(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.