Listener Comment: Detained For Writing to RFA

2005-04-30
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A busy shopping street in Shanghai. In an increasingly developed China, the government continues to keep a close watch on the cultural activities of its citizens. Photo: AFP/Liu Jin

WASHINGTON—A caller to an RFA listener hotline has described being detained by Chinese national security officers for a week, humiliated, interrogated, and threatened with labor camp, for writing a letter to RFA Mandarin's "Different Voices" program.

"I was arrested by agents from the Ministry of State Security and detained for a week," the woman told call-in host Wei Lian in an April 11 broadcast.

"The reason was that I had written to RFA’s 'Different Voices' to express a different point of view. They intercepted my letter, and then secretly detained me," said the woman, who identified herself only as "Juexing," or "Awake," and declined to reveal her location.

"They took me to a jail, stripped me naked, and searched me; they intimidated me," said the woman, who sounded distressed and hesitant throughout the short phone call.

Threatened with labor camp

"They threatened to use electric shocs on me. They cut off the zipper on my pants. Several times the warden said to me, 'Just one word from me, I could send you to the labor camp for a year; just one word from me, I could give you a three-year sentence.'"

The Chinese authorities have invested large sums in censoring news and opinion available to ordinary people, blocking Web sites and jamming foreign broadcasts that permit a forum to criticism of the regime.

They said, 'You can hate the Communist Party, but you can’t put it down in words.

Law enforcement officials are also empowered to hand out administrative sentences of up to three years' re-education through labor without the need for a trial. They frequently use interrogation, short-term detention and house arrest as a means of controlling those they regard as troublemakers.

However, while listeners and contributors have reported harassment from the Chinese authorities in the past, RFA has no means of checking the woman's story and cannot vouch for its reliability.

Forced to write self-criticism

"They accused me of instigating the subversion of the national government. They said I was colluding with foreign hostile powers by listening to enemy broadcasting."

Juexing said she was kept in a jail cell for a week, with two cameras on the wall to monitor her. Security officers threatened repeatedly to charge her with attempting to subvert state power, saying she had violated national security laws, she said.

Eventually, she was released after she wrote a statement of repentance, and threatened to sue the officers for violating her constitutional rights.

I said I wanted to get to the bottom of this. My right to communicate had been violated.

She said she had written to the program in May, but the detention occurred in December and circumvented the regular police. The officers told her they had acted in response to a recent communique from a higher level of government to "rectify problems" in their area, she added.

"They said, 'You can hate the Communist Party, but you can’t put it down in words,'" Juexing told RFA.

"There are plenty of people out there who hate the Communist Party. You’re fine as long as you don’t put it in writing. When you do, that’s when troubles start," she quoted the officials as saying.

The officials had warned her against escalating the situation with a lawsuit against them, she said.

"I said I wanted to get to the bottom of this," Juexing told RFA. "My right to communicate had been violated. The Chinese government gives everyone the right of communication. He said, 'It’s none of your business.' Later I said, 'I’m going to sue you.'"

She said the officers appeared uninterested in pressing charges further, once they had her repentance statement.

"They knew that I’d only written a letter. They only wanted to intimidate me a little. I’d only written a letter, I didn’t take any kind of action against them. I’m neither a democracy activist nor a dissident," the caller said.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Wei Lian. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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