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