Yaxue Cao | China Change
This article was first published in ChinaChange.ore on June 17, 2016
I was on a Voice of America Chinese Service show on Thursday and, with the host and another guest, we discussed rights movement leader Guo Feixiong’s hunger strike, rumors about a young legal worker being violated in prison, and police-operated mental hospitals. A caller from Hubei Province by the surname Deng had this to say: “As a matter of fact, China is the biggest mental asylum in the world. A normal country would not have had the Great Leap Forward. A normal country would not have had the Cultural Revolution. A normal country would not have run over students with tanks. A normal country would not have prisoners of conscience and would not lock rights defenders in mental hospitals. The Communist Party are the worst lunatics.”
The host asked me for comment. I remarked: “Well said. No further comment.”
Over 800 days from his secret detention in August, 2013, to early this year when he was transferred the Yangchun Prison in Guangdong, Guo Feixiong was not allowed yard time, not a single time. This website has written extensively about such barbarism, calling it “slow killing” — except it’s not that slow. When his sister, a doctor, publicized his deteriorating health condition and the prison’s refusal to provide treatment, he was given a check-up. But officials from the Guangdong Provincial Prison Administrative Bureau used the occasion to humiliate him: they videotaped the forced rectal examination and threatened to post it online. They shaved his head and ordered him to squat “like a bug” in the presence of prison officers. To protest, he’s been on hunger strike for nearly 40 days now, and his sister, after sitting three days outside the prison, was refused visitation. The reason given? “Every one of my visits with him led to enormous amounts of international and domestic public opinion and attention and focus [on his case].”
Zhao Wei is a young woman in her 20s with a keener sense of social justice than most of her peers. While a journalism student in Jiangxi Normal University, she videotaped protesters in front of a courthouse and was then chased down by armed police who ordered her to delete all the recordings. When she was a senior, interning in Fuzhou, she witnessed the “Three Netizens in Fujian” trial and the ensuing protests in April, 2010. She befriended activists, and was subsequently summoned by police for “questioning.” Eventually she became an assistant to Li Heping, a prominent rights lawyer. She was among the scores of lawyers, law staffers, and activists arrested last July, known as the “709 crackdown.” Almost a year into detention, none of them have had access to lawyers or families.
Recently there have been rumors that Zhao Wei was “sexually violated” in prison. More rumors followed, painting horrific scenarios. Her husband, her mother, lawyers and activists sought clarification from the authorities, but have been met with stone silence. Citizens have reasons to worry about Zhao Wei and, indeed, to believe the rumors, as the Chinese government have shown that it’s something they are perfectly capable of and have intentionally done in case after case.
In Hong Kong, bookseller Mr. Lam Wing-kee described abduction, detention and forced confession by a “Central Special Case Team.” He was one of five to suffer the same fate. Mr. Lam had been sent back to fetch customers’ data and was supposed to go back to custody in mainland China, but he defied them, and probably defied his own fear, too. “If I don’t speak up… then there is no hope for Hong Kong.” There, in the quiet-mannered bookshop owner, is sanity and courage. That’s hope.
“The fact that Lam Wing-kee held a press conference in Hong Kong as soon as he returned without being concerned about his safety proves that Hong Kong is free,” argued the Global Times, the People’s Daily’s tabloid specializing in doing the Party’s dirty work. “Lam Wing-kee is a Chinese citizen,” said the Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, “who broke the law in mainland China.”
Block it! Block anything Lam says! Block the Global Times article too! Soon the Propaganda Department issued directives, because, oops, Chinese readers were able to piece together from the article what happened to Mr. Lam.
Also today, two dissidents in Hangzhou, Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) and Chen Shuqing, were sentenced to 11 and 10.5 years respectively for writing a few essays and belonging to an opposition party called the “Chinese Democracy Party.” I have grown so numb with the unceasing flow of mad news that I had to pause to feel the shock vibrating in my mind — not just the cruelty of the punishment, but also the wantonness with which the punishment was delivered. It’s madness.
Just when I thought this was enough for a bad day, lawyer Ge Yongxi brought a message from lawyer Tang Jingling, who is serving a 5-year sentence for practicing some of Dr. Gene Sharp’s non-violent resistance methods:
On the afternoon of June 16, 2016, I met with Mr. Tang Jingling in Guangzhou First Detention Center. Mr. Tang said that his cell had a new Uighur teenage prisoner named Ardu. He came from Kashar and his father is an elementary school teacher there. Ardu said that he was arrested the day after the Gaokao [China’s national college entrance exams held this year on June 7 and 8] along with nine other Uighur teenagers — eight males and two females, who are all students at Guangzhou No. 75 High School. They are allegedly involved in terrorist activities (details unclear). Mr. Tang called attention to the case of the ten Uighur youngsters, and he hopes that they will receive fair trials.
Talk about fair trials…
Madness keeps rolling in. On the show yesterday, I pointed out that, when the Re-education Through Labor system was abolished two years ago, some, both inside and outside China, applauded it as a progress towards the rule of law. I said at the time: “Don’t be too happy too soon. They’ll use prisons instead of labor camps; they’ll use black jails; they’ll use mental hospitals; they’ll invent new methods. You’ll soon be missing RTL!”
If you apply reason in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, you’ll always be proven wrong. This bit of wisdom, part knowledge and part gut instinct, has served me well.
China is probably the only country in the world where the Ministry of Public Security operates a chain of at least 27 mental hospitals across the country known as the “Tranquil and Healthy Hospitals”. Petitioners, Falun Gong practitioners, and sometimes political prisoners, have been thrown in mental hospitals. Recently, a news item from 2010 went viral on social media with the headline “The Ministry of Public Security: Mental Hospitals May Not Treat Non-mentally Ill Patients Without Permission from Police.” Netizens quickly parsed its understatement:
- With permission from the police, mental hospitals may admit normal people;
- Mental hospitals have done so before without police permission;
- Mental hospitals have done so before with police permission;
- Police, not medical professionals, decide whether one should be sent to a mental hospital.
My co-guest Zhao Yan, whose resume includes a stint as researcher at The New York Times’ Beijing bureau in the 2000s and who was imprisoned for three years, has been involved in rights-defense lawsuits against local governments in China. “Are you mentally ill, doing what you are doing?” A judge once asked him. Indeed, challenging the authorities can easily be considered a “mental illness.”
I don’t mean to merely repeat what we said on the show. What prompted this post is the news that followed in the last 24 hours which proves just what a nuthouse China is:
The Beijing-based lawyer Xia Lin, who is a co-partner of the Huayi Law Firm with Pu Zhiqiang, was tried on June 17 for “fraud.” He has been held incommunicado for nearly two years. It was an “open” trial, but none of those who attempted to observe were admitted. It’s unclear what “fraud” he has committed, but a glance over the list of his clients over the years may provide a clue: Cui Yingjie, a street vendor who killed a brutalizing chengguan in self-defense; Deng Yujiao, a young woman who stabbed to death an official who demanded sex from her; artist Ai Weiwei’s; Sichuan writers Ran Yunfei and Tan Zuoren; NGO leader Guo Yushan. Xia Lin was tortured for confessions.