Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of Chinese rights lawyer Chang Weiping, who was detained last month after he shared details of his torture online.
Chang was taken away from his home by police in Baoji city in China’s northern province of Shaanxi, on Oct. 22, on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”
He is currently being held under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” Amnesty said in a call for action on its website.
“The arrest came six days after Chang posted a video on YouTube sharing details about his experience of torture during the 10 days he spent in RSDL detention in January 2020,” it said.
“The fact that Chang was subjected to torture before and is being denied access to his family and lawyer increases the risk that he might be subjected to torture or other ill-treatment,” the group warned, and called on its members to write to the Chinese authorities calling for Chang’s immediate release.
Chang’s father and two defense attorneys went to the Gaoxin district police department in Baoji on Oct. 26 to request legal documentation linked to his detention, visits with Chang, and to make a bail application, but all three requests were rejected.
Defense attorney Zhang Keke said they had also made a formal complaint to the government, but had received no response.
“Attorney Zhang Tingyuan and I asked to meet with Chang Weiping and applied for his release on bail pending trial,” Zhang told RFA at the time.
“The department handling his case is required to provide the family with legal documents relating to search and seizure,” he said. “But the reception staff wouldn’t answer directly, and … rejected our request, citing the needs of the investigation.”
Chang’s video detailed his torture during an earlier RSDL detention in January, during which he was forced to sit in a “tiger chair” for prolonged periods.
‘Orders from higher up’
Zhang said the police department staff had declined to confirm whether his second RSDL detention was linked to the video, and laughed when he suggested Chang could be mistreated again.
“They could just be carrying out orders from higher up,” he said.
Fellow rights attorney Wen Donghai said the video was being presented by police as a breach of an agreement setting conditions on his release from the last period of detention.
“But there was no breach,” Wen said. “He didn’t leave the country or the city where he lived, nor did he engage in other illegal actions.”
“Is exposing torture illegal? This was entirely about retaliation,” he said.
U.S.-based rights lawyer Chen Jiangang agreed.
“They tortured Chang Weiping and then they threatened him with this if he ever talked about it after his release,” Chen said. “Chang Weiping kept a record of the torture, so this is about retaliation.”
An employee who answered the phone at the Baoji municipal police department said they had no knowledge of the case, and needed to find out more before responding. However, no response was received by the time of broadcast.
Others also detained
Chang’s detention came after rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi and activists Zhang Zhongshun and Dai Zhenya were detained following a meeting with New Citizens’ Movement founder Xu Zhiyong, who was himself later detained after publishing an open letter calling on CCP general secretary Xi Jinping to step down.
The writers’ group PEN America, which gave Xu the 2020 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award earlier this year, published an open letter to the Chinese authorities from several prominent authors calling for Xu’s release.
“Writing an essay is no crime,” the letter said. “Nor is criticism of political leaders, nor peaceful advocacy for constitutional reform.”
“These are certainly not valid reasons to silence Xu, to tear him away from his family and the outside world, to force him into incommunicado detention, or to threaten him with criminal charges and years-long imprisonment,” said the letter, which counted Khaled Husseini, Ma Jian, Fatima Shaik, and Tom Stoppard among its signatories.
Xu was among five writers highlighted to market PEN America’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer on Nov. 15.
China is the worst jailer of writers and public intellectuals worldwide, with 73 behind bars in 2019, according to PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, the group said in a statement on its website.
Reported by Xue Xiaoshan for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.