Early use of Forced TV Confessions against the New Citizens Movement

Through Safeguard Defenders (RSDLmonitor’s parent organization) release of Scripted and Staged (EN and CN versions here), on China’s use of Forced TV Confessions as a tool to undermine the right to a fair trial, and through the continued publication of more material on these televised confessions by RSDLmonitor, the collaboration of Chinese state-media with police has become clear. The release of a small database (CN edition here) on these Forced TV Confessions have further amplified the systematic nature of how state-media is used to broadcast, and often extract and produce, such televised confessions.


However, tentative research indicates that the use of broadcasting these forced confessions is far more rampant on local levels, through the use of regional or provincial TV stations. Because of this, RSDLmonitor is now releasing the testimony of one of the first victims of a Forced TV Confession on a provincial TV station since the rise of Xi Jinping and his policy of stronger CCP-control and use of media– that of Li Gang, a member of the New Citizens’ Movement.


Li Gang

Li Gang was one of several people detained in mid-2013, at the height of the New Citizens’ Movement (NCM), spearheaded by Xu Zhiyong. Li, like many other adherents of this movement was not a long-time activist or human rights defender, but, in his own words, ‘living a normal life’. Li is a university graduate, and was working in a big company in Beijing, living with his wife and son. He learned about the New Citizens’ Movement and the ideas behind it from reading about it online, and started becoming involved in the year prior to his detention and arrest. Li’s involvement meant sharing information online, organizing and participating in small dinner gatherings, making badges and posters, and taking to the streets to call for disclosure of assets for government officials.


When Li was detained on July 12, 2013, he could not have known that he was to become a propaganda pawn against the movement.


The text below is based on Li’s own writing, complemented with a Q&A session, translated into English and edited for readability.



Interrogations at Beijing Third Detention Center

I was detained in my house [in suburban Beijing] just before midnight, by more than a dozen police officers. It was July 12, 2013. After detaining me they took me to Beijing Third Detention Center. I knew later that Li Huanjun and Song Ze [two other NCM activists] had also been taken, I think from their homes but I’m not sure. [They, along with Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, and many others, had been detained starting in late spring that year as part of an expanding attack against the movement].


They started trying to convince me to confess almost right away. First they wanted me to confess, to write a letter repenting. I refused since I had not broken any law, I was not a criminal. This, trying to make me confess and, soon after, to record a TV confession, would go on for months. With me, as it seems to have been with others, their main threat, the main way convince me, was to threaten my family. If I don’t go on TV, my son will suffer and be restricted in his education they would tell me. If I don’t [record a confession], they will give me the harshest penalty [length of imprisonment], and my son would be in middle school before I ever got out. Then they convinced my family to write me letters telling me to confess and make the TV recording. I received two or three such letters while in detention, handed to me by my interrogator during our interrogation sessions.


I could meet with my lawyers. I had two. One was forced to quit, and the other was busy, so in the end, during the six months, I think I meet them three or four times in total. In the meantime, police was working on getting me to confess.


There seems to have been mostly thieves in my cell, and most of Beijing Third Detention Center. The cell was small, some 3×7 meters, but 2×7 of that was taken up by the beds, was just a narrow path for any movement or activity. They had an activity space of course, but could only visit a few times a week. Daily life, when not including interrogations, was merely eating, sleeping, sitting. In the evenings we could watch two hours of CCTV newscast and BTV (Beijing TV).


Unbeknownst to Li, Xu Zhiyong himself had been taken and placed into the same detention facility, just four days after Li himself. Years later, and after several years of imprisonment, Xu would write:


“The cell in Beijing’s No. 3 Detention Center was already prepared. It was specially set up the day before. There were twelve people in the cell; except for me, everyone else were theft suspects. The vast majority of the more than 400 people detained in the No. 3 Detention Center were there for allegedly stealing mobile phones on public buses.” Unlike with Li however, no one was allowed to call Xu by his name. He was given the codename 706 instead.



About five month in I was ready to give up, they started to convince me I needed to make the confession video. At this point I think I had been interrogated about 50 times. The interrogations took place in another room inside the same detention center. Always two interrogators present. The main interrogator, from Haidian district in Beijing, was Zhu Zhengbin (朱征斌), the other guy was Wang Jun (王君). It seems Wang was a special case officer, involved not only in my case but in the cases of all the others that had been detained related to the New Citizens’ Movement.


Some of those times interrogations would last eight to nine hours, sitting handcuffed to an iron chair [tiger chair]. Everything would start with me writing a letter confessing, repenting. No recording could be done until the letter was ok. Based on our interrogations, they would tell me to write a draft, after which they would check it, point out what was missing, and ask me to change and make another draft. Over and over. What I wrote had to follow what they wanted, completely.


Not surprisingly, they would ask me about my connection with Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, two people seen as leaders of the movement. They wanted to use me to attack Xu, in video or in trial. Neither Xu nor Ding ever confessed, they never made a video. They are stronger than me, more insistent. Many times they would ask about the smallest things, or even about philosophy, or how I understood “Free, Righteous, Loving”, a slogan used in the movement.


When I talked with my other cell mates, they didn’t think it be worth going to prison for a long time just to not make a confession on video. “We stole phones, we did what we did for money, but you, what did you do this for?” They thought nothing should be more important than getting out. They might also have had some selfish reasons for saying it of course, like letting me pass along messages to their families when I was released, but I could feel their support. I couldn’t talk with my family, and it seemed no one was paying attention to me. It felt hopeless. After five month or so, I decided to do it. I said Yes.


Recording a confession

The recording was made in the interrogation room inside the facility. The interrogators were there, but also a journalist. He [the journalist] looked nervous. He was from Beijing TV (BTV). In the end, he didn’t ask any questions, that was all done by the police. They journalist must have known he was doing something dirty, something that wasn’t right. Most of the time was just me reading from the confession letter I had memorized.


Even though the video I appeared in is 10 minutes long or so, recording it all took three recordings over two days. In the first session, police would record with a smaller camera. They then showed the journalist, who would give feedback. The police would talk with the journalist about if it “would work”. I didn’t understand it then, but seeing the editing they did afterwards, I now realize they meant, can we use this recording to edit as we want. The journalist told the police how he could make the video in such a way to make it easy to edit afterwards. After this, the journalist would set up and use the proper BTV camera to record it.


Before each recording session, the interrogator would restate the same point, that I needed to do this, say this, achieve this.


During this time, without Li being aware, police had been working to get Li’s main target, Xu Zhiyong, to make such a recorded confession as well. Xu later wrote:


“[They] urged me to “admit my mistakes.” The meaning was very clear: if I surrendered, I could go home, but if I didn’t capitulate, I’d be facing 10 years or more, and there would be more than one criminal charge. Think about your family… How did they want me to acknowledge them? It must be done in front of the media. A TV confession.”


Xu refused and went to prison instead.




Seeing your own confession on TV

One of my reasons with making the confession recording was that it would require them to let me speak about the New Citizens’ Movement, and maybe even use video from one of the rallies. After seeing the video I realized they edited away any direct mention of the movement, anything related to officials disclosing their assets, etc. In some case, when I said “not good”, they would even edit out the “not”, changing the meaning to the exact opposite! They would edit anything to their wish, and of course, would edit to make it look like I placed all responsibility on Xu as the organizer, even when I didn’t.


The video is not even available on BTV anymore, but you can find it online. Watching closely, it’s not very coherent. They edited it so much, and went to such length to hide the meaning behind what we were doing, what our banners called for, what the New Citizens’ Movement was about, that in the end, it didn’t make for a coherent video.


The months before agreeing to do it, I felt a very intense struggle, an ideological struggle almost. In the end, I did the video, based on my situation inside detention and the pressure on my family. I wasn’t as strong as some others, like Xu. I thought I would lose face making the video, but I also thought I could show what we were all about, what the New Citizens’ Movement was about, by making the confession. After seeing how they edited it all, I realized I was very wrong.


Most of my friends seems to understand the confession, why I made it, especially those others taken and detained in relation to my case. In the human rights community people talk [gossip about those who detained or who appears in TV confessions], but I think those not willing to confess tend to be those that get a lot of attention and support. Not people like me. I wasn’t a leader. I couldn’t get support from the human rights lawyer community, or that kind of attention.


The confession on TV did of course have some effect on me, but I was not a professional activist or a famous human rights defender. I only ever attended these events and types of gatherings because I wasn’t very happy with the government. I was, and is, just a normal citizen. I guess in the end they wanted someone like me to go on TV to tell the ‘regular audience’ about the danger of trying to protest, and to also threaten the human rights community about what could happen if you challenged the government.


Seeing other confessions, and how people react to them, I can see many people don’t understand. Like the confession of Gao Yu [famous journalist]. I admired her for a long time, but the police charged her with leaking state security, and mobilized people against her because of that. That kind of charge is very effective to smear someone. Or like Wang Yu. They showed a video of her quarrelling with a judge, but never showed anything else, easily giving people a wrong impression. I think these videos do work, for now, but in the end, with more and more time, and more and more confessions, people will start to see through these confessions.


Wang Yu tells story of son’s abuse while she was in RSDL


Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Yu’s (王宇) son was just 16 years old when the police used a long, thick stick and threatened “to bash his brains out” to get him to sign a statement. He weighed less than 50kg, a small and skinny youth. He was surrounded by police officers, but they had still handcuffed and shackled him.

Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩) had been trying to flee China, but police had caught him in Myanmar. Three months earlier his father had been snatched in front of his eyes at the airport. The teenage Bao was on his way to Australia to study; his father was just seeing him off. Just hours later, in the early hours of the morning, police were breaking down the door to his flat with a power drill and snatched his mother. They were all victims of the 709 Crackdown, China’s war against lawyers, with even children among its casualties.

Ms. Wang has now spoken out about the terrible abuse her son suffered at the hands of the police while she and his father were locked up in RSDL, undergoing their own hell. They were only released a year later after she had been paraded on TV in another of China’s forced confessions. Her story is taken from an interview with the Epoch Times (in Chinese).

“The police grabbed him, threw him onto the floor, and then onto the bed, and then back on the floor, and back and forth several times.”

Ms. Wang described how in the beginning, she couldn’t bring herself to talk about her son’s treatment. If she did, she would burst into tears. “Talking about it felt like opening a second wound.” She avoided the topic, but over time, talking with her son, and other family members, she pieced together what he had gone through.

On 9 July – the very beginning of the 709 Crackdown – as they dragged his father away, police took the young Bao to a budget hotel room in Tianjin and locked him in. But at one point he saw a chance to escape and he tried to run away. “The police grabbed him, threw him onto the floor, and then onto the bed, and then back on the floor, and back and forth several times.” A few days later he was sent to live with his grandparents in Inner Mongolia.

A few months later, friends had helped to smuggle him down south and across the border into Myanmar, but police had followed them and and brought them back.

“I heard from friends that when he was snatched in Myanmar, they put handcuffs and shackles on my little son! For those who’ve never worn handcuffs and shackles you won’t know what they’re like, it’s actually a kind of torture. A 15, 16-year-old kid, so skinny and small, how could he run off? With so many police watching him? How could do they be so cruel to do that, put handcuffs and shackles on child? It’s cast a shadow over my heart.”

But that wasn’t all. The police wanted her son to write a statement, denouncing those who had tried to help him. Her son tried to stand up for himself and refused so “they hit him, they took a thick, long stick and beat my son. They began by hitting him on his lower back, and kept hitting him further and further up his back, saying: ‘If you don’t write what we tell you to, we’ll carry on and start hitting your head, we’ll bash your brains out.’ The pain was so bad he gave in.”

“How could do they be so cruel to do that, put handcuffs and shackles on a child? It’s cast a shadow over my heart.”

In August 2016, Ms. Wang and her husband were released and the family were reunited. They were forced to go and live in a small flat on the third floor of an apartment building in Ulan Hot in Inner Mongolia.  The police rented a flat opposite them from which they kept watch on them 24 hours a day. There were surveillance cameras surrounding their house – in the corridor outside their door, on the main door to the apartment building and all around the building itself. Police followed them everywhere, even if they were just going outside to put out the rubbish.

It’s the extent of the surveillance on her son that is astounding.

“Everyday, in the morning, two or three police officers took my son to school, and in the evening two officers brought him home. In his classroom, they had positioned three surveillance cameras on him, there were even cameras in the corridor, there was also a monitoring room, where the screens’ images followed my son, several national security police patrolled the school grounds.

This is how my son lived for two years.”

Seeing how distressed he was, Ms. Wang took him to see a doctor, where he was diagnosed with depression. “I thought that I can’t let my son carry on living like this, otherwise it will totally ruin his life.” This January, finally, he was allowed to leave China for Australia where he is studying.

“It was only after he left China that my heart felt at ease,” she said.

You can read Wang Yu’s testimony on her time in RSDL (and Tang Zhishun’s account of being captured while trying to help Bao Zhuoxuan escape from China) in our book The People’s Republic of the Disappeared and how she was forced to give several televised confessions in our report Scripted and Staged: behind the scenes of China’s televised confessions.



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.

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.

The second disappearance of Gui Minhai

Book about Gui Minhai's kidnapping and RSDLSwedish publisher Gui Minhai has disappeared for the second time in China. On 20 January Gui was travelling by train to Beijing in the company of two Swedish consular staff to seek treatment for a serious medical condition when Chinese police snatched him. Since then China has said nothing. Gui was first kidnapped by Chinese agents in Thailand in October 2015,  held under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and in detention for the next two years. Since October 2017, he has been living under strict police surveillance, but officially “free” in Ningbo in eastern China.

This week a new book about Gui, and another Swede who was disappeared in 2016, Peter Dahlin, is being published by Swedish journalist Jojje Olsson. For the book, called De kidnappade Kinasvenskarna (in English, The Swedes who were kidnapped in China), Olsson interviewed Gui Minhai’s daughter Angela Gui, Bei Ling, an old friend of Gui’s from his China days, and the Swedish foreign ministry.

Olsson talked with RSDLMonitor about his thoughts on Sweden’s handling of Gui’s case and also what he has learned about Gui’s situation from writing this book.


What to you has been the most shocking aspect of Gui’s case?

Jojje Olsson: The most shocking thing was that he hasn’t had any access to medical care since he developed this ALS [Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis] illness in prison. It’s a very serious illness, from the onset of ALS you [will likely] only live an average of between two and four years… There are so many examples of Chinese activists and dissidents who didn’t get proper treatment or medical care when they were detained in RSDL…  It was only when he was released in October 2017 that he visited a doctor and got a diagnosis. It points to the fact that he didn’t even get regular health check ups during the two years when he was detained, and during the first six months when he was in RSDL.


When interviewing Angela and Bei Ling, what did you understand was the worst aspect of RSDL for family and friends?

Insecurity. A majority of the families of those people in RSDL don’t know any details behind the detention. When Gui Minhai disappeared into RSDL, Angela didn’t know that according to Chinese law they could hold her father for six months in a place without any contact with the rest of the world. The worst thing, I think, is the insecurity, that you don’t have any news about what is happening – [you don’t know] why were they disappeared, and you don’t have any type of contact with them.


There are so many examples of Chinese activists and dissidents who didn’t get proper treatment or medical care when they were detained in RSDL.


Also, when it comes to Angela’s case, one of the most emotional things for her is it also destroys families. Like Gui Minhai’s wife in Germany, she doesn’t really dare to have any contact with Angela because [of Angela’s public efforts to get her father released]. And also her family in China. Angela [said] she doesn’t really dare to contact her cousin because she knows they could get into trouble because of her activism.


Do you have any information on the conditions Gui was held under in RSDL?

As I understand it when he was released in October, he was taken to Ningbo which is his hometown in eastern China where he could meet his family. He also could use some kinds of communications like Skype and his email. But every communication that he had and every movement that he made was being monitored by the Chinese authorities. And he also had to report to the police at regular intervals. And he was living in a house that was managed by the police, so it was a type of house arrest basically.

In an interview Angela gave [last week] she said that she got the impression that he didn’t want to talk about the details of what happened to him… She got the impression that he was tortured when he was detained because he was missing a tooth and had lost a lot of weight.  And he didn’t talk in detail about that and that’s because he was still in the hands of Chinese security. It’s still very likely that he will be put under another trial for the [publishing of illegal books]… He doesn’t dare to speak out to his friends and family about what happened because it will decrease his chances to be released and or get a shorter sentence. The Chinese authorities are afraid that Gui Minhai will do the same thing as Lam Wing-kee [he exposed the kidnappings and torture at a press conference in Hong Kong in 2016] that he will also talk in detail about what happened to him.


The second kidnapping of Gui took place in front of two consular staff. What does that say about China today?

It shows that China is ready to go further and further to silence dissidents and silence criticism not only from Chinese citizens but also from foreigners. It would be a new level of submission if it’s not condemned. It also shows that you are never safe, you will never know what the Chinese government can do to silence its critics. Even if you’re a foreign citizen in the company of foreign diplomats you are not safe… That’s a big change.


Why did you decide to write this book?

Because I can see that in China since Xi Jinping became President and one or two years into his presidency…  the situation has become more and more repressive, and in Sweden people are very unaware of this. In Swedish media there’s not a lot that is written about China…I use the examples of Peter Dahlin and Gui Minhai to tell the wider story of increased repression and not only in China but also how it is trying to export its repression abroad. This is really important given China’s spoken ambitions to increase its political influence abroad and also its [overseas] investments.


[Gui’s second kidnapping] shows that China is ready to go further and further to silence dissidents and silence criticism not only from Chinese citizens but also from foreigners. It would be a new level of submission if it’s not condemned.

Do you think the Swedish government treated the cases of Peter Dahlin and Gui Minhai differently?

From the point of view of the Chinese authorities, Gui is Chinese, and Peter is Swedish and because the Chinese authorities treated them differently, then the Swedish authorities had to treat them differently.

The Swedish authorities have been clear from the beginning that they view Gui as a Swedish citizen – the foreign minister has said on a couple of occasions when she was asked outright – when the Chinese side said that Gui is first and foremost a Chinese citizen, she would reply [when she was asked by reporters] no, he is Swedish. They have been quite clear on that point. That’s a good thing.

The Chinese authorities have been more persistent with detaining and holding Gui than they were with Peter and that meant the Swedish authorities gave up in one sense. They didn’t really pressure too hard. I remember one thing that Peter said to me: he said: ‘It seems that the Swedish authorities from the very beginning decided that the Gui Minhai issue should not have a big effect on the general relationship between Sweden and China.’


As a Swedish citizen yourself, what is your opinion about Sweden’s response to the two kidnappings of Gui Minhai?

I think the response should have been more open criticism from the beginning. You can see [last week] when the foreign minster made a statement; that was the first time that she openly called for his release for the 830 days that he has been disappeared. What happened immediately after that was that the European Union ambassador to China also echoed the demands of the Swedish foreign minister. This is something very important because when the Swedish government chooses to be silent, when it chooses to engage in quiet diplomacy, it also means that other countries and other organizations don’t say anything either. Because why would they go ahead of Sweden?

When two Swedish journalists were released in Ethiopia in 2012, the Swedish ambassador to Addis Ababa said a decisive factor behind their release was the support and the pressure that came from the US and from the UK and the EU. I think that the fact that the Swedish side has chosen to be silent and not openly criticized China also [has meant that] other countries and organizations have been quiet so there has been no international pressure for Gui. The important thing is to rally other countries and organizations to make joint statements.



I slept handcuffed to a chair: Li Fangping recalls his secret detention

Li Fangping lawyer photo


Li Fangping (李方平), born in 1974, is a prominent human rights lawyer who works for a Beijing law firm. He has represented several high profile clients including imprisoned scholar Ilham Tohti, human rights activist Hu Jia and the blind lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who now lives in exile in the US. He was also part of a team of lawyers who offered pro bono work to families who were victims of the melamine milk scandal and campaigned to end the hated Re-education Through Labour system. (Photo credit: Li Fangping)


In early 2011, as fears in China grew of a potential “Jasmine Revolution”, the police began rounding up lawyers and activists. On April 29, unidentified State Security officers kidnapped Li Fangping in broad daylight on a Beijing street. His family frantic, Li was only released a little under a week later.


 As the following will show, Li Fangping’s early experience of RSDL, although brief, contains many of the elements common to subsequent accounts of RSDL as exposed in our book, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared. That is: physical violence, denial of adequate food and sleep, threats to family, hiding the location of the facility from the detainee through the use of  black-hooding when transporting and covering of all windows in the “cell”, 24-hours guard, and the finale of forced and videoed confessions to secure release.


The following account is based on a 2017 interview with Lawyer Li in which he describes his ordeal under the precursor to Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL); effectively he was kidnapped by the state. Li was never given any documentation nor told with what legal basis he was taken. As far as the system is concerned, it never happened.


The kidnapping

On 29 April 2011, Li Fangping walked out of the office of the (anti-discrimination) Yirenping NGO when he saw a group of unidentified men waiting for him. One of them asked: “Are you Li Fangbing?” As soon as he said yes, they grabbed him. After one of them had made a phone call, they dragged him to a car. Inside, they placed a black hood over his head. Just before the hood was on he noticed that another car had joined them. During the ride they kept asking: “Everyone else has gone missing. How come you haven’t yet?”


Two people were in the front of the car, while Li was lodged between two in the back. He remembers it taking about two hours before they arrived at the facility.



Slapped around and forced to stand until 2am

Once there, they waited until he was inside a room before they removed the black hood. During that walk, he remembers climbing some stairs and they needed to shout out instructions to him to lift his feet because he was blinded from the hood. Once the hood was taken off, he saw a row of people standing in front of him.


They immediately began berating him. If he said something they didn’t like, they would slap him around.


That day they only gave him a little bit of food and he was forced to keep standing, with two guards watching over him until 2am. He was exhausted. The next day, they repeated this treatment.



Interrogated for 30 hours straight

Around 10 guards were posted to watch him, and five or six policemen interrogated him. Some of the officers played “nice cop”, others played “bad cop”. One of them said he was in charge. Li said they didn’t seem to have a specific reason for taking him. It looked like they were just grabbing people from a list of names.

Li believes that they just wanted to extract some information on lawyers in general, and also to scare him so that he would help the police in the future.
They asked him to provide information on other rights defence lawyers. They were interested in how they would meet and what they would talk about. One interrogation lasted for 30 hours straight. They threatened him that if he did not cooperate they could keep him as long as they wanted, and could even put his family members in prison. If they didn’t like his answers, they would slap him around.


Handcuffed at night

He slept with one hand tightly handcuffed to a chair next to the mattress. He always had to keep both hands and his head above the covers. He was watched 24 hours a day by at least two guards, who usually took six-hour shifts. What was worse was that the lights were kept on all the time. During the day, his mattress was leant against the wall. Other than that, the room only had a chair and a writing desk.


He never knew exactly where he had been secretly detained, but he thinks it was somewhere in the chain of mountains north of Beijing. Although the curtain in his room was kept tightly closed at all times, he could make out the outlines of mountains through the small window in the bathroom.



Release after forced confession

A little less than a week since he had been abducted, he was told he would be released but not before he had met some conditions. First, he had to promise to explain his disappearance by saying he had just been travelling. He was also forced to write a statement saying he would not give interviews to foreign media and to stop attending meetings with other rights defence lawyers. Writing the statement was not enough; they also forced him to read it out in front of a video camera. They threatened to release that recording if he disobeyed them in the future.


They dropped him off alongside Beijing’s North Third Ring Road and Li had to find his own way home. They didn’t give him any documentation to explain why he had been taken. There was absolutely no legal basis to the “Enforced Disappearance” of Lawyer Li Fangping.


The experience taught him he had to take his phone and computer security more seriously; for example by deleting records of sensitive communications on message APPs and emails. Perhaps more than that, he realized the importance of staying calm in such situations. Although he was very afraid, Li’s RSDL ordeal ultimately helped him become better at controlling his fear.



Wang Quanzhang: The last missing lawyer

Chinese lawyer missing for two years Wang quan zhang

As we enter 2018, Peter Dahlin, the Swedish rights activist, who was himself a victim of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location in Beijing in early 2016, writes about his friend and rights lawyer, Wang Quanzhang. More than two and a half years after he was first kidnapped by the Chinese state, Wang still languishes in secret detention. This extract is re-posted here with the kind permission of Hong Kong Free Press, where it was first published. (Image credit: Hong Kong Free Press.)


Chinese lawyer missing for two years Wang quan zhang


Some five years ago my friend Wang Quanzhang – China’s last missing lawyer – came over to my Beijing apartment for a Swedish-style Christmas.


By this time he had learned to tolerate, if not appreciate, the meatballs, as it was his second Christmas at my house. Since then, I’ve been deported from China and banned for ten years under the Espionage Act.


I am unlikely to spend any more Christmases in China. Wang might never be allowed to spend any Christmas anywhere, outside of prison.


Wang disappeared on 5 August 2015. For two and a half years his family, wife Li Wenzu and their young son, and the lawyers Wang had chosen for himself should he ever be detained, have not seen nor heard from him. There’s no trial in sight.


It may strike anyone reading this that his case is simply another victim’s story. Frankly, there are so many that it’s hard to keep track or become engaged.


However, his case represents something far worse, and is a window into the new China envisioned by Xi Jinping and the CCP.

To continue reading the full version, please click here; the full Chinese version can be read here.

The disappeared: Accounts from inside China’s secret prisons

One lawyer, one scholar and one Swedish human rights advocate share the same fate: they were all kidnapped and disappeared by the Chinese state. Locked for weeks and months in secret jails, completely cut off from the world and forced to confess on camera for crimes they did not commit.


Credit: CNN. Sui Muqing (far left), Peter Dahlin, and Chen Taihe.


Earlier this month, CNN reported their stories in the context of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s ramped up crackdown on human rights. This is the story of China’s “legalized” Black Jails.


Watch the video here.


Two of these men, Sui Muqing and Peter Dahlin wrote first-person accounts of their ordeals in our book, The People’s Republic of the Disappeared.



I didn’t see sunlight for six months


Last week we republished extracts from Lawyer Xie Yanyi’s ((谢燕益) record of secret detention under China’s Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL) and originally translated by China Change.


This week, we are staying with Lawyer Xie and posting a link to a rare interview to camera he gave to a BBC journalist in Beijing earlier this year.


Xie was eventually released in January 2017, months later Chinese security still keep Xie’s apartment under surveillance. The BBC had to sneak in the back way.  Of the many 709 lawyers who were persecuted in 2015 and in the years afterward, Lawyer Xie, a softly-spoken father of two young children, is one of the very few who continue to speak out.


Watch his BBC interview here.


About Xie Yanyi


Xie Yanyi (谢燕益) is a prominent and outspoken human rights lawyer based in Beijing. He gained notoriety in 2003 when he attempted to sue former Chinese President Jiang Zemin for staying on as Central Military Commission Chairman after he stepped down from power. He has also represented rights activists and villagers battling illegal land seizures and has published articles supporting freedom of speech and democracy for China.



Xie was disappeared along with hundreds of other lawyers and activists in the “709 Crackdown” in the summer of 2015 and placed under RSDL and was beaten, starved, tortured and forced to take “medicine”. He was incarcerated for 553 days, during which time his wife gave birth to their baby daughter and his mother died.