Category Archives: torture

“China instability rising with fungible rule of law”

Well… then there’s this. In the age of Neil Haywood and Chen Guangcheng, does anything about this story sound far-fetched?

Warren Rothman, a San Francisco lawyer, was having dinner with a Chinese legal colleague in Shanghai a few years ago, he said, when the colleague “blurted out” that he’d helped pay a $3 million bribe to ensure that his client, an iconic American company, could win a contract to work in China.

Rothman was stunned. He berated his younger colleague, a legal assistant for a Western law firm. He tried to defend himself and “looked very embarrassed,” Rothman recalled. Then within days, Rothman alleges that he found himself trapped in a Kafka-esque nightmare — poisoned, placed in a mental hospital, tortured and tormented in ways that were intended to trigger a fatal stroke to make sure he never revealed what he had learned about the bribe.

“Why’s it taking so long?” Rothman claimed one of his Chinese torturers mused to another one as he sat drugged, strapped to a chair. But unlike Neil Heywood, the British businessman who died under suspicious circumstances in China last fall, Rothman managed to get away and return to the United States.

“The only difference between me and Neil Heywood,” Rothman said, is that he’s not corrupt, and “I didn’t come home in an urn.”

Rothman supplied emails, documents from the American Consulate in Shanghai and other evidence that largely backed his story.

Earlier this month, in fact, labor rights activist Li Wangyang was found hanging from a sheet tied to the prison bars of his hospital room window. Government officials called the death a suicide. The problem was, Li had just been released from more than 20 years in prison. He’d been perfectly healthy when first jailed, but repeated torture had left him blind and nearly deaf, prompting the widely asked question: How could he have managed to find the sheet, fashion a noose and choose a place to tie it?

Li was just the latest in a long string of suspicious deaths. Last August, Xie Yexin, a Hubei Province official who’d made a name for himself as an anti-corruption campaigner, was found dead in his office — stabbed 11 times in his chest, neck and abdomen. The knife lay next to his body, its handle wrapped in tissue paper. Government authorities called that a suicide, too.

“It’s not a criminal case, and we have no obligation to investigate,” said Wang Jianping, a local police official.

All of this comes as “the factors for instability in China are rising,” Kamm said. “The economy is falling; home prices are dropping; there are more bankruptcies. The government is certainly very worried,” and “there’s a massive expansion in state security spending” as public anger and ferment rapidly escalate nationwide, causing the government to grow ever more consumed with keeping control of a fast-changing society.

China now spends $110 billion a year on internal security — more than is budgeted for its military. Sending more than 1,000 police to a remote village on short notice, for example, is not inexpensive.

The $3 million bribe the legal aide described went to a shell company, Rothman said — one that Chinese government officials almost certainly set up. And without government help, he added, the legal aide could never have carried out the complex plan to commit him to a government mental hospital and try by various means to induce a stroke. Earlier, Rothman, 68, had told the aide and others he was vulnerable to strokes.

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Filed under bribery, enforced disappearance, prison, torture

“What Happens During Residential Surveillance?”

Siweiluozi has an account from a Chinese activist who endured ‘residential surveillance,’ revealing how ugly the entire thing is:

On 4 November 2002, I was blindfolded by the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s Domestic Security Protection Unit (or guobao) and dragged into “residential surveillance in a designated abode.” The guobao stripped me of my clothes and kept me on a wooden bed (on which there was only a plastic sheet and a white cotton sheet), saying to me: “According to the relevant state regulations concerning residential surveillance, we can keep you lying on this bed for half a year and no one will know.”

The guobao entrusted me to the guard of their 27-person custodial unit, which worked in four-person teams taking shifts of two hours apiece. Four guards stood on either side of the wooden bed, each guarding my palms and the soles of my feet. The head of the guards told me that according to the relevant regulations for “residential surveillance in a designated abode,” the palms and soles of the person under residential surveillance must be kept in sight of the guards and the person under surveillance must remain lying on the bed and was not permitted to leave the bed.

Since I frequently violated the regulation about “the palms and soles of the person under residential surveillance must be kept in sight of the guards,” each day I faced verbal abuse and beatings from the guards. Each night, four guards would pull on my hands and feet, forcefully stretching my body a dozen times or so in the shape of the character 大.

Having spent a long time in a fixed position on the wooden-plank bed without being allowed to move, my shoulders, back, and hips were in contact with the plank for too long and the skin was all rubbed raw and the white sheet beneath me was covered in bloodstains. I requested to see a doctor and a change of sheets but was told to “shut up.”

The details of what exactly constitutes RS probably vary based on the identity of the ‘criminal’ and the severity of the police, but apparently all of this is a possibility. Horrifying.

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Filed under activism, enforced disappearance, torture

“Monk Charged After Repeated Detentions”

The repression machine is still on a roll, even outside of the conflicted Ngaba area- via RFA we learn that Labrang Jigme, the man interviewed in this video:

… has been been charged with ‘splittist activities’ and may be sentenced soon:

Jigme Gyatso , a monk at the Labrang monastery in the Kanlho (in Chinese, Gannan) prefecture of China’s Gansu province, was most recently picked up by Chinese police on Aug. 20, 2011, his brother reported at the time.

“Since then, he has been held without any word concerning his fate,” a Tibetan source close to the family told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“At the beginning of February, his brother Sonam Tsering received a notice dated Jan. 2 from the Kanlho Public Security Bureau [PSB] informing him that Jigme Gyatso had been formally charged with ‘splittist activities,’” the source said.

Meanwhile, a Tibetan traffic policeman from Machu county, also in Kanlho, was handed a four-and-a-half-year jail term for “rebelling” against the Chinese government during regionwide protests in 2008, a Tibetan living in exile said, citing contacts in the region.

“His name is Sherab, and he is from the [district of] Dzoge,” the source said.

“He had been a monk for a while, but later joined the Chinese police force, where he served for four years.”

When Tibetans in Machu rose against Chinese rule in 2008, Sherab “went to the Tibetan side and attacked the Chinese police,” the source said.

“He was detained sometime in May or June of 2008, and since then nothing was heard about him for a while.”

Although the news in China won’t report any of this, locals will definitely be following these developments. This is the kind of thing that destabilizes regions, Beijing…

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Filed under courts, enforced disappearance, ethnic conflict, prison, protests, Tibet, torture

“No mercy”

The Economist has another story about Ngaba and the self-immolations:

Today it is in Sichuan’s highlands that the authorities appear to be struggling most to contain simmering discontent among ethnic Tibetans. Sichuan’s two “autonomous prefectures” with large Tibetan populations are Aba (Ngawa in Tibetan) and Ganzi (Kardze), whose combined area is almost the size of Great Britain. Much of the area was once part of the famously warlike Tibetan region of Kham. In 1991, China’s then Communist Party chief, Jiang Zemin, said that “to keep Tibet stable, it is first necessary to pacify Kham”. That attitude is an ancient one among China’s rulers, and still applies.

Officials have reason to be fearful. For Tibetans, self-immolation is a new form of protest. Such acts are difficult for the authorities to prevent, and images of them can have a powerful psychological effect among sympathisers. Eleven Tibetans have tried to kill themselves this way since March. Six have succeeded, the latest a 35-year-old nun in Ganzi on November 3rd.

The anger and desperation that has prompted Tibetans to set fire to themselves is common across the plateau. In all of China’s Tibetan-inhabited areas, the authorities have rounded up innumerable monks, nuns and laypeople for taking part in the 2008 unrest. Reports of torture are rife. Many monks have been forced to denounce the Dalai Lama, who even in Songpan, where things are relatively calm, is deeply revered by Tibetans. This correspondent was often asked for news of him.

But Aba and Ganzi share an additional layer of resentment. Both prefectures saw the only well-documented cases of police firing on demonstrators in 2008 (20-30 people may have been shot dead in Aba town).

Woeser, a Tibetan blogger in Beijing who closely monitors the region, says the authorities inadvertently exacerbated Sichuan’s instability by expelling hundreds of visiting monks from monasteries around Lhasa after the 2008 unrest. Many of these monks were from Sichuan, and they returned to their monasteries with tales of Lhasa’s upheaval and the recriminations that followed. Others, barred from their original monasteries, became wandering malcontents. In Ganzi, Woeser says, passions have been stoked by the hardline fulminations of the prefecture’s ethnic-Han party chief, Liu Daoping. (Aba has a Han party secretary too, as, invariably, does Tibet itself.)

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet, torture, violence

“Lawyer reveals detention ordeal”

Jiang Yutang, one of many who were disappeared last spring by the government, is out and writing about what happened to him in the South China Morning Post:

Jiang – recognised as an outstanding democracy activist by a US-based rights group at the weekend – said he was in deep mental stress because of the physical and verbal abuse he was subjected to and was also fearful of what the authorities could do if he broke the pledges that secured his release, which included an agreement not to give media interviews.

Jiang, 40, came to the attention of authorities after representing activists and other sensitive clients like Aids patients and Falun Gong practitioners. He said he was taken away on February 19 and severely beaten for two nights. He was then made to sit motionless for up to 15 hours a day in a room where the curtains were always closed and interrogated repeatedly by national security officers. He said he could never say “I don’t know” or make “mistakes”, or threats and humiliation would follow.

He said his interrogators told him: “Here we can do things in accordance to law. We can also not do things in accordance to law, because we are allowed to not do things in accordance to law.”

The second night he was kicked and punched, he appealed to his interrogator: “I am a human being, you are a human being. Why are you doing something so inhumane?”

Enraged, the man knocked Jiang to the floor and screamed: “You are not a human being!”

Yet Jiang considers himself lucky compared to others, with reports by human rights organisations cataloguing a range of abuse. Lawyer Tang Jitian was subjected to blasts of cold air in detention and was diagnosed with tuberculosis after his release. Guangzhou lawyer Tang Jingling was fed medicine that resulted in temporary memory loss. Artist Ai Weiwei was kept in a room with the light on for 24 hours a day, his sister Gao Ge told The Washington Post. Two guards watched him every moment, even when he was showering or sleeping.

On the other hand, China’s White Paper on Human Rights says that it’s doing a great job, so…

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Filed under enforced disappearance, Jasmine Revolution, torture

“Chinese civil rights under new threat”

From the Sydney Morning Herald, another piece about the legalization of enforced disappearance:

A proposed change in the Chinese criminal code that would allow authorities to detain suspects for up to six months in a secret location is a dangerous step backwards for the country, activists said.

The change would essentially enshrine what has become a common practice for silencing dissidents, many of whom have disappeared for months without formal charges being filed. Under the change, the suspects can be held without their family members or lawyers being notified.

China is revising its criminal code, which has not had an overhaul since the mid-1990s. Bits and pieces have been leaked to the media in recent days, some of them winning praise from human rights advocates. For example, another revision would ban the use of evidence obtained by torture in criminal cases. Also, family members of defendants would not be compelled to testify against them.

I have to say: I just don’t see it. “New threat”? This is the exact same old threat. Now it’s legal? Wow, what an irrelevant change. Before, people were disappearing contrary to what some piece of paper says. Now, people will disappear in a way allowed for on a piece of paper. The legal code bears no relation to what police do here, why do we care what it says?

Look at it this way: the same legal code update bans the use of torture. Does anyone believe China will stop torturing people? Show of hands.

Nah? Ok, so lets worry about what Chinese police are doing, not what a meaningless pile of paper says they can or can’t do.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, law, torture

“Liu Shihui Reveals Details of 108-Day Detention”

Via Siweiluozi, an account from one of the human rights lawyers disappeared during the Spring Crackdown:

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.

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.

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?

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

This is where it comes back to these tactics being a sign of weakness, not strength. Has Beijing made itself any more secure by harassing this guy? No, they’ve made him furious and given yet another public example of how they treat their citizens. They do this not because they can, but because they think they have to- and in doing so, make their own position less secure in the long run.

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Filed under enforced disappearance, human rights, Jasmine Revolution, law, torture

“Tibet Today, as I saw it”

Tashi Phuntsok, an exile Tibetan and dean of a private school in Connecticut, writes about his experience touring his homeland for the first time in 2007 here at Phayul. His experiences talking to Tibetans rings extremely true- I’ve had conversations just like these at various places in Amdo and Kham:

I later learned that I had to introduce myself by showing my American passport to convince them that I was a fellow Tibetan from exile. The moment they learned that I was a genuine fellow brother from exile, unvented emotions poured out. My guide in Kandze introduced me to a young man who spent two years in prison for taking part in a peaceful demonstration; he’d witnessed the execution of two of his friends who were accused of organizing the demonstration. A nomad in Tromgyal, a village several hours from Kandze, moaned that his son was still serving in prison for participating in a demonstration in Kandze. On our way from Tromgyal to Nyishul, plain-clothed Chinese police stopped our minibus and searched the bus for a Tibetan woman, whose photo was held in one of policemen’s hand.

We arrived at the Nyoshul Monastery. There were no Chinese in this remote and 4500 meter elevated region. I distributed Chaney, holy grains blessed by the Nechung Oracle in India, to the monks and nuns in Nyishul monastery. As they scrambled for Chaney, they asked me how His Holiness the Dalai Lama was. Amidst the rugged Khampa vernacular, I heard a nun speaking to me in an immaculate Lhasan dialect. I later asked her how she ended up in this part of Tibet. She’s one of the singing nuns, who defied the Chinese authority by singing a song declaring their allegiance to the Dalai Lama in the Draphci prison in Lhasa. With pressure from the Chinese authority, she was not accepted back to her nunnery after being released from the prison. In pursuit of her spiritual quest, secretly she moved to eastern Tibet, outside of TAR, where there is slightly more freedom to practice religion. I heard similar sad stories from individuals in Lithang, Nyarong, and Nagchukha. These are the region outside of TAR.

The situation in Lhasa, the Capital City of Tibet, was even more tense. This tension was not noticeable until I began interacting with the local Tibetan communities, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without my faithful guide. Tibetans were desperate and frustrated to see that they are becoming second class citizens in their own country. The majority of Tibetan youths are illiterate or semi-literate. Except for Barkor Circuit Bazzar, major portion of the city was overtaken by the migrant Chinese. When I asked my guide why Tibetans didn’t take loans from the Government to start up businesses to compete with the Chinese settlers, he grumbled, “That’s easy for you to say, you live in a free country.” He took me to the new Lhasa Railway Station; it was an impressive structure that you would think any resident of Lhasa would be proud of. “This used to be residences and an agricultural field,” said my guide. “They were thrown out of here with a compensation of only twenty-eight thousand yuan. They’re now begging in the streets of Lhasa. The Chinese called this a development, but for us Tibetans it’s a nail in the coffin. The train brings over three thousand Han Chinese to Lhasa a week, and most of them will stay here for good, because of the Government subsidy.”

Beijing claims that Tibet is still over 90% Tibetan, but I don’t know anyone who has been there and come away with even the slightest inclination to believe those numbers. Again, this isn’t about the individual Han who move to minority regions- who can blame them for seeking a better way of life, especially when they may not be aware of what the Tibet problem really is? This is about a government which only speaks to minorities in the language of violence, and whose attempts to “integrate” these regions with China by way of massive Han settlement is aggravating the issues.

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Filed under ethnic conflict, exile, Tibet, torture

“Ai Weiwei hits out at treatment of friends and activists”

Ai Weiwei is going to get in trouble if he keeps this up, via The Guardian:

Ai Weiwei, the artist held for more than two months by Chinese authorities, has lashed out at the “torment” of friends entangled in his case and pressed the cases of detained activists.

“If you don’t speak for Wang Lihong, and don’t speak for Ran Yunfei, you are not just a person who will not stand out for fairness and justice; you do not have self-respect,” he tweeted today.

Wang is expected to face trial within weeks for “creating a disturbance” after demonstrating in support of bloggers accused of slander after writing about a suspicious death. Ran, a high profile blogger, was detained in March and later formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power”.

Ai’s Twitter messages are by far his strongest remarks since his release, and were written despite bail conditions placing him under tight restrictions for at least a year.

Four of Ai’s associates — his friend Wen Tao, designer Liu Zhenggang, accountant Hu Mingfen and driver and cousin Zhang Jinsong — were held for around two months, and released shortly after him.

“Today I met Liu Zhenggang. He talked about the detention for the first time … This steel-willed man had tears coming down … He had a sudden heart attack at the detention center and almost died,” Ai wrote in a tweet late on Monday night.

“For a while, we were detained at the same place. I heard another artist with beard had also come in, but didn’t expect that to be him.”

He added: “Because of the connection with me, they were illegally detained. Liu Zhenggang, Hu Mingfen, Wen Tao and Zhang Jinsong innocently suffered immense mental devastation and physical torment.”

Ai said he was not able to give interviews. But he confirmed to the Guardian that he had written the tweets, adding: “It was the first time after my release that I had met my colleague. I was so shocked when I saw him … He [had] a heart attack and his body was still not moving well. They treated him terribly and he almost died during his inhumane detention.”

“So many people were related to my case and were inhumanely treated for so long … How could society and the system do this kind of thing and use the name of justice?”

He said he was angry because he believed they had been ordered not to discuss their treatment with anyone.

Asked if he was worried about the repercussions of his tweets, he replied: “I am worried about everything. What am I going to do?”

He has said little about his own detention, beyond the remark that he had experienced “extreme conditions”.

“He’s still gagged. The fact he is tweeting doesn’t mean he is free to speak,” said Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“There is no basis in law that prevents Ai from talking about his detention. But law had little to do with his case in the first place.

But he warned: “When you are on bail, the risk of being rearrested is much higher than for ordinary dissidents.”

Now the authorities have to decide: is the annoyance of his twitter activity greater or lesser than the annoyance of another round of “China abducts artist” stories if they disappear him again?

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Filed under art, censorship, enforced disappearance, torture

“Survivor demands probe into Shaanxi detention center horrors”

More on the black jails, detention centers established to intercept petitioners and stop them from reaching government offices:

Xu Lingyong, the elder brother of the victim Xu Lingjun, said the center in Benggu county, which was called a “training class,” resorted to violence and starvation to force people detained not to petition the government over their various grievances.

Jinan Daily reported that the detention center was set up in May 2008 with staff from the Public Security Bureau, the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, the Bureau for Letters and Calls and the courts. The center uses “protective” measures to prevent the public from filing grievances against authorities, the report said.

Xu Lingyong, a 47-year-old disabled man who had served in the military, was in the center before he was sent to a hospital in April on account of illness. However, his brother Xu Lingjun was not so lucky and died after suffering from a prolonged period of hunger at the center.

Several “trainees” at the center said that they were not given meals or water for the first four days of their detention. Later, they were given two meals a day without water. Breakfast was a bun the size of a potato, combined with half a bowl of rice porridge or soy bean milk. Dinner was a bowl of noodles, with 21 noodles in the bowl at most. The detainees were locked all day in the center and lying down was forbidden; they were only allowed to stand or sit beside the bed.

“You feel acutely the sense of hunger every minute, every hour and every day there,” Xu Lingyong said.

Those detained suffered from blurred vision or loose teeth after long-term hunger and almost everyone suffered difficulty defecating because they were not properly fed.

The suspicious circumstance surrounding Xu’s sudden death drew the attention of county authorities.

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Filed under China, prison, torture

“China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work”

Going to college in China is pretty much like being in prison- and being in Chinese prison is pretty much like being in a CIA torture site (or an actual normal American prison, given how poor things are going there these days).  On the other hand, The Guardian writes about how prisoners are now being forced to…  play World of Warcraft?!  Bizarre:

“As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.”

I can’t wait for Thomas Friedman to write a book about how Chinese prison WoW labor is a global flattener.

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