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.