do not continue to receive harm. I call on President Trump to conscientiously implement the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, punishing those who have irrefutable evidence of practicing torture and infringing on human rights. I earnestly request that President Trump meet with the family members of the Chinese people who have suffered before he goes to China, and, as he is visiting with them, publicly raise his concern for China’s worsening religious freedom, rule of law, and human rights conditions. I also ask that he publicly give China’s leaders a list of prisoners of conscience to free.
709 case victim Xie Yang’s wife,
May 12, 2017
[Editor’s note: The following is a declaration Xie Yang wrote on Jan. 13, 2017, proclaiming his innocence]
I’m Xie Yang, and I hereby declare:
|Xie Yang's handwritten declaration, complete
with fingerprints. (Photo: ChinaAid)
Today I met with my attorney, Chen Jiangang, again. All my statements here are completely true and
out of a free heart. I want to declare that I am completely innocent.
I have been suffering from all kinds of severe abuse and torture since I was arrested on July 11, 2015. Nevertheless, I have never pled guilty, because I am not guilty.
If someday I admit any guilt, whether in written form or voice recording, it would definitely not be out of my own will. It would be either caused by continued torture or to get a chance to be bailed out and reunited with my family. Both my family and I are under immense pressure now as the officials ask me to confess and stop talking about my torture.
Once again, I am innocent.
Jan. 13, 2017
[Editor’s note: The following two articles were written by Chen Jiangang, Xie Yang’s lawyer, and originally published and translated by China Change. The first was written shortly after a transcript describing Xie Yang’s torture was published, and the second was penned when Chen began to fear that he might lose his own freedom for working on this case.]
1. I’m Part of the ‘709’ Incident
I myself am an individual who’s been affected by the 709 arrests and prosecutions. Sometime in late July, 2015, when I was dealing with a trial in Mengcheng, Anhui (安徽蒙城), I was taken away by state security agents on two occasions for a talking to and a warning. I was told not to do anything about the detention of lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and others. They told me not to write articles or accept interviews. These two agents weren’t malicious about it, and they even told me privately that they called me in simply to carry out the order that wherever a given lawyer happened to be, the local domestic security police would process it, and that all the information about the given lawyer was provided by Beijing. Sure enough, during the summons, I saw that the two domestic security officers had several A4 pages with my personal information on them, including that of my family.
Of course, I wasn’t arrested, which was quite unexpected.
Given that I myself had been implicated in the 709 case, and because I expected that I was also going to be rounded up, I wasn’t very keen on representing 709 detainees. Furthermore, I’d given up all hope in the judicial system of this tyrannical regime. The legal system in a dictatorship is simply a tool of control — it has nothing to do with justice. When the judicial system becomes a “knife handle” for the Party, human rights lawyers become helpless fish on the chopping block. As for criminal defense and its techniques, what can they be but an object of ridicule for dictators? Since my head was filled with this sort of pessimism, I didn’t pay much attention to the news of Xie Yang (谢阳) being tortured. I reposted it on social media like everyone else, but avoided feeling too much pain about it, because I felt helpless. I had learned long ago that there was no evil deed, and no act too immoral, for this dictatorship. With such a sense of utter despair, I didn’t even enquire about how the details of torture came out, even though later I learnt that it was Xie Yang himself who managed to get the information out of prison.
I did agree to represent lawyer Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), upon the request of his wife Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), but he was forbidden to engage lawyers of his own choosing, and the authorities had assigned him a lawyer. I went to Tianjin twice to try to meet him, to no avail, and so I wasn’t able to represent him after all.
2. About Me and Jiang Tianyong
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a good friend of mine and a human rights lawyer that I have enormous respect for. He’s been arrested and tortured on multiple occasions, and had eight of his ribs broken in Jiansanjiang. In Nanle county, Henan (河南南乐) in 2014, the authorities mobilized a group of village women to knock him to the ground, pelt him with rocks, bash him with a wooden stool, and rip up his clothes. And in 2011 he was slapped so savagely by state security officers that one of his eardrums was ruptured. Though we knew each other well, we didn’t really stay in touch. He was always in the middle of something sensitive and hard to reach by phone. I hadn’t seen him since the New Year of 2016, when we had a meal together. The last I heard from him was at some point between November 15 and 21, 2016. I published the article “Thoughts on Zhang Sizhi” (《张思之论》) on my blog on November 15. He left two comments, the first pointing out a typo and the second saying “it’s an extraordinary piece.” At the time I didn’t know it was Jiang who’d left the message. I asked who it was, and there was no response, and by the time I found it was him, the news was out that he’d been disappeared on November 21. So it was a complete lie when Global Times claims that I was in the know when Jiang Tianyong — as the paper claims — “fabricated” Xie Yang’s torture.
3. Being Hired by Xie Yang’s Family
In mid-December 2016, I received a call from Xie Yang’s wife. She told me that lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), one of Xie Yang’s lawyers up to that point, had been forced to withdraw from the case, and that Xie hoped that I would take his case. She reminded me that I might face enormous pressure and even violent reprisal, and that I should think it over carefully. Xie Yang had been detained for 18 months and he was now personally asking me to defend him — there was no way I could I say no.
On December 19, I went to Changsha for the first time, I signed the contract with Xie Yang’s wife and went to the Changsha Second Detention Center to submit the paperwork. I was working with lawyer Liu Zhengqing (刘正清); he went first to request the meeting, and I came shortly behind. I knew that there was little chance that I’d be allowed to see Xie Yang, so my job was to ensure that the paperwork was properly filed and to await their decision. If they decided that I couldn’t be a defense lawyer for Xie Yang, then, just like Lin Qilei before me, there was nothing we could do but vent our frustration. The overriding role of the law in China is to be used as a tool to suppress and control the people.
The Changsha Second Detention Center rejected my documents but took down my legal license number (执业证号码) and my cell phone number. I explicitly requested that they provide an answer within 48 hours, but the officer at the reception said that he doesn’t make decisions, and that the higher-ups would be handling it. I then left Changsha.
4. An Obstacle Course for a Meeting
On December 22, slightly over a month after Jiang Tianyong was taken into custody, I came to Changsha for the second time, went to the detention center, and asked to meet with my client. I first submitted the paperwork to the officer in charge of handling meetings, and he verified my legal license number and began going through the red tape. But when he saw Xie Yang’s name, he said immediately: “I can’t make a decision. You need to see the boss.”
This officer called one of his superiors, then told me to go to the second floor to see the director. Upon seeing the director, I was told the following:
1. Meetings with clients must be conducted according to the law. They were willing to allow a meeting, but I had to obey their regulations. If any rule was violated, the meeting would be immediately terminated. He suggested that we make a gentleman’s agreement, and I readily assented and assured him that I would follow the rules and that he could set his mind at ease.
2. The director suspected that on December 19 when Liu Zhengqing met with Xie Yang, I made my way to the corridor outside the meeting room without gaining the appropriate permission, and warned me that if I am to meet Xie Yang, if there is anyone in the corridor who sees or communicates with him, the meeting would be immediately terminated. I promised the director that I’d lock the door during our meetings.
For my part, I don’t know what gave rise to his description of this little incident on the 19th. On that day I simply submitted the paperwork and left. I never went to the second floor where the meeting room is located, and didn’t know why he thought I had. Later, I realized that the order of events was probably this: When Liu Zhengqing met with Xie Yang, they didn’t close the door; one of Xie Yang’s former colleagues was walking past and saw him, and then when he went back to his office he left a note about the encounter on his law firm’s WeChat group, saying that he’d seen Xie Yang. Then, this was copy-pasted by another lawyer to a chat group I was in, to which I added: “I was outside at the time.” Though I wasn’t clear in my comment, and the “outside” I was referring to was downstairs, it was just this one little sentence that aroused the director’s suspicions. And yet, how did he even know about it? In any case, this made clear to me that, as far as I’m concerned, I have no such thing as privacy. This incident was proof of it.
3. After meeting with the director, I thought Xie Yang and I would be able to meet. But no. The officer at the reception told me that I had to speak with the deputy director of the detention center. I then went back to the second floor and received another round of warnings from the deputy director, who rattled off a bunch of policies and how they were all for the good of Xie Yang and so on.
After these three obstacles, I was finally able to meet Xie Yang.
5. The First Meeting With Xie Yang
Xie Yang and I met at about 10:30 a.m. on December 22, 18 months after he was detained. His hair was getting long and he had grown a beard. He was clearly dispirited. He was escorted in wearing the blue prison uniform, carrying his case files, with a guard on either side. When he saw me his face lit up: “Jiangang, you came!” He was seated, his handcuffs taken off and placed on a stool, and as the two officers left I asked them to close the door because the room was freezing.
When the police left, I cupped my hand with a fist and said to Xie Yang: “Brother, you’ve suffered!” He asked how I came; I explained that I’d just been in Jinan sitting in a hearing about the suspension of Li Jinxing’s (李金星) law license, and that Wen Donghai (文东海) bought me a train ticket to come here, and that I came with Old Sui (隋牧青), who’s waiting outside. When I got this far, Xie Yang broke into tears. The fact that so many people outside were thinking of him and worrying about him moved him deeply.
We exchanged thoughts about the 709 affair. He said he’d seen the forced confession of Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), and roughly knew the circumstances of Wang Yu and others. I said that “of all the lawyers arrested in the 709 crackdown, you’re the only one to be represented by his own attorney.” He replied: “Then I need to save a final bit of dignity for lawyers in China!” These words he spoke through tears, and we grasped one another’s hands through the iron grating, both of us now crying. The time passed quickly and it was soon noon. We agreed to continue that afternoon.
In the afternoon I went to the court with Xie Yang’s wife to submit the paperwork for me to be registered as the lawyer of record, then hurried to the detention center to meet again. Xie Yang and I discussed case defense strategies and ideas. He was very self-confident, and wanted to explain the truth of everything in court, to set the whole case out for all to see. But I was full of sorrow. Can we actually do that? Can we, brother?
Let me pause and explain the layout of the meeting room.
The room we met in was called the “No. 2 West Meeting Room,” and it was given over for Xie Yang’s exclusive use. The police in charge of the administrative procedures for meetings had come and stuck up a sign saying “Reserved for Xie Yang Case.” To the right and left behind where I was seated there were cameras, and then there was another, above left, facing me — those were the three cameras that I could see. Because of the director’s warning, as soon as I entered the meeting room, I locked the door. When another lawyer, having left an electronic swipe card in the room, came back to retrieve it, I handed it to him through the window rather than open the door and break the gentleman’s agreement between myself and the director. Before I entered the room, I placed my cell phone and briefcase in the storage cabinet as required. However, I found that not every lawyer was held to this requirement. Many others brought their briefcases in, or would speak on their phone as they mounted the stairs. But I didn’t dare.
The surveillance of our meetings was extremely strict. On one occasion the door on Xie Yang’s side suddenly opened and a police officer came in, saying that on the monitor Xie Yang’s mood didn’t seem right, and “has he been crying?” Another time, Xie Yang wrote down the phone number of his former legal assistant, asking me to pay back, as soon as possible, a few thousand yuan that he had borrowed before he was arrested. I looked at the number, then thought that I could get it later another way, so I gave the slip of paper back to him. But this exchange was caught by the cameras, and two police came in and demanded the paper that Xie Yang had shown me. They grabbed all the case files on both sides of the grating, dumped them on tables, and began searching through them. When I was leaving that day the deputy director of the facility asked me specifically about this incident, and I told him the truth: Chinese New Year was nearly upon us, Xie Yang owed this person money, if he didn’t pay it back it would bother him to no end, so he asked me to pay them back.
After this incident, whenever Xie Yang or I made to look at materials or case files, I would hold the paper up above my head to ensure that the cameras got a clear view. If the police monitoring the conversation still objected they could come in anytime and see for themselves.
One time, one of the police at the reception, after seeing me coming to visit every morning and afternoon, remarked “It doesn’t look to me like you’re up to anything — you’re just chatting!” Right — just chatting. If we didn’t just chat, how would I have been able to find out all that happened over the last 18 months?
6. A Rough Transcript of the Interview on December 23, 2016
We continued our meetings on December 23. Having just looked up the notes I made after that meeting, I append them below largely unaltered. Xie Yang said to me: “Jiangang, let me tell you roughly what happened after I was detained. Don’t make notes. Just listen so you’ll know the outline, and then we’ll go over it in detail.” I made notes, stopping now and then and asking him for clarification. He’d always say, “Let me talk first, then we we will go into details.” I did make some initial notes as he spoke, which would serve as the basis for my interview with Xie Yang on January 4-6, 2017. They are as follows:
On July 11, 2015, I was staying at a hotel while traveling for a case. In the early morning hours, there was a knock at the door. A voice said that it was public security police. I opened the door, and they presented me with a summons for “gathering a crowd to disturb order in the workplace” (聚众扰乱单位秩序). The agency that issued the summons was the Hongjiang Municipal Public Security Bureau.
They brought me to their station, whereupon agents from public security in Changsha carried out the interrogation. They asked what my views were on Wang Yu’s case, whether I’d accepted interviews with foreign media, and so on. At this point I objected. They kept me locked up and, later, they came to coax me, and I signed a transcript of the session.
In the afternoon, a superior named Li Kewei (李克伟) came and said that my answers were superficial and that I had to redo it. I refused. They kept me there, and in the evening took me to the Changsha Public Security Bureau.
Li Kewei demanded my cell phone password. He’d been threatening me constantly, from when we got on the road from Hongjiang to Changsha, saying that my case is a big one, that they’re representing Party Central in handling it, and if I don’t cooperate then my wife, my parents and siblings, friends, and everyone around me will all be implicated. I said that you can investigate me or anyone you want.
As soon as we got out of the car in Changsha two police came along, one named Zhou Liang (周浪), the other Yin Zhuo (尹卓). They took me to room 207 of the National University of Defense Technology’s (国防科技大学) guesthouse for retired cadres. By then it was the afternoon of July 12. Wang Tieta (王铁铊), the head of the Sixth Squadron at the Changsha Domestic Security Bureau, came to speak with me. He began by making threats. He said that he could guarantee that I would get “reasonable” rest, but that unfortunately there was no legal definition for what counted as “reasonable.” So, in his words, “If we think that two hours sleep a night is reasonable, then it’s two hours sleep. If we think that one hour is enough, then it’ll be one hour. If we think that 20 minutes suits you, then it’ll be 20 minutes.” I got to sleep at about midnight that night.
I was rousted out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to be handed off to the first of five interrogation shifts they had set up. The first shift had me from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.; the second from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; the third from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; the fourth from 11:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. These were the first four teams. The fifth was from 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., but they didn’t interrogate. Along with these main shifts of interrogation there were three shifts of chaperons, two people each shift, working on eight hour rotations.
The number of police in each shift wasn’t fixed. Sometimes it was two, sometimes three, sometimes five. But only two people signed off on anything. They would ask me about what I’d written. I said that anything I’ve got to say is posted online, and they can look it up for themselves — it’s all public. They took turns interrogating me.
The fourth shift was supposed to go from 11:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m., but Yin Zhuo liked to question me until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. I was woken up every day at 6:00 a.m., so I got about over an hour of sleep a night.
Yin Zhuo said to me in front of the others: “I’ve come especially to make your life hell. I sleep very well during the daytime, and when night comes I’m going to torture and torment you until you lose your mind.” At that moment, a sense of dread seized my heart. I had no idea what would happen. This sleep deprivation lasted three days, and by then I was about to fall apart. When they asked about my friends, I was so exhausted that I simply cried.
Yin Zhuo said that lawyer Zhang Lei (张磊) had been arrested right after his wife had a baby. They also threatened my own family. I just lost it and cried and cried.
Until about July 15 or 16, they forced me to make a list of every person I had contact with from the 2012 to 2015, and which cases I was involved in. I had to put it all down in detail. I was so exhausted that I said I simply couldn’t do it.
Three or four of them, including Yin Zhuo, Zhou Liang, and Zhuang Xiaoliang (庄晓亮), came in, pinned me to the table, twisted my hands behind my back and cuffed them, then began pounding me. The door and windows of the room I was being kept in were shut tight. They said that I could yell all I wanted. There was no one around, and no one would hear me scream.
When Yin Zhuo and Zhou Liang were interrogating and torturing me, the officers in the chaperon shift would leave. When they were done, Yin Zhuo would tell them to come back and make sure I didn’t fall asleep. They sat and stared at my eyes, and if I shut them they’d come and shake my chair. I couldn’t get any rest all night, and a whole day would pass in this manner.
I said: “If you keep this up, you’re going to kill me. The case against me is just a case — you should at least have some humanity.” On July 16 they let me sleep for an hour or two, just so I’d be able to write for them when I woke up. I told them that I’d written everything I could, and that I don’t remember everything over the past two years, and that I’d rather die.
They took out my phone and computer and started looking through the messages I’d posted to chat groups and friend circles, because I have a habit of sending out updates of what I’m doing and which cases I’m handling. They told me to write all that down. When I was done, they said it was not good enough. So they kept torturing me.
Zhuang Xiaoliang said: “It’s mainly up to your attitude. Your case is big — the No. 1 case. Do you think this is a mistake and that you can go to Beijing and lodge a complaint against us? Do you think Beijing doesn’t know what we’re doing to you? If we want to hurt you, we can do what we like.” Both Yin Zhuo and Zhuang Xiaoliang said this sort of thing.
I was facing the threat of death. When they beat me, they would drag me away to a blind spot for the cameras and slug me hard. Sometimes they beat me in front of the cameras. I wondered if they were going to beat me to death, then fake a scene so it looked like I’d killed myself.
After five or six days of this I was basically paralyzed. I couldn’t open my eyes, and my entire body throbbed in pain. I told them that I would write whatever they wanted, and I’ll sign whatever they wanted me to.
They looked up some of the case information related to Zhou Shifeng and Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民) and forced me to write that out. I wrote whatever they said. That’s how those interrogation transcripts came about.
During the six months I was locked in that guesthouse, they beat me like that on about five or six occasions. They also used other torture, such as the “dangling chair” (吊吊椅). That’s where they would stack up plastic stools and make me sit on top so that my feet would hang there. They made me sit like that every day for over a month during the interrogations. My legs eventually swelled up, starting at the calves and going up to the thighs. I couldn’t even walk at the time. They basically turned me into a cripple.
I asked that they take me to the Liuyang Orthopedic Hospital (浏阳骨科医院), because I was worried that this abuse would leave me with a permanent injury. They refused. Instead they gave me a little spray canister of Yunnan Baiyao [a traditional Chinese medicine], and after about a month the swelling went away.
There was another torture, using smoke. They would sit people behind, in front, and to the left and right of me, and each of them would have four or five lit cigarettes in the hand, burning away. Then they would blow the second-hand smoke into my face, making me weep, gag, and suffocate. They would do this to me at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. each day, torturing me. I screamed out to Heaven and Earth for help, to no avail.
They also refused to give me water. They said: “We’ll give you water whenever we feel like it.” They would often not give me water for over 10 hours at a stretch.
They did a number of things to deliberately torment me. They’d leave hot food to go cold before letting me eat. For example, they would leave lunch on the floor until 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., then serve it to me cold.
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