I Cannot Give Up: Record of a "Kidnapping"
I Cannot Give Up: Record of a "Kidnapping"
On March 6, 2008, at 8:25 p.m., after buying books at the All Sages Book Garden, I called my wife and said I’d be home in about 20 minutes.
Around 8:40 p.m., I’d just parked the car and was about to close the door when I was surrounded by three or four middle-aged men. One of them pounded me heavily on the shoulders. “Aren’t you Teng Biao?”Without waiting for an answer, they forced me into a black sedan; only a few seconds later did it dawn on me that this was a kidnapping! I began to struggle and shout and scream, and kept at it for a full three minutes. I figured the noise was loud enough for the residents of the four surrounding apartment blocks and the district security to hear, but no one showed up. I was outnumbered, they had tied my hands behind my back, and I could not move. Once I was shoved into the car, I stopped shouting. No one could have heard me anyway, so I calmed down.
Beating is nothing, as my body can take it. But if these monsters were hired thugs instead of secret police, I’d be in even bigger trouble.They had taken my glasses from me during the scuffle. It was completely dark in the car. There were four of them, one on either side of me, keeping my limbs firmly under control. They put a hood over my head, and the one on my left kept my hands behind me all the way, while the one on the right sat so that my head was forced back against the seat. Whenever I resisted, they would hurl filthy abuse at me—the one to my left was the worst.
I began to wonder who could be behind this. Very likely it was State Security. This was very similar to the kidnapping of lawyer Li Heping in October of , and this time physical pain would be unavoidable. I would be taken to some godforsaken place, stripped naked, punched, prodded with electric batons, and thrown onto the roadside to make my way home in a cab on my own . . . . In less than two years, I had witnessed government acts of kidnapping twice. The first was in Linyi, Shandong Province, the day before Chen Guangcheng’s hearing, when Cheng Guangyu, an important witness, was abducted. The second time was on the floor below my home, when Shandong police kidnapped Chen’s mother and children. There have been many others: Chen Guangcheng was kidnapped on September 6, 2005; Gao Zhisheng on August 17, 2006; Hu Jia on February 16, 2006; Liu Zhengyou on April 16, 2006; Li Heping on September 30, 2007; and Qi Zhiyong on January 14, 2008. [In some of the human rights cases in which I have been involved, the parties, witnesses, and lawyers were kidnapped.]
Beating is nothing, as my body can take it. But if these monsters were hired thugs instead of secret police, I’d be in even bigger trouble. I’ve offended some officials and police during past cases; if they wanted to play dirty, then this would be even worse. I could lose an arm or a leg or end up like Fu Xiancai,1 beaten until I was paralyzed. It is not out of the question. When you get to this point, you just have to accept fate.
The car came to a stop after some 40 minutes. A dog barking nearby gave me the sense that we were in a rural suburb. Several men got out and took me into a room. From beginning to end I never knew any of their names. For now, I’ll just call them A, B, C, and D. Anonymous violence, anonymous crime.
The hood came off and they ordered me to stand in the middle of the room. Several men surrounded me, all with menacing expressions on their faces. One said, “Take the clothes off!” I thought, “Oh, this is bad, here it comes.” I did not move. And then, quite unexpectedly, he added, “Take off your jacket; it’s hot in here.”
One guy began to scold me. Call him E. He might have been A, B, C, or D, but I can’t be sure.
“Know why you’re here?”
“Who are you? What’s going on?” I asked loudly.
“We’re from the municipal bureau, not the mafia. Relax.”
“You have ID?”
“Not now, we’ll show it to you when the time comes.”
My left wrist hurt a lot from being pulled by them earlier; I kept moving it back and forth, like a boxer warming up pre-fight.
“What, you want to fight?” E said. “If you do that again and our guns go off, then what? Our guys have been waiting for you all day. If you provoke us again, can you take the consequences?”
A naked threat of violence. I suddenly recalled the morning, when my mother-in-law came to tell me that there was a suspicious vehicle downstairs with the engine running. I thought it was just the Changping District State Security wanting to get a look at me during the Two Congresses,2 routine business, nothing to worry about. Glancing down, I saw it wasn’t the familiar Santana; probably nothing to do with me. So, it was the tool for this crime!
I just stared at them, saying nothing. I looked up at the ceiling, trying hard not to look downward. There were two tables and several chairs in the room, curtains drawn tight over the windows, two lamps, and a radiator. Nothing else. The lamp directly in front of me was aimed at my eyes, but it wasn’t on. I suddenly thought of what Shanghainese petitioners called the “special interrogation room.” I supposed it would have strong lighting and video equipment. In any case, this was neither a hotel nor a residence. It was certainly an interrogation room. The next day when they opened the door, I was able to see that there was another interrogation room very similar to this one across the corridor. “There are rules here; if you don’t answer truthfully, don’t blame us for what happens!”
[The guard said,] “Don’t pit yourself against the government. We can take away your rice bowl, it’s easy for us, you know?” They meant my work, my livelihood. They can make it so you can’t find a job, can’t rent a house. That’s how they always handle thought criminals before they go to prison and after they get out.I had read all afternoon and I was both tired and hungry, but what worried me most was my family. I made a proposal, “I’ll answer your questions, but on two conditions: first, I make a call to my wife; second, I get something to eat.”
They said a phone call was against the rules, but they would consider it. I got another scolding. These people are brainwashing experts; they have a strong desire to make speeches. But what comes out is all clichés, devoid of thought and confused in logic.
More than an hour later, a guy came back and said, “No phone calls, but you can send a text. What do you want to say?”
“I just want to tell her not to worry.”
“Just write, ‘Talking with friends.’”
He gave me the cell phone and I wrote, “Wife, don’t worry. Take care of our child. Talking with friends. Your loving husband.” They inspected the message for a while, decided it didn’t convey any additional information and let me send it. The time was 10:45 p.m., February 6.
She wouldn’t need to wonder whether the message really came from me to know I was in trouble, because I wouldn’t normally say things like “take good care of our child,” or “your loving husband.” That was exactly my intention.
After another hour, they brought me a take-out meal. The food was cold and stale, and there wasn’t enough. F said, “Eat up. You’ll get worse food inside.” “Inside” meant the detention center. The next step would be the detention center. They repeatedly hinted that inside would be worse.
E said, “If you get ten years and come out an old man, what’ll you be able to do then?”
“Don’t pit yourself against the government. We can take away your rice bowl, it’s easy for us, you know?”
They meant my work, my livelihood. They can make it so you can’t find a job, can’t rent a house. That’s how they always handle thought criminals before they go to prison and after they get out.
E said, “You’re going to be here a long time. In a moment, I’ll have my colleague read you the rules here.”