Rights defense lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) was released on the evening of Thursday, November 19, 2009, after a thirteen-and-a-half-hour detention. He was taken into custody one day after his request to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the American embassy. He spoke with Human Rights in China (HRIC) about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
In the early morning of Wednesday, November 18, a few hours after he returned home from a trip to the U.S., Jiang met several other rights defense lawyers and constitutional scholar Fan Yafeng (范亚峰) at a restaurant near the U.S. embassy in Beijing. From there, Jiang called the embassy and told officials that he and this group would like to meet with President Obama because they had heard that the American president wished to speak with Chinese rights defense lawyers. Embassy officials told Jiang that it was not possible to set up a meeting. At around 9:50 a.m., Jiang was escorted away from the embassy area and was taken home by Chinese policemen.
Jiang told HRIC that he has been under 24-hour surveillance since July 31 of this year. A booth has been set up in front of his apartment building, where policemen were stationed round-the-clock. Very bright lights were also mounted at the entrance to his building so that he was visible every time he entered or exited his building. Jiang said that when he reached home from the airport on the afternoon of November 17, he did not recognize the person in the booth. The next morning, November 18, at around 5:00 a.m., Jiang left his house, slipping past the booth unnoticed.
Jiang said that on November 19, at around 7:30 a.m., he was surrounded by at least four policemen in front of his building as he was leaving home to take his seven-year-old daughter to school. Jiang’s wife told HRIC that the policemen tried to block Jiang and their daughter, and then started grabbing Jiang. One of the policemen, Wang Tao (王涛), pushed her onto the floor when she tried to intervene. Later, after Jiang was taken away, another officer confiscated her cell phone.
Jiang said that the policemen then took him in their van to the nearby Haidian District Yangfangdian Police Substation, where he was interrogated in the basement. The substation’s vice director, Xia Yuxiang (夏宇翔), told Jiang that he was there because he had beaten up a policeman, Wang Tao. Jiang said to HRIC: “I was holding my daughter’s hand with my left hand and her school bag with my right hand; how could I have beaten up a policeman? And there were at least four of them.” (Jiang recalled a previous confrontation with Xia around June Fourth this year, when he protested his house arrest and told Xia that the police must follow the law. Jiang said Xia’s answer was: “I am the law. If you dare take one more step … .”)
Jiang’s interrogation began at 10:00 a.m., first by Xia and then by a policeman named Huang Bo (黄波). At around 4:00 p.m., Huang told Jiang that the investigators had determined that Jiang did indeed beat Wang Tao. Jiang pointed out that the so-called eyewitnesses the police referred to were the same policemen that had surrounded him.
According to Jiang, at 9:26 p.m., Huang Bo told him: “We are finished questioning you. You can go home now.” Huang also said to him: “You have not seen the last of this yet.” As he came up from the basement, Jiang saw many lawyers waiting there. He was told that throughout the day, more than ten lawyers – including Li Fangping (李方平), Li Heping (李和平), Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), Zhang Kai (张凯), Han Zhiguang (韩志广), Tan Jitian (唐吉田), and Liu Wei (刘巍) – had been there to support him and to try to find out why he was detained.
Jiang later found out that during his detention, two policemen went to his daughter’s school and told her teacher that they were there because her father beat a policeman.
Jiang told HRIC: “The policemen at the Haidian District Yangfangdian Substation trampled on the law without the slightest scruple, and must be punished.” He also thanked his supporters for their concern.
“Even under the glare of a high-level diplomatic visit, the Chinese authorities clearly did not have any qualms about continuing to violate the rights of their citizens,” said Sharon Hom, HRIC executive director. “HRIC urges the international community to respond and to closely monitor the ongoing harassment and intimidation of rights defense lawyers in China.”
For more information on Jiang Tianyong, see:
- Human Rights in China, “Chinese Rights Defense Lawyers Under All-out Attack by the Authorities,” June 4, 2009;
- Human Rights in China, “Lawyers Are Dismissed by Firms for Supporting Beijing Lawyers Association Direct Election, Law Firms Are Threatened,” October 31, 2008;
- Human Rights in China, “Rights Lawyers Prevented from Meeting U.S. Congressmen,” July 8, 2008;
- Human Rights in China, “Chinese Authorities Abuse Licensing System to Harass Rights Defenders,” June 2, 2008.