"A Hole to Bury You"
A first-hand account of how China's police treats the citizens it's supposed to serve and protect.
By TENG BIAO
On Dec. 23, the United Nations International Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Forced Disappearance came into force. China has declined to accede to this convention. My experience that same day is just one of many examples of how the authorities continue to falsely imprison Chinese citizens.
That evening, I was in the Xizhimen area of Beijing chatting with my colleagues Piao Xiang, Xu Zhiyong and Zhang Yongpan. Ms. Piao had been disappeared after she and I went to Dandong on Oct. 7 to argue the court case of Leng Guoquan, a man framed by the police for drug trafficking; she had only been released on Dec. 20. Her abductors had been officers from the state security squad of the Public Security Bureau. I asked her to narrate the entire process of her disappearance in detail.
Later, I suggested to Mr. Zhang, "Let's go and see Fan Yafeng's mom." The day before, we had contacted fellow human rights lawyer Fan Yafeng and found out that he was under strict house arrest. But he had said that his mother was going to be alone at home in the evening and so I thought we should go see her.
Because I used to go there frequently I remembered clearly where she lived. As Mr. Zhang and I entered the block of flats and started walking up the staircase, I had a feeling that someone was following us. Observing that we went to the third floor, a young security guard asked us whom we were visiting. We said, "We're seeing a friend." Immediately, he called out for someone else to come up.
We knocked on the door and were greeted by Mr. Fan's mother. But as we entered the flat, the security guard came with us, and a person in plainclothes stormed in just behind him. The man in plainclothes demanded to check our IDs in a very coarse manner. I asked him in a loud voice, "What sort of people are you? How can you enter a private residence without permission?"
The plainclothes man said, "I am a police officer. We want to check your ID cards." "You're a police officer? I want to see your police ID." "If I am telling you I'm a police officer, then that's what I am. What are you doing here?" "Is that your business? How can you prove you're a police officer if you don't show your police ID card?"
The situation was escalating. I ducked my head and used my phone to send out a message on Twitter, and Mr. Zhang made a phone call to a friend. It was then about half past eight. The plainclothes guy made a phone call asking for reinforcement. Later I learned that at that moment our own reinforcements were mobilizing.
Two police officers showed up. One of them showed us his police ID. I asked Mr. Zhang to note down his police ID number and name, Shi Ligang, and pass it on to our Twitter friends. Then they wanted to check our IDs. I said, "According to Article 15 of the National Identity Card Law you have no right to check them in the present situation."
He said, "We are conducting an investigation in accordance with the People's Police Law." I said, "You can only question people who are suspected of having broken a law. We've just come to a friend's home for a visit, so you have no right to question us."
We quarreled for some time, and that state security squad officer in plainclothes kept making phone calls asking for more people to come over. The situation was getting worse, so I sent another Twitter message.
I talked to Mr. Fan's mother and the older state security squad officer told her not to speak to me. I got angry. "You're not even disclosing your identity, do you think you can enter other people's flat as you please and order the flat-owner about—not to mention that that's illegal, it lacks every human feeling!"
"You should think more clearly. Don't talk so much about the law with me. Do you know where we are? We are on Communist Party territory!"
The state security squad officer later tried to beat me. I warned him, "As you haven't shown me any documentation, you don't even have the right to seek a conversation with me. Don't push me." Then he said, "Don't you know what place you are in? This is China! Now you've come here, don't think you can leave again!"
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Mr. Teng, a lawyer, unpleasantly discovered that China's police actually operates outside the law.
After about 15 minutes, a large contingent of police officers arrived. I was in the washroom at the time. I could hear the police dragging Mr. Zhang forcefully downstairs. The plainclothes man banged madly at the door of the washroom, cracking a hole into the thin wooden panel of the door. I said, "I just want to use the washroom!" He said, "You're not allowed to," and kept banging against the door. He inserted his hand through the hole he had made, and undid the latch. Several police officers dragged me out. The state security squad officer took away my glasses. I am severely near-sighted, and as a result I was quite unable to see clearly. Later, I wasn't even able to read a police officer's ID number.
I protested loudly against this treatment. A whole group of police officers pushed, shoved, pulled and dragged me down the stairs and into a police van. Mr. Zhang's glasses and mobile phone had also been taken away. As we were dragged away we were also beaten. My hand had been grabbed so violently that it was injured in a few places. A police officer wanted to take away my mobile phone, I resisted with all my force and he eventually desisted.
When we arrived at the Shuangyushu police station, I said, "You have no right to take us into a police station. You can't be ignorant of the provision of Article 9 of the Police Law!"
"Want to tell us what it says?"
"'In the following four sets of circumstances, the police may take citizens to a public security bureau for questioning: (1) if the person has been accused of having committed a crime, (2) if a person has been discovered at the suspected scene of a crime, (3) if a person is suspected of a crime and if their identity is not clear, (4) if a person carries goods with them that may have been stolen." And if you want to check a person's ID card, you can only do that in the following cases: (1) suspicion of illegal behavior, (2) control of a site, (3) sudden incidents severely endangering the social order, or (4) other situations stipulated in the law - and such a law stipulating other situations must have been passed by the National People's Congress or its Standing Committee." I knew this stuff inside out.
"But you are a person 'whose identity is unclear.'"
"But according to the law, persons whose identity is unclear can only be checked if they are 'suspected of having committed a crime.' I don't belong in that category." Since there are more and more activists nowadays who are familiar with these two legal provisions and use them to challenge the police, I've been told by police officers that they hate the very bones of the legislators who created them.
Mr. Zhang and I were taken to two different rooms on the second floor of the police station. A gang of police officers again came to wrestle my mobile phone from me; and there was another scuffle. All the things inside my pocket were taken out. I protested. Seven or eight police officers loudly insulted me. Two or three were swearing especially viciously, using mafia slang words to curse me.
A police officer shouted at me to sit; I pushed the chair over with my foot. Several officers rushed forward and twisted my arms, punched my head and choked me, and pushed me to the ground. They took me to another room. In the corridor I cried out, "I am a law teacher, I know whether or not you are violating the law." I said this primarily to make them understand that they were dealing with someone who knew the law, to make them refrain from acting rashly and inflicting too much pain—and it was also meant for the ears of Mr. Zhang and the officers who were interrogating him.