Upon his release after a four-month jail term, Li Shuangde (李双德), a legal worker in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, describes how the authorities turned an instance of credit card overdraft into the charge of “credit card fraud” (信用卡诈骗) against him and coerced a guilty plea from him by threatening his mother.
Li is an advocate of constitutional government and a proponent of grassroots elections of local people’s congresses. Li has also provided legal assistance in rights defense cases, including in what has come to be known as the “Chain Gate” case.* Li believes that “the authorities have continuously tried to suppress me – they were just waiting for the opportunity.”
Li said that on March 22, 2011, the police took him into custody on account of a credit card overdraft, which he had already settled with the bank involved, the China CITIC Bank. His home was searched on March 23, and he was criminally detained on suspicion of “credit card fraud” on the following day, March 24. He was held in the Shuyuanjie police station in Jinjiang District in Chengdu, and later transferred to the Chengdu Municipal Detention Center, where he served his jail term until his release on July 22.
“I hired lawyer Ran Tong (冉彤) to prepare a ‘not guilty’ plea,” Li recounts. “But the authorities threatened my mother saying: ‘If Li Shuangde pleads not guilty, his sentence will be very long; if he agrees to plead guilty, then he’ll soon be out of jail.’” Li said that his mother believed them and dismissed Ran Tong.
Li maintains that he is not guilty and has never violated the law. “Being jailed for a few months will not change my life. What I did prior to jail will be what I do now and what I’ll be doing in the future. I will continue to be concerned about and to participate in rights defense,” Li said.
* In 2009, Li acted as the legal representative of Xing Qingxian (幸清贤), a reporter who covered a protest in front of the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. Xing was sentenced to two year in prison for “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序). ^
For more information on the Chain Gate case, see:
- “Ten Petitioners and Rights Defenders Sentenced in Wake of Official Statistics on Decline of Petitions,” September 28, 2010
For more information on advocacy work on independent local elections, see:
- “ Rights Lawyer Missing More than 48 Hours; Former Local People’s Congress Deputy Detained Seven Days,” February 18, 2011
- “ Prominent Advocate of Direct Local Elections Is Disappeared by Authorities,” November 4, 2008
- “ Human Rights Situation in China Worsens as Bush Calls for a More Open Society,” August 7, 2008