China's Prisoners of Conscience Subjected to Increasing Violence by Police

2017-05-22
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Chen Yunfei behind bars in an undated photo.
Chen Yunfei behind bars in an undated photo.
Public domain

A string of reported cases of torture and degrading punishment of rights lawyers and prisoners of conscience continues to emerge from Chinese jails and detention centers.

Chinese political prisoner Chen Yunfei has been forced to wear manacles and leg irons in police detention for several weeks after making apparently sarcastic comments about his detention center governor, sources told RFA.

Chen, who was handed a four-year jail term in March after visiting the grave of a 1989 Tiananmen massacre victim in 2015, received the punishment after shouting "Our leaders are great!" at Zhang Lin, head of the police-run Xinjing County Detention Center, where he is being held pending his appeal, his lawyer said.

Lawyer Guo Haibo, who met with Chen last Friday, said his client's wrists showed injuries from the manacles, which were put on to punish his "arrogant attitude," detention center officials told Guo.

Another of Chen's defense attorneys, Sui Muqing, said he was detained illegally by the detention center for several hours after he complained about his client's treatment.

"I went to see him a couple of weeks ago, and found that he had been wearing the manacles for two weeks already," Sui said. "Chen Yunfei has a rebellious spirit, and hasn't entirely submitted to the discipline of the detention center."

At his March 31 trial in the Wuhou District People's Court in Sichuan's capital Chengdu, Chen appeared in his pajamas in a satirical reference to President Xi Jinping's slogan "the Chinese dream," and made the "victory" sign during the hearing.

Chen, who was initially detained on subversion charges on March 25, 2015 near after visiting the grave of Tiananmen massacre victim Wu Guofeng near Chengdu, has denied all charges against him.

Recently, the wife of a Chinese activist jailed on subversion charges after he was forcibly repatriated by Thailand despite having been granted political refugee status by the United Nations said he has also been mistreated in prison.

Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei had been in Thailand since fleeing China in 2008, where he was detained and tortured after he criticized the ruling Chinese Communist Party's handling of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, and was granted refugee status last April by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

But he was handed back to Chinese authorities after securing refugee status in Thailand in November 2015, in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and human rights groups.

Beijing sought his extradition on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" after he published a number of satirical cartoons targeting President Xi Jinping.

Jiang's Canada-based wife said in a recent statement that he has sustained lasting damage to his vision following a severe beating in jail.

An anonymous dissident who has suffered torture during detention said such stories are a sign that the ongoing crackdown on critics of the communist party shows no sign of easing.

"Overall, violence on the part of the police and the state security police seems to be on the increase," the dissident said. "Perhaps there are certain political trends at work behind the scenes."

"The accounts of people who have been detained, tortured and mistreated indicate that there is no rule of law whatsoever, and [such practices] are getting more and more common," he said.

Award for jailed activist

Meanwhile, a rights activist jailed last year for publicly supporting the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong has been honored by an independent association of Chinese students study in the United States.

Xie Wenfei was awarded the 2017 "Free Spirit Award" by the pro-democracy Independent Federation of Chinese Scholars and Students (IFCSS).

He is currently serving a four-and-a-half-year prison term in the southern province of Guangdong, one of four activists to be convicted recently for supporting Occupy Central.

Xie's friend Xiao Biao welcomed the award.

"This is a recognition of Xie Wenfei's street protests and his hard work promoting the democracy movement in mainland China," he told RFA on Monday.

"Xie Wenfei's friends haven't forgotten about him even though he is in jail," Xiao Biao said. "This award is a form of encouragement and support for his friends outside, and I hope the rest of the world doesn't forget about these protesters who are suffering in Chinese jails."

Xie Wenfei and Wang Mo were handed four-and-a-half-year prison sentences by the Intermediate People's Court in Guangdong's provincial capital, Guangzhou, after being found guilty of "incitement to subvert state power," their lawyer told RFA.

At the same time, Zhang Shengyu was jailed for four years, while Liang Qinhui, also known by his online nickname "Sharp Knife," was handed an 18-month prison sentence on the same charges.

All four men had expressed public support for the Occupy Central movement, and were detained amid a nationwide roundup of at least 100 mainland Chinese supporters of Occupy Central, rights groups said at the time.

Xie Wenfei, who is also known as Xie Fengxia, was detained in October 2014 after wearing a black T-shirt and holding a banner in support of the 79-day Hong Kong pro-democracy movement on the streets of Guangzhou.

He entered the courtroom for the sentencing hearing on Friday shouting "Build a democratic China!" and "Down with the Communist Party!", Wang's lawyer Tan Chenshou said after the hearing.

The Occupy Central, or Umbrella Movement campaigned for Beijing to withdraw an Aug, 31, 2014 electoral reform plan, which it rejected as "fake universal suffrage," and to allow publicly nominated candidates to run for chief executive in 2017.

The plan, which offered a one-person, one-vote in 2017 elections for chief executive, but required candidates to be vetted by Beijing, was voted down on June 18, 2015 by 28 votes to eight in Hong Kong's Legislative Council, leaving the city with its existing voting arrangements still in place.

Reported by Ding Wenqi and Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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