Dear NPC Deputies and CPPCC Committee Members:
During the upcoming Two Congresses of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the relevant motions, proposals, and recommendations submitted by NPC Deputies and CPPCC Committee members will surely become one of the focuses of public attention. While you were not directly elected or selected by us to serve as NPC deputies or CPPCC Committee members—by law, you should participate in and discuss state affairs, as well as supervise the government, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate on our behalf.
I. Torture and Ill-treatment Occurred in a Series of “709 Crackdown” Cases
The “709 crackdown” refers to a massive sweep that began on July 9, 2015, where hundreds of mainland Chinese lawyers, rights defenders, and family members of right defenders in as many as 23 provinces were suddenly hunted down, summoned, taken away, or questioned by public security forces. Many were soon released, while some 30 people were detained. We call the cases of these some 30 individuals the “709 cases.”
We are Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), wife of lawyer Li Heping (李和平), and Li Wenzu (李文足), wife lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who were taken away in the “709 crackdown.” Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang were detained in July and August of 2015, respectively, on suspicion of “subversion of state power.” After a period of criminal detention, they were put under “residential surveillance at a designated location” for six months before their formal arrest. They are currently held at a detention center in Tianjin. On December 5, 2016, the No. 2 Branch of the Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate brought a case against Li Heping to Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on the charge of “subversion of state power,” but we have yet to see the indictment. We heard that Li and Wang were tortured while in custody, being subjected to electric shocks to the point of fainting. But we are unable to ascertain the veracity of such allegations. As of now, they have been in detention for more than one year and six months and one year and seven months, respectively. The authorities handling their cases have persistently denied them meetings with lawyers appointed by us family members. Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳) of Changsha and rights defender Wu Gan (吴淦), two other so-called “suspects” in custody, who were also taken away in the “709 crackdown” around the same time as Li and Wang, both informed the lawyers appointed by their family members that they were tortured. Xie Yang’s defense lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) has already published the transcripts of their meetings, exposing in detail the acts of torture and ill-treatment that Xie suffered, including beatings, sleep deprivation, and forbidding the purchase of basic necessities of life, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and toilet paper. While in custody, rights defender Wu Gan was subjected to acts of torture and ill-treatment such as sleep deprivation for several consecutive days, intimidation, threats, and violation of his right to basic living conditions. Wu Gan was first taken away and detained in a different place before being transferred to Beijing and Tianjin, where he was held along with Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang. About a month after Li Heping was taken away and detained, his brother, lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富), was hunted down and detained for advocating on behalf of Li Heping. On January 12, 2017, when Li Chunfu was “released on bail” and sent home, his family found him skin and bones and in severe psychological distress.
Furthermore, we have also seen reports online about former officials and ordinary suspects being subjected to torture.
Therefore, we have reasonable ground to seriously suspect that Li Heping and Wang Quanzhang have suffered tortured.
II. Prevention of Torture and Ill-treatment Is Ineffective in China
China ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988. The Criminal Law and other laws and regulations also contain provisions and stipulations that prohibit extracting a confession under torture, obtaining evidence by violence, and inflicting corporal punishment or ill-treatment on persons in custody. However, the relevant oversight mechanisms have not fulfilled their proper function, and torture and ill-treatment of persons in custody are but common occurrences. Wu Gan previously filed an application to meet with a prosecutor, but one never showed up. Wu then made a complaint to the people’s procuratorate through his lawyer, but to no avail.
Beijing rights defender Li Wei (李蔚), Wang Quanzhang’s former client, once suffered ill-treatment while serving time in prison, and his complaint to the prison-based prosecutor yielded no results. After his release in April 2015, Li Wei attempted to file a lawsuit. But the Beijing Haidian District People’s Court did not accept the case, on the ground that the administration of criminal punishment comes under the Criminal Procedure Law and is beyond the scope of litigation under the Administrative Procedure Law. In 2015, Li Wei submitted a request to the Ministry of Public Security for disclosure of information about “torture accusations against MPS-affiliated detention facilities and police officers at all levels and the handling of these cases over the 2007-2014 period.” The Ministry of Public Security declined to disclose the information, on the ground that “acts of torture involve suspicion of duty-related crimes, and cases should be established and investigated by procuratorial organs in accordance with the law, which have full discretion over all specific issues. Previously, Li Wei of Beijing filed a request with the Ministry of Justice for the disclosure of information about “torture accusations against MOJ-affiliated detention facilities and police officers at all levels and the handling of these cases over the 2007-2014 period.” The Ministry of Justice rejected the request, on the grounds that the requested government information did not exist. That is to say, it is very difficult to deal with correctional personnel who commit acts of torture or abuse. However, the Global Times recently had an extensive piece featuring interviews with lawyers detained in the “709 crackdown” that repeatedly claimed that torture allegations were fabricated by the detainees’ lawyers and family members. (Lawyers have been denied access to the detainees but journalists were permitted meetings. What stunts are the public security authorities trying to pull?) If this could be tolerated, what cannot be? We wonder: if torture were nonexistent, then why are they afraid to allow detainees to meet with lawyers appointed by their family members? Especially when the detained lawyers and citizens have already been indicted and their cases accepted by the court, and the investigation phase is long over. All this secrecy and evasiveness are really straining the confidence and faith among us family members!
We infer from the situation described above that the prevention and oversight mechanisms in our country against torture and ill-treatment of persons in custody are comparatively lax and riddled with problems, and that the people’s procuratorates and people’s courts may even intentionally evade their oversight and checks-and-balances responsibilities. In other words, prevention of and accountability for torture and ill-treatment are lacking in China. Therefore, it’s vital for NPC deputies and CPPCC Committee members to actively carry out their duties and urge relevant authorities to improve their work—to perfect the prevention and oversight mechanisms to ensure persons in custody are free from torture and ill-treatment, and state explicitly that persons in custody, after being subjected to torture and ill-treatment, may file lawsuits at the court, and courts should accept those cases.
We look forward to your performing your duties!
March 2, 2017