31 May 2014

Tang Jitian Recounts Torture and Detention in Heilongjiang

The following is an account by human rights lawyer Tang Jitian [唐吉田], one of four lawyers detained earlier this year while investigating illegal detentions in a "legal education center" in Heilongjiang. It was originally published by Boxun on April 13, 2014, and has been translated into English by a group of anonymous translators.

For additional documents related to this case, see these earlier posts.

As Long as Torture Persists,
It Will Be Difficult to Eliminate Injustice:
Sixteen Unforgettable Days and Nights in the Hands
of the Jiansanjiang Police

Tang Jitian
April 13, 2014

At around 8:00 A.M. on March 21, 2014, the families of two clients came to the Jiansanjiang Gelinhaotai Hotel seeking Lawyers Wang Cheng [王成] and Zhang Junjie’s [张俊杰] help in preparing documents to submit to the People’s Procuratorate for the Jiansanjiang Agribusiness Base [建三江农垦检察院]. I was sharing a room with Jiang Tianyong [江天勇] and I’d woken up and was taking some medicine when suddenly some people began violently smashing and kicking in the door. In the blink of an eye, they’d kicked the door open; the anti-burglary chain was no use against such a frenzied assault. I instinctively jumped out of bed, and Jiang Tianyong was also quickly out of bed as well. Six or seven people entered the room and surrounded us, demanding that we pack up our things. Seeing that they weren’t in uniform we asked them what they were doing. One of them menacingly said that they were the police. Since they claimed to be police, they would have to have a basis for barging in and have to follow procedures, so Jiang and I demanded that they show their identification. One older and thick-set one took out his ID and flashed it before our eyes. I couldn’t catch the name on it, but Jiang said that one’s name was Zhai [翟].  

We hastily crammed our things into our luggage and were immediately led downstairs by these unidentified men while they held our hands behind our backs. The man holding me swore incessantly on our way down the stairs, saying that it had been such a pain since we arrived that they hadn’t been able to go off duty as usual.

A lot of cars were parked outside the hotel entrance, and there were nearly twenty police officers. Two female relatives [of our clients] had already been put in a car. Zhang Junjie, Jiang Tianyong, and Wang Cheng were detained in different cars and our luggage was stored separately in a minivan. There were some four or five out-of-uniform policemen in my car. Some were being called the “Li Team” [李队], two of them sandwiched me in on both sides. Our car drove to the entrance of a police bureau, stopped briefly, then drove straight to Outer Jiansanjiang Street. We first passed a highway toll station, drove on the highway a bit, then turned again onto a regular road. Thirty minutes later, we entered the compound of the Daxing Branch Police Bureau [大兴公安分局] (DXPB).

They held me in an interrogation room at the DXPB, the innermost room on the ground floor. I was watched by two auxiliary police officers. After a while I saw two non-uniformed persons take our luggage to an empty room. One of them, who said his name was Liu, came over with a camera and made me take my belongings out of my suitcase and put them on the floor, where he took pictures of them. After he was done, they made me re-pack the suitcase and put it in a corner of the room. After that, the two auxiliary officers took me to an interrogation room close to the entrance. Before I left I saw that Zhang Junjie and Wang Cheng were also each being ordered into the other room to have pictures taken of their belongings.

These people strapped me down to an iron chair in the interrogation room. Some seven or eight non-uniformed individuals made their appearance in the room at various times, in addition to the auxiliary police officers keeping watch over me. Amongst them were Yu Wenbo [于文波], Yao Wujun [姚武君], Chen Qi [陈奇], and a Mr. Bai [白某] and a Mr. Xu [徐某] (he may have been from the Legal Division and I later learned that his badge number was 151505). They referred to themselves as being from the Li Bureau [李局] or the Li Team.

Mr. Bai and an auxiliary officer (badge number XJ1060) interrogated me. I demanded to see Mr. Bai’s work ID and said that the interrogation ought to be conducted by two full police officers. I said that I should be informed of my procedural rights, and that the entire process should be audio- and video-recorded. Mr. Bai became livid when he heard this. He didn’t just berate me, he smacked me on the face and hit me with a still full bottle of water. I felt lightheaded and two of my front teeth were knocked out. Yu Wenbo and others joined Mr. Bai, hitting the back of my head, my neck and elsewhere, railing at me all the while.

They said that I had, incredibly, still dared to take on Falun Gong cases despite the State having designated them as an “evil cult,” that I probably did not know the power of a dictatorship, and was I going to overthrow the Communist Party or what? I argued with them that the law did not prohibit me from defending victims and that even people like Lin Biao [林彪], Jiang Qing [江青], and their lot had people to conduct a defence. As for the so-called State designation [of Falun Gong as an “evil cult”], there has been no de jure determination [i.e. by the State Bureau for Religious Affairs], and, moreover, there are hardly any other countries in the world that still criminalize what people think!

They also said that the brainwashing classes are places where the State helps detainees, that they spend a lot of money on them every year, and that some of people actually take their relatives there for treatment and that those who have undergone conversion are all deeply grateful to the State. I retorted, asking whether the State has a right to lock people up without having them first detained and tried, and why is it necessary for the State to waste money seizing and detaining people if the families of those being converted, and the converted themselves, are so perfectly happy to be detained?

For the rest of the morning, Mr. Bai and the others were essentially unable to find any further arguments; every so often they’d to threaten or intimidate me, and they also said that I must be wrong in the head to give up on more lucrative and less risky work. During the interrogation, I asked them to consider whether these claims of Falun Gong being an “evil cult” or a “criminal group” didn’t smack of someone shifting blame to cover their own malfeasance.

They took turns eating lunch at midday. I’d had no food since that morning save a bit of water.

In the afternoon, Mr. Bai, Yu Wenbo, and the others returned to the interrogation room one after the other. They continued to try to force me to admit that we had instigated the people to go to the Qinglongshan Brainwashing Class [青龙山洗脑班] [to protest the detention of relatives], and they asked about the minimal [“hardship”] fee we received for taking on the representation in these cases. I didn’t cooperate and emphasized again that I refused to sign a statement as long as they did not provide identification, failed to notify me of my procedural rights, did not have two full police officers question me, did not audio-and video-record the entire interrogation and continued to engage in other illegal conduct, or if the statement did not reflect my actual meaning. When the auxiliary officer gave me a copy of the statement he had typed up I immediately saw that it contained several omissions; most importantly they had left out what I had said to defend and explain myself. I made it clear that I would not sign that statement. At that, Mr. Bai and the others flew into a rage out of humiliation [that I wouldn’t do what they were telling me to do]. They had my hands cuffed behind my back and a black hood placed tightly over my head. Under instruction from Yu Wenbo and the rest, they led me stumbling out of the room and down the stairs out of the building and, following a circuitous route, made me walk to another room. My sense is that it must have been some secret torture chamber of the DXPB. After entering that room, they used rope to suspend me in the air from from the handcuffs, and then, as though I were an elevator, my entire body was pulled up, my feet left the ground, my buttocks jutted out behind, and my head stretched out like a duck.

Once they had hung me up, Yu Wenbo and the others began cursing and beating me. I had no way to see whether they hit me with their fists or some other instruments, and could just perceive the wallops on my chest. Someone also kicked my legs, and my back and buttocks were slammed into the wall behind me multiple times. They beat me for more than ten minutes, until my head was buzzing. I was covered in sweat and in excruciating pain. Someone said that they would bury me and have my kidneys taken out alive, or have me torn to pieces by dogs like Zhang Chengze [张成泽]. Someone else slandered me saying that my real aim in doing this was to make money; that they weren’t convinced I had only taken a 10,000 yuan fee [for expenditures], and threatened that they would impose a fine of at least 100,000 yuan, which would leave me destitute. I was near collapsing after this non-stop verbal and physical abuse, and having missed two meals. Eventually, under duress, I agreed to have a proper chat with them.

When they heard that I was willing to cooperate they did not immediately take me down. Instead they threatened me further before finally loosening the ropes and letting me down. I was led stumbling back to the interrogation room. They only took off my hood after they had sat me in an iron chair, but they left my hands cuffed behind my back. Mr. Bai and the others continued to ask me questions. At that point I was already finding it difficult to maintain the same stance I had taken in the morning, but answered them selectively, trying as best I could not to give answers that would implicate anyone else. I still defended and explained myself when I felt that their questions went too far; this won me further beatings with the water bottle. They hit me in the face, in the back of the head and in my neck. Twice, Yu Wenbo and the rest poured water down my neck, it went down all the way to my lower back. It was so cold that it made me shiver! Not only this, but they also threatened me that they would send me, too, to the Qinglongshan Brainwashing Class for forcible conversion!

At 5:30 P.M., I was forced to sign a transcript of the interrogation. Before ending the interrogation, Mr. Bai said that I could do things the easy way or the hard way, meaning that nothing good could come from not cooperating. Some of them added that previously the Falun Gong practitioners [in Jiansanjiang] had been intimidated by them [the police], but that since we’d arrived they [the Falun Gong practitioners] had become emboldened and would argue with them and assert their rights. Judging by their tone, every one of these policemen felt deep hatred for us.

After the interrogation was concluded, this gang of officers cuffed my hands behind my back like before and took me to the DXPB’s room for on-duty officers, where some auxiliary police and full police guarded me. At around 10 P.M. the auxiliary police gave me two extremely tiny and foul-tasting pieces of bread to eat, the only food I’d had that whole day. Even while I ate they did not take off the handcuffs; they merely moved my cuffed hands from the back to the front. All night they came over and debated with me, especially Mr. Xu, who wanted me to accept the official designation [of Falun Gong] as an “evil cult.” They could not understand why I would give up opportunities to make big money in order to do jobs that paid so little and brought so much risk. As my body was aching and I was fatigued I only gave brief and concise answers: The law can only judge a person’s actions [ed. not their thoughts]; modern, advanced countries do not define crimes of belonging to an “evil cult”; and as long as a Chinese citizen’s rights have been infringed and they seek to entrust me with their representation, and it is possible for me to do so, I am willing to provide whatever help I can. Due to my bad physical state, the fact that people were smoking in the room and that they kept debating with me, I was only able to sleep for a few brief moments. In the second part of the night the auxiliary police officer who had taken the transcription [that I’d signed earlier] came over and asked for my family’s contact information. I guessed that this was because they were going to formally arrest and criminally charge me.

Who says that the human rights situation in China is five times better than in the United States? These techniques that extort confessions under torture are perhaps 5,000 times more brutal than those used in the US! After the torture, I was forced to sign the inaccurate transcripts and also forced as well to sign a document relinquishing my representation of my [Falun Gong] clients who had been persecuted and were being subjected to illegal detention, as well as a document waiving my right to press charges against those who had subjected me to illegal detention and torture.

*     *     *

The Heilongjiang Agricultural Corps Legal Education Base [黑龙江农垦总局法制教育基地] (i.e. the Qinglongshan Brainwashing Class, located in the Qinglongshan Farm [青龙山农场] managed by the Jiansanjiang Farming Management Bureau [建三江农垦管理局]) referenced above is actually a base for illegal detentions. It is perfectly legal for me to take on cases of illegal detention at the request of victims or their families, to deal with the authorities and press charges. The Heilongjiang Agricultural Corps Legal Education Base and its staff have, for many years, arbitrarily detained citizens like Shi Mengchang [石孟昌], Yu Songjiang [于松江], and Jiang Xinbo [蒋欣波], who adhered to their faith, without any legal procedures or going through any legal process or paperwork. This deprivation of personal freedom might last as little as several months or as long as several years, and is a violation of Article 238 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China, constituting the crime of illegal detention. The Legal Education Base is in fact itself the very embodiment of criminal activity. By contrast, for Zhang Junjie to act as a [licensed] lawyer, and Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and me to legally represent these victims or their relatives as citizens [ed. i.e. lawyers whose formal licenses have been revoked] and to assist them in bringing criminal charges against persons who had illegally detained them, is entirely lawful conduct supported by law and fully completed formalities.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 20, I responded to a request from a relative of Shi Mengwen [石孟文] and went to the Heilongjiang Farming Corps Legal Education Base (more commonly known as the Qinglongshan Brainwashing Class), which is the located at the rear of the compound of  Jiansanjiang Agricultural Corps Qixing Farm Public Security Sub-bureau [七星农场公安分局]. I was to discuss the matter of Shi Mengwen’s arbitrary detention with those in charge of the Legal Education Base, and learn more about where he was being detained. Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, Zhang Junjie, and some relatives [of the detained] were with me. Some other citizens whom I didn’t know later gathered around to watch what was happening.

We stood outside the Brainwashing Class’s entrance gate and shouted for Fang Yuechun [房跃春], the man in charge, to emerge and explain why the people there were being detained. He turned, went inside the room, and slammed the door shut, and didn’t come out again. After a while, a middle aged woman wearing a beige woolen jacket came out leading a woman wearing a blue jacket. One of us recognized them as Tao Hua [陶华] leading Han Shujuan [韩淑娟] (Shi Mengchang’s wife). We asked Tao Hua why they were detaining people without the slightest formalities. Tao didn’t say anything, she just smiled contemptuously and led Han back into the room.

Seeing that our attempt to negotiate was fruitless, everybody stormed inside [the compound] and shouted. We demanded that Fang and Tao stop breaking the law and immediately release the detainees, and we called for victims like Shi Menchang, Han Shujuan, and Jiang Xinbo to be released and returned home as soon as possible. Gradually, the sky darkened and the wind began to pick up. Some of us were cold so we rode back to Jiansanjiang by car, feeling that we had clearly expressed our demands. A number of cars followed us, and one, with the license plate DV3748 trailed us, sometimes overtaking us on the road.

Once we felt that we had put enough of a distance between us and the cars following us on the streets of Jiansanjiang, we went to a restaurant to have some rice porridge. After we’d eaten, we went to the Green Tree Inn for a rest, so as to facilitate making headway in the submission of a follow-up complaint to the Jiansanjiang Agricultural Corps Procuratorate [to recommend that they] press charges, while the families of the victims went to their respective homes. That evening Jiang Tianyong and I took room 8265, and Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie took room 8269. Zhang needed a computer to prepare a complaint statement to be submitted to the Procuratorate but the hotel’s computer did not work well, so Zhang said that he would draft the complaint at one of the victim’s relatives’ homes the next day. The four of us had a brief chat and then went our separate ways to get some rest. It was about 10 P.M. by that point. I sent the hotel’s address and my room number to a friend.

*     *     *

The next day after these events, March 21, I was abducted by the Jiansanjiang police at 8 A.M. and tortured into giving a “confession.”

*     *     *

On the morning of the 22th, the auxiliary police who were watching me and officer Lu left to eat, but no one mentioned anything about breakfast for me. Yu Wenbo and some others came in a while after 8 A.M. and directed the auxiliary officer[s] to put my coat over my head. They walked me toward the interrogation room. I was taken into a car when we got there, squeezed between two auxiliary police officers. I felt that Jiang, Wang, and Zhang were in the same situation, just not in a single car. After a while, the car started and we left the DXPB. I could tell that we went through a toll booth on the highway during our trip. From what they were saying, I could tell that we were first going to Qixing Clinic [七星诊所], which is how I knew that it was to undergo a pre-detention physical examination.

We arrived at Qixing Clinic. I was given an echocardiogram and some other tests, all with my head covered. I plodded up and down the stairs, and could hear from the voices that the other three were doing the same. I was hauled off to another place after the exam was completed. I had no choice but to say that I would cooperate, so that they would uncover my head. I saw the sign for Jiansanjiang Hospital [建三江医院] and realised that I also had to undergo tests there. Yu Wenbo asked Wang Cheng whether he would cooperate, and Wang Cheng also  had no choice but to say that he would, and the cloth covering his head was removed too. I had my chest x-rayed again at Jiansanjiang Hospital. When it was done, the police escorted me to the car and we crossed Lianxin Bridge [连心桥], went past some farmland, and arrived at the Jiansanjiang Agribusiness Public Security Bureau Qixing Detention Center [七星拘留所].

When I entered the lobby, I saw that Wang Cheng had already arrived. After a while, Zhang Junjie and then Jiang Tianyong were also brought in. The officers told us to stand separately and did not allow us to talk. I glanced around and saw that Zhang Junjie's suit had been ripped open and knew that he had definitely been beaten. During the moments that the officers weren't paying attention, I signalled to Jiang that there was something wrong with my upper chest. Jiang indicated that there was something wrong with his front as well, and I knew that he had been beaten quite a bit. As for Wang Cheng, there wasn’t even any need to ask, it was clearly pretty much the same for him. I mumbled softly to myself, saying that the Jiansanjiang police were rogues. When Jiang spoke with the Detention Center duty staff, they said that he couldn’t possibly take on these cases as he had such a kindly face. Before long, the police again dragged me to the Jiansanjiang Hospital for a CT scan. I knew it was because I have tuberculosis. After it was over, I was again dragged back to Qixing Detention Center, where Jiang and the others were still standing in the lobby.

Once I'd returned, the policeman who'd taken us in began asking us to sign the paperwork and it was clear that everyone was going to be formally placed under detention; we just didn’t know how many days we'd be detained for, but I gathered it'd be at least five days based on some signals from him. I was called into the innermost room on the first floor of the Detention Center to sign [an administrative penalty decision]. A colleague of Mr. Bai and that terrible officer gave me the penalty decision, and I read that they'd written that it was for so-called disturbing the social order, with 15 days detention and a fine of 1000 yuan. As I signed my name, I asked to make a statement and plead my case and requested to have a hearing as well. It was after I went near the Detention Center's front desk that I learnt that Zhang Junjie was being detained for five days, and Jiang and Wang for 15 days each. As my paperwork was about to be processed, Mr. Bai and that guy whose name might have been Li called me back to the room where I had signed [the penalty decision]. They were extremely irate that I had asked to make a statement, plead my case, and have a hearing and they threatened to torture me like they had in the DXPB. At the time there were probably 5 or 6 police there and I was under extreme pressure and my hand was forced, I could only sign it and waive all of my rights.

*     *     *

Before I was brought into the Detention Center, police officers with badge numbers 151427 and 153556 had participated in the entire detention process, as had auxiliary officers XJ1713, [XJ]1717, [XJ]1726, [XJ]1727, [XJ]1056, [XJ]1068, [XJ]1087, and XG153102.

For the Detention Center intake procedure, my belt and shoes were removed, and the money in my wallet was placed in storage. The Detention Center said that they charged an administrative fee of 635 yuan. I asked what was the basis for the charge, and they said it was per the Agribusiness General Office regulations. I said that I wanted to wait to have them issue a receipt, and they said that when the time came, I could ask for one and see whether they'd give me one. After we were done, an auxiliary officer led me to the second floor. As they searched me in the restroom, the head of the Detention Center, Han Kui [韩奎], saw that I was injured and asked the auxiliary officer to get Bai Guoqiang [白国强], the person on duty, to come over and take photos. We waited for a good while and Bai Guoqiang still didn’t arrive, then the auxiliary officer reporting came up to tell Han that someone was asking for him downstairs. Han asked him to watch me and went downstairs. When Han returned again, he avoided any mention of having my photo taken and took me directly to Cell 4, where I was to stay. I understood that the department handling the case had pressured the Detention Center [into not documenting my injuries]!

*     *     *

Cell 4 was about a dozen square metres and there were two surveillance cameras above the door and window so that the only blind spot was at the toilet. There was a film sprayed on the window, which faced south, so that we couldn't see out and it was only through a small ventilation hole above the door that we could look around, but there wasn't anything remarkable to see in the compound yard other than the snowbanks. The big group bed nailed together from wooden planks had numbers 1–8 written on it, meaning that this room could hold 8 people, and someone said that when it was crowded, 10 or more could be squeezed in. There were some plastic boxes beneath the bed that could hold a few personal items. There was a TV on the wall above the steel door that was probably for discipline lessons. The two people already in the cell had already gotten a heads-up from the Detention Center asking them to keep an eye on me; later they would learn that I wasn’t necessarily the agitator that the officials saw me as, let alone a Falungong-er.

I finally got some warm food at 5 P.M. on the 22nd: two tiny steamed buns and a bowl of cabbage soup so thin I could see the bottom of the bowl. I heard that I would only get another at noon. This was all included in the 635 yuan management fee. Fortunately, I had bought some pickled vegetables, water, and other things before I went in, so I could get by eating that. I don’t know why but I had diarrhea several times that night, maybe it was caused by the rolls I’d had at the DXPB.

There wasn’t much to do once we were done eating in the Detention Center. They would either have us sit cross-legged on the beds or stand in a line on the floor. Sometimes they would speak to those being disciplined over the intercom. This Detention Center was newly built a few years prior, and was not set up for women. It’s said that women who are administratively arrested are all sent to Raohe [County, Shuangyashan, Heilongjiang]. Most of the people here are in for brawling, driving without a license, gambling or prostitution. Besides the four of us , I learned that a relative of Shi Mengwen was also being held there, also for 15 days. The so-called rules and regulations posted on the wall of the Detention Center were all about supporting the central leadership and socialist system, with lots of rules for detainees. There wasn’t any reliable procedure or guarantees about appeals or reconsiderations posted at all, let alone anything about visitation or communication [with those outside] rights. Inside these high walls it was still duties first, rights second.

*     *     *

They would play the song “The Waves Still Sound Like They Used To” [涛声依旧] to hurry everyone out of bed at 6 A.M. every morning. Our blankets needed to be folded with clean corners and edges, and then we’d wash our faces and wait for breakfast to be served at 7 A.M. After breakfast, we’d sit cross-legged on the beds listening to all kinds of sermons from the loudspeaker, and at noon we could rest for a while, but we usually weren’t permitted to spread the quilts [to air]. (They stank, having been used by a lot of people.) It was a bit easier to pass the time in the afternoon. Besides “The Waves Still Sound Like They Used To,” they would play a drug company’s ad jingle as well, probably “The Myth of Love” [爱的神话]. The police would sometimes come in and search for contraband—cigarettes, lighters and the like.

Three more people arrived in the cell during the day of the 22nd and the night of the 23rd. The one that arrived at night left almost as soon as he had lay down, possibly because his family came and said that he had a serious heart condition. Yet another entered on the 24th, and from that point on we never had fewer than three people in the cell.

It was quite hard for me to lie down or get up inside the cell. A sharp pain would shoot out from my chest when I sneezed or coughed. Someone saw that I was in pain and asked why, but he understood when he saw the swelling and bruises on my chest. In the monitoring room, I lifted up my shirt in front of the Detention Center director and the duty officer to show the plump Detention Center doctor, but they said that they couldn’t treat it because it had to be resolved by the unit handling the case.

I heard someone at the main gate shouting on the afternoon of the 23rd, saying that that Director Liu (Guofeng) [刘国峰] had agreed to meet with us. It sounded like Xiang Li [向莉] and the others. I was happy, but also a little uneasy about the additional trouble I’d caused these dear friends of mine. I felt sorry for making them camp out there in the open and put themselves in danger. Some of my cellmates opened our ventilation window and stood on the windowsill looking out. They asked me what was going on. I said that our friends wanted to see us. Someone worried that this would make things worse for us. I said that since this was their right, there was no reason not to fight for it.

On the 24th, Mr. Bai and that guy from the Li Bureau (the Li Team) who had been amongst those beating me came with an auxiliary police officer (badge number XJ1066) to the Detention Center to have me sign once more the document where I agree not to make a statement, plead my case, and hold a hearing, saying that the earlier version had been improperly formatted. Outside the window, the shouting of our names and the demands to meet with us rose again and again. Someone went to open the ventilation window to take a look, but they were stopped by the control room. The Detention Center sent some workers to seal the ventilation window and turned on the loudspeakers from time to time to shut out the noise. Sometimes the sound could be heard coming in through the door gaps, and I knew our friends had gone around to the rear wall.

We would still hear sounds from them coming from outside on the 25th. It seemed that our friends were calling for us day and night.

On the 26th, someone who had gone out to take a driving test returned and said the police had told him that if our friends [campaigning for our release] outside would not stop, then they would either be detained, or be dealt with in a criminal way. Hearing this I felt concerned for the friends outside, so much so that I woke up several times during the night and was unable to get back to sleep.

In the early morning of the 27th, the alarm lights went off in the courtyard and one could hear a cell door being opened. From the tone of the voice they must have been taking Zhang Junjie out. I reckoned that they did not want to let our friends outside see him and were going to take him directly to Jiamusi or to Harbin [ed. both large cities in Heilongjiang Province] and release him. Anyway, one of us being released early could only be helpful in terms of allowing our friends to learn the truth; but because of the tight watch I had no way of getting a word to him.

Zhu Baowen [朱宝文], Chen Qi, and Mr. Xu came with a female auxiliary police officer (badge number XJ0046) on the 28th to write up statements in the technical room. They questioned who had mobilized people to defend the rights of the victims of Jiansanjiang, liaised with their families, and so on. They said that since the State had determined the nature [of Falun Gong] there was no need [for us] to take risks in representing them; that in handling other cases we could make more money, and that we should give more consideration to our families.

On the 29th, they did an inspection of my personal effects in the office on the ground floor. They had confiscated two mobile phones – a Lenovo and an Apple – and three flash drives. I found that a volume of Interviews with the Dalai Lama [达赖喇嘛访谈] was no longer there, which they said was at the police bureau. The officers overseeing this process were Yu Wenbo, Yao Wujun et al, and it was witnessed by the Detention Center staff Zhao Jun [赵君] (f). There was also someone taking pictures. Someone also suggested taking away the authorization letters the victims’ relatives had given me, but this was rejected. (Yet when I was released on April 6, the authorization letters had disappeared as well.)

On the 30th, Yu Wenbo and a Mr. Wu interrogated me in the easternmost room about what was on the flash drives. They focused on whether I had circumvented the Great Firewall and whether I had accessed any website like Minghui [a Falun Gong website].

On the 31st, Yu Wenbo again came with Mr. Li, who claimed to have been a soldier in Dunhua, Jilin Province, to threaten me: they would find another place to give me a taste [of abuse] if I didn’t give them the passwords for my mobile phones. They made me stand and I felt that they could lash out at me at any time. I endured this for a while but, being under duress, gave the passwords to them in the end.

On the 1st, Yu and Mr Li came to ask me about my contact with [the Legal Education Center victims’] relatives as well as the “Teacher Liu” from Jiamusi whom I had met while handling these cases. They said that they had already got hold of her and demanded that I identify her.

On the 2nd, they focused on asking me about my relationship with Teacher Liu. They asked whether she had been the one to mobilize people for the Qinglongshan action, whether she had been to Qinglongshan, and whether she had shouted Falun Gong slogans. This time they produced more photos and demanded that I identify her.

On the 3rd, Mr. Wu and another, thin, police officer demanded that I acknowledge my punishment. There was also another person who recorded this on video.

On the 4th, Messrs. Yu and Wu took a statement from me on the second floor. They focused  mainly on the human rights lawyers group, the mutual support fund for lawyers, our interaction with diplomats, and related issues. They said that if I did not tell the truth regarding Teacher Liu, I would have to stay a couple of days longer [in detention]. During these two days they started asking questions about Hu Xingdou [胡星斗], Xiang Li, Gao Fei [高飞], and others, and I became quite worried that there might be a reckoning for them later. They also asked whether I knew that my former wife had wanted to come to the Detention Center. Early that afternoon I had a rough shave and, later on, a quick shower.

On the 5th, Yu and Wu asked some additional questions about my [attempts to] travel abroad. They compelled me to write [and sign] a statement acknowledging my punishment, pledges to not file a lawsuit and to not take on Falun Gong rights defence cases in future, and a statement of repentance. If I did not agree to write these, they said that they might lock me up again and not let me go, the same way they had done back in 2009 and 2011. 

That same afternoon, Han Kui, Bai Guoqiang (badge number 152806), and the plump detention center doctor took me to Jiansanjiang for a chest x-ray. Jiang [Tianyong] and Wang [Cheng] must have gone too; on the way I saw that the Detention Center was heavily guarded with sentries on both sides and that there were even checkpoints at the highway entrance.

No one involved in handling my case had provided their first or family names during the procedure of taking statements and examining personal effects and so forth, other than Yao Wuzheng, who showed his work ID card.

The the plump detention center doctor gave me four doses of medication for my chest between the 2nd and the 4th. (The final dose was administered in front of Yu Wenbo and some others.) It felt as though it must have been a Yunnan Baoyao Aerosol. Having received this treatment, my external injuries were practically no longer visible.

Due to pressure from officials, my cellmates blamed being unable to  receive visitors or mail or to receive items sent by their families on our friends calling [for our release] outside. I tried to explain things, but there were still some [of my cellmates] who went on about how no matter how much trouble Falun Gong made they would never be able to overturn the Communist Party, and hadn’t even Chiang Kai-shek’s eight million men been annihilated [by the CPC], and that I should just make a bit more money and forget the rest, and just who would care if I were tortured left, right, and center till I was through?

Although I was not allowed to speak to her, I was eventually able to take the medication that Xiang Li had managed to deliver through her persistent effort, starting from the 25th.

While I was in detention, I did not see a single friend or acquaintance apart from briefly seeing Jiang Tianyong while I was being given my medicine, when I quickly told him how my injuries were faring.

On the morning of the 6th, I walked north out the gate [of the Detention Center] along with another cellmate whose release date had also come. We commented that the snowbanks had finally all left us and melted, so we, too, were meant to leave.

Jiang Tianyong had been released before me, and so I went downstairs to collect my belongings. I found out that I had not been given a receipt for the Dalai Lama book that had been confiscated for being an illegal publication. Mr. Wu and Mr. Xu participated [in the return of our things], along with a police officer with the badge number 024141, and there was another one who made a video recording of the process. Two special forces police carrying loaded weapons watching the three of us [Jiang, Wang, and Tang] during the process. I ate a bowl of noodles, an egg, and two steamed buns. Wang Cheng may have had a lot on his mind, because he didn’t feel like eating, so I shared his food with Jiang. We went to the front desk to fill out our exit forms, and, before the punishment decision and receipt for the fine had been finalized, the Detention Center told us we were not to say that our physical injuries had been caused by ill-treatment at the center. 

After completing the paperwork, Jiang was the first to be taken away by car. I was the next to be taken away, in a black Audi A6L with the plate number R3850. Three policeman were in the car with me as we headed toward Jiamusi. (Someone videotaped our leaving the Detention Center and getting into the car.) On the way we ran into a police road block. It was only when they whispered in the ear (of the police) that they were handling some petitioners’ case that they were able to pass through quickly.

As we travelled, they initially agreed with me that I could take the morning flight back to Beijing. Then they changed their minds and said I should either take the train back or return to my hometown in Jilin [Province]. I said that I had to quickly get back [to Beijing] so I could go to the doctor for my illness, and that it was not suitable for me to return to my hometown because I had divorced four years prior. After some further discussion they agreed that I could take the afternoon flight back to Beijing. At first they wanted to wait to see me onto the plane, but then they allowed me to make my own way after receiving an urgent phone call, so we separated at the Jiamusi train station. I entered a shop to check the time then, and saw it was already past 11 A.M.

After regaining my freedom, I tried calling Xiang Li and Jiang Tianyong, but neither answered. No one answered at Wang Yu’s [王宇] number either. It was so hard to get through to any of my friends to connect with people. That afternoon, before leaving Jiamusi, I was relieved to learn that Chen Jian'gang [陈建刚] and Wang Yu had already regained their freedom.

At 6 P.M. I met up with some friends who had arrived to greet me at Terminal 1 [of Beijing Capital International Airport]. I was extremely happy and somewhat wistful to see these friends I had longed for for so long.

*     *     * 

After I was released from Qixing Detention Center in Jiansanjiang on April 6, I underwent health examinations at three renowned hospitals in Beijing. The results of my examinations after 17 days of torture were as follows:

  • 10 fractured ribs;
  • worsened pulmonary shadowing;
  • spinal tuberculosis;
  • damaged teeth from the beating;
  • bruising on the chest, legs

*     *     * 

In these 16 days, the authorities tried incessantly to link us to the so-called “evil cult.” Their efforts to [bring up charges] such as fraud and gathering of a crowd to disrupt public order were not so subtle. They also focused a lot on the human rights lawyers group, trying to label it an illegal organization. If it weren’t for our friends’ advocacy, which they undertook despite the risks, we might not have been released according to schedule. I feel sorry whenever I think about it. Law in particular has not taken root in the Great Northern Wilderness. In a place as insulated as Jiansanjiang, human rights are a novel concept to most police officers, who follow their superiors unquestioningly. Although we also suffered a bit, we were much luckier in comparison to the sufferings endured by our clients and their families.

The authorities’ on-going crackdown on members of a certain sect [ed. referring to Falun Gong] has been expanded to target other groups as well over the past 15 years. What is clear is that in the process of democratization in mainland China there have been systematic human rights violations against religious and ethnic groups, particularly since 1999.

I feel that one can never underestimate the malevolence of some people within the government, but one also must not overestimate the strength of the people. The overall impact of our friends’ advocacy was quite good, but it pains me to see so many people beaten, detained, or disappeared.
I hope that our friends who were detained, beaten, or disappeared are in good health. When the chance presents itself, I will express my gratitude in person to everyone who came to rescue [us]. I shall never forget their profound compassion and friendship.    

*     *     *

As long as torture persists, it will be difficult eliminate injustice. I want to give a serious warning to Jiansanjiang police who take pleasure in torture that if they do not step back from the brink, they may one day taste the bitterness of their own fruit! If police officers are themselves tortured or forcibly disappeared, I would consider defending or representing them myself or contact others to do so, even if these officers have harmed me before.

These 16 days, though short, were a major trial in my life. I will continue to focus on human rights issues during my recuperation, especially the rights of every one of my colleagues who struggle for human rights on the frontlines. Let us strive together and make sure the light of freedom shines soon on every corner in China!