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A Personal Account of Being Kidnapped, Detained, and Tortured

July 19, 2013

After two years, rights defender Liu Dejun (刘德军) recently publicized his personal account about his 40-day ordeal in April-August 2011 of being secretly locked up and interrogated, then criminally detained, and finally released on bail after the Jasmine Rallies. He describes being covered with a black hood and suffering beatings, insults, torture by electric batons and fumigation; and being forced to squat for long periods of time. He said his interrogators had only one purpose: force him to admit that he “called for Jasmine actions on the Internet.”   

Liu’s account reveals that Public Security authorities in China intentionally applied extra-legal measures on suspected rights defenders in order to suppress a Jasmine revolution. He writes that these people understood what they were doing and described themselves as “low-quality rogues,” but justified their own actions by saying that “those with power have the right to speak.” Fearing that “revolution and democracy may succeed,” an official threatened Liu, saying: “I will kill you at the last moment [before the revolution succeeds].” 

My personal account of being kidnapped, detained, and tortured during the Jasmine Rallies—recorded from April to August, 2011 

I am now out... All my belongings, including my identity card, passport, Two-Way Permit (a traveling permit to Hong Kong &Macau issued to mainland Chinese), bank card, cellphone, and computer were confiscated without any legal formalities. I was not allowed to go back to the place I rented in Beijing and therefore didn’t take anything with me. In the mountains in Beijing,I have been moved to four different locations of confinement and was tortured with electric shock. Later I was detained in Beijing First Detention House for 12 days. When I was admitted, they assigned me the inmate number 2-2011-2 but didn’t give the detention house any information on my name or place of origin, saying that this was a confidential case. Then I was moved to Wuhan First Detention House where I obtained a guarantor pending trial for one year with my father as the guarantor. During this period, I will have to live with my parents and not leave Suizhou, Hubei province (place of origin). Also I am not allowed to contact other human rights activists in China or else my father might be prosecuted for criminal responsibility. I am placed under the surveillance of several village officials, Chinese Community Party members, and my neighbors. Village officials are required to report on me to the security police daily.

February 27th, 2011. 6:47 am. I got off the train from Wuhan to Beijing at Beijingxi Railway Station and hadn’t had breakfast yet after the night-long travel. People across the country were flooding back to the capital city as it was the 18th of the first lunar month (after Spring Festival). I’d intended to book a berth ticket on February 20th, but only managed to get one on February 26th. It was a few minutes to 7 am when I got off and the station was incredibly crowded. I could hardly see the North Entrance. I started down the stairs and noticed that a young man of medium height holding a camera was filming in my direction. He ran away quickly as I approached and I was certain that he was indeed filming me. I paused and tried several times to tweet but cell phone signal was weak. At the same time, I noticed a skinny guy in a blue down jacket was following me. He was about 1.7m tall with a beard. It was snowing slightly outside. I took a picture of this man but couldn’t post it on twitter. I saw him with the man who was filming me earlier. I then tried to post texts without pictures and thank God finally succeeded.

   Before taking the bus back to where I lived in Wudoukou, I phoned a friend who kept the spare key to my place and told him about my being followed by a stranger. At the time, I thought it was nothing serious.

I thought these people only wanted to prevent me from going to Wangfujing, where protests had taken place a few days ago. I assured my friend everything was OK and arranged to meet him that afternoon.

  When I was waiting in line for the bus and was about to get on, a tall man on my left pushed me. I told him to stop and wait in the line like everybody else. Then a tall man on my right kept pulling me.

Suddenly a gang of men appeared and dragged me out of the line. A lot of people watching were greatly surprised. I thought this gang were merely stopping me from going to Wangfujing. So I told them not to drag and that I would go with them. When we walked near an SUV and a black car without number plates, they started hitting me on the face and someone took away my spectacles. I implored them to stop and at this point still had no clue of what they were about to do to me. We walked on.

Then one of them took off his shirt and covered my head with it, probably to prevent other passengers or pedestrians from taking my picture. The man grabbed my head and dragged me towards the car. I told him I would get in the car myself. But he smacked his whole body weight on my head barely before I got a leg in. We were both on the car floor. I said I would get in myself but the bunch of them still kept pushing me. I got in the backseat. The man started punching me on the eye and the mouth with his fists. I took hold of his fists and told him to stop. He said, “You motherfucker, I am so going to smash you,”and started punching me in the face again. At this point, a man who looked like the ringleader handcuffed my wrists on my back and put a black, double-layered hood over my head. The outer layer was cloth and the inner one plastic so that air could hardly get in. I was punched in the face again but not yet harmed in a serious way. I told the man who was hitting me,“ Stop!You are killing me.” To this he replied, “That’s what I am gonna do” and continued hitting. I stopped yelling and a few punches later he stopped his fist and began to take my bag off me. Since I was handcuffed they had to literally cut the strap off.

Then the car was started eastward and was soon on expressway or the third ring road for about an hour, during which time I sweated profusely and could hardly breathe because of the hood around my head.

The car stopped twice, probably at a gas station or a roadblock.

The car eventually stopped and they let me out. They bent me over and led me up a flight of stairs before reaching a platform paved with purple tile or marble, possibly the ground before a hotel. I was led through a door, a hall, eleven steps and then twelve steps, very much like the experience Liu Shasha described when she was abducted at the east gate of Renmin University. Turning left, I was soon walked into a room. They hauled me in and tried to get me down on my knees. I refused at first but they started kicking all over my body. I couldn’t see their faces because of the hood, but I could make out the voice of the man who had attacked me in the car. They couldn’t force me down and one of them at this point ordered, “Hold him tight.” Grabbing my legs and my neck, one man tried to throw me on the floor and others kept pushing me down. When I was finally down, someone stepped on my calf and pulled at my hair, my arms, and my clothes until I was in a kneeling position. My hood was then taken off and the man who’d pushed me on the ground kept slapping me on the face.

“You are fascists or what?” I yelled.

“How dare you son of a bitch say we are fascists?” he replied and slapped on.

Only a fascist could do what you are doing to me, I said.

He went on for some time before giving the order, “Throw him on the floor.”

He said, “I’ll give you a couple of hours to think. You’ll be so dead if you don’t confess. From now on, say “报告”(report) before you move even an inch.”

 I was lying on the floor. My hands were aching and swollen from the handcuff. Fifty days after this my left hand still felt slightly insensible and had some excessive bone development (hyperosteogeny).

Two men were left to guard me. One of them kicked me and asked me to sit down but I refused. They were then replaced by another pair. I didn’t drink, go to the bathroom, or obey their order to sit. One of them told me, “Don’t waste your time resisting. No one who’s ever come here has been able to break the rules.”

  A couple hours later, a group of men came in and hauled me to a desk in the room. The man who attacked me in the car was wielding an electric baton. He put the baton vertically on the desk and asked me threateningly, “Why do you come to Beijing?” I said I lived in Beijing and was merely coming back to where I lived. He asked again, “Why do you come here?” I replied the same. He slapped the desk, shouting, his hand pointing to the floor, “You fucker! I am asking,why the fuck do you come here?” He turned the strong flashlight of the baton to my face. I said, “You mean me coming here to this place? Ask yourself!”

He shouted, “Press him down.” and shocked me in the forehead twice with the electric baton. He then squatted to my right side and shocked me twice on the right cheek. He saw I wasn’t responding and said, “You fucker is sure a tough nut to crack.” He might have turned up the voltage at this point. He shocked my cheek twice again and then my neck many times. It felt like thousands of hot-red steel needles were piercing my flesh. The shocks moved to my spine where I sensed violent jolts. He advanced to the left side of my neck where my skin was burnt with electric shock and almost couldn’t conduct electricity. As the electric current ran through me, I felt as if a scorching grill was tearing my face apart at the point of the baton.

Then he moved to my ears. At first the pain was limited to earlobes.

But when the skin there went numb as well, he shoved the electric baton in my right ear several times. That half side of my face and brain sensed a harsh, stabbing pain, as if penetrated by countless flying needles. I worried my brain might be damaged so I kept shouting at the top of my lungs, hoping they might not want the hotel staff to hear me yelling and might therefore lessen the torture.

The man who’d attacked me in the car was also the one administering electric shocks. He was dark, round-faced, stocky, and about 1.7m tall.

I yelled even louder though he’d told me not to. He said to other gang members, “People can fucking hear us. We should find another place.”

At this point several men walked in .One of them was a fat, dark guy about 1.9m tall, and looking a bit like the famous Hong Kong actor Sean Andy (刘青云). He might be Fu Guangwei(傅广伟), the security police officer Liu Shasha claimed to have kidnapped her. He gave an order to stop the electric shock and had me dragged to the middle of the room.

He asked people to remove my handcuff and my clothes. They tried to yank off my jacket and sweater but I told them I would do it myself.

Then I was asked to remove my undershirt, my jeans, and my underpants.

“All of them?” I asked.

“Yes, go on. Take them all off !” He growled. In the end, I was only left with a pair of socks on.

“Fu” (I could only assume his name here) had me hauled closer to him and asked, “What were you gonna do in Beijing today? What are you planning to do during Lianghui (两会,abbreviation for the annual meetings of the National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference)?” I replied, “Nothing.” Then a man next to him was asked to slap my face. In his fifties, this man had a crew cut and was smoking a cigarette. He might have practiced martial arts before because his hands were so heavy. “Fu” asked me what I was coming to Beijing for. I said I taught martial arts here.

“You bastard. Teaching foreigners our martial arts so that they can use it to attack our government. You are a traitor to the Chinese people. You teach foreign people Qigong to prolong their lives so that they can destroy us,” he said.

I found his reasoning preposterous and ignored him.

He said again, “What’s your connection with Wei Shi? (Wei Shi is the founder of the U.S.-based Chinese news website Boxun) Wei Shi has already told me everything. I could call him to come over here if you like. He despises you from the bottom of his heart.” I knew he was only trying to drive a wedge between us with his stupid lies. I kept my mouth shut and pretended to look at him with disbelief.

He continued with his rant, “We are a powerful regime and you think we can’t get you? The iron fists of our government is gonna smash you to pieces. We don’t talk legal procedures here and my identity doesn’t matter. If you are handed to me, that means you are in serious trouble. And you are our class enemy. You fucking call yourself a civil rights activist? Look how miserable you are. You can’t even protect your own civil rights. You loser! People who don’t have freedom are the most powerless and lowly underclass. If revolution and democracy really came like you said, I would kill you all even in my last breath. You know where you are now? In the suburb of Beijing, in a villa. Nobody will be able to find you. I’ll make sure you don’t sleep at night, have nightmares all night long, and can’t even get a moment’s rest in the daytime. If you don’t cooperate with us, I’ll cut your penis off. This’s only a suburb of Beijing. We can easily dig a hole and bury you. Power speaks louder than words. What kind of power do you have? A bunch of idiotic middle-aged women and a handful of twitter followers. That’s it? Who else do you have to back you up?Your American or European patrons?”

The man with a crew cut in his fifties, placed his smoking pipe under my nose and asked, “D’you know what this is?” The smoke was so choking that I had to step back, but someone behind gripped my scorched neck and pushed against me. The smoking pipe shifted down to my breast, “D’you know what this is?” At that moment, I thought he was going to burn me. But the menacing pipe stopped short at less than 1 centimeter from my skin. “Fu” asked me what I wanted to do in Beijing. I said, “Nothing apart from teaching martial arts.” The smoking pipe advanced a bit nearer but did not touch me after all. But during questioning, I was kicked and beaten up.

Half an hour later, “Fu” allowed me to put my clothes back on. When I was about to put on my sweater, they said there was no need since it wasn’t cold inside. They threw me my down jacket and said that was enough. “Fu” said, “Now, time to confess. Sit on the floor. Whenever someone comes in, stand up and say ‘my honorable leader’,” he left the room. Then two men came in, one of them round-faced, with a Henan Nanyang accent.(later I learned his office is in 801 while Du Kai, the man who had kidnapped me last time, has his office in 802. But I am not sure whether it is in the Ministry of Public Security or in the Public Security Bureau where the security police work.) The other was the man with cropped hair who had threatened me with a smoking pipe.

They asked me what I was doing in Beijing. I said I had nothing to do with the Jasmine Protests. I came here to teach martial arts. He asked, “Why did you organize people on twitter to have dinner parties? You were the first person to do so.” I said they were all my friends and dining together and chatting were simply part of ordinary social life. The cropped-haired man kept at kicking and hitting me. The younger interrogator continued, “Whose wing are you under? Why did you always go to places where things happened? What’s your connection with the news website Boxun? Why is China’s human rights information put up on that site?” I said I was under nobody’s control and I put that information on Boxun because there is simply no room for them within the Great Fire Wall. They would have been deleted.

The interrogation lasted for about an hour. These two men were then replaced by another two. About 2 hours, another two. In the end, “Fu”came in with a lanky guy in his 50s. He walked around me and said, “You are Liu Dejun, are you not? It’s me who had you arrested during last year’s Dragon Boat Festival.” I raised my head and stared in his eyes. He immediately wiped the smirk off his face and was taken aback by my boldness, “You’ve long been on our list. Your pile of documents is as high as this.” He gestured with his hand, which was about 1.5m from the floor. He went on, “You have a natural soldier’s posture. If you were in the army, you could at least be a company commander,” he saw my contemptuous expression, “I don’t fucking care about the Jasmine fucking Revolution. If you tell me who you are working for, the Americans or the Europeans, I could hire you to work for me.”

I replied sarcastically, “I am not skilled enough for you line of work.”

He was even more surprised and took a look at his own body, “We don’t need skills in my line of work. You must think I am an illiterate brute. I am telling you, I got a fucking college degree. It’s dealing with ruffians like you that’s made me look unintelligent. For people like you, there is no such thing as legal procedures. You bet I could bury you alive, just like that. If you don’t cooperate, we can bypass the law, lock you up, and nobody could find you. See if you don’t become deranged! If you cooperate, I could make you the headman of a bunch of prisoners provided that you haven’t become a lunatic by that time. Who do you think will come to your rescue? Your American buddies or European cronies? Or some crazy middle-aged bitch? Or your twitter followers?”

I didn’t say a word. In the end, he said, “I’ll give you some time to think it over. If you don’t confess everything, I will keep up the torture day after day after day. Every one of you bastards who’s come here keeps banging on some shit about upholding sanctity of the law.

Utter bullshit. Don’t fucking talk law with me. We have our ways to tame you and we never fail. If you did successfully overthrow the regime and make a revolution, I would happily own up to what I’ve done. With so many witnesses, I wouldn’t be able to deny anyway. I am not like you cowards. You people can’t even protect yourselves. What makes you think you could defend other people’s rights? All you are capable of is waste our time to keep you here day and night.” He left after saying these words.

“Fu” went out of the room with him but soon came back to warn me, “Listen, today you only had a taste of what we could do. From now on, we’ll repeat this again and again, day after day, and we’ll watch you suffer like hell.” I looked him in his eyes and said, “Alright.”

(conditions of the room: chemical fiber carpet with leaf-shape print, obvious marks on the floor after bed was removed, planks on the roof.

The room is shaped like an attic. Within the room, there is a smaller room about a dozen square meters)

On the second day, the two men who’d interrogated me the day before came back. This time, the interrogation was accompanied by beating.

“What kinds of people do you know?” They asked.

“I know many people but almost none of them politically sensitive.” This was the answer I kept repeating to them.

“Did Ai Weiwei give you your cellphone? Cos that’s what people on twitter say. ” they asked.

“Find out for yourselves. Everybody else knows the story.” I said.

“Do you know Laohumiao (老虎庙 a writer), Wang Lihong (王荔蕻 a human rights activist”

“Met them a few time, but don’t know them well.”

“Have you been to lectures held by the Transition Forum?”

“Heard of but never been to.”

“Do you know Zhang Dajun(张大军) and Guo Yushan(郭玉闪)?”

“Met them a few time, but don’t know them well.”I said.

“Are you close with Ai Weiwei? How did you become his friend?”

“I made his acquaintance when I was visiting one of his art exhibitions. I am not close with him at all.”

“Then why he made a documentary film of you last year ?”

”During last year’s Dragon Boat Festival, I was kidnapped and taken to a mountain. Ai knew of my experience through twitter and he asked the security police officer who was in charge of him whether such thing could be true. The officer said this story couldn’t be true. Ai said he himself was almost beaten to death in Sichuan and asked why my story would be improbable. The officer said at least not possible in Beijing. Ai Weiwei then decided to make a documentary film to present all the evidence and witness accounts.”

“Do you know Liu Anjun (刘安军,activist)well?”they asked.

“Not very well.”

“Do you know Teng Biao ( 滕彪, lawyer and activist) ?”

“I met him once in a Chuangzhixing lecture ( but don’t know him well.”

“What other activists are you in connection with, both in and out of China?” I said none. The beating went on with the interrogation. They denigrated other activists’ characters and told me these activists despised me, which I knew was crap and ignored.

This kept on going for the next few days. They wanted me to admit that I’d called on others online to join the Jasmine Protests. I asked them to show me the evidence. They couldn’t. They kept beating me up and threatened me with my family. I said I might have posted a tweet but I wouldn’t say it was a call for revolution. I simply asked people to pick wild flowers as a gift for the police on the streets. The young man with a crew cut was visibly excited by this information. Slapping the table, he shouted, “Ha! You fucking said you didn’t call on others to join the Jasmine Protests?” He couldn’t reach me from where he sat so he walked around the table to come at me. The other man also joined the beating. They didn’t resume their seats until they got tired from such exertion. I said giving the police wild flowers was to show them love because there’d been much conflict and hatred between the police and the people. Before I finished my sentence, the younger man jumped up in a rage, “What conflict with the people bullshit!” They came at me again. The older man asked about my family’s class background. I said the landlord class as they must have known. He accused me of harboring a sinister hatred for the communist party and wanting to revenge because my landowning family’s fortune and properties had been taken away during political movements  decades ago. I said it wasn’t true. They kept at asking my intentions of posting that tweet. I kept replying it was simply a call for more love and less hatred. They run through my printed files but couldn’t find that online record. I said maybe I didn’t post that tweet and believe it or not I couldn’t remember.

They asked who I was often in touch with, what kinds of people came to dinner parties among twitter followers, who paid the bills, and what I wanted to do in Beijing. I told them I loved being alone and wasn’t in touch with anybody most of the time. Dinners organized among twitter friends were open to anybody who wanted to come and every one had to pay their share of the meal. I came to Beijing to pack my things and end my apartment’s lease. My parents wanted me to come back to my hometown Wuhan, get married, and do some proper small business. The interrogators said if I cooperated with them they would let me get on with my life and even help me make big money. I said I was used to being by myself and wouldn’t involve other people in this. They threatened to jail my sister whose baby was only five-month-old for a couple of years for harboring a criminal (ie,me). I knew they were only bluffing. They said they would harass my sister’s family every night. I was afraid they would harm her baby.

I knew they were after my computer because a couple days before, the police saw it when they were ostensibly checking my household register. I said I could call my sister and ask her to hand in my computer as long as they didn’t harm the baby. They said, “Get her to deliver your computer to Beijing.” I told them it was impossible and to get the computer themselves. My sister worked for a foreign company and I warned them her boss might turn to the Embassy if they did anything outrageous to her. ( In the first day of my interrogation, they asked me whether I shared my apartment with any foreigners.)

They dropped the question and instead asked about my going to Qian Yuanhui’s ( 钱云会,  and protesting for Deng Yujiao

(邓玉娇, They asked where my camera and pendrive came from. I said I bought them myself.

They asked about the Yihuang self-immolation incident ( I said I didn’t participate. They asked why I went to Hong Kong, how come I could afford it, why I didn’t pay my taxes, and why I was at Szeto Wah’s funeral (司徒华,

They accused me of being funded for political activities and going to Hong Kong to get my money. I retorted that I went to Hong Kong merely for sightseeing. I could pay the trip because I taught foreigners martial arts as my source of income. I didn’t pay taxes because I didn’t earn enough to be qualified as a taxpayer. And I went to Szeto Wah’s funeral by sheer coincidence.

On March 2nd or 3rd morning, a stodgy man in his forties came in with the the young man with a crew cut. This stodgy guy was about 1.7m tall, carrying a laptop bag. “Do you remember me?”he asked. I watched him for some time but couldn’t remember, and I asked him where and when we’d met before. He replied it was at a police station in Xie Jiekou (in Beijing) in 2008. But I said it was impossible because I wasn’t in Beijing the whole year of 2008. He then changed the subject and said he was a technician and only came here to discuss technical problems with me. He was trying to sound sincere. The young man with a crew went out to get us some water and I was left alone with the technician guy. I asked him whether he was from the Ministry of Public Security or the Ministry of State Security. He didn’t answer my question and repeated that he was only a technician working for these people. He noticed a large patch of skin on my face was scorched and had already turned black, and there was lot of huge blisters on my face. And the ones on my nape burst due to constant rubbing with my collar. I was only allowed to sit, but not squat or stand, mere 6 hours of sleep, no breakfast, only steamed bread and salted vegetables for lunch and dinner. And I became terribly weak. I told him they tortured me with electric shock. “Fascists,”he said. I said these people were worse than fascists. At least those Germans didn’t torture the Jews in such a degrading way before they kill them. He advised me not to eat salted vegetables because they’d make me thirsty all the time. 

At this point, the young man with a crew cut came back into the room. I asked the technician guy whether he was a cop. He admitted he indeed was a police office from the Ministry of Public Security, but added that his work was on technical stuff. The day before, he was ordered to have a chat with me. He then said if I really wanted to get married and start a business he could release me on the conditions that I “behave” myself. I gave him a suspicious glance and knew they wouldn’t let me out when I still had such prominent injury marks on my face. He asked who I thought might be the instigators of the Jasmine Protests, rights activists, people connected with Boxun news websites, or overseas activists. I said before they kidnapped me I’d read on twitter that it might be some young white-collar workers in China. I think it very possible since these people tend to be more liberal and have a broader horizon because of their access to more information. He asked me whether I knew a man called Liu Gang. I said I didn’t. He said this Liu Gang wrote an article saying that Wen Jiabao had had Hu Jintao under control and Liu called on the people to join the revolution. I said there was no way such a thing would occur considering how the Politburo Standing Committee was operated. He asked my opinion on the conditions for a successful revolutions in the current situation. I told him I believed a revolution in China needed a Chinese Gorbachev. He said the central government was gradually reforming but the time was not yet ripe. I asked him why we can’t implement grassroots elections based on our election laws. He thought for a long time before replying with “We don’t have enough money to control everything yet”, which exposed their true colors entirely.

They wanted to control everything with money, even to corrupt and manipulate the whole world.

He asked about my relations with many people, including Wang Keqin, Zhang Dajun, Guo Yushan, Ai Weiwei, Lao Humiao, Wang Lihong, Liu Anjun (王克勤,张大军,郭玉闪,艾未未,老虎庙,王荔蕻,刘安军).

He asked me whether I knew Wei Shi’s real name. I said no. He told me it was ### and said Boxun news website was funded by CIA. He carefully observed my facial expression when dishing out this information. I’d never heard of such thing before and always thought Boxun was funded by donations. But before I said anything we were interrupted by someone saying it was time for dinner. He asked me again to cooperate and promised to offer me financial rewards. But I told him I had nothing to hide and would never tell...

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