Kou Yanding: You must get our approval for everything

Kou Yanding, born in 1965, is a freelance writer, independent documentary filmmaker, and a frontline NGO activist. In 1996, Kou Yanding was fired from her job at a state-owned company after she reported the director for forging invoices. After this, she started working with and running  many different NGOs.  In October 2014, perhaps because of connections with Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, the Chinese authorities detained Kou on suspicions of  “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” And thus began her 128 days under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL). She was released on bail on 14 February 2015.  A year and a half later she published her experiences in a book — How is an Enemy Made? – Chinese Who Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent.

RSDLMonitor has selected and translated into English two short extracts and from this lengthy book which provide insights into what life is like under RSDL. The first section gives examples of some of the rules and regulations that permeate every aspect of the victim’s life. The second section describes how Kou needed to get the approval of her guards for everything – even to tear off a piece of toilet paper in the bathroom.


Attached: The regulations

“Regulations on management of the detainee

1. The supervised individual must obey the guards.

2. The supervised individual must address the officer on duty as team leader.

3. In the event of any issue, the supervised individual must raise their hand or report and only proceed after permission has been given.

4. The supervised individual must strictly observe the daily schedule.

5. The supervised individual must wear the clothes issued.

6. All facilities must be kept neat and tidy.

7.     The supervised individual is strictly prohibited from talking with the officers on duty.

8.    After the supervised individual has finished writing, the papers must be turned over and placed on the table.

9.   During sleep, the supervised individual must place their hands outside the blanket, the blanket must always stay below the neck line.

10. When a staff member enters the room, the supervised individual must not look around.

11. The supervised individual may not open the curtains.

12. When the supervised individual is walking indoors, they must walk at a slow pace and keep a fixed distance between themselves and the windows and the walls.


Additional notices will be issued in the event of special circumstances.


Daily schedule

Time              Activity

7:00 →  Get out of bed

7:30 – 8:00 → Breakfast

8:00 – 11:30 → Stand, sit, and study

11: 30-12: 30 → Lunch

12: 30-13: 00 → Walk

13: 00-14: 00 → Rest

14: 00-17: 30 → Stand, sit, and study

17: 30-18: 30 → Dinner

18: 30-22: 00 → Stand, sit, and study

22: 00-22: 30 → Wash

22:30 → Sleep



You must get our approval for everything


“You must get our approval for everything.” This sentence is forced out from between her teeth; and is heavily accented.

It is night-time, I am cleaning up before bed. I am following their random instructions, standing by the basin splashing water on my feet, and drying them off with my socks. Then I start to wash my socks.

“Did you report to us you wanted to wash your socks?”  Every time I wash my feet I would wash my socks afterwards. (Note: Refer to “Regulations on management of the detainee”, Article 3, for more information on ‘reporting’, in the previous chapter)

“You must get our approval for everything.”  — Fine. Reporting! May I wash my socks?

“No!” – As she spoke, “Gollum Hanna” deliberately thrusts her face close to mine, gnashes her teeth and laughs. What I most remember to this day is not that pair of socks that went unwashed, but that face — that ugly face.

If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would never have believed that a young girl’s face could be so ugly. Her facial features were all in their right places, but that face she thrust into mine was exaggeratedly grotesque, just like the guide, Gollum in the Lord of the Rings. Her face was deformed, it had been twisted by malice, twisted by absolute power.

I had heard the phrase, “absolute power corrupts absolutely” but it wasn’t until then that I began to understand that absolute power also uglifies absolutely — I called this guard “Gollum Hanna”.

I called all the guards “Hanna” from the character Hanna, the female Nazi in the book The Reader. The Hanna I am talking about here is the young strapping Hanna when she is an illiterate guard in Auschwitz, not the middle-aged conductor Hanna of 20 years later, who is intoxicated as her young lover reads to her, and definitely not the prisoner Hanna of 20 years further on,  who has learned to read and has reflected on her Nazi past.

I was overseen by dozens of guards in this place and the vast majority were indistinguishable from each other. I would add a suitable prefix to the Hanna name for those who made some special impression on me.

Such as “Exploding fingers Hanna”. She loved to grip one hand in the other and make a series of pops as she cracked her knuckles. I guessed she must be some badass Kung Fu girl.

Such as, “Squat toilet Hanna.”

“Reporting! I’m going to the bathroom.” — No, you cannot.

“Reporting! I’m going to the bathroom; I can’t hold it any longer.” – No, you cannot. The toilet is being fixed.

After I was finally allowed to go to the toilet, more and more rules came thick and fast. “According to the regulations you have a maximum two minutes to go to the toilet.” The three Hannas laughed and exchanged looks with each other in the bathroom, which was ringed with security cameras. “Squat toilet Hanna”, the who had announced the new regulation, laughed with extra abandon.

The Hannas would amuse themselves with me by breaking down everything I did without limit. After I had reported I was going to the toilet, I needed to report before I tore off a piece of toilet paper… until in the end the only things I didn’t have to report first were things I had no control of, such as farting and burping. Even farting was almost included in the list of things I had to report. When they ordered me to report before I farted, one of the other guards – “Farting Hanna” immediately put a stop to that and broke out in uncontrollable laughter.

In this hell, the “Regulations on management of the detainee” was the “law”. The very first regulation – “The supervised individual must obey the guards” – meant “You must get our approval for everything.”

Even though “standing” and “walking” were written in the schedule, if one of the Hannas said I couldn’t walk, then I couldn’t walk. If one of the Hannas said I couldn’t stand, then I had to sit on the floor. The same group of people had the power to make rules as those who had the power to interpret them.

You can file a complaint, but it will never work; they made the rules and they also had the power of arbitration and enforcement. If you do not want to give them any more joy or opportunities for them to humiliate you,  then you can only swallow your frustration.

Of course, I was very clear about the fact that the relevant departments wanted to train me to become an enemy of the state – they needed this kind of enemy and they needed to use me to make up a story to capture the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.

But I was also very clear about the fact that the Three Represents, their leaders, or their leaders’ leaders had no intention nor were willing to turn me into a “dissident” —— a real enemy.

But in the hands of the Hannas, in this hell-like place, there is an indomitable force that creates hostility and hatred. It turns people into enemies of the state.

It seems as if people manufacture enemies, but in fact, it is the system — the system already possesses a kind of indomitable energy that can manufacture enemies.

It is power that has given the system such a fearsome energy at making enemies —  the absolute power that together is the power to make laws, to hand out justice, to enforce laws, and to arbitrate.


Gui Minhai by his friends and family


Gui Minhai second kidnapping

Gui Minhai – the Swedish man now held in secret detention for the second time in China — is usually referred to as a bookseller or a publisher. But Gui is also a father and a friend; a poet and a writer; and a scholar and a businessman. RSDLMonitor has tried to capture the man behind the headlines. The man who remains disappeared by the Chinese state, the man forced to appear in three forced televised confessions and the man who his daughter fears she will never see again.

The photo above shows Gui Minhai giving his third forced confession to pro-Beijing media from a screenshot on the Oriental Daily’s website.


Brief bio

Gui Minhai was an undergraduate student at China’s prestigious Beijing University when he first met poet Bei Ling in the mid-1980s and they bonded over poetry. After he graduated, Gui worked for a government publishing house in Beijing; his interest in Sweden was sparked when he met Magnus Fiskesjö who was working at the Swedish embassy in the Chinese capital. Gui moved to Sweden to study for a master’s and then PhD at Gothenburg University. He settled in Sweden, became a Swedish citizen, got married and had a daughter, Angela Gui . Years later, Gui opened a green tech company in China, and then later moved to Hong Kong where he became a board member of free speech NGO, the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (with Bei Ling), worked for a publishing house, and then opened his own publishing company where he worked with bookshop manager Lam Wing-kee, producing salacious titles on China’s political elite. He was kidnapped from his home in Thailand in October 2015. He has not been truly free since.


Gui Minhai, my father and my friend: Angela Gui, daughter

What was your relationship with your father like?

“[It’s] always been very laid back and friendly. We’ve been able to talk about most things. He’s been able to talk to me about personal things and I’ve been able to talk to him about things in my life as well. So that’s something I’ve always appreciated very much about our relationship — that he was more like a friend as I grew older than a father.”


Why did your father want to leave China for Sweden in the 1980s?

“I know that he wanted to study outside China – to see something different. …Many of his friends at the time were interested in the western influences that were being let in at that time so I suppose he wanted to see this kind of new world, in a way for himself… I think he was happy [in Sweden]. He always tells me about the blue skies and the crisp fresh air in Sweden compared with Beijing.”


Was he worried about his safety before he was kidnapped by the Chinese state in 2015?

“Even though we had quite a friendly relationship he was still my father, so he probably wanted to protect me in a sense and didn’t want me to worry. I understand he must have had threats before he was taken but this was never anything that he would mention to me. I did ask him a few times whether he thought that what he was doing was safe and were there any risks and he would say: ‘I’m a Swedish citizen. What I’m doing is completely legal in Hong Kong, so there’s no way in which anything I could be doing could land me in trouble.’ … I think he was a bit cautious, but I don’t think he ever anticipated anything as dramatic as that would happen.

“I’m afraid we’re at a point where intervention might be too late. I really wish that the international community would have taken a bigger interest and made clearer public statements at the beginning because I think it’s at a point now where the Chinese government — or whatever part of the Chinese government it is that is holding my Dad — has had plenty of time to construct a case against him. I think that especially after this latest incident [Gui Minhai’s second kidnapping on the train to Beijing] I’m afraid … it might be too late now.”


‘I’m a Swedish citizen. What I’m doing is completely legal in Hong Kong, so there’s no way in which anything I could be doing could land me in trouble.’


What are your strongest memories of your father?

“[My Dad and I] used to watch drama and action films together. Because they were kind of ridiculous, we used to laugh at them and incorporate the very dramatic dialogue and turns of phrase from these films into our everyday language. It was kind of an inside joke. The last one we saw was The Planet of the Apes. There’s this bonobo male, he was evil and he overthrew the chimpanzee leader and he says something like ‘Apes Follow Koba now’ because his name is Koba and that’s something we used to say to each other. It’s one of the particularities of a relationship between two people… It’s something that I would like to have …. [again].”



Gui Minhai the poet and free speech advocate: Bei Ling, Chinese exiled poet


How did you and Gui Minhai meet each other?

“We met each other around 1984 when he was a university student at Beijing University. He just knocked on my door…He was very simple, and very young and a little shy… he wanted to show me some of his poems. We became very good friends, He always followed me to underground [writers’] salons; I introduced him to [lots of people, such as embassy staff, painters, writers and poets].


“We probably left China at the same time – I went to the US and he went to Sweden. He was working for some official publishing house. After he left China and I left China we didn’t meet each other until 2004 in Hong Kong. We lost connection, so many things were happening.”


Cover of self-published poetry journal, Dalu (Continent) by the underground poetry circle in Beijing in the 1980s.

Cover of Dalu (Continent), an underground poetry journal from the 1980s with a copy of one of Gui Minhai’s early poems titled “Longing for Greece”, credit: Meng Lang (孟浪).


Can you tell us a bit about how you were reunited in Hong Kong in 2004?

“It was very emotional. He had totally changed. He was no longer shy and his whole body was bigger… Then we became good friends again, we always saw each other. I got a chance to visit his family in Germany. We saw each other in Hong Kong, I invited him to a literature congress in Taipei, and we saw each other at the Frankfurt Book Fair…


“He cared about freedom of expression – especially in 2009. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, he supported me, in the same panel. But I do not know how involved he was with democracy but I think because he was a publisher, he cared about freedom of expression.”


Why do you think he began publishing books about China?

“I think he got into publishing because he used to work for an official publishing house in Beijing as an editor… He had the experience, the training and the personal interest. He wanted to publish some politically sensitive books so [that’s probably why he wanted to open his own publishers]…


“Before, he wrote scholarly works, then he wrote literature essays, later some publishing house asked him to write some politically sensitive books, about China. He was a very ‘eager’ person – he wanted to be number one… Later he wanted to publish books himself. The older publishers were very unhappy, and there was so much fighting. So many stories. If you want to know about him you have to spend several months interviewing lots of people in Hong Kong.”


What kinds of things did you do together?

“He liked smoking, a little bit of drinking. We talked about publishing, political things, about the PEN Centre case and about Liu Xiaobo in jail and his Nobel Prize and underground literature…


“He’s not a strong guy but he’s a smart guy. He knows how to play games with the government. .. He’s a very smart writer…”


“[The only way to free Gui now] is not only one country, internationally – everyone – civil society, the German government, the US government, [everyone must call for Gui’s release].” Bei Ling



Was he worried about his safety before he was kidnapped by the Chinese state in 2015?

“Gui did not realise that he could get into trouble in Thailand – he may have thought it would be sensitive in Hong Kong, but he never thought that he would have trouble in Thailand. If he knew this he probably would not have got in that car with those people [the Chinese agents who drove him away from outside his Thai apartment.]”


How can the international community help Gui Minhai now?

“It will be very difficult for him to leave China because the government doesn’t want him to say what happened to him [when they kidnapped him in Thailand in October 2015]. I’m very sure the Swedish government know these details now and that is why China is very unhappy [with Gui].

“[The only way to free Gui now] is not only one country, internationally – everyone – civil society, the German government, the US government, [everyone must call for Gui’s release].”


Gui Minhai, friend and writer on Nordic mythology: Magnus Fiskesjö, scholar at Cornell University


How did you and Gui Minhai meet each other?

“I remember first meeting Gui Minhai in the mid-1980s, in Beijing, where he was a member of the new generation of poets and artists who were writing poetry and holding poetry readings. I knew him by the name Ahai, the pen-name he used. I remember him as a very cheerful and fun person. It’s been many years since that time, so I don’t remember every detail, but later I helped him apply to go to Sweden to study, and he completed a Master’s degree at Gothenburg University, with a thesis that was later published in English in Copenhagen (NIAS, Nordic Institute for Asian Studies, 1992) [on] Chinese Marxist historiography…”


When he lived in Sweden what kind of books did Gui Minhai write?

“He was very interested in Sweden and Scandinavian culture, and he also wrote very interestingly about Scandinavia for Chinese audiences, including a book on Scandinavian mythology published in Chinese on the Chinese mainland.”


When was the last time you saw him?

“We sometimes corresponded, but later, over the years, I had infrequent and occasional contact with Gui. When I visited Hong Kong in 2012, we had a fun reunion with him and several other friends… I don’t remember many details from that dinner. [But] I do remember that we both had put on weight! He was still his jovial, fun, old self.”


Gui Minhai, the smart businessman: Lam Wing-kee, colleague and Hong Kong bookseller


Lam Wing-kee gives a press conference in June 2016 about his kidnapping and time in Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location in China. Credit: screenshot from HKFP.

How did you and Gui Minhai meet each other?

“I first met Gui more than ten years ago; he came to my store with some friends and came back several times. He established Mighty Current publisher  around 2003 and as well as writing books himself, he paid friends from mainland China and North America to write for him.”


What kind of books did Gui Minhai write?

“If you want to understand Mr. Gui you need to understand his past. I heard that he graduated from Beijing University and was writing poems early on…  and then he  got into business…


“He published nearly a thousand books after launching his publishing house.. He struck me as a smart businessman, nothing more.”


Why do you think Gui was singled out for the harshest treatment in the Hong Kong Booksellers case.

“I believe it is related to Gui’s attempt to publish a book on Xi Jinping’s love life. This book included a copy of a ‘self-criticism’ Xi is [alleged] to have written while he was a governor of Fujian province for the Central government. You can say, that this book caused this bookshop incident; and all of us became funerary objects.


“[After more than] two years being disappeared, Gui’s endurance must be stronger than mine. At least he is originally from the mainland and so more familiar with the situation and system there…


“You can say, that this book caused this bookshop incident; and all of us became funerary objects.”


“I heard Cheung Jiping and Lui Bor [two other Hong Kong booksellers who were abducted in 2015] can’t come back to Hong Kong, but they are free to move around and work on the mainland. Lee Bo [the third bookseller] is free to come and go but not to talk to media.


“I think that it will be harder for Gui to leave the country [now] unless more western countries and human rights NGOs call for his release.”


Final word:

Since Gui Minhai’s second kidnapping in January in front of two Swedish consular officials and his third staged confession on 9 February there has been no news of his fate. He remains in custody — presumably at the Ningbo Detention  Centre.  Chinese authorities say he is being held on suspicion of leaking state secrets. Sweden continues to ask for access to see him.

RSDL round-up for January

This is a monthly round-up of all news related to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) in China. It includes updates on victims, legal developments and commentary on China’s legalized practice of “Enforced Disappearances.”


Yu Wensheng in RSDL

The second kidnapping of Gui Minhai

Wu Gan appeals sentence

In profile — Zhen Jianghua and Wang Quanzhang

Travel – Wang Yu’s son and Lee Ming-che’s wife

The National Supervision Commissions are coming

Lawyers lose licenses – Sui Muqing and Yu Wensheng


Yu Wensheng in RSDL

We start with one of the biggest RSDL stories in January, the detention and then subsequent disappearance of rights lawyer Yu Wensheng into RSDL. Following his detention on 19 January on charges of  disturbing public service when he was walking his son to  school in Beijing, Lawyer Yu was then placed into RSDL under the control of a PSB branch on the eastern coast of the country, Tongshan District in Jiangsu Province on the much more serious charges of inciting state subversion. Hours before his initial arrest, Yu had published online a call for constitutional reform. The transfer of his case to the other side of the country is a common tactic used by the authorities to limit the support a victim of RSDL can get from family and friends far away (in this case Yu’s support base is Beijing).


The second kidnapping of Gui Minhai

The other big story of the month was the second disappearance of Swedish publisher Gui Minhai on January 20 in front of two Swedish consular officials as they were travelling by train to Beijing. Gui was supposed to be seeing a doctor at the Swedish embassy after he had been diagnosed with signs of ALS (a debilitating neurological disease) but police boarded the train and took Gui away. No official news about this case has so far been released. Gui was originally kidnapped by Chinese security agents from his home in Thailand, kept in RSDL and other forms of detention until October 2017 when he was released under intense surveillance to an apartment in Ningbo. On his blog, Jerome Cohen, writes that this bizarre arrest may be a sign of a struggle between various power bases.


“What may have happened is that the local security police in Ningbo may have approved Gui’s trip to Beijing for medical reasons… but the central authorities… may have panicked at the possibility that Gui might seek embassy asylum… There may also have been, and still might be, a struggle between the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security concerning jurisdiction over Gui.”


Meanwhile, at the end of the month, Gui was awarded the IPA Prix Voltaire for his “bravery in continuing to publish despite the risks involved.”


Wu Gan appeals sentence

At the end of December last year, outspoken human rights activist, Wu Gan, was sentenced to eight years for subversion, the harshest sentence of all the victims of the 709 Crackdown that have so far been brought to trial. On 8 January, his lawyers submitted an appeal arguing for his release on the grounds that his speeches and writings fall “within his civil rights” and that thinking about subverting the state is not a crime. An English translation of that appeal was published by China Change. In an opinion piece in the Financial Times, Jamil Anderlini argued that in singling out Wu with this especially severe sentence, the Chinese Communist Party has “legitimised him and his work in a way nothing else could have.”


In profile — Zhen Jianghua and Wang Quanzhang

Two victims of RSDL were profiled on the China Change website this month. The first, Zhen Jianghua, was placed into RSDL last December; the only notification of this transfer was a phone call to his lawyer. This news wasn’t widely reported at the time. Zhen, who is in his early 30s, ran a human rights NGO in Guangdong Province. He had long expected to be detained and made preparations:


“For several years, he only wore black: two sets of black t-shirts, two pairs of black shoes. Every night before bed, he did 50 push-ups, 50 squats, and 50 chin-ups… He also signed multiple blank copies of Power of Attorney, and gave them to friends. His Google account was set to automatically purge everything if he didn’t log in for two days.”


As the days go by – well over 920 now – since lawyer Wang Quanzhang disappeared back in 2015, China Change published a profile of Wang, pointing out he is the last remaining lawyer from the 709 Crackdown. Family members, friends and lawyers were unable to meet with him or deposit money for Wang to buy food at the First Detention Centre in Tianjin, where he is officially being detained.



“That Wang Quanzhang must have suffered the worst for refusing to yield is the consensus shared by the human rights community. Some fear that he may have been so physically debilitated that the authorities are now hiding him. Some worry that he’s already dead.”



Travel – Wang Yu’s son and Lee Ming-che’s wife

Some good news, Bao Zhuoxuan, the son of human rights lawyer Wang Yu, has finally been allowed to go to Australia for study almost three years after his first attempt. Bao first tried to go to Australia for school in July 2015, when his parents were both caught up in the 709 Crackdown. However, the wife of Taiwanese NGO worker Lee Ming-che serving a five-year sentence for subversion was stopped from boarding her flight to China to see him on the grounds she did not have valid travel documents. China cancelled her permit last year.


The National Supervision Commissions are coming

There has been a flurry of commentary about China’s proposed National Supervision Commissions (NSC) – an all-powerful anti-corruption system that is likely to broaden and further systematize RSDL for corruption suspects. On ChinaFile, Stanley Lubman writes if the law is passed to establish the NSCs, which could be as early as this March, it would give “the Party new powers to punish Chinese citizens outside the formal legal system.” The Commissions would not even have to abide by the Criminal Procedure Law.  On February 1, The Diplomat suggests the NSCs are a done deal, since provincial level directors have already been appointed.


“According to the draft law, the NSC will be placed above the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate. Not even the State Council will be able to supervise the NSC.”


Lawyers lose licenses – Sui Muqing and Yu Wensheng

Three rights lawyers lost their licenses this month. First, Yu Wensheng –before his detention (see above) — received a letter on 15 January saying his license had been revoked because he had not been employed by a legal firm for six months (he had been denied permission to set up his own legal firm earlier). Ten days later, Sui Muqing, who is the author of one of the first-person accounts of RSDL in our book The People’s Republic of the Disappeared also said he had been notified that his license had been revoked. Sui said he is clearly being punished for taking human rights interest cases. Revoking licenses has long been a tactic of the Party to neutralize human rights lawyers. Also in January, China Change provided a wrap-up of more than half a dozen rights lawyers who have been targeted in this way in the past few months.

Submission to UN group on Enforced Disappearances on Yu Wensheng

On 1 February 2018, RSDLMonitor submitted a communication to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)’s Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Chinese lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生). An edited version of this communication can be found below.


On Yu Wensheng: Yu (male) was born in Beijing, China. He passed the bar exam in 1999, and has been practicing law in Beijing since 2002. Yu rose to prominence within the rights defense community for representing politically sensitive cases, assisting other persecuted lawyers, and for his high-profile advocacy for political reform.

On his disappearance: Yu was detained by Beijing police on 19 January 2018. By 24 January, Beijing police claimed his case had been transferred to another branch, but refused to say which. On 27 January, his wife was shown a document stating that Yu had been placed under ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ under Tongshan PSB, Xuzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

On current situation: Yu stands accused of ‘inciting subversion of state power’, a crime under the category of ‘endangering state security’. This means the police have the right to conceal his whereabouts, deny access to family and legal counsel, and to keep him  incommunicado. He can legally be kept in RSDL for six months, and will likely be held in solitary confinement. No court approval is needed for RSDL.

Of concern. Based on information from prior victims of RSDL, especially within the rights defense community, and those accused of ‘endangering state security’, it is very likely that Yu will be kept in prolonged solitary confinement, be kept incommunicado, be denied oversight and supervision by the prosecutors office, and that he will face physical and mental torture.


Edited for brevity and clarity for general readership





(a) * Family name(s): Yu (余)

(b) Given names(s): Wensheng (文生)

(d) Sex: male

(e) Occupation/profession: Lawyer

ID information removed.

(g) Date of birth: 1967-11-11

(h) Place and country of birth: Beijing, China

(k) Nationality or nationalities: Chinese



(a) * Date of arrest, abduction or disappearance 

  •  Detention January 19 (2018), 06.30am.
  • Disappearance Jan 24-28 (2018), exact date, time unknown.


(b) * Place of arrest, abduction or where the disappearance occurred


Detention. Yu was detained by Beijing City, Shijingshan District, Public Security Bureau, i.e., Police (PSB) along with a SWAT team on the parking lot next to Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing at roughly 06.30am, January 19 (2018). At the time, he was walking his 13-year-old son to school. Yu was taken to Shijingshan District Police Station and charged with “disrupting public service”.


Disappearance. Police at Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) holding Yu told lawyers on January 24, and again on January 25 and 26, that his case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control. They refused to provide any other information.


On the evening of January 27, Beijing PSB accompanied by the Tongshan District PSB, Xuzhou City in Jiangsu Province, searched Yu’s home between 9pm and 1am the next morning. Xu Yan (许艳), Yu’s wife, was present. During the search on the house, Tongshan District PSB gave Xu a document stating Yu had been placed under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) under their authority, and his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” (Article 105 of China’s Criminal Code), which is categorized as a crime of endangering national security. This document did not indicate where Yu was being held and neither was Xu told, then or since.


— Note on RSDL

‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location’ is a compulsory measure police can take against a suspect that does not require court approval (Article 72 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law or CPL) and takes place outside of a detention center or case-handling area. The suspect can be kept under RSDL for up to six months.


The police may refuse the person access to legal counsel (Article 37, Paragraph 3 of the CPL) and they may also refuse to notify the family of the whereabouts of the person (Article 83 of the CPL) if the charges against them fall under the category of endangering national security.


The legal requirement on RSDL oversight stipulated in the Provisions on People’s Procuratorates’ Oversight of Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location, only states (Article 17) that the procuratorate may conduct visits to supervise the use of RSDL on the suspect and speak with the suspect and that such supervision should not impede the investigation (Article 19). Police have the authority to determine whether such supervision would impede the investigation.


If these exceptions of endangering national security are invoked, the family of someone being held under RSDL will not be notified of their location nor will the suspect have access to a lawyer for the entire duration of RSDL. Furthermore, there will be no oversight from the procuratorate. Based on the prior use of RSDL, this means the detainee will be held in solitary confinement and may also be subjected to physical and mental torture during this period.

Further actions relevant to the case.


The same day as Yu’s detention (January 19), Shijingshan District PSB searched both Yu’s home and his office where they confiscated computers, documents, and cell phones.


On January 27, police again raided Yu’s family home. At around 9pm that day, the electricity to the house was cut. When Xu Yan (Yu’s wife) and their son went outside to check, the police (officers from both Shijingshan and Tongshan Districts PSBs) stormed the apartment. They confiscated their mobile phones and spent the next four hours searching the house and confiscating other materials until 1am the next morning (January 28). In violation of Article 138 of the CPL, they did not ask Xu to sign a record of the search. Furthermore, they did not provide Xu with a list of all materials confiscated for inspection and signature, nor give her a copy of such a list, in violation of Article 140 of the CPL.


During the search, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) officers gave Xu a notice stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL. The notice also said his charge had been changed to “inciting subversion of state power” and that he was now under the jurisdiction of Tongshan District PSB.


At the end of the search, Shijingshan District PSB also summoned Xu related to charges of “inciting subversion of state power”.  She was taken to Guang Ning Police Station, Shijingshan District, Beijing, where she was interrogated overnight and again in the morning the next day.


Around 2pm that day, January 28, police took Xu home and again searched the house. This time they collected a number of Yu’s files related to religious cases as well official United Nations materials. At that point, Xu was released, but in violation of Article 84 of the CPL, Xu was neither shown nor given a release notice.


Note: Although the document stating that Yu had been placed under RSDL was dated January 27, 2018, police at the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) said on January 24, 2018 that Yu’s case had been transferred to another organ, and thus Yu was no longer under their control.


(c) * Date  when  the  person  was  last  seen


Around 0630am, January 19, 2018 (his 13-year-old son, witnessed his father being detained by police on Gusheng Road, Shijingshan District, Beijing City).


Yu’s last known whereabouts, according to the detention warrant, was Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所).


(d) * Place where the person was last seen


Same as answer to 2(c) above.


(e) Please, provide a full description of how the disappearance took place 


Around 20 police officers from Beijing Shijingshan District PSB, and members of a SWAT team, surprised and surrounded Yu and his son, at around 0630am on January 19, 2018 as he was walking his son to school.


A physical encounter between Yu and the police officers then ensued. Yu was placed into a vehicle and driven off. The son rushed home to their apartment to tell his mother what had happened.


(f) * State or State-supported forces believed to be responsible for the disappearance.


Official documents state that Yu Wensheng’s initial detention was carried out by the Beijing City, Shijingshan District PSB. His subsequent transfer to RSDL was under the authority of Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) in Jiangsu Province. This was likely only possible with approval and coordination by a higher-level police authority. Yu’s case has no direct connection with Xuzhou, and the reason for this transfer is also likely because the police want his case to be handled far from Beijing, where Yu was born and has been living and working, and thus has a support network. 

The disappearance of Yu Wensheng stands in violation of numerous counts of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance


By refusing to acknowledge the whereabouts of Yu after placement in RSDL, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) stands in violation of Article 2. By refusing to state to which organ Yu has been transferred to Beijing Shijingshan PSB also stand in violation of the same Article.


The denial of his whereabouts per definition makes his detention secret, in direct violation of Article 17, Paragraph 1.


Lawyers and his family have been denied the right to communicate with Yu in any form, in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 2, Subsections D, E and F.


By concealing Yu’s current whereabouts, Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) are in violation of Article 17, Paragraph 3, Subsection E, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection H. Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) is also in violation of Article 18, Paragraph 1, Subsection B, while Beijing Shijingshan PSB is in violation of Subsection D.


(g) If identification as State agents is not possible, please indicate why you believe that Government authorities, or persons linked to them, may be responsible for the incident.


Official documents and his son’s testimony are evidence that Yu Wensheng is under the custody of Chinese police.

  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB was the authority for Yu’s initial detention.
  • Beijing Shijingshan PSB and Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City) raided Yu’s home and office.
  • The notice on Yu’s RSDL placement is from Tongshan District PSB (Xuzhou City).


(h) If there are witnesses to the incident, please provide their names and relation to the victim. If they wish to remain anonymous, indicate if they are relatives, by-standers, or others. If there is evidence, please specify.


Yu’s son, witnessed the initial detention on January 19, 2018. Police showed his wife, Xu Yan, her husband’s detention warrant on January 20 and later the document stating he had been transferred into RSDL on January 27.


 (i) Additional Information on the case. Please indicate any other relevant information that could be useful to find the person.


About Yu Wensheng: Yu is one of China’s most well-known lawyers. He passed the bar exam in 1999 and has been working as a lawyer since 2002. Yu was detained twice before, in 2014 and 2015. He attempted to file a lawsuit against Beijing PSB for the torture he endured during his 99-day detention in 2014.


In mid-2017, Yu’s application to renew his lawyer license was rejected after he tried to represent fellow lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who disappeared in July 2015. On January 12, 2018, his application to set up a new law firm was rejected, because he had publicly expressed opposition to leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.


On January 15, 2018, his lawyer license was revoked, on the grounds that he had not been employed by a law firm for six months (note: in China, you cannot be employed as a lawyer by a law firm without a valid lawyer license).


On January 18, 2018, the day before his detention, he posted an open letter online calling for political reform.




* Indicate any action taken taken by the relatives or others to locate the person. You are required to state the following: when, by whom, and before which organ the actions were taken.


(a) Complaints

Between January 19 and January 26, seven (7) different lawyers, several of whom have written powers of attorney to represent Yu, visited the Shijingshan District Detention Center (石景山区看守所) for a total of nine (9) times. All were denied access to Yu either because the detention center was closed or that the visit had not been given prior approval. On January 24 (and again on January 25 and January 26) the center said his case had been transferred to another organ.


(b) Other steps taken

Xu Yan, Yu Wensheng’s wife, visited Shijingshan District Detention Center several times, requesting permission to see her husband and to deposit funds for his use inside the detention center. Both requests were denied.