Civil Rights Lawyer Chang Weiping Tortured After Talking About Past Torture

On September 14, jailed human rights defender Chang Weiping was able to meet his lawyer at a detention center in Baoji City, Shaanxi, for the first time since he was detained and placed in “residential surveillance in a designated area(RSDL) almost a year ago. Police arrested Chang in October 2020, six days after posting a video on YouTube recounting the torture he suffered during a previous RSDL detention in January 2020. In this most recent detention, Chang was charged with “subversion of state power” and tortured again. Chang’s attorney shared details about the torture recently suffered by his client, as documented by Chinese human rights defenders:

  • He was again subjected to the “tiger chair”, including a stint of six days and six nights.
  • The RSDL room was very small, measuring around 3 by 3 meters, half of which was occupied by the state security police (guobao).
  • He was subjected to sleep deprivation. If he did not repeat the guobao talking points, he would not be allowed to sleep. He was given very little simple food on [a] daily – only three mantou (steamed buns) per day.
  • He was subjected to psychological torments, which he found the most difficult to deal with. The police often lied to him, threatened him, gave him hope and then crushed them. On September 8, he was questioned by prosecution officials, who told him to watch himself when speaking with his lawyer, or face consequences.
  • In total, he was subjected to RSDL for 5 months and 16 days, during which he was allowed to shower five times. It was subjected to 24/7 CCTV with no privacy to speak of.
  • In RSDL, his predominant feeling was that death would be better than continuing to live. Sometimes focusing on the tragedy of leaving behind his wife and two young children was his only motivation to avoid dying or going mad.
  • He is now suffering from blood in his stool. [Source]

Many human rights organizations have condemned Chang’s treatment and requested his immediate release. Chang has been an active human rights defender supporting marginalized groups through the legal system, as described by Frontline Defenders:

Chang Weiping (常 玮 平) is a human rights lawyer based in Baoji City, Northwest Shaanxi Province. He is known for his public interest litigation defending the rights of people discriminated against because of their health, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Chang Weiping has also provided pro bono legal advice to vulnerable groups, including victims of defective vaccines, as well as women, LGBT people and people living with HIV / AIDS and hepatitis B who face discrimination on work place. He has also provided legal advice to petitioners and human rights defenders facing judicial harassment for the legitimate exercise of their human rights. [Source]

Due to its involvement in these high-risk cases, the authorities suspended Chang’s legal license for three months in 2018, and later dissolved the law firm where he worked. When Chang attempted to work for other law firms, a requirement for maintaining a legal license, authorities pressured them not to hire him and permanently suspended his legal license in 2020.

In the meantime, Chang participated in the December 2019 informal gathering of pro-democracy activists in Xiamen with Xu Zhiyong. In January 2020, authorities arrested Chang for “inciting the subversion of state power” and placed him in the RSDL, where he was locked in a tiger chair for 24 hours a day for ten consecutive days. After being released on bail, pending trial, he was banned from traveling outside his hometown and banned from seeing his wife and six-year-old son. Chang’s wife and family made public pleads for his release, but were subsequently subjected to intense harassment by the police: their phones were confiscated, they were placed under house arrest, cameras were installed outside their homes, they were threatened with losing their jobs and they were forced to delete their social media posts about Chang. Here are his parents in December 2020:

Chang’s relentless torture while in detention increasingly draws attention to China’s extralegal practice of RSDL, which researchers at Safeguard Defenders have documented extensively:

RSDL is China’s state-sanctioned kidnapping system that it uses against thousands of people every year (new data we’re also releasing today shows RSDL may have claimed nearly 60,000 lives since 2013. ). The system, which has been condemned by the UN as tantamount to enforced disappearance, has mostly been imposed on hundreds if not thousands of Chinese human rights defenders such as dissident artist Ai Weiwei, human rights lawyers Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang, as well as on foreigners, especially those caught up in hostage diplomacy affairs, such as Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The very nature of the RSDL, that it takes place in hidden places with the victim in isolation and incommunicado, and in premises other than police stations and detention centers, means that there are very few images, or even information on their location. The fact that the RSDL is used by the Ministry of State Security for alleged “crimes” related to national security, and against foreigners, also adds another reason why it is kept so secret. [Source]

Chang’s latest detention comes on top of long list of individuals who were detained in RSDL during the ongoing “repression 709Against Chinese civil rights lawyers, activists and journalists. Ding jiaxi, a prominent human rights lawyer turned activist who was also present at the Xiamen rally, was placed in RSDL in December 2019 and formally arrested in June 2020 for inciting the subversion of state power. Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist who covered the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, was imprisoned since December 2020, and is serving a four-year sentence for “choosing quarrels and causing trouble.” His declining health, after a long hunger strike to protest the lack of due process in his trial, galvanized many NGOs to plead for his release. Other notable figures understand Wang zang, an outspoken poet-activist who was arrested for inciting the subversion of state power in September 2020, and human rights lawyers Tang jitian and Guo Feixiong, who are not allowed to leave China.

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