Updated 2 January 2018. Two weeks after its launch in English, the Chinese language edition of The People’s Republic of the Disappeared was published for the first time today. The Chinese edition is available from this website in PDF and MOBI versions, for free, and also as paperback for U.S, U.K., Europe and more at Amazon.
The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, with a foreword by Dr. Teng Biao, provides a comprehensive and chilling portrait of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) through the first-person accounts of 11 of its victims.
The English language edition is aimed at a global readership and focused on raising attention about this grave and little understood human rights violation. The target audience of this new Chinese edition is Chinese citizens – human rights defenders, lawyers, activists, bloggers, and, most crucially, their families – to help them better understand and prepare for the possibility of themselves becoming victims.
In the two weeks since its English-language release, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared has garnered some impressive reviews and coverage. Here is a sample:
The New York Times called the stories in the book “rare in detail,” describing RSDL as “a widespread practice of whisking people into secret detention — ‘disappearing’ them into a labyrinth where China’s stunted legal protections can do little to prevent abuse.”
South China Morning Post reviews the book, saying “At just over 200 pages, the book can almost be finished in one sitting, but it would make for a very heavy session.”
Radio France International’s Spotlight ran an extensive interview with the book’s editor Michael Caster, who spoke about how the legalization of RSDL demonstrates China’s “chilling reliance on enforced disappearances.”
ABC radio interviewed The People’s Republic of the Disappeared editor, Michael Caster. He talked about the key victims of RSDL – front-line rights defenders in China, how they help others to defend their rights, and why they are so feared by the state.
QUARTZ focused on our chapter written by Wang Yu, covering the abuses she suffered under RSDL such as being forced to strip and taunting her about her son’s safety, and why she finally agreed to write about her terrible ordeal.
CNN ran a longer piece titled The Disappeared both on TV and in webprint, after a year’s work interviewing several of the people whose full accounts appear in the book.
Wang Yu, female, born 1971 in Inner Mongolia, is one of China’s most respected human rights lawyers. In the middle of the night, on 9 July 2015, Wang was abducted from her home in Beijing. Her sudden disappearance in the middle of the night sparked what would become the “709 Crackdown.”
It was 8 July 2015, shortly after 11pm. I had just said goodbye to my son [Bao Zhuoxuan], who was heading to Australia for study, and my husband [Bao Longjun [Chapter 11], who was accompanying him. Initially I had been planning to go with them to the airport, but since the flight was at midnight my husband worried about me returning home alone. We decided I would say goodbye at the house. After they had left, I called to ask them to call me after they passed immigration. I couldn’t control my sadness and cried on the phone. Even though I was trying to comfort my 16 year old son, I was the one choking. My husband couldn’t bear to hear our parting words and hung up. After the brief call I went upstairs to prepare for a trial the following day. Later, after having changed into my pajamas and gotten to bed, I still couldn’t stop thinking about Bao Zhuoxuan. I couldn’t fall asleep.
It was after one am and I still hadn’t received a call saying that they had passed immigration. I tried reaching them but neither of their phones connected. At first, I thought it was because they didn’t have signal, but I had called many times, up to and after their scheduled takeoff time, and it was the same. I was growing worried. I shared a message with some friends in a WeChat and Telegram group, hoping they could help with ideas. I called the airline, but couldn’t get through.
Without warning, the lights in my house were cut, along with the internet, and immediately I heard the sound of someone trying to force open the door.
Read the full excerpt of Wang Yu’s story from The People’s Republic of the Disappeared at ChinaChange.
You can read Wang Yu’s story, her husband’s and that of many other victims of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location in The People’s Republic of the Disappeared.
The 11 people who have shared their stories in this book have done so at considerable risk to themselves, many others have faced reprisals from the Chinese state for speaking out in the past. It has also been painful for them to relive the horrors of their experience. They have made this sacrifice because there is a real need to expose the grave human rights violation of China’s “legalized” system of enforced disappearances, or Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location. And also to empower the inevitable future victims.
These people are mothers and fathers, lawyers and activists, boyfriends and girlfriends. Real people with real lives who were taken by the Chinese state for their conviction in human rights.
The lawyer who campaigned against hated re-education camps
Tang Jitian (唐吉田) is one of China’s most well-known rights defense lawyers. He has taken on many politically sensitive cases including representing rights defenders and Falun Gong practitioners. He also campaigned to end the hated Re-education Through Labor system. In 2010, the government revoked Tang’s lawyer’s license, a common way to attack rights lawyers, but he continues to fight for human rights in China.
The wife, the husband, and the man who tried to save their son
Wang Yu (王宇) is one of China’s most respected human rights lawyers. Her most high-profile cases include defending Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2014 as punishment for encouraging ethnic unity. Wang’s courageous rights defense work has won her several international human rights awards and nominations.
Bao Longjun (包龙军) is a long-time legal rights activist; he worked for the Feng Rui Law firm in Beijing with his wife, the rights lawyer Wang Yu (see above). Bao was seized at Beijing airport with his teenage son before they could board a plane to Australia, where his son was planning to attend school in the summer of 2015. That same night, security agents raided his Beijing home and abducted his wife.
Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) was inspired to get involved in civil rights activism after facing (and stopping) the illegal demolition of his own home. Since them, Tang has helped other victims of forced evictions on how to better protect their rights. Police seized Tang and barefoot lawyer Xing Qingxian in Myanmar as they were helping Bao Zhuoxuan, the teenaged son of detained rights lawyer Wang Yu and Bao Longjun leave the country.
The lawyer who lost his wife to the police
Liu Shuhui (刘士辉) is a lawyer and long-time human rights defender. The authorities have barred him from renewing his lawyer’s license since 2010 because of his rights defense work. In 2011, Liu was placed under Residential Surveillance amid calls for a “Jasmine Revolution” in China, when they deported his Vietnam-born wife. He was also disappeared during the 2015 “709 Crackdown.”
The lawyer who defends rights defenders
Chen Zhixiu (not his real name) (陈志修) is a human rights lawyer who has represented some of China’s most marginalized citizens. Along with investigating human rights violations and acting as legal counsel for rights defenders at risk, he has also researched and taught others in more effective ways to use the law in China.
The Swedish rights activist and his girlfriend
Peter Dahlin is a Swedish human rights activist and co-founder of China Action, an NGO that provided legal and financial assistance to rights defenders at risk. Security agents detained Dahlin in early January 2016 and placed him under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location in a secret custom-built facility in the outskirts of Beijing. After being made to appear in a nationally-televised forced confession, Dahlin was deported and banned from re-entering China.
Pan Jinling’s (潘锦玲) only connection with human rights works was her relationship with her boyfriend, Peter Dahlin. Even so, security agents abducted her at night from her home and placed her under Residential Surveillance, where she was interrogated and held in solitary confinement for 23 days until the authorities deported her boyfriend.
The lawyer who was tortured until he thought he would die in detention
Xie Yang (谢阳) is a prominent rights defense lawyer; he has represented members of the civil rights group New Citizens’ Movement as well as persecuted Christians and victims of illegal land grabs. In 2015, the authorities targeted Xie in the “709 Crackdown” against lawyers and activists. Stories of Xie’s horrific torture while under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location hit global headlines in 2016.
The petitioner who helps others seek justice
Jiang Xiaoyu (not his real name) (江孝宇) got involved with rights work in the early 2000s when he himself was a petitioner. Because he could speak fluent English, he started helping Chinese human rights defenders communicate with foreign journalists and diplomats. Security agents seized Jiang in 2016 and starved and beat him for a weekend in an underground prison in the outskirts of Beijing.
The human rights lawyer who won’t give up
Lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青) is well known for his work defending other rights activists, including fellow human rights lawyer Guo Feixiong. The authorities have subjected Sui to repeated attacks, including fines and beatings, because of his work on politically sensitive cases. He was also swept up in the “709 Crackdown” in the summer of 2015 and placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location. Even after he was released in 2016, unlike some other other victims of RSDL, Sui has continued taking on human rights cases.
14 November 2017 – Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) is China’s attempt to mask its systematic use of enforced disappearances of human rights defenders behind the veneer of the rule of law. Under RSDL, the state can take anyone, deny them access to a lawyer, and refuse the outside world any information about their fate or whereabouts for up to six months. The state Prosecutor is even denied the right to visit the victim or provide oversight against maltreatment. Torture is common. There is no legal review or appeal. Once inside RSDL, you simply disappear.
“You are now under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location.
Your only right is to obey.”
from Chapter 7, Xie Yang
The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, with a foreword by Dr. Teng Biao, provides a comprehensive and chilling portrait of RSDL through the first-person accounts of 11 of its victims. Wang Yu, the renowned rights defense lawyer, kidnapped in the middle of the night, speaks for the first time about her six month’s of disappearance. Tang Zhishun, taken in Myanmar and illegally brought back to China, laughs at the absurdity of being charged with subversion. One author recounts being forced to sing the national anthem naked in his cell, while another tells how the police threatened him with permanent disappearance.
Through these 11 stories, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared charts the common experiences of abuse inside RSDL, from prolonged solitary confinement, extended sleep and food deprivation, and beatings, to the use of threats against loved ones. It portrays a system designed with one intention: to break you. The book concludes with a comprehensive analysis of relevant domestic Chinese and international law.
China’s normalization of enforced disappearances is a direct challenge to the international human rights system. The world’s media have so far effectively ignored RSDL, and in China itself even many rights defenders remain uncertain about what it really is. This book will change that.
“Direct and compelling, these first-person accounts give us a sense of the terrors…”
Eva Pils, King’s College London
“…the most comprehensive collective portrait to date”
Terence Halliday, American Bar Foundation