22 August 2011

"I've Only Begun to Scratch the Surface": Liu Shihui Reveals Details of 108-Day Detention

Chinese lawyer Liu Shihui was one of the first casualties of the crackdown on activists and rights defenders that began intensifying last February. Brutally beaten by unidentified assailants as he attempted to take photos of planned street protests in Guangzhou on 20 February, Liu subsequently joined the ranks of the "disappeared," spirited off by police for 108 days of incommunicado detention on charges of "inciting subversion."

I once met Liu briefly, and I followed his posts on Twitter. The connection to Liu and several of the the other victims of this year's crackdown made its injustice all the more personal and palpable to me.

Six months after he was first attacked, Liu has returned to Twitter to reveal details of his ordeal. I've done a rough translation of most of those tweets, which were sent out over a 3-1/2-hour period last night.

Hello to all the friends who follow me! Because of the "flower affair" I was imprisoned under so-called "residential surveillance" for 108 days from 25 February to 12 June on charges of "inciting subversion of state power." On 12 June, this was switched to "release on guarantee pending further investigation" (without time limit), and I was sent back to my hometown in Inner Mongolia. (ZH)

At 2 a.m. on 25 February, police busted down the door, leaving the steel outer door twisted like a pretzel. They searched my house, turning everything in the room upside down, and took away my computer, books, discs, case files, copies of poems about June Fourth, USB drives, an MP5 player, my mobile phone, and a stock-market tracker. (ZH)

My newlywed Vietnamese wife and I were both taken into custody. If we hadn't been stuck in Guangzhou waiting for the Vietnamese consulate to notarize a document, we would have already gone to my hometown in Inner Mongolia to register the marriage. (ZH)

At the time [of the detention], I repeatedly explained that my wife was a foreigner who didn't understand Chinese and asked [police] not to give her any trouble. If they insisted on taking her, I asked that they produce the relevant procedural documents. But without following any of the relevant procedure, this young foreign woman who had no idea what I had done was taken away on the pretext of a "criminal summons." She was then illegally detained for 17 days before being sent back to Vietnam. (ZH)

On the evening of 25 February, the Guangzhou police informed me that they were placing me under "residential surveillance" on charges of "incitement." (ZH)

I was interrogated day and night for five days straight without sleep. Only after I finally collapsed on the bed and a doctor checked my blood pressure did they finally allow me to sleep. At that point I could barely take off my pants, as my injured left leg had swollen to double its original size. (ZH)

The five days without sleep, the incessant air-con, the abusive threats -- all of these tortures are nothing compared to having my wife and home taken from me. (ZH)

I realize that I face some danger from revealing the truth [about my ordeal] and that being kept under tight control. But if one is forced even to be suffer the insult of having one's newlywed wife stolen from him, it can only lead to more like Yang Jia! I don't want to become a Yang Jia, so I'm speaking out. If the security police get upset about this, I'd ask them to think it over -- what would you be thinking if it happened to you? (ZH)

The security police fabricated a lie when they sent my wife back [to Vietnam]: they said that someone had accused me of defrauding them of some money and implied that I was a swindler and a scoundrel. (The security police later told me about this.) I'll never forgive them for destroying our newlywed bliss. What angers me the most is that my new wife never even knew why I'd been arrested and left China with this misunderstanding. (ZH)

The security police showed me video of my Vietnamese wife being sent back. When I heard the interpreter reading the letter I had written to her (in which I was absolutely forbidden from discussing the case), I suddenly began sobbing uncontrollably. (ZH)

Other than the questioning, the only other thing I could do is pace around and around. In 108 days of detention, I walked the 5,000 miles from Guangzhou to Beijing. (ZH)

My Vietnamese wife was held by them for 17 days. I have no clue what happened to her during the time she was in their hands. (ZH)

When I was released, I had lost seven or eight pounds. Perhaps someone like Ai Weiwei can take comfort in this free weight-loss regime, but for a skinny guy like me it was like a disaster had befallen me. Now I have all sorts of illnesses. I can only sleep four or five hours a day, and I can't get back to sleep after waking at two or three in the morning. (ZH)

Besides my wife and my house, they also seized property rights worth more than 300,000 yuan earned as a lawyer. Forced to leave Guangzhou, these rights are as good as gone. (ZH)

If I don't even dare reveal the humiliation of having my newlywed wife stolen from me, then God wasted his time making me a human! Haven't I been "released pending further investigation"? Whatever they do to me, it'll still be the same lousy fate! (ZH)

Beginning on the evening of 20 February -- when I went into the provincial hospital after having been beaten -- I was unable to cancel my mobile account. When I was released, I though I'd be able to continue using it. So I called China Mobile, but they said there were orders from above and there was no way. I still had about 150 yuan of airtime on account! (ZH)

I feel better to talk about this a little. Otherwise, I'd explode! (ZH)

After 10 p.m. on 11 June, the security police suddenly announced I'd be on a flight early the next morning. They also gave me back my computer. Up to that point I repeatedly emphasized to them that any personal or professional data unrelated to the case must be returned to me, and the security police officer in charge agreed. But after I got to Inner Mongolia and turned on my computer, I found that it was empty and my HP hard disk had been switched out. (ZH)

There were 50-60 GB of personal and professional data, the product of more than 10 years of my legal career and personal life. Others might not see this as being worth much, but it's priceless to me, at least! Now it's all gone, leaving not even a trace! (ZH)

When I discovered my data was missing, I tried calling the number that I'd been given by the security police, but the phone was always switched off. I also tried calling a number they had left with my father, but the phone refused to pick up so I sent text messages. I never imagined I'd receive eight different junk messages in response, each of them costing me one yuan for a total of eight yuan. (ZH)

Think about it: who in China has the ability to transfer personal text messages to those junk-message sites without any consequences? The answer is clear. (ZH)

Some Twitter followers say that I'm revealing everything. On the contrary -- I've only begun to scratch the surface! I'll stop here for now. (ZH)

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