[:de]Human Rights Report From A Detainee[:zh]Human Rights Report From A Detainee[:]

Chinese version: https://freedomcn.org/en_US/humanrightsinprison/

In Long Walk to Freedom, when Mandela recalled his near three decades of prison time, he wrote: “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones — and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals.” Today, after I have been jailed for 22 months by the Chinese Communist Party, my experience and knowledge allows me to say that: the Chinese authorities treat unprivileged prisoners even worse than cattle. People, who are imprisoned because they fought for political rights, freedom of religion, and other human rights, are especially cruelty repressed.

According to my observations, the prisoner’s treatments are also classified by ranks. First, prisoners with a higher rank in the bureaucratic system will be held to a better prison or cell, or get better treatments. Secondly, the authorities pursue a principle created by the Empress Dowager Cixi, which states: “Rather give to our ‘neighboring friends’ (foreigners), but never to the household slaves ̈”. Generally, foreign prisoners are less likely to be forced into slavery, and their religions are also somewhat respected. There are a large number of prisoners who will get better treatments and conveniences by backdoor deals with the prison guards. Prisons are filled with corruptions and shady businesses hidden from the outside world. The arbitrariness of prison rule, the excessive deprivation of prisoners’ rights, and the lack of transparency and external oversights, worked together to create the deformed black jail and the market for exchanges between money and power.

Of course, this is only the difference between prisoners.  Generally, prisoners are living in an extremely inhumane state. As one prisoner who was transferred from the Guangdong Provincial Detention Center (which mainly holds senior officials) to Baiyun District Detention Center lamented: “When I stepped into the GPDC (Short for Guangdong Province Detention Center), I felt I was falling from heaven to hell; then I realized here, hell is bottomless. ”

The ugliness outside the prison is often covered up, but it shows its naked self inside the prison, day and night. After being treated worse than cattle and went through long-term suffrage, it’s indeed a challenge for a man to save his sanity from the overwhelming hatred, and keep his humanity from animal nature. When we can’t directly eliminate evil, we should not allow it through our silence either. Although being committed to human rights and democracy is the reason why I am imprisoned, I simply cannot remain silent. I took this report as my witness of injustice and evil, so that I will not share in this sin.

In the following paragraphs, I will describe the situation from seven aspects respectively.

1. Inhuman and insulting treatments, beatings, and tortures are still common today.

On the first day I arrived at the BDDC (Short for Baiyun District Detention Center), I was kicked by an auxiliary police because I refused to squat down. Inside of the heavily guarded iron gates and high walls, the detainees are still wearing handcuffs and fetters, but the detainee custody officers often order them to squat down when they are transported for questioning, which was just to insult the detainees. After I was transferred to GFDC (Short for Guangzhou First Detention Center) , I myself encountered less of these situation, but I often see a lot of other detainees being treated as such. In GFDC, I have never seen any officer beating detainees, but it was common in BDDC. Occasionally, when detainee custody officers were patrolling, detainees would be called to the hallway out of the cells, (according to the long term detainees, there wasn’t enough surveillance cameras in the halls), first came an abusive reprimand, followed by the crackling sound of beating, and soon the detainee would come back, harshly injured. I have seen such situations with my own eyes. In GFDC, I have only seen Uighur detainees being beaten, and it seems to be very common. The Uighurs was not beaten by custody officers, but by the detectives. Neither the detention center nor the prosecutor recorded or reported and investigated the injuries. Cases for the Han Chinese are in the same situation: the detention center also allowed detectives or investigators to arraign detainees for days and nights continuously until the desired confessions were extracted. A detainee, who was detained in same month as me, had been consecutively interrogated over tens of days, was only allowed back into the cell briefly every evening. This interrogation method was also commonly used by the officials of the CCP (Short for Chinese Communist Party) Discipline Committees. A lot of arrested officials have experienced it, which happened in the illicit black jail created by the CCP Discipline Committees. Those detained Officials will be sent to detention centers after their confessions are extracted in the black jail.

Each cell has two fixed hoop on the cement plank, which is one of the detention center’s disciplinary measurements, called Fixed Shackles. If a detainee is wearing an ordinary fetter, he or she will still be able to move on their own, and complete many everyday life tasks independently. When the detainees are punished by Fixed Shackles, their fetters is locked on the hoop, and they must rely on others to help them to eat, sleep, go to bathroom and other daily tasks. This is a very painful experience. The punishment can be upgraded as they lock both the detainee’s handcuffs and fetters both on the hoop. The detainee has to curl up like a shrimp even when he or she is sleeping. Such punishment can last several days, but usually less than two weeks. In 2014, I have seen a case in cell 1309. It was a young man with obvious mental and intellectual disabilities, and he was sentenced ten years in prison by the CCP judicial authorities when a judicial identification said he had antisocial personality disorder. Because he could not control his agitation, he was put on Fixed Shackles for about a week. But if a person is sentenced to death, even he or she does nothing wrong, he or she will be put on Fixed Shackles, until the death penalty executed. A Pakistani man who was sent to jail in 2009, have Fixed Shackles put on him ever since 2014, suffering from such a long time ordeal, he wrote to Guangdong Higher Court and the Supreme Court on several occasions, requesting them to either release him or kill him. Wang Qingying, who was arrested along with me, has been put on Fixed Shackles for several times, and suffered from even more severe tortures.

I do not know for how long such inhuman torture will continue to exist, and this picture is actually a metaphor for the enslaved people’s lives. Many of our painful struggles were just to get rid of the shackles of slavery. The people are toiling but cannot keep from poverty, because their labors are just enough to fill the black hole of social transaction cost caused by the enslavement. Is our generation complacent to be slaves under a prosperous dictatorship, destined to become ignored footnotes in the history? Or will we leave a legacy by opening the way to cross the Red Sea and the desert for the arrival of freedom?

A more ordinary inhumane treatment is the ultra-high density close custody. In real life, people even won’t raise pigs under such condition because it will cause great harm to the pigs. However the prisoners are being held in dark, humid and narrow cells for years, with neither flowing air nor any nature light. Such detention condition itself is a kind of torture to the prisoners, which is also the culprit of human rights and humanitarian issues. Over 20 or nearly 30 people are held in a 20-30 square-meter cell, which is normal at both BDDC and GFDC. In fact, a large number of cells are empty in the detention centers. I do not understand why the authorities put people in a cell exceeding its capacity limit when there are obviously sufficient empty cells. By using detainees labor and external security service, the workload of detention center staffs has been greatly reduced, so there are no significant difficulties to increase the number of cells. In BDDC, the detainees have to sleep on side with their heads and feet interlaced so that they can barely lie down. In deep sleep, their feet often kicked on each other’s face, and the toes sometimes even stick into their inmates’ mouth. In GFDC, the detainees have to sleep in a line from the aisle to the front of the restroom. Ironically, the Code of Conduct, which detainees are forced to recite daily, provides: detainees shall not share a quilt. Now authorities have forced detainees to sleep much closer than sharing a quilt.

There was a very nasty experience at BDDC. When I was sent to BDDC, the detention authorities neither provided me a new set of toothbrush and cup, nor allowed me to bring or buy one by myself. Instead, they forced me to use the used toothbrushes and cups abandoned by left detainees, and which were actually shared by many detainees, totally ignored the fact that many detainees suffered from infectious diseases. According to the long-term detainees, it was not a rare situation. Fortunately, there was a skilled inmate who made a cup for me with a used chrysanthemum teabag, and I used it until I left BDDC. In BDDC, detainees also shared lunch boxes and spoons. In this regard, GFDC is slightly better: it issues all kinds of personal items to the detainees at the beginning of their detention.

According to a detainee previously detained in Tianhe Detention Center, he and other detainees were forced a long time meditation everyday. I don’t know how the current situation is there. BDDC provides that detainees should meditate for about half an hour during the am and pm when custody officers were patrolling. GFDC has the almost same practice.

2. forced labor

At GFDC, my assigned works are night duties and hand works. Two detainees are forced to keep watch in their cell every night (sometimes over two, especially when there is no space for detainees to sleep. There is no such practice in Guangdong Province Detention Centers and some detention center with fewer detainees). Two detainees are on duty per shift, ranging from 90 minutes to 2 hours at night. Privileged detainees neither have night duty nor participate in the hand works, they only do some casual labor occasionally. Some detention centers allow several detainees work full time on night duty and it’s better than forcing most detainees to wake up every night like in GFDC, which I believe is an entirely unreasonable fuss. Hand works include sub-packaging New Year red envelopes, red packet, the blessing word stickers, folding “Gift Maker” (brand name) Christmas cards, folding and sub-packaging “Sue Ryder” (brand name, which is a charity registered in the UK) Chartered Christmas cards, disposable food gloves, disposable medical gowns film, gluing uni-President Food company’s advertising posters. According to my observation, the workload is fairly stable here, so presumably the detention center is under long-term commercial contracts. However, the hand works I engaged are normally less than 3 hours everyday. When I was in BDDC, the fellow inmates in my cell was not required to do any hand works, but the trucks and trailers were coming and going through the detention center in an endless flow. A fellow inmate in GFDC, who comes from Chongqing, was arrested along with his wife. He had once met his wife in court, and she told him the women detainees had very heavy workloads, and they had to work till midnight every day.

From my personal experience and knowledge, it seems that the forced labor load has been reduced in detention centers, but no such change is happened in prisons. Other than the privileged previous senior officials and foreigners, prisoners generally bear heavy labor. They normally engage in labor-intensive industries. In this sense, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Justice are the largest sweatshops in China. The number of millions of the prisoner under their ruling is far more than anyone enterprise in the world.

3. Correspondence, Visits, Money and Care Package Sending

Being detained over two years at GFDC, the only time that I was allowed to write a letter to my wife was in March this year: I gave her a list of two books I hope she could get me. My attorney told me, the people outside who are caring about me have sent a lot of letters and cards to me, but I didn’t even saw the shadow of them. The detention center authorities must have secretly detained them. This despicable practice is directed against political prisoners. Even Mandela may still receive the censored letters in prison, so I could not help lamenting: fifty years ago, the South African Apartheid Authorities are much more civilized than today’s Chinese Communist authorities. Chinese authorities censor all letters, and custody officers may freely detain any letter without an objective judgment rules.

In accordance with the provisions of the Prisons Law, convicted prisoners can meet with their families regularly, but the vest majority of people held in detention centers have not been convicted, so their rights to meet with families and friends have been deprived without any exception-even phone calls are prohibited. Since many cases are protracted and the court refused to rule, detainees are completely cut off from friends and families. You can’t truly understand the desperation unless you have experienced it. The bonus point for this inhuman practice is that it makes passing information from heavily guarded detention center to outside world impossible, and therefore facilitates a great variety of shady deals, corruption, and cruel treatments. Ordinary detainees can receive mails or photos to know the situation of their families, but political detainees are deprived such an opportunity.

In addition, detention centers are often seriously short of attorney meeting facilities, not to mention the families meeting. The people in a nation of laws probably have a hard time to imagine that the police will even monitor the meetings between attorneys and clients. Shortly after our group of political dissidents had been sent to GFDC, the detention center authorities purposely rebuilt the attorney meeting room, moving the detainees’ fixed chairs far from the separate bar between the attorney and detainee, making it impossible for the attorney to show the detainees the case files and verify evidences.

Money and care package sending is some privileged detainees’ paradise, and they also have chances to eat meals brought by families, which is beyond the reach of ordinary prisoners. Some generous privileged detainees will share food with fellow inmates, and it is the most memorable thing in this hellish environment.

4. religious rights were ignored, or intentionally deprived

I am a Christian, but any faith-related books, including the Bible have been prohibited in detention center. Many foreign Muslims and Christians detainees can receive the Koran, the Bible or other religious books in their own language, but I have not seen any Uighur detainee own the Koran. Uighur detainees are generally deprived of the right of correspondence; Falun Gong practitioners have been deliberately held separately from me and I believe that their situations are not better than mine. Even being detained because of unrelated cases, political dissidents are intentionally held separately. Perhaps not holding political prisoners together is something that the Chinese authorities learned from the South African Apartheid Authorities. The education and learning opportunities are not guaranteed. Detention center authorities not only failed to establish a public library and reading rooms, but also restrict the detainees’ access to books, newspapers and magazines. Political dissidents always desire to learn more knowledge and information, but they are subject to more stringent restrictions than ordinary detainees. My family was allowed to sent some books to me after I had been in detention center over one year, and the books are only limited to law category. I used to learn Uighur from a young Uighur inmate, so I asked my family to bring me a Uighur-Chinese dictionary, but I never got it because of the obstruction from detention center authorities. In the several previous months, my family had been forbidden to send me books without any reason. In this March, my family is allowed to send me two books again, and this is the same month that I sent my only letter to my family. I’ve heard that a lot of political prisoners, such as Guo Feixiong, Xu Zhiyong, have to fight for the opportunity of a little reading through a hunger strike.

Ironically, prisoners are forced to recite prison regulations daily, and the main contents are some codes of conduct and the rights and obligations. The prison authorities forces prisoners reciting the regulations every day and checks them one by one. From the perspective of rationality, the prison staffs are the people who should recite and practice these rules. After the prison regulations have been recited, prisoners were forced to recite Di-Zi-Gui, the new Three Character Classic (both are Chinese ancient children reading material) and other sorts of things. The head of the person or the police-in-charge decide the reading material according to their personal preference, disregarding the actual needs of prisoners. Even if these materials are really educational for people, they become disgusting because such coercion. It’s just the usual Communist brainwashing trick. Humanity is easily distorted in custody as the patients in “Bing Mei Guan Ji”. In order to adapt these absurd regulations, many detainees in detention centers have already actively copied and recited the prison regulations. If not personally seeing it, I cannot believe it actually happens.

5. nutrition, health care and shopping

During the one month I stayed in BDDC, because the food is insufficient and terrible, and we were not allowed to buy any supplement food, my weight quickly dropped from 65 kg to 60 kg. I was not a fat person, but I lost more than ten pounds in one month. In BDDC, every day only two meals were served at 11 am and 4 pm. Later, I disclosed that the detention center refused to provide breakfast through my attorney to public, and the detention center resumed breakfasts twice a week, usually a steamed bun for one day and a bowl of porridge water (contain mainly water, hence the name) for another day. After I left, I have no idea whether the poor breakfast is still supplied. According to the long time detainee in BDDC, the twice breakfast used to be common practice but he didn’t know why they were deducted recently. Daily meal included a few slices of leafy vegetables (leafy vegetables are expensive, only supplied very seldom), several low-quality bean sprouts or one or two slices of white gourd, pumpkin, turnip, with one or two piece of fat meat, or a thin plastic skin ham, staled rice with musty smell. Above were almost all of the food supplies. I was often dizzy due to lack of nutrition during the afternoon exercise training. In GFDC, the amount of food is substantially equivalent to twice of the BDDC, and rice is normal white. Two iced cold steamed buns or pineapple buns are served daily as breakfast, except Wednesday and Thursday. The same practices in both detention centers are: white gourd, pumpkin, and turnip are served with skin and roots; old roots and yellow leaves of the vegetables are never removed. In GFDC, frozen duck wings with hairs were served for several months, and sometimes they were smelly. A fellow inmate who had been engaged in Frozen food business said that these foods might have been frozen stored for a long time. The frozen duck wings finally disappeared from the menu after once a large number of detainees suffered from diarrhea.

Due to the intensive closed custody, the hygiene conditions are also extremely inhumane. A cell only has one squatting toilet and the faucet flushing the toilet is also the recourse of our daily water needed. We wash our bowls and spoons over the toilet. After the guards served meals, they only hastily flushed meal box over the toilet, and nobody knows whether they would clean or disinfect them in kitchen. The procedures in BDDC actually force detainees to eat a meal in three to five minutes; however in GFDC, it is about ten minutes. According a detainee who had previously held in GPDC, there were additional washing sinks and faucets separating from toilets. This is no doubt that the detention center builder or administrators are not unaware of a human’s normal needs.

Drying clothes is also a huge problem. Detention center authorities nailed several rows of plastic hooks on the wall of courtyard attached to the cells, as drying clothes place. The gates leading to the courtyard only open twice per day in morning and afternoon, and each time is less than one hour, sometimes even less than half an hour. During the rainy days, the clothes will stay wet for several days. We have to wear the dampened and molded clothes if there is no clean cloth to change into. According to such facilities and management, the detainees are unable to dry the beddings. The old beddings left by the previous detainees will be distributed to new detainees, and some of them have durable moldy smell. I heard that some detention center would keep the gates open until night, which of course is slightly more human practice. When I was sent to GFDC, the police who registered me deliberately gave me an especially dirty rotten bedding for whatever psychological reason. Later, when a detainee left, we switched our beddings over, and I used it until now.

In GFDC, except on holidays, a nurse will give medicines to sick detainees and detainees with chronic illnesses in every morning and afternoon. The detainees in BDDC are around 5000 throughout the years, and it is several times size of GFDC. I had not seen any similar medical practices when I was in BDDC for a month. After I was jailed, I tried to do more physical exercise, and felt my body has improved slightly. But I caught more colds than the times when I was free. This is obviously a result of the poor hygiene conditions and nutritional status. Even in fall and winter, we have to take shower with cold water, causing illness to a lot of detainees. Every detainee has¥500 spending limit per month to purchase some commodities (underwear and a few subsidiary food). It was provided in the “Detention Center Ordinance” written many years ago (1990). If the food supply can prevent detainees from hungry, the spend limit will be enough even if under the current prices. Usually the shopping is arranged twice a month. Detention center provides the inventories list, and detainees choose the number of the items they need. I also heard that some detention centers offer a variety of meals to the detainees and seemed to transform the detention centers to their owned restaurants and department stores.

Luckily, I have never been seriously ill and need to be hospitalized. According to the detainees who had been hospitalized, the Armed Police Hospital was known as the “Martial Arts Hospital” because of its prisoner wards. Sick people would need treatment, comfort, but in many detainees’ memories, there were even worse than detention center. Patients were assigned only one hospital gown, if it was washed, then the patients had to walk around naked. The patients were always wearing feet fetters, and they were often locked into their bed just because some minor issues, with urine and stool flow cross their bed and still nobody cared. Security guards frequently beat the patients, and food was not better than the detention center, sometimes even worse than GFDC. Prisoner patients were also not allowed shopping some food with their own cash. The manners of the medical staffs are very simple and rude. A fellow inmate of mine had been hospitalized there for almost a year back and forth, seen several instances of hemostatic gauze being left inside the patient’s body, and he himself did not dare to mention some of his diseases in the end in order to evade to be sent to the Armed Police Hospital. It is said that many detainees with major illness in the province are sent to this hospital, and the estimated number of prisoner within the hospital were over 500 people.

6. restraint implements and relief procedures, useless prison supervision.  Although there are cruel punishments such as the Fixed Shackles, but I did not see the prison performing any legal procedure.

The police use restraint implements arbitrarily and the detainees have no chance to defend themselves. A living farce “the words of police is the law” is shown in here. We are told that there is a prosecutor in detention center as a monitoring mechanism, but l only saw one detainee met with the prosecutor in an official capacity during the past two years since I’ve been here. Nether have I ever seen a written copy of the Prosecutor Liaison Method, and I am wondering how can he fulfill the duties of judicial oversight and protection of human rights?

7. privileged detainees

This February, when I was transferred back from Fifth Lane (Cell number) to Third Lane, I found there was a solitary detainee in cell 1301 (allegedly Vice Governor of Hainan Province). I got a peek into his cell, it was redecorated, looks like a hotel room inside. His special treatment also includes that the cell door is always opened to allow the air to circulate. That’s why we can see a bit of the inside situation. It was said that his food is the same as the police of the detention center. Cell 1302, the one next to him, is a lower level privileged cell, holding more than a dozen detainees. According to informed detainees, their meals are still much better than ordinary detainees’, and sometimes they can be assigned one cucumber, or an extra egg per day. The special treatments to privileged detainees greatly occupied the food ration shared by the ordinary detainees. This is an exact projection of the huge distribution gap between the CPC privileged class and ordinary people in China. A large number of detainees scattered in the ordinary cells rely on establishing special relationship with the custody officer to improve their treatment. They will be assigned new clothing and beddings, sleep in the dry and ventilated priority place in cell. They are not on night duty, no any handwork, or only do some light manual labor, or supervise other working detainees, or are responsible for assigning daily chores inside the cell. This type of people is called “the head of detainees”. They are assigned by the detention center custody officers. I’ve heard that some detainees tried to get the position by bribing the custody officers with thousands of Yuan per month but still failed. If ordinary detainees want the basic human treatment, it will depend on the custody officer’s personal favor. If the authorities continue to closely monitor, limit and obstruct detainees’ meetings, or communications with families and attorneys, it will be a wishful thinking for authorities to eliminate the corruption in detention centers.

I have not been in prison, which is the place for convicted criminal, so there is not much talk about prison conditions. But from my knowledge of many instances, the prisons and detention centers have a lot of similarities. Someone might think this is just my personal experience while ignoring the specimen significance of this report. This report is mainly my personal experience of living with more than 200 various types of detainees 24 hours a day in the past two years. Some of them had stayed in different detention centers and prisons at different times. I only adopt a portion of their talk confirmed with others’ stories. I do not expect that the Chinese Communist government will make any improvement because of this report, but I hope that I will not grow numbed to evils just because they are commonplace. This is also regarded as my self-redemption, keeping me from falling and perishing. I wish the people who are willing to advocate for justice and humanity will hear these words, and speak for the people like us who cannot speak for ourselves. May the righteous God bless you!

Tang Jingling  April 26, 2016

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