China: Investigate Torture Allegations of Detained Lawyer Xie Yang, Hold Torturers Accountable

Comments Off on China: Investigate Torture Allegations of Detained Lawyer Xie Yang, Hold Torturers Accountable
China: Investigate Torture Allegations of Detained Lawyer Xie Yang, Hold Torturers Accountable

CHRD calls for the release of lawyer Xie Yang, particularly in light of recent torture allegations, and is concerned that others detained from the ongoing crackdown against lawyers have been subjected to similar treatment.

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, January 24, 2016) – The Chinese government must ensure a prompt and impartial investigation into torture allegations made by detained human rights lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳). CHRD contends that there is reasonable grounds to believe that acts of torture have been committed against Xie, who is detained at Changsha No. 2 Detention Center in Hunan Province. CHRD urges Chinese authorities not to retaliate against Xie, his family, and his lawyers, who have now filed a complaint against 10 police officers suspected of torture with the Changsha City People’s Procuratorate. CHRD reiterates its previous calls for the unconditional and immediate release of Xie Yang and other human rights lawyers, as the cases against them have been seriously marred by allegations of torture and other violations of fair trial rights granted under international conventions and Chinese law. 

According to notes collected by Xie’s lawyers Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) during meetings with Xie between January 4-13, 2017, Xie Yang disclosed details of being tortured by the police officers from the Changsha Public Security Bureau. The abuses took place mainly in the initial days of the six months of Xie’s detention under “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL), from July 11, 2015 to January 9, 2016. Xie was held under this form of de facto enforced disappearance at a government-run guesthouse for officials on the campus of the National University of Defense Technology in Changsha. Torture continued, Xie said, after he was moved to Changsha City Public Security No. 2 Detention Center, where he has been detained since being formally arrested in January 2016.

During the recent visits, Xie told his lawyers that police had extensively employed sleep deprivation, long interrogations, beatings, death threats, humiliation, and other methods of psychological torment to force him to confess and incriminate other lawyers. Xie’s recent allegations further substantiate and corroborate what he had told lawyers during visits in July and November of 2016, when he had described torture at the same detention facilities. The methods of torture Xie described have been commonly used in China’s detention facilities, especially in the period immediately after being taken into police custody and in secret locations such as under RSDL. Such torture has been well-documented in recent years by human rights groups, including in multiple reports by CHRD, and also concluded by the UN Committee against Torture. Xie, still being held at the Changsha detention center while awaiting trial, is at risk of retaliation by the same officers whom he accused of torturing him.

Xie described a torture device known as a “hanging chair,” where he was made to sit on stacked-up plastic chairs with his feet dangling off the ground for several straight hours, such that circulation was cut off to his legs and feet, which became swollen. Xie said he was subjected to severe sleep deprivation during non-stop sessions of interrogation, which sometimes lasted for days. Numerous times, the pain was so excruciating that he nearly passed out and collapsed. Once, when he felt gravely ill and feared he was going to die, he demanded the police call in a medical emergency, but instead an officer beat him. Interrogators threatened to kill him so that nobody would know what happened to him, and also threatened to kill his wife and child. The policemen boasted that they enjoyed impunity, since they had permission from the leaders in the Central Government in Beijing to break Xie down. Other forms of mistreatment included police denying Xie food and water, and blowing cigarette smoke into his face.

Detainees held in secrecy—and denied visits by lawyers and notification of families, as with RSDL in China—are at higher risk of being subjected to torture. RSDL is legal in China under Article 73 of the Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which provides that an individual like Xie Yang, accused of “national security” crimes, can be held in a “police-designated” location for up to six months. Under Chinese law, families still must be informed of their status within 24 hours, but police do not have to tell families the detainees’ exact whereabouts. The law fails to provide RSDL detainees with basic legal protections, including access to lawyers or the ability to challenge the legality of their detention. The Committee Against Torture (CAT) expressed “grave concern” over Article 73 and urged China to repeal the provision “as a matter of urgency” during its 2015 review of the Chinese government’s implementation of the Convention against Torture.

According to his lawyers, Xie identified state agents who took part in the acts of torture. Since the allegations were made public last week, Xie and his lawyer Liu Zhengqing have filed a complaint against the police officers, demanding an investigation and prosecution for their suspected criminal acts. Other lawyers have also reported Xie’s torture allegations to government authorities under Article 108 (1) and (3) of the CPL, which request citizens report incidents of torture to local police and the procuratorate, and require these agencies to file the cases for investigation. According to these lawyers, the accused Changsha police officers should be investigated for “torturing to force confession” and “using violence to extract evidence” under the Criminal Law (Art. 247). In addition, the CPL states that procurators must investigate accusations of forced confessions (Article 55). Under Article 12 of the Convention against Torture, to which China has been a party since 1988, the Chinese government is obligated to conduct prompt and impartial investigation into accusations of acts of torture committed by these state agents:

  • Li Feng (李峰), National Security Corps of the Hunan Provincial Public Security Department (湖南省公安厅国保总队警察)
  • Li Kewei (李克伟), Director, National Security Brigade of the Changsha City Public Security Bureau (湖南省长沙市公安局国保支队支队长 (Xie Yang identified Director Li as the officer in charge of handling his case)   
  • Wang Tietuo (王铁铊), Director, Sixth Battalion of the Changsha City National Security Brigade (长沙市国保支队第六大队大队长)
  • Ye Yun (叶云), Political Instructor, National Security Brigade of the Changsha City Public Security Bureau, 6th division (长沙市国保支队第六大队指导员)
  • Li Yang (李阳), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)
  • Qu Ke (屈可), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)
  • Yin Zhuo (尹卓), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)
  • Zhou Lang (周浪), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)
  • Zhou Yi (周毅), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)
  • Zhuang Xiaoliang (庄晓亮), interrogator at location of residential surveillance (长沙市国保支队警察)

Police initially took Xie into custody in July 2015 during the crackdown on human rights lawyers. Xie had represented many persecuted human rights activists and religious practitioners, and most recently before his detention, the family of a petitioner shot dead in Qing’an City in Heilongjiang. Xie, who turns 45 years old on February 4, was indicted on December 16, 2016, and faces imminent trial on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” and “disrupting court order.”

Xie’s lawyers told CHRD that they are not sure why police at the detention center allowed Xie to speak to them at such great length about the details of torture during the January visits; in most cases, such meetings are closely monitored, either by police who are present or by surveillance camera. The lawyers were also apparently allowed to bring extensive notes out of the detention center. The lawyers said their level of access to Xie appeared unprecedented, in that police have almost always denied lawyers’ requests for meetings in cases involving the July 2015 crackdown on lawyers. When the rare visits to such detainees have taken place, police have closely monitored or interrupted them, and blocked detainees from speaking about mistreatment inside detention. 

CHRD reported in 2015 on how China has largely failed to conduct impartial investigations into allegations against Chinese police and other state agents, nor prosecuted them according to the law for using torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment in interrogations. These methods are meant to break down detainees in order to force a confession and extract incriminating evidence. In a few cases where the government claimed that it had investigated or prosecuted suspected torturers, it failed to provide concrete information about these cases, as CAT has pointed out. CAT has repeatedly requested the Chinese government provide specific information on torture cases, most recently in its November 2015 Concluding Observations for its review on China.

Xie Yang’s torture allegations surface at a crucial time, as a report by China to the Committee against Torture is overdue. The Committee requested China to provide an update in December 2016 on any progress in implementing recommendations concerning several issues, including data on independent investigations into torture allegations and criminal penalties for perpetrators.

Since the allegations have come to light and complaints filed, Changsha police have summoned Xie’s wife, Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋) for questioning, for seven hours on January 20. Changsha police told Chen that they would also summon lawyer Chen Jiangang for questioning. Lawyer Chen first posted Xie’s testimonies on his weibo and blog. He is based in Beijing and, as of the time of writing, has not received any summons from police in Beijing.

Xie’s testimony to his lawyers may offer a clue to the fate of the other lawyers and activists detained in and around July 2015. Xie said that he was forced to sign confessions that police extracted from him under duress, and that he feared for his life after several days of sleep deprivation and other mistreatment. Police repeatedly promised him that they would stop the torture, release him, or allow him to see his lawyers if he confessed and incriminated other lawyers. Last summer and fall, several lawyers and activists who admitted guilt or provided information—either in court trials or on state television—may very well have been subjected to the same intense torture. Lawyers Wang Yu (王宇), Zhang Kai (张凯), and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) and activists Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Hu Shigen (胡石根) and Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), for instance, made public confessions before being either convicted or conditionally released. Those who have been released are living under close police monitoring, and are unable to communicate freely or talk publicly about what they experienced during police interrogation.

The lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富), who returned to his home in Beijing on January 12 after being released, has displayed symptoms of what appears to be severe trauma. His poor physical condition shocked his wife and he appears to be in psychological distress. Though Li has not been able to tell families what he went through during his detention incommunicado under RSDL and at Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center for more than 500 days, his family fears that he may have also been tortured. The reports of the torture of Xie Yang are cause for further fears among supporters and especially families of secretly detained lawyers Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who have not had any access to lawyers since their detention began more than 18 months ago, or of the recently detained lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇). All of these men have likely been subjected to torture.

There are reasonable grounds to believe that the lawyers and activists held in secret detention without access to a lawyer has been subjected to torture, in violation of the Convention against Torture and Chinese law. The Chinese government must immediately release all lawyers and activists who are at risk of being tortured. These individuals should not have been detained in the first place, as they have been taken into custody by the government in retaliation for promoting and protecting human rights.    


Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 863 866 1012, reneexia[at], Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator (English), +1 209 643 0539, victorclemens[at], Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens

Frances Eve, Researcher (English), +852 6695 4083, franceseve[at], Follow on Twitter:@FrancesEveCHRD

Back to Top