28 March 2014

Zhang Junjie's Account, Part Three

Part One Part Two

As I went downstairs to the first-floor interrogation room, it was nearly 2:30 a.m. I saw documents on the table with the names Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian on them and inferred that the three other lawyers had already signed statements. After making several changes to the statement that they had prepared—and enduring threats and recrimination—I finally signed my name. It was 5 a.m. exactly.

At around 9 a.m., we were hooded and each taken into a vehicle. After a bumpy ride, when I realized our destination was a hospital it was clear to me that we were going to be detained. After receiving medical checks—hooded—at two hospitals, we were separated and placed in different vehicles. In my vehicle, besides the driver, there were the two men who had beaten me. On the way, they received a telephone call. The other party asked how long each of us were detained for. They said since I had documentation and this was my first time, I’d be detained for five days, which led me to conclude that the other three would be in for longer. But the first real proof that Tang and Jiang had been detained for 15 days came only after we saw the detention documentation.

Since the paperwork was not yet finished when we arrived at the detention center just before 10:30, we were forced to sit there until 2 p.m. before we could be taken into the cell. In the meantime, I demanded my lawyer license several times (my bag and ID card had already been returned to me), to no avail.

It’s worth noting that, on the detention notice they had me sign, they had written “gambling” in the space for the illegal activity and the document number read “Shanghai PSB No. **” (Later, they had me sign another.) You can see what a rush they’d been in. I don’t know whether the other lawyers noticed this.

Speaking objectively, I at least was not beaten after entering the detention center. But I was taken for questioning nearly every day, and they kept asking questions about things that were already in the statement. Maybe it was because I kept asking for my lawyer license, but, one after another, people kept threatening me with suspension of my license and criminal detention. Because they kept asking me who the plotters and organizers were, I had a strong sense of foreboding. I insisted that I had been asked whether I would take on a case of illegal detention and that I came voluntarily. I’m an adult and a lawyer. Those are the facts!!

On the evening of the 26th, Jiansanjiang Domestic Security Police Unit Captain Liu Changhe came with Yu Wenbo to the detention center. They asked me: “How do you plan to go from here? Do you need a police escort?” I told them clearly that I didn’t. Later, I learned that my assistant had been requested to submit an application asking for police escort. Since I’d always been stern and he was wise to them, he politely refused saying that he did not dare make such a request without my approval.

But at 3:50 a.m., I was awoken and, after completing the release formalities and itemizing my possessions (at this moment, my lawyer license miraculously reappeared inside my locked suitcase), I was told to get in a waiting SUV with civilian license plates. The idea was that we’d pick up my assistant along the way and go directly to Jiamusi. But I insisted on first going to the hotel to shower and change my clothes.

After showering, we changed vehicles and were met by a local lawyer surnamed Wang who it was said had volunteered to escort me. Altogether, the six of us proceeded to Jiamusi airport. At the airport, I requested a souvenir photo with Captain Liu Changhe and ate a meal with the special-unit police officers there to take care of me. Then, they escorted me through the security check and onto the plane.

On the way, I had a stern discussion with Yu Wenbo about the violent beating. He perfunctorily expressed regret (but did not apologize) and left. Captain Liu gave a more positive response and made an apology.

Finally, thanks to colleagues and citizen friends for their support and for watching over us. The weibo from Zhang Lei, one of the hunger-striking lawyers on the front lines, can serve as a fitting conclusion to what I want to say. That is the post entitled “The Importance of Lawyers Rescuing Each Other.” For the actual details, please follow @青石律师 on Weibo, he’ll tell you all: You are not alone!! (tears)(tears)

Because of my physical injuries and the fact that I’ve been furious for the past few days, there might be some lapses in my memory. Please allow me to fill in the details later.

Zhang Junjie's Account, Part Two

Part One

Wang Cheng woke me the next day at 7:37 a.m. and told me to hurry up and prepare my complaint so that we could all go to the procuratorate together. I went groggily into the bathroom to start washing up, when I heard sounds of a tussle outside. Before I could open the bathroom door, it burst open and several men in plain clothes and two men wearing para-police uniforms dragged me out of the bathroom and told me to grab my bag and go with them. As I got my things together, I demanded that they show me their identification and protested their use of force. After they rudely refused, they forced me into an elevator and, grabbing me by the neck, shoved me into a white vehicle with no police markings. Shortly thereafter, Wang Cheng was also brought into the same vehicle as me. He was shouting: “I’m a lawyer! I’m handling a case! You’re kidnapping me!” At the time, there were a number of onlookers.

We were taken to an office block with a sign designating it as Daxing Branch PSB. The whole way, Wang Cheng and I were explaining that we were lawyers engaged in proper professional activities, but we were both ignored. In truth, it was very clear to me that we were faced with para-police officers with no law-enforcement powers, and their lack of legal understanding meant that they were in no position to respond to our questions. About a half-hour later, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong were brought in as well. Past 9 a.m., still no one had shown us any identification or explained why we had been summoned, but we were ordered one-by-one to open up our bags for a search and photograph and video. Our mobile phones had of course already been snatched from us in the car, which meant that we could only protest and had no way to call for help to the outside or call the 110 police hotline.

At about 10 a.m., my questioning commenced and my misfortunes began. As a para-police officer made a big show of giving me fierce looks and berating me, I again demanded that he and the middle-aged man sitting next to him show me their identification. The man said, “You want identification, do you?” I nodded, and he instructed the para-police officer, “Go get Yu Wenbo.” Yu Wenbo came in and asked, “You want identification?” I said, “Yes.” He then said, “Let’s go! I’ll show you identification upstairs.” Then, flanked by the two of them, I was taken from the interrogation room upstairs to a meeting room on the second floor.

As Yu made a show of looking for his identification, the guy behind me (maybe surnamed Li, I’m not sure) closed the door. Before I had a chance to react, Yu smacked me around the head seven or eight times. The next thing I knew, he was hitting me in the head with a big half-full bottle of spring water. Desperate, I shouted: “I’m being beaten by a police! I’m being beaten by a guobao! I’m being beaten by Yu Wenbo!” Then the man behind me got in the action. The two of them knocked me down and kicked and beat me for at least three minutes. Under their blows, I could only protect my head and keep shouting. By the time someone heard and came in, I couldn’t sit up and the slightest movement caused unbearable pain in my lower back.

I knew that my back was injured, and at the time I didn’t even have the strength to lift my head to look at the guy who came in—the guy they said understood the law. I knew that he couldn’t really do the right thing on my behalf, and in this sense he did not disappoint. He merely said a few words and left. Unable to contain my fury, I spoke the most severe words of my life, saying: “Yu Wenbo, you better kill me if you have the balls. Otherwise, I won’t cooperate and you can forget about a statement. Then, if I’m not dead, I’ll press charges against you until my dying day!”

He seemed unperturbed by this threat and said, “Just wait. In a moment, we’ll put you under criminal detention, then you’ll be shot.” Etc., etc. Then, he called in a para-police officer surnamed Ma to watch me and left me there.

At noon, I asked to eat lunch and was told: “None of us have eaten and you expect to eat?” In the evening, I asked to eat dinner and was told: “We haven’t prepared anything for you.” Up until nearly 1 a.m. the next day (22 March), someone surnamed Yao came to say I could have a bowl of instant noodles, but in severe pain and having not had anything to eat or drink all day, I had no appetite.

Faced with hard and soft pressure, plus the fact that I was in unbearable pain, I reluctantly agreed to go submit to questioning. But I clearly told them that I would not sign any statement that violated my conscience or ran contrary to the facts, and I would not cater to their needs.

Part Three

Zhang Junjie's Account, Part One

(In rough translation . . .)

Though the pain in my lower back is unbearable, I haven’t been able to sleep a wink while thinking of my three colleagues still in the detention house. As someone who experienced this first-hand, I feel a deep sense of obligation to recount the full course of events as quickly as possible in order to help those hunger-striking colleagues and citizens on the frigid frontlines understand the situation.

I was on my way to Liaoning to handle a case when I got a message from lawyer Tang Jitian saying that they were in Jiamusi handling a case of citizens who were being detained illegally. He said there were too many detainees and asked whether I could get involved in the case. I immediately replied that it was no problem. As a rights-defense lawyer, I have no choice to hang back when citizens are being illegally detained. So, having temporarily settled the matter in Liaoning, I went and bought a train ticket from Shenyang to Jiamusi. The matter was urgent, but I could only take the 15-hour hard-seat overnight train.

I arrived at about 11 a.m. the next day (20 March), a half-day later than I’d said I would. Tang, Jiang [Tianyong], Wang [Cheng], and the detainees relatives had already made preparations to head out, and they were waiting for me at the train station with hired cars. Once I got in the car, I was told we were going to a place called Jiansanjiang.

We drove for four hours, arriving at Jiansanjiang after 3 p.m. After a quick meal, we prepared to head out again. I met with my client, Ding Zhongye, who signed a standard power-of-attorney form at the restaurant, and as we were walking to the car he briefly told me the details of the case. Since the beginning of last year, his wife, Jiang Xinbo, had twice been illegally locked up without any due legal process at a place called Qinglongshan, where she remained today.

We four lawyers went together in a single vehicle. After passing through many places, we arrived in Qinglongshan State Farm. Jiang Tianyong told me that the courtyard located next to the branch public security bureau—the one with no sign or other indication of its identity—was the illegal place of detention. Later, the Jiansanjiang domestic security police called it the “Qinglongshan Legal Education Base.” I was surprised: in more than 10 years of practice, I’d never seen and could not believe that a place for illegally detaining citizens could exist for such a long time just outside the gate of the public security bureau responsible for keeping the peace without it being shut down. According to Jiang, he, Liang Xiaojun, and Zhao Yonglin had already filed a formal complaint about this place with the Jiansanjiang Procuratorate, but there had never been any result.

As we entered the courtyard gate, Tang Jitian recognized that a middle-aged man making a phone call just inside was the person in charge of the “base.” Later, we learned his name was Fang Yuechun and he also served as a deputy chief of some PSB branch. Fang obviously recognized Tang Jitian as well, because he started yelling at us angrily, paying no attention to our demands that he produce the legal documentation used to detain our clients. Later, around 20 relatives of detainees gathered at the gate, probably having heard of our arrival. Everyone was filled with righteous indignation and kept demanding that Fang stop detaining people illegally and release those inside. We warned Fang that illegal detention was a criminal offense and demanded that he let everyone inside return home.

Since this was my first time here, I was busy on the outside getting more details from the relatives. Then another middle-aged man arrived, whom Jiang Tianyong recognized immediately as someone surnamed Zhou from the procuratorate who had been there when they filed their previous complaint. As a legal practitioner, my first thought was that if someone from the procuratorate had arrived, he was there to resolve the matter. So I told everyone to quiet down and asked him to resolve the issue. I never expected that this guy would respond by saying that he couldn’t get involved because he was only a temporary employee at the procuratorate. Then, he quickly turned and left. By then, detainee relatives had already recognized him and said that he wasn’t from the procuratorate after all and was lying about being a temporary employee. Actually, he was a domestic security police officer—a deputy captain, no less—named Yu Wenbo.

I was again surprised and more than a bit angry. How could a bona fide officer of the people’s police pose as a procurator when a complaint is made with the state monitoring organ and pretend to be a temporary employee when people go to the scene to defend their rights? What was he trying to do?

We had been at the site for almost an hour, and it was already past 6 p.m. The police officers who came and went from the shared parking lot next door acted as if they saw nothing, and no one came over to express a word of concern. So many things were out of the ordinary here that I began to have a sense of unease. After a brief discussion with Tang, Jiang, and Wang, we decided that the facts were basically clear and that we’d go to the procuratorate the next day to press them for a response to the earlier complaint and make a new complaint on behalf of my client. So, we decided to leave.

As we left, we discovered that the car we’d come in had disappeared. When we made contact with the driver, he told us that the police had chased him out of town and he didn’t dare take us back. After a long back-and-forth, the driver finally agreed to come back to pick us up. But when he returned, he was being closely followed by three vehicles. One of them had plates, which Jiang Tianyong probably already reported. The other two vehicles had clearly covered up their license plates. We returned to Jiansanjiang, ate dinner, and took two rooms at a hotel next door to the procuratorate, where we prepared to file a complaint the next day. Because I’d spent so much time in hard-seat and then ran around all day, I fell asleep before even preparing my complaint documents.

Part Two

27 March 2014

Brief Updates on Situation in Heilongjiang

This afternoon, lawyer Zhang Junjie was the first of the four detained lawyers to be released from the Qixing Administrative Detention Center. After a shower, he was driven by domestic security police to the airport in Jiamusi and put on a plane to Harbin.

In a message, Zhang said that he had unbearable pain in his lower back. He intended to go back to Zhengzhou, Henan, to seek treatment and an expert evaluation of his injuries. He also indicated that he would file a report with the Henan Department of Judicial Administration and call upon the (provincial?) lawyers association to take action.

Zhang's physical state seems to confirm the grim speculation of the past couple of days that one of the reasons that police have barred lawyers from meeting with their colleagues detained at the Qixing facility is that those detained lawyers were subjected to torture or other physical punishment. Today, there were reports that the four detained lawyers had each suffered "varying degrees of torture" (均受到不同程度的酷刑) and that a physician had been seen going back and forth from the jail on each of the past three days. There seems to be concern that Zhang Junjie's injuries might be the least serious of the four lawyers. (Yesterday, there were reports that detainees leaving the facility had seen one of the lawyers beaten on the head with a shoe.)

Meanwhile, lawyer Cai Ying has been contacted by officials from the Hunan Department of Judicial Affairs, who have instructed him not to represent Tang Jitian. This act of intimidation is a sign that Tang's situation may be quite serious.

25 March 2014

Formal Complaint Filed Regarding Detention of Four Rights Lawyers

(in rough translation)

Complaint

To: Agricultural Reclamation Branch of the Heilongjiang People’s Procuratorate
CC: Heilongjiang People’s Procuratorate
Complainant: Li Guobei, female, age 38, Han ethnicity, lawyer with Beijing Liang Gao Law Firm, resides in Beijing [address redacted], telephone [redacted]

Persons Accused:
  1. Person(s) responsible for legal education bases in the Heilongjiang General Administration for Agricultural Reclamation (GAAR)
  2. Head of Jiansanjiang Agricultural Reclamation District Public Security Bureau (hereafter, "Jiansanjiang PSB")
  3. Person(s) responsible for Qixing Branch Bureau of the Jiansanjaing PSB
Subject of complaint: Establishment of unauthorized detention facilities, restricting citizens’ personal freedom in violation of the law, retaliation against rights-defense lawyers

Facts and Legal Rationale:

On 22 March 2014, the Jiansanjiang PSB gave lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie each 15-day administrative detention penalties for “using cult activities to harm society.” We consider this to be extremely ridiculous and are preparing to file administrative litigation on this matter. At the same time, we believe that the Jiansanjiang GAAR has set up unauthorized detention facilities outside the provisions of the law and is arbitrarily depriving citizens of their personal freedom. This is illegal detention through and through and constitutes a criminal offense.

First of all, restriction of citizens’ personal liberty can only be carried out through law.

Article 8 of the Legislation Law of the PRC states: “Only national law may be enacted in respect of matters relating to: . . . (5) the deprivation of the political rights of a citizen, or compulsory measures and penalties involving restriction of personal freedom.” In accordance with this requirement of the Legislation Law, on 28 December 2013 the National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed and announced a "Resolution on the Repeal of Regulations Related to Reeducation through Labor." Pursuant to this resolution, which took effect immediately, all provinces and municipalities throughout the country abolished re-education through labor and closed re-education-through-labor camps and other related facilities. From that point, the only places of detention where citizens who have violated the law or committed criminal offenses may be held are administrative jails, detention centers, or prisons that have been established in accordance with the law. Other than these, any detention facility used for restriction of personal freedom without explicit legal authorization and that exceeds the legally allowed time limit for a summons by administrative or criminal-investigation units is an illegal facility tantamount to a “black jail.”

Abolition of re-education through labor is a major step forward in Chinese legal history. However, the Jiansanjiang PSB is acting contrary to the law and, at the time when re-education through labor is being eliminated all over, using legal education bases to create a new kind of “re-education through labor facility.” They illegally lock up citizens—forcibly restricting their personal freedom for days, weeks, or even longer—and do not provide family members with any paperwork regarding the detention.

On 21 March 2014, lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were formally entrusted by relatives of individuals who have been illegally detained and made a solemn protest with the person responsible for the legal education bases in the GAAR and demanded the release of all citizens who have been detained there illegally. The responsible person refused to respond, but had a vehicle follow the four lawyers as they returned to their hotel. Early the next morning, the Jiansanjiang PSB took the four lawyers into custody and gave them each 15-day administrative detention penalties for using cult activities to harm society. The complainant believes that this is an illegal act that seriously violates both their personal rights as citizens and their professional rights as lawyers. It is an unauthorized use of public power and an act of retaliation by the two organs.

Secondly, protecting the lawful rights and interests of clients, ensuring the proper implementation of the law, and safeguarding fairness and justice in society are sacred responsibilities of lawyers granted them by the Lawyers Law.

According to Article 28 of the Lawyers Law of the PRC, lawyers may engage in the following types of business: . . . (2) to accept authorization by a party in a civil or administrative case to act as counsel and participate in the proceedings; (3) to accept engagement by a criminal suspect in a criminal case to provide him with legal advice and represent him in filing a petition or charge or obtaining a guarantor pending trial; to accept authorization by a criminal suspect or defendant or accept appointment by a People's Court to act for the defense; and to accept authorization by a private prosecutor in a case of private prosecution or by the victim or his close relatives in a case of public prosecution to act as counsel and participate in the proceedings; (4) to represent clients in filing petitions in all types of litigation . . . .

Lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were entrusted by relatives of illegally detained persons to represent them in interceding with the legal education bases of the Heilongjiang GAAR. This is the proper exercise of their professional responsibilities. The responsible persons for the legal education bases of the Heilongjiang GAAR ought to provide an explanation for locking up citizens, but this responsible person instead refuses to receive them!

As a citizen who both understands and abides by the law, the complainant requests that the people’s procuratorate carry out an investigation of the illegal detentions carried out by the Jiansanjiang PSB; order them to lift the illegal detentions against lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie; and supervise the relevant units in revoking the authority of the legal education bases of the Heilongjiang GAAR to illegally detain citizens in order to thoroughly protect citizens’ fundamental human rights.
Li Guobei 李国蓓

Sincerely,
Li Guobei, complainant
25 March 2014

24 March 2014

Further Update on Detained Rights Lawyers

Jiang Yuanmin, Zhang Keke, Hu Guiyun, and Cai Ying
pose outside the Qixing Detention Center
Not long after lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were detained by police while investigating a "legal education center" in Heilongjiang Province, other lawyers from around the country rushed to the Jiansanjiang Agricultural Reclamation District to intervene and investigate. A group of lawyers arrived on Sunday to learn that at least two of the lawyers, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong, were placed under administrative detention. (I am still unclear about the status of the other two lawyers, but there seems to be an assumption that they, too, are being held under administrative detention.)

Efforts on Sunday to gain access to the detainees were unsuccessful. Early this morning, lawyers Jiang Yuanmin, Zhang Keke, Hu Guiyun, and Cai Ying arrived at the Qixing Branch Public Security Bureau (PSB). Told that officials there were having a meeting, the lawyers were kept waiting outside the facility until 11:30 a.m., at which point they were ushered into a meeting room. (They immediately noticed that audio-visual recording equipment had been freshly installed in the room.)

The head of the Qixing PSB, Guo Yuzhong, inspected the two lawyers’ identification documents then informed them that this was a “major” case and that it would be necessary to investigate whether the lawyers had contacts with “some persons who did not understand the true situation.”

For a while, the lawyers and police went back and forth over the matter of the procedure for meeting with detainees. Guo insisted that their request would have to be subject to formal approval, but the lawyers insisted that there was no legal basis for this. In cases involving administrative detention, they argued, the detention center should arrange for immediate meetings with detainees as long as the lawyers’ paperwork is in order. (The relevant regulations seem to be on the side of the lawyers.)

Concerned citizens demand release of
four human rights lawyers

The discussion grew quite tense. Finally, the lawyers calmly told the police chief that having lawyers follow proper legal procedure to get involved in the case should not be seen as such a bad thing, since both sides had an interest in ensuring that the case was correctly handled. Guo conceded that this was true and told the lawyers he would contact them later in the day.

At the time of posting, there was no word on what, if any, progress was made in the afternoon. Meanwhile, more than 45,000 yuan has been contributed to support the rescue effort.

23 March 2014

Update on Detention of Four Human Rights Lawyers in Heilongjiang

On 21 March, four Chinese human rights lawyers and others were detained by police after trying to investigate a "legal education center" in Qinglongshan State Farm, located in northern Heilongjiang Province near the Russian border.

Notice of administrative detention
for Tang Jitian
Earlier today, it was confirmed that two of the lawyers, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian, were given 15-day administrative detentions for "using cult activities to endanger society." The status of the other two lawyers—Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie—is, at the time this is being written, unclear.

Presumably, because one of the primary functions of "legal education centers" like the one the lawyers were investigating is to detain members of "cult" groups like Falun Gong, any attempt to challenge the use of such measures is seen as "cult activity."

As lawyer Li Fangping wrote in response: "Rights-defense lawyers who handle cases of what the authorities call 'cults' are themselves being 'cultified.' This is a new development and a new challenge."

Li has also submitted a formal "open government information" application to authorities in the Jiansanjiang Agricultural Reclamation District, requesting details on their use of "legal education centers."

Police in China have broad powers under the Public Order Management Law and Public Order Management Penalty Law to detain individuals for up to 15 days on a variety of charges without the need for any review from a court or other authority.

Technically, it is possible to challenge such detentions by requesting administrative review or filing an administrative lawsuit, but it is practically difficult to do so from behind bars. It's possible to request that a detention be postponed pending the outcome of such a challenge, but, again, police have discretion to decide this based on whether they think the individual will continue to be a harm to society. So, basically one has little option but to serve one's time in jail first and pursue remedies later.
Approximate location of
Jiansanjiang Agricultural
Reclamation District

Today, lawyer Cai Ying and other lawyers travelled to the Jiansanjiang Agricultural Reclamation District to intercede with public security officials. They were expected to have arrived around 7 p.m. Lawyers and others are telephoning and sending text messages to police officials. A campaign to raise funds to support those who have gone to Heilongjiang to rescue the lawyers has so far raised over 20,000 yuan. Meanwhile, rights lawyer Teng Biao is encouraging concerned individuals to participate in organized "online flash mob actions" to protest the lawyers' detention.