(Daguan, Guizhou—June 25, 2015) A group of lawyers investigating the persecution of a house church in southwest China’s Guizhou province was set upon by more than 100 people, believed to have been mobilized by a special police unit, in the second such incident in three weeks.
The June 18 clash took place in the county of Qianxi as nine lawyers, including the well-known Beijing rights defense lawyer Zhang Kai, and a Guizhou pastor, Yang Hua, were driving to the town of Daguan to look into the case of persecution against 12 local house church Christians who had been administratively detained for 10 days following a May 24 police raid on their Sunday worship service, according to Qiao Nong, China Aid’s special correspondent in Hong Kong.
The Daguan church felt that the detentions were illegal and hired a lawyer to file an administrative lawsuit on behalf of the detained Christians against the county Public Security Bureau, which had imposed the sentence, asking that the decision be invalidated.
Pastor Yang and the nine lawyers were followed by several vehicles, two of which had no license plates, when they were driving to the town of Daguan from the county seat, where they had tried unsuccessfully to meet with the Christians involved in the case.
When they arrived in Daguan, several motorcycles approached and began to harass them, and faked a collision that forced the group of lawyers to stop their vehicle and get out, whereupon they were immediately surrounded by dozens of unidentified men who began to curse at them and threaten them,
Then “we were besieged by more than a hundred people,” Pastor Yang said. “They were people sent by the Domestic Security Protection Squad to besiege us. They smashed the car and hit us. Nine lawyers were at the scene, including lawyer Zhang Kai.”
The group, fearing for their lives, abandoned their vehicle and sought refuge in the local police station. The incident happened around 6 p.m.
Yang said the lawyers called 110 to report the incident to the police, but the police did not apprehend anyone.
“They did not catch them or give any explanation. There were too many people, around 100-200 people. Some were villagers, they came to besiege us. Right now we are hiding in the Police Station,” Pastor Yang said by phone to Qiao. When Qiao phoned the police station to ask about the people hiding there, the female officer who answered said she was unaware of anyone taking refuge in the station but acknowledged that the station had received the 110 call and had sent officers out to investigate.
A photograph of the scene showed a private family vehicle stopped on the road with a motorcycle in front of it, toppled to the ground, and many people standing around the white vehicle.
The June 18 clash was the second time in three weeks that lawyers involved in the Daguan house church case have been set upon in the course of their rights defense work. On May 29, when Pastor Yang, lawyer Li Guisheng and two others went to the Qianxi County Public Security Bureau and detention center trying unsuccessfully to meet with the detainees, they were threatened by more than 10 unidentified knife-wielding men who followed them all the way from the county seat to the town of Daguan.
More than 300 Christians are members of the Daguan house church, which was founded 13 years ago and is typical of house churches across China. Weekly attendance at the Sunday worship services is about 80.
During the May 24 raid, as many as 80 public security and anti-riot police rounded up 30 church members and then administratively detained 12 of them for “engaging in illegal religious activities.” Police also searched the premises and confiscated church property.
When the church held a Sunday worship service on June 7 in a church member’s private home, local Domestic Security Protection agents climbed over a wall to set up surveillance of the meeting.
That evening, when church members went to the provincial capital of Guiyang to seek advice from lawyer Li Guisheng, police raced to the hotel they were meeting at and rounded them all up. The lawyer was released an hour later after being summoned to the police station for questioning, and the six or seven Christians taken away by police from Qianxi County.
At around 12 p.m.. on June 18, 2015, Zhang Kai and eight other lawyers arrived in Guiyang to defend the rights of the house church in Qianxi County. Unlike last time, lawyers from different places united to defend the church. There were nine lawyers and one college professor, Zhuang Daohe from Zhejiang, involved. Lawyers, besides me, Xiao Yunyang, included:
Zhang Kai from Beijing Wang Hongjie from Guangzhou Lei Xiaodong from Xian
Deng Qinggao from Fujian Liu Dapeng from Beijing Cheng Xiaogang from Chengdu
Lin Zhigang from Shanghai Li Guisheng from Guizhou
When Zhang Kai left the airport, he was followed. The person who followed him did a very poor job, openly taking pictures of him. After Zhang Kai caught him taking pictures, he demanded that the man delete all the images. Upon seeing and hearing Zhang Kai’s loud voice, bold face, and muscular figure, the man was afraid and unwillingly deleted the images he took of Zhang Kai.
In order to save time, we headed directly to Qianxi County and did not eat lunch. On our way, we were followed by many cars. After all, there are no secrets in the information era. We are defending human rights, the dignity of the law, and the rights of the people. We have no need to hide. We openly announce what we are doing. We were “escorted” along the way. What a luxury service we were “enjoying!”
We arrived at the Qianxi County Detention Center at 4:15 p.m. and asked to see the detainees, but the detention center rejected the request, saying that they were closed. After discussing amongst ourselves, we decided to go to the house church in Daguan township. We arrived at the church just before 6:30 p.m., but the church was empty. The locals told us that church members had been detained by the police station before we arrived.
We decided to visit the Daguan Police Station. Zhang Kai had already received a phone call from the Qianxi County Public Security director, Cheng, who asked to meet us at the Daguan Police Station. We met Director Cheng and Deputy Director Hao. We asked the police at the station where the church members had been taken? All the policemen said that they had not done or heard anything about the church members being taken. We wondered who would have the courage to pretend that the police had kidnaped people.
Hao and Cheng welcomed us enthusiastically. Cheng said that Zhang Kai is his friend on WeChat. They invited us to dinner and said that it would just be a friendly dinner with no discussion of the case. Led by Cheng, we went to a sushi restaurant located in Qianxi County. Before dinner, Hao asked for and recorded the name, phone number, and law firm of each lawyer. I was wondering in my head whether we would a receive phone call from the Ministry of Justice the next day. Not long after, delicious wild fish was brought to the table.
Hao soon left because he had too much to drink. Cheng stayed and toasted each lawyer frequently. Although we had agreed not to discuss the case, after we drank a couple of rounds, we were relaxed and laid aside the previous agreement. We started to discuss the case and requested that the church members be released. Cheng said he could release the church members, but the church needed to close forever. We believed that if the church members were eligible to be released, that implied they did not break the law, let alone commit any sins. It’s is not for a lawyer to say whether the church will or will not close.
The negotiations at dinner ended with our request to meet the detainees tomorrow. Cheng said if our request to meet the detainees was rejected by the detention center, we should come see him. He could help us to meet Dai Xiaoqiang from the church. The dinner ended at 1:30 a.m., and Cheng introduced us to Yong Guirong and brought us to one of the county’s five-star hotels.
At 10:30 a.m on the second day, we went to the detention center, where we got inside very easily. After registration, Zhang Kai was getting ready to meet Dai Xiaoqiang, and Wang Hongjie and Lei Xiaodong were getting ready to meet Huang Huaxing. Lin Zhigang and I were getting ready to meet Zhou Xunmin. The police at the detention center told us that there were only two meeting rooms for lawyers, which were currently occupied by other lawyers and that we needed to wait patiently until they finished their meetings. The police told us that we could meet the detainees at noon because they wouldn’t take a break that day.
At that time, we saw that there were six empty meeting rooms. We asked to meet in the empty rooms but were told that they were for the police and that if we were allowed to use them, the officers who let us would be punished. Our request was denied, so we had to wait patiently. The meeting rooms for lawyers were occupied for a long time. At first, we thought either it was because the lawyers were very responsible and had countless questions to ask or because the lawyers were not very good. Finally, after we waited an hour and a half, I requested that the officers ask the lawyers to finish their meetings soon. I told them that we were not from the area and that I hoped they could understand and cooperate with us. They replied that they would be done very soon, but they weren’t.
At 12:30 p.m., I barged into the meeting room and confronted the lawyers. I noticed that the whole record of their long meeting was less than half a page. As it was time for lunch at the detention center; the police officers came and asked those lawyers to leave. Then we noticed that the lawyers did not retrieve their lawyer’s licenses at the lawyers’ welcome room and instead walked directly out of the detention center. At this time, the police told us that we cannot meet at noon. They asked us to come back at 2:30 p.m. We finally realized that this was a trap set by the Qianxi County Public Security Bureau. Since they had no reason to reject our request to meet the detainees, they used these despicable tricks on us.
We decided not to go to lunch but to occupy the meeting rooms. Suddenly, the person in charge of the meeting room Deng Jinmei was in yelled at us and asked us to leave and come back after 2:30 p.m. We argued with the man. Zhang Kai said that he would sue the detention center for allowing non-lawyers to meet with the detainees. Zhang Kai asked the person in charge for the rooms’ records, which allowed us to occupy the meeting rooms.
At around 1:30 p.m., a man named Yang, the detention center’s director, invited us to meet. In order to protect the right to rest of the detainees, he said, he would arrange for us to meet the detainees at 2:30 p.m. I asked Yang: “Will we for sure be allowed to meet with the detainees at 2:30 p.m.?” He answered uncertainly: “We need to see what the case looks like then.” Why not see right now? I thought. Apparently, he’s setting another trap. We knew then that our request to meet would not be granted.
Yang came again at 2:30 p.m. He pretended to review the case and the detainees we wanted to meet and said: “I know about this case. The related department dealing with this case already told me that you need to attain permission from them in order to meet with the detainees.”
We said: “This case is not one of those cases that need permission from the related department dealing with this case because this case is not subject to Criminal Procedural Law.”
Yang said: “It is not right to not allow you to meet the detainees. The related department dealing with this case already notified us that we need to ask for permission.”
So Yang went to seek permission. At 3:00 p.m., he came back and said that the related department dealing with this case did not give us permission. Confronted by such unlawful behavior from those in power, we had no choice but to leave the detention center and go file a complaint.
The first complaint was against the person in charge of the meeting room at the detention center. The employee at the complaints department who received us yelled at us. We asked him to write down our complaint. After Zhang Kai’s argument with him, he took out a pen and paper and recorded our accusations:
1. The detention center illegally allowed non-lawyers to meet with detainees.
2. The detention center did not allow lawyers to meet their clients.
3. The detention center illegally exploited the detainees.
We found that the detention center’s registration book showed that only one lawyer came to meet with the detainees that morning. The detention center told us that four lawyers came before us to meet with the detainees. The Qianxi County Public Security Bureau openly broke the law in order to stop us from meeting with our clients. These actions are humiliating to the Central Committee’s principal of ruling the country according to the law.
We decided to visit the Christians at the church in Daguan. On our way, we were followed by more than 10 cars. Two of the cars did not have license plates. When we went through a village, the car following us got close, so we stopped our car. A man around 40 years old riding a motorcycle with no license plate came near to look into Pastor Yang Hua and Zhang Kai’s car.
At around 7 p.m., we arrived in front of the Daguan Police Station. The Volkswagen with no license plate was blocking the way in front of us. A Honda with no license plate was following Zhang Kai’s car. Our car was moving very slowly. The motorcycle with no license plate that looked at Zhang Kai’s car bumped us on our wheel with its wheel. Then the man on the motorcycle pretended to fall. Immediately, dozens of muscular men came out of the cars that were following us and began to smash our car’s doors and windows. The car was damaged.
At this time, more than 200 people were surrounding us. Zhang Kai was trapped in the car. Someone in the crowd commanded people to try to flip the car. Pastor Yang and Zhang Kai got out of the car and started to negotiate with them. The mob of people surrounded us and started to curse and threatened to beat us. No one answered when we called 110. Meanwhile, the man who pretended to be hit by our car, Fu Mingxiang, showed up. He had some bruises on his arm (There are risks in pretending to be hit by a car). This man said that he needed medical treatment. Pastor Yang spent 4,000 Yuan (U.S. $644) on the man’s medical treatment. The accident is still being investigated. This man’s vehicle does not have license plates. He bumped into the car from the back while trying to pass us. We are waiting to see how this instance will be handled.
That night, all the lawyers traveled back to Guiyang. We are still terrified by what happened, but our defense of human rights will not stop.
Wang Zuoan, the director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), said: “Religion will last for a long time. We need to treat and deal with it with a long-term point of view. We need to maintain the pattern of history and sustain it in the long run. We must not be anxious to attain our goals, which could end up in failure and cause much damage. We need to pay special attention to follow the development of the history rather than overthrow or forbid religion with political power. Such theory is ridiculous and stupid to be practiced in real life. This will bring tremendous damage to the Party and the development of the country.”
Written on June 20, 2015, in Guiyang