Wang Qiaoling, Li Wenzu, Chen Guiqiu, Jin Bianling | China Change
This article was first published on China Change web site on March 1, 2017
The following letter was recently delivered to:
- U. S. Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Chris Smith, co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China;
- Congressman James McGovern and Joseph Pitts, co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the U. S. Congress;
- Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany;
- Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the President of Germany;
- Sigmar Gabriel, the Foreign Minister of Germany;
- François Hollande, the President of France;
- Bernard Cazeneuve, the Prime Minister of France.
We thank you for your sustained attention to the human rights situation in China, especially on the matter of the “709 lawyers,” who have been targeted from July 9, 2015 to this day. The case began with the mass disappearance of lawyers, and has included the deprivation of their right to a legal defense, as well as coerced confessions. After a year and seven months, to this day there are still four lawyers (Xie Yang, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang and Li Heping), as well as one citizen activist, Wu Gan (吴淦), who are in detention. Recently, news has emerged of their torture in custody.
From September 2016 onwards, two of the undersigned (Li Wenzu and Wang Qiaoling) have met with four individuals who were among the 709 detainees but have been released, learning about their experiences during detention. The following information about what they have been through cannot be attributed to them by name, something they exhorted repeatedly for fear of their safety and that of their families.
The majority of the lawyers and citizens targeted in the 709 arrests were placed in secret detention facilities known as “residential surveillance in a designated place” for six months, during which time they were tortured. Following is a summary of the four main categories of torture they were subjected to.
1) Forced consumption of drugs. Whether the internees were in good health or not, they were all made to take medication. The most common were drugs, so was it claimed, to treat high blood pressure. Other common drugs included tranquilizers or barbiturates of various sorts, as well as antipsychotic drugs. Of the four individuals we interviewed, the minimum they were forced to take was two pills per day — they were told it was to treat high blood pressure (though they were in fine health and did not suffer high blood pressure). The most they were forced to take was 20 pills per day, including barbiturates and antipsychotic drugs, along with other unidentified drugs. The victims were either forced to consume the drugs or tricked into doing so, and afterwards often felt dazed and stuporous.
2) Marathon interrogation sessions and sleep deprivation. Wearying interrogation sessions became practically mandatory for 709 detainees. They were regularly called in for questioning and prevented from sleeping. While the interrogators changed shift for all-night interrogation sessions, the drowsy detainees were shoved, beaten, or frightened by a clap next to the ears to stay awake. Victims were forced to sit in a fixed position on a stool, and as soon as they fell asleep, they were roughly roused awake. The torturers have countless methods.
3) Beatings, leg torture, and water dungeons. Being slugged was a daily occurrence. Worse was torture of the legs applied by guards. The prisoner, sitting on the ground, would have their legs forced onto a metal bar elevated about a foot off the ground. Another bar would be dropped across their thighs, and then someone would sit on top of it. If the victim still didn’t confess, another helper would add weight, causing excruciating pain. Prisoners were also put in cages submerged mostly in water, and left inside for seven days, the entire body underwater with a space to breath at the top. As they stood in the water and tried to sleep, rats would scurry about outside the cage, biting their nose and ears.
4) Threats to the lives, or freedom, of family members. The lives and freedom of prisoners’ wives and sons have been threatened. One of the prisoner’s son was taken into custody by public security officials, who threatened to formally arrest him if the prisoner didn’t confess; on other occasions, the father and brother of prisoners were arrested and held as long as the prisoner refused to confess.
These are only some of the forms of torture applied. When we first heard it all, we were also deeply shocked. A superpower that lays claim to being a responsible country “governed according to the law,” in fact carries out these horrifying acts of torture against a group of lawyers. Later, as we thought it over, we understood that this is simply the standard modus operandi of the Chinese government. In July 2007, Li Heping was abducted by public security officials and electrocuted until he was knocked out. In February 2011, Jiang Tianyong was disappeared for two months and also tortured. In June 2015 Wang Quanzhang, while carrying out his duties as a lawyer in a court, was slapped in the face by bailiffs nearly 100 times. The torture and abuse suffered by Xie Yang has already been set forth in detail by his defense lawyers, and a portion of it appears as an addendum to this note. All these deeds we describe represent the true face of the Chinese government — a government that plunders, murders, and destroys the ordinary Chinese people.
We hope that you can join a global effort to denounce and condemn these acts of torture by the Chinese government, and call for the Chinese authorities to investigate and hold accountable the torturers and others responsible. These human rights lawyers are the pride of China and should be set free immediately.
Your sincere friends,
Wang Qiaoling (wife of Li Heping)
Li Wenzu (wife of Wang Quanzhang)
Jin Bianling (wife of Jiang Tianyong)
Chen Guiqiu (wife of Xie Yang)
(Names of more 709 family members have to be concealed as they have been warned against speaking out for their loved ones.)
Addendum: The torture suffered by Xie Yang
Xie Yang’s primary clients were victims of forced demolition, forced internal migration, and grassroots peasants who had their rights violated. He was arrested on July 11, 2015 and denied access to his lawyers for 16 months, during which time his lawyers were also prohibited from reading any of his case files. His first defense lawyer, Lin Qilei, was never allowed to meet him or read the case files; only on November 21, 2016 was Zhang Zhongshi, a new lawyer, allowed to meet with him, and Xie Yang was forced to dismiss Lin Qilei. On December 16 the case was transferred to the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court.
From his arrest in the early morning hours of July 11, 2015, until midnight on July 12 — a total of over 40 hours — he was deprived of sleep. Beginning the following day, he was then put through seven days of interrogation, during which time he was allowed to sleep only nine hours. This is far beyond what any normal person can bear. This deprivation of sleep led to Xie Yang’s mental breakdown.
During his six months of secret detention, Xie Yang was forced to sit on a stack of plastic stools, leaving his legs to dangle in the air and causing one of his already injured legs to swell up, leaving him almost crippled. Every day during the long interrogation sessions he was slugged, threatened, insulted, yelled at, and had smoke blown in his face. Even when his whole body was shuddering, and he was in a cold sweat, in an obvious state of pain and fever, the national security agents shoved him down onto the ground face first, pressuring his chest and suffocating him, then pounding him in the head until he was concussed. Any notes that were made revolved around the three topics determined by the security agents: that he was out for money, out for fame, and out to oppose the Party and socialism. He was pushed to the brink of death by the security agents, but they kept him alive to prolong the torment. As they inflicted pain, the agents held out the bait of “establishing merit,” trying to lure him with rewards if he would frame his peers. When this failed, they threatened the safety and lives of his wife and child, or the jobs of his friends and family, in an attempt to dominate him. All written records of the sessions they produced were fake. They wrote them, and simply made Xie Yang sign off, without the opportunity to request any changes. If he did, they’d torture him further.
In the year he was in the detention center, officials and guards would close in on Xie Yang and try to force him to confess. They prohibited any other prisoners from having any contact with him. No one was allowed to speak with him, give or lend him anything, let him participate in card games, mah jong, chess, or any other entertainment. He was forbidden from using any of the money that had been put in his account, so that for a long time he was unable to buy toothpaste or even use toilet paper. Prosecutors, along with police, used the excuse of questioning him to force him to confess, prevented defense lawyers from meeting him, and demanded that he keep his mouth shut about the torture.
The Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau, the Changsha Municipal Procuratorate, the Changsha Municipal Second Detention Center, and all individuals involved in Xie Yang’s case, acted in collusion with one another. They prevented lawyers from meeting Xie Yang, covered up the torture aimed at gaining a confession, and punished a man who is entirely innocent.