Lawyer detained in Heilongjiang black jail shares account of events

From right to left: Jiang Tianyong, Tang Jitian, Wang Cheng and Zhang Junjie outside the black jail in
Qinglongshan, Heilongjiang. (Photo courtesy of Zhang Junjie)

China Aid Association

(Jiansanjiang, Heilongjiang—April 2, 2014) One of human rights lawyers illegally kidnapped and detained on March 21 gave China Aid an exclusive account of the events that occurred from the time he arrived in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province to the time that he boarded a plane to head home.

Zhang Junjie was detained for five days. Papers for his detention originally listed his crime as “gambling,” he said. Zhang wrote that he felt that his fellow human rights defenders and all citizens who had concerned themselves with the case deserved to know what took place during his involvement with the case of illegally detained citizens in Jiansanjiang. For China Aid’s report on the lawyers’ detention, see

Translated and edited by China Aid Association

(Headings added by China Aid)

Though I have unbearable and excruciating pain in my back, I thought of the three colleagues who were still being detained. I couldn’t sleep either in the morning or at night. As I personally experienced it, I deeply feel that there is a need to tell you the whole process of the incident so that both citizens and my colleagues, who are fighting in the frontline in the cold, snowy fields and engaging in hunger strikes, would understand.

I got the information [about the case] from lawyer Tang Jitian while I was on my way to Liaoning, [in northeastern China], for a case. [Tang] reported that they were handling a case in Jiamusi, [in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province], involving the illegal detention of a citizen. There were too many clients, and they asked me if I could get involved.

I immediately answered that it was not a problem. As a human rights lawyer, I have no reason to balk when citizens are illegally detained.

Then, after the case in Liaoning was temporarily put on hold, I bought a train ticket directly from Shenyang, [the capital of Liaoning], to Jiamusi. As I was in a hurry to arrive at the destination, I sat on a hard seat for 15 consecutive hours, and I arrived at Jiamusi at nearly 11 a.m. on March 20. I was still half a day later than the scheduled meeting time [set by the other lawyers]. In fact, Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng and the clients’ families had already made the preparations to set out.

They had hired a driver and were waiting for me at the train station. After I got into the vehicle, I was told we were going to a place called Jiansanjiang. The trip lasted four hours. It was after 3 p.m. when we arrived in Jiansanjiang.

We had a casual meal at a hotel. When we were leaving, I saw Ding Zhongye, the person who gave me his authorization to represent the clients. In the hotel, he signed the formatted letter of authorization. While we were walking to our vehicle, he briefly told us about the case. Since last year, his wife, Jiang Xinbo, had been illegally detained twice at a place called “Qinglongshan” without any legal procedures. Jiang Xinbo is still detained at Qinglongshan.

The other lawyers and I traveled together, and later that afternoon, after a journey full of tosses and turn, we arrived at the Public Security Bureau office in Qinglongshan Farm. Alongside the office was a yard with no markings or signs. Jiang told me that the yard on the side of the building is the illegal detention center. A domestic security protection squad agent later called the place the “Qinglongshan Legal Education Base.”

I was astonished as I had never seen or imagined, in a dozen years of practice as a lawyer, that such a place where authorities illegally detain citizens is not abolished. Instead, it exists on a long-term basis right at the door of a Public Security Bureau that is supposed to safeguard the security of the citizens.

According to Jiang Tianyong, he, along with lawyers Tang Jitian, Wang Cheng, Liang Xiaojun and Zhao Yonglin, and several others, brought an official lawsuit to the Jiansanjiang Procuratorate about the illegal detention center, but haven’t gotten any responses so far.

When we went into the courtyard through a door, Tang Jitian immediately recognized the middle-aged man, who was making a phone call inside the door, as the head of the “education center.” We later learned that his name is Fang Yuechun, and he is the deputy director of the public security bureau.

Fang Yuechun obviously also recognized Tang Jitian. He became vicious and denounced us through his clenched teeth for our arrival. He totally ignored our demand that he issue a legal notice for detaining our clients.

Then, more than 20 family members of the clients arrived after hearing we were there. They gathered at the door of the courtyard, and everybody was indignant and demanded that Fang Yuechun stop detaining people illegally and immediately release the citizens to go home.

As I had just arrived, I had been trying to get some information from the people outside the group who authorized me [to work on the case]. Then another middle-aged man came into the courtyard. Jiang Tianyong immediately recognized him as Zhou, a man who works for the procuratorate. He recognized him because when the lawyers submitted the lawsuit at the procuratorate, Zhou was there.

As a legal professional, my first judgment and reaction was that if a person from the procuratorate had arrived at the scene, he must be there to solve the problem. So, I asked the people to quiet down and asked him to solve our problem. Little did we anticipate that this person would say he was only a temporary employee of the procuratorate and could not take care of the matter. He left the scene in a hurry.

By this time, some of the family members had already recognized him. In fact, he is not an employee of the procuratorate. It was nonsense that he was a temporary employee. His is really a police officer of the Jiansanjiang Domestic Security Protection Squad, and he may also be a deputy team leader. His real name is Yu Wenbo, not Zhou.

I was astonished and a little angry. As a police officer who is supposed to serve the people, he posed as an employee of the procuratorate when the clients sued at the Jiansanjiang Procuratorate. What was the purpose of his deceit?

By that time we had been at the scene for nearly an hour, and it was after 6 p.m. Police officers from the public security bureau next door entered and exited the detention center as if nothing were happening, and nobody showed any concern for this incident. The abnormality of many aspects of the situation made me feel uneasy.

After I discussed the matter briefly with Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng and others, we felt that the facts were basically clear, and we decided to go to the procuratorate on the next day to submit a new lawsuit with our clients’ approval. After that, we decided to leave.

When we came out of the door of the illegal detention center, we found the vehicle in which we had arrived was no longer there. When we called the driver, he said he was chased away by the police, and he dared not take us back [to Jiansanjiang]. After some convincing, the driver finally agreed to come back to drive for us.

When the driver arrived, he was followed closely by three vehicles. One of them had a license plate, which Jiang Tianyong recognized. The other two vehicles had intentionally covered up their license plates. They blocked us and chased us all the way back to Jiangsanjiang.

Back in Jiangsanjiang for the night
After our meal [in Jiansanjiang that night], we went to the Green Tree Inn near the Jiansanjiang Procuratorate and booked two rooms. We planned to file the lawsuit the next morning. As I had sat on a hard seat in the train for too long and worked most of the day, I fell asleep before I could shower or prepare the materials for the lawsuit.

At 7:37 a.m. the next day, March 21, Wang Cheng, who shared a room with me, woke me up and told me to hurriedly draft the materials for the lawsuit so that we could go to the procuratorate together. With drowsy eyes, I went into the bathroom, and I was washing my face and hands when I heard the sound of fighting coming from outside.

Before I could open the bathroom door, it was broken open. Several men in plain clothes and two men dressed in the uniforms of assistant police officers dragged me out of the bathroom. They told me to get my luggage ready and go with them.

As I was getting my things ready, I demanded that they show their identification papers and protested that they were using brute force against me. After my requests were rudely denied, they took me by force to the elevator. They grabbed me by the neck and pushed me into a white vehicle without police markings that was parked at the door of the hotel.

A little time later, Wang Cheng was carried into my vehicle. “I’m a lawyer, and I’m handling a case. This is kidnapping,” Wang shouted. There were many bystanders.

We were taken to a building with a sign saying “Daxing Public Security Branch.” On our way there and after we arrived, both Wang Cheng and I were stating that we are lawyers, and we emphasized the validity of our duties that we were doing.

The men totally ignored us. In fact, what we faced were assistant police officers who have no business in law enforcement. Their knowledge of the law, or lack thereof, meant that they could not possibly give a response to the questions we raised.

About half an hour later, Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong were also brought to the location. After 9 a.m., without showing us their identification papers and with no explanation as to why they summoned us, they demanded that we open our luggage piece by piece so that they could check them and take photos and videos. As for our cell phones, they had been confiscated while we were on our way here so that we could not send out any messages for help or call the police.

‘Bad luck began to fall’
At about 10 a.m., my interrogation began and bad luck began to fall on me. When an assistant police officer angrily lectured me as if he were engaging serious business, I demanded once again that he and the middle-aged man sitting beside him show their identification papers.

“You want our identification papers?” the man asked.

I nodded my head. He made a signal to the other man and said, “Go and get Yu Wenbo.”

Yu Wenbo came in and asked, “Did you want our identification papers?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Let’s go upstairs and I’ll show you,” Yu Wenbo said.

Then, I was escorted by them, both in front of me and behind me, and we came from the interrogation room to a conference room on the second floor. While Yu Wenbo was pretending to look for his identification papers, the man behind me had already closed the door (I think his last name is Li, but I’m not sure of this). Before I knew it, Yu Wenbo had slapped me in the face seven or eight times.

When I realized this, I saw he was smashing my head with a water bottle that was more than half full. With a sense of urgency, I shouted, “A police officer is beating me! A DSPS agent is beating me, and Yu Wenbo is beating me!”

After I started yelling, the man behind me began to hit me, too. The two of them knocked me to the floor and beat me violently for at least three minutes. With kicks and punches raining down on me, all I could do was cover my head with my hands and continue to shout in a loud voice.

When other people came in after hearing my shouting, I could no longer sit up. Whenever I move a little, there was excruciating pain in my back. I realized I had an injury to my lower back. I was too weak to lift my head to see who they were. They claimed to know the law, but I knew it was impossible for him to fight for justice for me. He certainly didn’t disappoint me. He uttered some halfhearted words, got up and went away.

With unbearable sadness and anger, I said some of the strongest words I’ve ever said. “Yu Wenbo, unless you kill me today, I, first of all, will never cooperate with you. Don’t even think you will get a word of written record from me. Second, if I don’t die today, I will definitely sue you when I get out and I will not stop until I die.”

Little did I know that he wouldn’t care; he threatened me. “Wait and see what will become of you. I’ll put you in criminal detention immediately, and I’ll execute you.”

He continued to mutter other words. After that, he sent in an assistant police officer named Ma to watch over me; he simply ignored me. During lunch time, I requested a meal. The answer was “Nobody has eaten yet. How can you eat?”

When I requested a meal for dinner, they said they had not prepared for my meal. This went on until after midnight. A person named Yao came and gave instructions for Ma to give me a serving of instant noodles. Having not eaten for a day and dealing with excruciating pain in my lower back, I couldn’t eat at all. With this stick-and-carrot game and my back pain, I compromised and agreed to give a written statement, but I declared that I wouldn’t say anything that goes against my heart or the facts, nor would I say anything to cater to their desires.

Administrative penalty
It was already 2:30 a.m. when I got down to the interrogation room on the first floor. I saw some written statements left on the desk that officers had not had time to take away. There were statements for the cases of Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian. By this time, the other three lawyers should have already done the written records.

I finally signed the document after I made multiple revisions to the draft authorities had prepared, all while being threatened and shouted at. It was 5 a.m. sharp. At about 9 a.m., with my head covered, I was brought to a vehicle with several other people who I assumed were the other three lawyers.

After a bumpy ride, we arrived at what I believe was a hospital. After we finished the physical check-ups in two hospitals, we were taken to different vehicles. In the vehicle I was in, there were two of the people who had beaten me and the driver. They received a call while they were in the vehicle. The person on the other side must have asked how long we would be detained. The man in the vehicle said that I had a license and it was my first time to come to Jiansanjiang and I would be detained for five days. This made me conclude that the other lawyers would have longer detentions than mine. I confirmed this conclusion after I saw in Tang Jitian and Jiang Tianyong’s papers for administrative penalty that they each received 15 days of administrative detention.

My vehicle arrived at the detention center before 10:30 a.m. As they did not have the papers ready for detention, we were forced to wait at the detention center until 2 p.m. before I was officially sent to a holding cell. During the time I was waiting, I requested many times that my law credentials be returned to me (my luggage and identification had already been returned).

It is worth mentioning that on the notice of administrative penalty that I had been required to sign, “gambling” was listed in the space denoting which crime I was suspected of committing. We can see from this how careless the authorities were. I wonder whether the other lawyers noticed this.

To be honest, after I entered the detention center, I received no more beatings, but I was interrogated almost every day. What they asked in those interrogations was all in the original statement. The interrogations may have been caused by my many requests for my law license. Many people took turns interrogating me and threatening to revoke my law credentials or place me under criminal detention.

I had a sinister premonition about what was happening after being asked several times who the mastermind and on-spot organizer behind the scene in Qinglongshan was. I insisted that I was asked whether I was willing to represent clients in the case of illegal detention and that I came of my own will. I told them I am an adult and a lawyer so I am responsible for myself.

On the evening of March 26, Liu Changhe, the head of the Jiansanjiang Domestic Security Protection Squad, and Yu Wenbo came to the detention center. They asked me how I was planning to leave Jiansanjiang and whether I needed a police escort. I said in clear terms that I didn’t need their escort and my assistant would rent a car to come pick me up.

Later, I learned that my assistant was asked to complete an application requesting a police escort. As I have always been strict and given rigorous training to my assistants, he declined to complete the application, saying he dared not fill it out without my approval.

However, at 3:50 p.m., I was awoken by police. After filling out some simple paperwork and taking inventory of all my items (by this time, my law license had been returned to my passcode-protected briefcase), I was asked to get into a SUV with a civilian license plate that was parked outside. They wanted to pick up my assistant and drive him directly to Jiamusi. I insisted that I go to the hotel first and leave there after I had bathed and changed clothes.

When we left the hotel, we changed vehicles at a building called Sanjianmidu Building, where we picked up a local lawyer named Wang, who said he would like to volunteer to accompany us for a stretch of our trip. So, the six of us— Liu Changhe, Yu Wenbo, the lawyer, Wang, the driver, my assistant and myself— went to the Jiamusi airport. At the airport, I requested that Liu Changhe take a photo with us as a memory. After our meal, paid for by the officers, my assistant and I went directly to the security check to board the plane.

Before we departed, I had a solemn talk with Yu Wenbo about the violent beating he gave me. He said it was regrettable, although he didn’t apologize, and used it as an excuse to leave the scene. Liu gave me a direct reply, saying he was sorry for the beating I received.

I want to express my thanks to all my colleagues and citizen friends for your support and your attention. The microblog of Brother Zhang Lei, who is fighting at the frontline through a hunger strike, can be used as a conclusion for what I say here. It is called “The Significance of Mutual Help Among the Lawyers.” He would tell every colleague of his: “You are not alone!”

With injuries to my body, plus sadness and anger in the past few days, there might be omissions in my recollections. Let me make up for them later.

China Aid Contacts

Rachel Ritchie, English Media Director
Cell: (432) 553-1080 | Office: 1+ (888) 889-7757 | Other: (432) 689-6985
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