'Disappeared' rights lawyer Tang Jitian 'tortured' in incommunicado detention: friend

Police are putting pressure on Tang's friends and family not to speak out about his treatment.
By Gao Feng
2021.12.21
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'Disappeared' rights lawyer Tang Jitian 'tortured' in incommunicado detention: friend Chinese rights lawyer Tang Jitian is shown at the Fuzhou Changle International Airport, where he was prevented from boarding a flight to Japan, June 2, 2021.
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A prominent Chinese rights attorney believed detained after he planned to attend an event on Human Rights Day is once more being subjected to torture and mistreatment in detention, according to one of his friends.

Tang Jitian has been incommunicado since texting friends a couple of hours before the Dec. 10 event was due to start that it was "not safe" to attend, with friends and fellow attorneys saying he has been subjected to a forced disappearance.

Tang's friend Zhao Zhongyuan, a U.S.-based traditional Chinese medicine doctor, said he is being forcibly deprived of sleep, as well as beatings.

"They won't let him sleep at all, and they are hanging him up and beating him, very similar to [the way he was treated] 10 years ago," Zhao told RFA on Tuesday. "Judging from the photo, it looks similar to the torture he suffered [in 2014]."

"And his state of health is a whole lot worse than it was 10 years ago," he said.

RFA was unable to verify Zhao's report independently.

Zhao has previously said Tang was already at the point of physical and mental collapse when he disappeared, which came after he was prevented from traveling to Japan to visit his 24-year-old daughter Qiqi, who is in a coma due to complications from tuberculosis.

"[The authorities] have said that if there is ongoing attention on his case, they will send him back to his birth city [of Jilin]," Zhao said. "A source told me that I should stop speaking out for him."

"They said his family have put their faith in the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government," he said. "But the less I speak out, and the more I cover this up, the less likely Tang Jitian is to get out eventually."

Tang was stopped by border guards at Fuzhou Airport in May 2021 as he tried to board a flight to Japan, on the grounds that his leaving would "endanger national security and interests."

Tang's travel ban began after he lost his lawyer's license in 2010 for defending practitioners of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

He was among a group four Chinese rights lawyers tortured by police after being detained in March 2014 during a protest outside a detention center in Jiansanjiang in northeast China demanding information about Falun Gong members believed to be incarcerated there.

In 2017, he was turned back by border guards at the Lo Wu border crossing after he tried to travel to Hong Kong to seek medical treatment for leukemia diagnosed after his release from detention. He was told at the time that his leaving the country could pose a "threat to national security."

U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao hit out at the use of travel bans to silence prominent dissidents and activists.

"If you don't do as you're told, or you do some kind of human rights or political work, they will confiscate your passport and prevent you from leaving the country," Teng told RFA.

"Tang's daughter is critically ill in Japan, and he should be allowed to visit her, purely on humanitarian grounds," he said. "But the Chinese government has no concept of humanitarian considerations."

"They are doing this as a form of punishment; a way to get back at human rights lawyers," Teng said.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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