Submission to UN on Shen Aibin & Shen Guodong – November 6, 2015Comments Off on Submission to UN on Shen Aibin & Shen Guodong – November 6, 2015
Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
CHRD is submitting an Allegation Letter on behalf of activists Shen Aibin and Shen Guodong, citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The two men alleged they were tortured in police custody in 2013 after rescuing people locked up in a “black jail,” an illegal detention facility.
I. Identity of the person(s) subjected to torture (1)
1. Family Name: Shen (沈)
2. First and other names: Aibin (爱斌)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age: October 15, 1973
5. Nationality: Chinese
6. Occupation: Unemployed due to retaliation for human rights activism
7. Activities (trade union, political, religious, humanitarian/ solidarity, press, etc.): Mr. Shen joined the Chinese military in 1991, and he was later transferred to an administrative department in 2002. On June 22, 2013, he participated in a rescue mission to free people illegally detained by police at Dongjiao Business Guesthouse in Anzhen District of Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province. Police used the facility as a “black jail,” an illegal and makeshift detention cell that is most often used to lock up petitioners (those who lodge complaints with the government in order to obtain redress). Five petitioners, including two in their 70s and 80s, respectively, were freed from the guesthouse.
Shen was held for a total of 19 months before being released on March 12, 2015, when he completed a prison sentence. On March 18, 2014, authorities released Shen and other activists involved in the same case (after they had been held for nearly 9 months) on “bail pending further investigation” due to a lack of evidence. Two months later, however, authorities took them back into custody after they repeatedly filed complaints with the local procuratorate alleging torture and arbitrary detention, and attempted to file a police report that a guard they had seen at a local procuratorate building had also guarded the black jail.
8. Residential and/or work address: Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, China
I. Identity of the person(s) subjected to torture (2)
1. Family Name: Shen (沈)
2. First and other names: Guodong (果冬)
3. Sex: Male
4. Birth date or age: January 25, 1969
5. Nationality: Chinese
6. Occupation: Unemployed due to retaliation for human rights activism
7. Activities (trade union, political, religious, humanitarian/ solidarity, press, etc.): Mr. Shen Guodong started working in 1987 at a factory and opened his business in 1989. Shen became involved in rights defense activities after his home was forcibly demolished in 2009. In 2010, Shen was detained for 10 months after exposing a corrupt government official who was allegedly involved in land grabs, and from that time became a target of government reprisals, with authorities frequently holding him in black jails. On June 22, 2013, he participated in a rescue mission to free people illegally detained by police at Dongjiao Business Guesthouse in Anzhen District of Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province.
Shen’s freedom of movement was restricted for a total of 16.5 months—8.5 months in a detention center and 8 months under residential surveillance—before he was released in January 2015. On March 18, 2014, authorities released Shen and other activists involved in the same case (after they had been held for nearly 9 months) on “bail pending further investigation” due to a lack of evidence. Two months later, however, authorities took them back into custody (see case above for details). Shen Guodong was recently detained for five days in September 2015, in a black jail set up in Heping Business Guesthouse in Wuxi City.
8. Residential and/or work address: Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province.
II. Circumstances surrounding torture
1. Date and place of arrest and subsequent torture:
Shen Aibin was allegedly tortured between June 26, 2013, when he was initially detained, and July 10, when he was coerced into confessing for the second time to criminal behavior in the black jail incident (see above).
Below are the dates, times, and locations of the alleged incidents of torture in Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province:
From around 1 p.m. on June 26 to around 2 p.m. on June 27, 2013, Shen Aibin was tortured in two separate conference rooms at Dongjiang Police Station of Binhu Branch of Wuxi City Public Security Bureau (PSB).
From around 2 p.m. of June 27 to around 10 p.m. on June 28, 2013, police allegedly tortured Shen on the first floor of Changlong Guesthouse, across the street from Dongjiang Police Station.
From around 10 p.m. on June 28 to around 5 p.m. on July 3, 2013, police allegedly tortured Shen in room 323 of Baolong Guesthouse on Hubin Commercial Street in Binhu District.
On July 3, 2013, Shen was criminally detained for “intentionally damaging property” after he was tortured until he agreed to sign 6-7 criminal confessions that had been prepared by police. He was then transferred to Wuxi City No. 1 Detention Center.
Shen Guodong was seized from his home on July 2, 2013, and police took him to a guesthouse, where he was allegedly tortured.
On July 10, 2013, in separate incidents, police removed both Shen Aibin and Shen Guodong from Wuxi City No. 1 Detention Center and brought them to Dongjiao Business Guesthouse in Anzhen District. The guesthouse is where they and others, including Shen Guodong’s wife, Ding Hongfen (丁红芬), led a rescue mission to free people who were illegally detained. At the black jail, an officer photographed each man in an apparent attempt to produce incriminating evidence. Officers then brought the men to Dongjiang Police Station once more, further tortured them, and made them sign more copies of prewritten confessions, before returning them to the detention center. The coerced confessions were used later in court as evidence. Both Shen Aibin and Shen Guodong were officially arrested on August 6, 2013.
2. Identity of force(s) carrying out the initial detention and/or torture (police, intelligence services, armed forces, paramilitary, prison officials, other)
There were four officers involved in alleged acts of torture against Shen Aibin: Wu Yuanchao (吴元超) from Dongjiang Police Station; Zhu Xiangdong (朱向东) and Xue Yong (薛勇) from Binhu PSB Branch’s Criminal Unit; and one unidentified officer. The four men did not wear police uniforms or show police identification throughout the detention process. Shen has matched the officers handling his case with names of the authorities mentioned in his official case documents.
There were four officers involved in alleged acts of torture against Shen Guodong: Shen Jixing (沈纪兴), He Fangming (何方明), Xie Ting (谢庭), and Wu Jiangqi (吴江奇). The four men did not wear police uniforms or show police identification throughout the detention process. Shen has matched the officers handling his case with names of the authorities mentioned in his official case documents.
3. Were any person, such as a lawyer, relatives or friends, permitted to see the victim during detention? If so, how long after the arrest?
Only the lawyers of Shen Aibin and Shen Guodong were permitted to see them. Shen Aibin met with his lawyer on July 19, 2013, or three weeks after he was initially taken into custody. Shen Guodong’s lawyer was allowed to see him in August 2013, one month after he was initially detained on July 2. These periods of deprived access to legal counsel violate China’s Criminal Procedure Law, which states a defendant should be allowed a visit with a lawyer within 48 hours of a request (Article 37). Throughout the detention period, the men were not otherwise allowed to make contact with the outside world.
4. Describe the methods of torture used
Shen Aibin was severely beaten, verbally abused, and threatened, with the apparent aim to force him to confess to criminal behavior tied to the black jail incident from June 2013. On June 26, 2013, Shen Aibin’s head was covered with a black hood when he was taken to the police station. His head was also hooded every subsequent time he was transferred to a different location, including to Changlong and Baolong Guesthouses.
Upon Shen’s arrival at the station, a police officer named Zhu Xiangdong reportedly yelled, “I am the lord of coerced confessions, and as long as the government wants it, I’m sure that I can bust you in two and handle your family, too.” When Shen refused to write out a confession, police used a gruesome torture technique called the “ladder torture,” whereby an individual’s arms are pulled in opposite directions while being handcuffed to a two-sided ladder. The structure is made from two single wooden ladders where the top is connected with a metal hinge, and each ladder is about 80 centimeters wide and 250 centimeters tall. Shen Aibin was placed under the ladder while one hand was shackled to the top of the ladder and the other handcuffed to the bottom of one of the ladders. Then the four officers pulled the ladder legs in opposite directions. Recounting this method of torture, Shen has said, “It was so immediately painful that I felt my organs were being split open, and I felt I would rather die. I sweated profusely and went numb almost instantly.”
Though in excruciating pain, Shen did not show that he was hurt, so the officers removed the handcuffs and took him off the torture device, only to repeat the same method of torture several times. With Shen in agonizing pain, an unidentified officer told him, “There’s no rush. We have plenty of time, and I want to see how hard your bones are. I’ve handled lots of cases, and there’s never been anyone who I couldn’t break.”
After 25 hours of abuse and interrogation, Shen was taken to two different guesthouses, where officers continued to torture him. On July 3, 2013, he was taken back to the police station and tortured again. Finally, under duress, Shen signed 6-7 pages of statements the officers had prepared. On July 10, still not satisfied with Shen’s coerced confession, the officers handling his case took Shen from Wuxi City No. 1 Detention Center and back to the black jail inside the guesthouse where he and others had rescued a group of people (see below for another participant in the rescue who has also alleged torture). At the black jail, an officer photographed Shen in an apparent attempt to produce incriminating evidence. They then brought him to Dongjiang Police Station once more, further tortured him, and made him sign more copies of a prewritten confession.
Shen Guodong allegedly was also tortured many times by the police to force him to confess to criminal behavior tied to the black jail incident. The first time he was tortured was on July 2, 2013, when he was seized and taken to a guesthouse. Then, on July 10, after police took Shen to Dongjiao Business Guesthouse to make him confirm the location of the incident, he was taken to Dongjiang Police Station. At the station, officers tried to make Shen admit to criminal actions that the police claimed Shen had committed: “hitting, destroying, and robbing the guesthouse.” The activist refused to admit to the narrative of the incident that the police portrayed. Subsequently, the officers used the “ladder torture” on Shen Guodong (as described above in Shen Aibin’s case). According to Shen Guodong, his body was left hanging while he felt his arms were being split apart. Under duress, the activist could not endure the excruciating pain and involuntarily admitted to all the criminal behaviors the police accused him of. He was then returned to the detention center.
5. What injuries were sustained as a result of the torture?
The perpetrators intentionally wrap towels around the activists’ wrists when they handcuffed them, in order to avoid leaving any physical marks (Chinese police commonly employ tactics to conceal visible signs of abuse). Covered with the towels, their hands were squeezed very tight and swelled up, pain shot through their arms, and they felt numb for a long period of time. The swelling, which subsided over time, was caused by handcuffs cutting deep into the activists’ wrists when the perpetrators pulled the ladder apart. Shen Aibin, however, said he could not feel his fingers for several months after the torture, even though there were no physical signs of injury.
6. What was believed to be the purpose of the torture?
The police’s purpose for committing acts of torture against Shen Aibin was to have him sign incriminating statements prepared by them to frame other activists, including Ding Hongfen and Shen Guodong, close associates who were also detained for leading the black jail rescue mission. They wanted both activists to admit to criminal behavior: intentionally hitting and damaging the guesthouse and snatching detained “students,” who police claimed were being held in order to undergo “legal education.” The police also wanted Shen Aibin to admit to being the organizer of the mission and accused him of wrongdoing—leading a group of people to the guesthouse knowing it was being used as a government “legal education center.”
7. Was the victim examined by a doctor at any point during or after his/her ordeal? If so, when? Was the examination performed by a prison or government doctor?
A detention center doctor performed rudimentary medical exams on each activist after they were transferred to Wuxi No. 1 Detention Center. After Shen Guodong’s ordeal of torture on July 10, he informed authorities at the detention center that he had been tortured to confess. Photos of his wrists were taken, but no further medical exam was performed. During his court hearing on October 25-26, 2014, Shen disclosed that he was forced to confess. However, the prosecutor denied his allegations and refused to show the photos of his wrists taken at the detention center.
8. Was appropriate treatment received for injuries sustained as a result of the torture?
No, because no visible injuries were seen on the activists’ bodies, the authorities provided no treatment.
9. Was the medical examination performed in a manner which would enable the doctor to detect evidence of injuries sustained as a result of the torture? Were any medical reports or certificates issued? If so, what did the reports reveal?
No. The doctor’s examination was brief and rudimentary. The doctor saw no visible signs of injuries and thus did not produce a medical report.
10. If the victim died in custody, was an autopsy or forensic examination performed and which were the results?
Victims did not die in custody.
III. Remedial action
Were any domestic remedies pursued by the victim or his/her family or representatives (complaints with the forces responsible, the judiciary, political organs, etc.)? If so, what was the result?
Between March 20 and May 29, 2014, Shen Aibin and Shen Guodong, along with other activists, on 11 occasions filed reports of allegation of torture and arbitrary detention with both the Binhu District People’s Procuratorate and Wuxi City People’s Procuratorate. During this period, they also sent the allegations to the Jiangsu Province People’s Procuratorate multiple times. After his release on March 12, 2015, Shen Aibin again filed complaints with the procuratorate of both Wuxi City and Jiangsu Province. However, to date, none of these procuratorates have responded to the activists’ letters of allegations and complaints.
Date submitted: November 6, 2015