By Li Zhuang (李庄)
Issue 598, Dec 10, 2012
Nation, page 15
Translated by Dou Yiping and Pang Lei
The following article was written by Li Zhuang, a Beijing lawyer who spent 18 months in prison after being found guilty by a Chongqing court of falsifying evidence and inciting others to bear false witness. Li's case attraced much attention from China's legal community as the fiery lawyer, who has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable practice in China's legal system, was accused of fabricating evidence only after his client alleged that he had been tortured while being interrogated during Chongqing's high-profile crackdown on criminal gangs. The case highlighted concerns among some lawyers that the Chongqing government was trampling legal procedure in its zeal for convictions.
The article is part of a new series published by the paper called China Conversations (中国谈话). The topic of this week’s discussion was “Lessons from Chongqing and the road to rule of law in China” and it also includes a piece written by prominent lawyer Chen Youxi (陈有西) and Tong Zhiwei (童之伟), a professor of law from East China University of Political Science and Law.
We've learned a hard lesson in Chongqing at the cost of both lives and blood.
Over the last couple of days, many domestic and foreign media outlets have been paying attention to Chongqing and following the "Li Zhuang case." When I returned to Beijing from Chongqing recently, I was practically confined to home after being bombarded by dozens of media outlets from both home and abroad.
But during those few days in Chongqing, something extraordinary happened, this time both CCTV and People's Daily were there too.
It's been over one year since I was released from prison and this was the first time that central-level media had come to interview me. They followed me throughout the whole process taking photos and filming.
If I was to describe how they acted in Chongqing over these past few years, I’d say they were like a crazy mouse on a rollercoaster going to a slippery slide. The newly-appointed leaders of the city's public security apparatus are strongly opposed to the way that former party chief Bo Xilai and former head of the Public Security Bureau Wang Lijun handled matters in the past.
Now many just causes are gradually being rehabilitated.
But how many people were actually detained during the crackdown? How many were prosecuted? How many were sentenced to death or re-education through labor ... we need to be clear on these numbers. We have a duty to history and to the people.
What took place in Chongqing over the past few years was shocking.
Yesterday I took on a new client in Chongqing - a straight-talking private entrepreneur with billions of yuan worth of assets. This man, who's over 50-years-old, pays 70 million yuan in taxes every year, employs thousands of people and had never seen the inside of a police station before in his life.
But one day he was suddenly arrested. Police interrogated him and demanded to know who he had bribed.
The businessman said that he hadn't paid any bribes.
The special investigation team replied that he must have been involved with criminal gangs; otherwise how else would he have been able to make so much money.
Then they hung him up and hit him.
I took pictures and videos of the innocent man clapped in shackles that only those who have been condemned to death wear, and of the black hole that was left on his foot after it was pierced by a nail when they used too much force in removing his leg-irons.
I'm still in possession of all these photos and videos.
The secretary to the party chief of a certain province and journalists from CCTV and People's Daily were all in my room at the time, they saw everything.
The cruelest scene was when they put him on a kind of torture rack called a tiger bench (老虎凳) and pulled his mouth open with an iron chain that yanked six of his bottom teeth out.
I used to say that the confiscation of property in Chongqing during the crackdown on organized crime amounted to "hundreds and thousands" of millions of yuan. In fact, it's more than that - when you take into account that assets are not simply confined to cash - it also includes fixed assets, liquid assets and even bonds.
If we simply look at how much cash was taken during the crackdown, as no official figure has yet been released, we can only go on unofficial estimates that say over 900 million yuan flowed into state coffers during the Chongqing crackdown.
At the height of the "strike the black" crackdown, the special investigation teams were all trying to find ways of getting their hands on money.
There was a criminal defendant who told me that when he was being questioned, the interrogating officer's phone rang. The person on the phone said that they needed to work out the numbers before 6pm and asked how much the officer had gotten that day.
“We got 17 million today.”
The other replied that they had got 39 million and said they were waiting to use the money.
Stolen goods should be transferred with each case - this is standard legal procedure. No matter if it’s money, property, a weapon or recorded evidence; once the investigation phase of any criminal case has concluded, the investigation unit should transfer evidence to the procuratorate. If it's not convenient to transfer the evidence, then a detailed list must be submitted instead.
After the procuratorate has determined whether to press ahead with a case, the evidence is transferred to the court handling the case. After the court has made a final ruling, it will also determine what happens to the stolen goods.
But back then in Chongqing, these legal procedures were in a state of disarray.
Since I was released from prison on Jun 11 last year, I secretly returned to the city four times, despite the fact that the crackdown in Chongqing was still under way.
My main reason for returning was to try and find the photos, recordings and videos that I'd stashed in the bathroom of the hospital room that Gong Gangmo's (龚刚模) wife was staying in when she was being treated for cancer. Another reason I went was to search for more evidence of forced confessions and torture being practiced as part of the crackdown on criminal gangs in the city.
When they secretly took me from Beijing to Chongqing, the first sentence I heard while being questioned was, “Let me tell you, the big bosses have already had a meeting and decided, if you don't go to prison this time, I won't be wearing my uniform for much longer!”
I didn't accept that and during the first trial put up a spirited defense. I spoke the truth, spoke to the evidence and talked about procedure, but this all turned out to be of no use!
As expected, I was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison. This was because before the trial I had already been told that the respective heads of the court, procuratorate and PSB (大三长) had already decided that I must be sent to prison.
When they first arrested me at the tumor hospital in Beijing, as I argued with them in the car, they told me that they'd definitely sentence me if I adopted this kind of attitude.
Back when the police captured Gong Gangmo (龚刚模), it was the captain of the criminal police brigade in Jiangbei District's local police station that led the arrest. In the end this police officer offended Wang Lijun. How did he offend Wang?
Wang Lijun was displeased because they arrested Gong without informing him in advance; they should have immediately alerted chief Wang and let him prepare the cameras. Wang would then take his gun and walkie-talkie and be the first to storm in and make the arrest while people took photos at the scene.
But they acted alone and arrested the suspect themselves, leaving Wang to angrily rebuke them, telling them that in the future they should first report their plans rather than act alone.
But Wang was really just mad because he had missed out on an opportunity to show off in front of the cameras.
Furthermore, Wang wanted to turn Gong's case into one related to organized crime, scapegoating him for other crimes he didn't commit so that they could confiscate all his property. The captain disagreed, so he was later marginalized and sent to collect dirt on top leaders in the rather remote district of Wanzhou. In the end, this captain was brought down by Wang Lijun and locked up for a few months. He also had his collarbone broken by a police officer named Xiong Feng (熊峰).
He's currently recovering at home but there's been no official response to this case.
There's another farce involving Wang Lijun that a lot of people already know about - the time he led a team of over a thousand SWAT officers by train to Xiushan, a mountain in Chongqing, to raid an "underground munitions factory.”
Wang, in his big black leather jacket and black gloves, had the mountain surrounded and managed to convince CCTV to send cameras to cover the raid.
Wang called the order to begin the raid over his walkie-talkie and his loyal troops advanced only to discover that the munitions factory was little more than a small workshop run by a few farmers with very rudimentary tools. It didn't look like they were going to find very many guns either - what could they do?
Well, Wang's solution was to go around the various police districts and take the old and rusty guns that had been confiscated over ten years ago and plant them in the "munitions factory" so that the cameras could record just how big a raid it was.
Each district and county was given a target of how many guns they needed to bring in order to make up the numbers. The deputy head of one district's Public Security Office at the time assisted Wang Lijun in arranging for the weapons to be planted at the scene. Later this officer was promoted by Wang to a position in the city center.
However, after this officer revealed to the PSB that Wang and his associates had killed two suspects when trying to extort a confession in relation to the "March 19" shooting case, he was removed by Wang Lijun, who accused him of protecting criminal gangs. He was locked up for a year and badly beaten. In the end they couldn't pin anything on him and he was let go. I've now become friends with this person and he wants to take legal action.
At that time, in order to promote the crackdown on organized crime, Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun invited many notable people to Chongqing to support them. All those who were invited were to visit an exhibition that outlined the achievements of the crackdown. At the entrance to this exhibition, the first big photo that visitors saw was of Li Zhuang.
Wang Lijun would make a habit of pointing out my photo to those who toured the exhibition and saying, look! This is China's most corrupt lawyer.
But I ask you, who is really corrupt?
If we don't reveal what really went on, if we don't expose their crimes and terrible deeds, many ordinary people will remain in the dark and we will be on the wrong side of history.
When I was in Chongqing a few days ago, there was a man called Xin Jianwei (忻建威) who accompanied me from the airport to the hotel, to the court and then back to the airport.
Xin Jianwei was one of the 51 secretaries who worked for Wang during his two or three years in Chongqing. Xin was also the one who served Wang for the longest period – four months. One secretary only lasted one day.
That day when I was at the hotel in Chongqing with journalists from CCTV, People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency and other media, Xin arrived dressed in his police uniform.
Over those few days, wherever I went in Chongqing he drove me himself. Xin told me that he was here to protect me.
I asked him if he was afraid of revealing his identity by wearing his uniform in front of the dozen or so journalists that had gathered in my hotel room. Xin said he was not afraid.
Later a journalist asked what Wang Lijun was really like. In response, Xin told two stories.
He said he was the longest-serving of Wang's personal assistants and his tasks including fetching his bosses shoes and pouring his drinks. There were only two times when he talked back to Wang.
One of these occasions was as Chongqing's Tianlai Hotel (天来大酒店) where Wang lived when he first arrived in Chongqing. One day, Wang had a visitor come to stay and he asked Xin to book a room for two days. If the room was booked for the 4th and 5th of the month, then the guest would have to leave by noon on the 6th and their door card would no longer work.
That day the two of them had a late lunch and returned to the hotel after 1pm and Wang accompanied his friend back to the room. However, when the guest tried to swipe the door card, the door wouldn't open and Wang became upset.
Wang came down from the 6th floor to the lobby yelling "Xin Jianwei! Xin Jianwei where are you?"
Xin replied, "Director Wang I'm over here."
Wang Lijun let loose, you fxxxing XXX”
"You Chongqing police officers are all retards. Were you sent here by the China Disabled Persons' Federation? When the hotel room is up, don't you know you have to extend the door card?"
Xin said that he told Wang that he'd been asked to book a room for two days and that's what he'd done.
Again, Wang Lijun let loose with expletives. "Get the fxxk out of here, get out of here now!"
And that's how he left.
Originally he served as the deputy head of an office in charge of protecting state secrets and the deputy director of the 110 command center, but it wasn't even one month after Xin left that Wang had him arrested on the pretext that he was offering protection to criminal gangs. Xin was imprisoned for over 300 days and beaten until his ears bled. All of this happened without any kind of legal procedure.
So that was Wang - king of a lawless land, taking down whomever he didn't like.
Such people and such things could be found everywhere in Chongqing back then. Even if I had 50 days, I still wouldn't be able to tell it all. The topic of this dialogue is ruling a country by law, this is actually a very simple proposal. What is it about? It's simply about setting up a system of law and then regulating and restraining people within that system. If certain actions go beyond the rules of the game, then they are unacceptable.
Has Chongqing been ruled by law over the past few years?
When I was in prison, I read The Analects several times. In the book, Confucius says, "If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety [good behavior], they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good."
Some say that the social order in Chongqing was actually quite good during the crackdown, what I want to say is, during the Cultural Revolution and in Germany under Hitler's rule, social order reached its highest point in human history. But was that rule of law? That was terror under barbaric tyranny; not rule of law.