Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others
Xie Yang, Chen Jiangang, January 21, 2017
[The interview began at 2:49:55 p.m. on January 5, 2017.]
Chen Jiangang (陈建刚, “CHEN”): Let’s continue.
Xie Yang (谢阳, “XIE”): Okay.
CHEN: Other than not letting you sleep, were there other ways they used to coerce you?
XIE: Yes. They have a kind of slow torture called the “dangling chair.” It’s like I said before—they made me sit on a bunch of plastic stools stacked on top each other, 24 hours a day except for the two hours they let me sleep. They make you sit up there, with both feet unable to touch the ground. I told them that my right leg was injured from before, and that this kind of torture would leave me crippled. I told all of the police who came to interrogate me. They all said: “We know. Don’t worry, we have it under control.” Some also said: “Don’t give us conditions—you’ll do what we tell you to do!”
CHEN: What next?
XIE: No one had any sympathy for my situation. They just deliberately tortured and tormented me. Every day, I had to sit there for more than 20 hours, both legs dangling in such pain until they became numb. Afterwards, my right leg began to swell from top to bottom. It was summer, and my thigh and calf were both severely swollen.
CHEN: After your leg began showing symptoms, did they stop interrogating you and provide you with any medical treatment?
XIE: No. That went on for more than 20 hours a day. They just gave me some Chinese medicine to rub on my legs.
CHEN: Did you ask for time to rest because your right leg was swollen?
XIE: Sure, but it was no use. Yin Zhuo (尹卓), Zhou Yi (周毅), Qu Ke (屈可) and the other police who interrogated me were deliberately trying to torment me—they even said so clearly. Making someone sit on a “dangling chair” for 20 hours a day is a kind of slow torture. It causes lumbar pain and pain in the legs, but it’s slow and doesn’t leave any external injuries. When you add sleep deprivation to that, this is a way to torture people that doesn’t cause external injuries and doesn’t leave any scars.
CHEN: Considering the sleep deprivation and the “dangling chair,” were the transcripts of your interrogations and the statements you signed factual?
XIE: There was no way to match the facts. They weren’t happy with what I wrote and made me rewrite it. Every time they didn’t like my answer to one of their questions, they would keep asking me again and again. They clearly told me: “We’ve got all the time in the world. You’re in residential surveillance for six months. If you don’t behave and obey, we’ll continue to torment you.”
They wanted answers to fit their three options—fame, profit, or opposing the Party and socialism. I could only choose from those options. To get it over with sooner, I wrote whatever they wanted me to write. Later, I completely broke down. It got to the point where I was crying as they questioned me and had me write statements. I really couldn’t write anymore. I told them to type something up and I’d sign it, no matter what it said. I didn’t want to go on living. I couldn’t take it anymore—I just wanted to sleep for a little while.
CHEN: Did anyone beat you?
XIE: Yes, I was beaten many times by Zhou Lang (周浪), Yin Zhuo, Zhuang Xiaoliang (庄晓亮) and some others.
CHEN: When and why did they beat you?
XIE: They said I wasn’t being cooperative in the way I was writing statements. They wanted me to write according to what they wanted, even if it didn’t match the facts at all. They tried to force me, and I refused. There were other times when I was simply too tired and I couldn’t even pick up the pen. Mostly it was during the fourth shift, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. When I couldn’t write, they would beat me.
CHEN: How would they beat you?
XIE: Several of them would come over and pull me up. Then they’d split up the work: one or two would grab my arms while someone used their fists to punch me in the stomach, kneed me in the stomach, or kicked me with their feet.
CHEN: Was there a camera in the room?
XIE: Yes, there was, and it should have been working normally. Every time they beat me they would drag me to a blind spot just below the camera where it couldn’t capture what they were doing. I knew what they were thinking, so each time they beat me I would deliberately move to a spot where the camera could see what was going on. Later, Yin Zhuo said to me: “You think the camera is going to help you? I tell you, we control the camera, so don’t think it’ll do any good for you to be in its view. This is a case of counterrevolution! Do you think the Communist Party will let you go? I could torture you to death and no one could help you . . . .”
CHEN: Did those beatings lead to any injuries?
XIE: There were no external injuries—they just wanted to cause pain. They’d mainly target the lower body, from the stomach down, so there’d be no visible injuries.
CHEN: Did you give in after being beaten by them?
XIE: Yes, I wanted to be done with the interrogations as quickly as possible, even if it meant dying. So whatever they wanted me to write, I wrote. I also signed a lot of interrogation transcripts that they typed up. They didn’t let me make any suggestions, let alone make changes. At first I demanded to make changes, because the transcripts were all lies. But they didn’t agree and said I was being dishonest. Later, I could only sign the transcripts. Whatever they wanted to type up, they would type up. I had no right to make any objections or changes.
CHEN: Were there other ways that they tortured you or caused you discomfort?
XIE: Yes. Between the 13th and the 19th, they also used smoke to torture me.
CHEN: Can you explain what that entailed?
XIE: There were several people among the police who interrogated me who weren’t the ones mainly responsible for the interrogation. But eventually their shifts would come up. A couple of them would sit on either side of me, and each would light some cigarettes and put them together. The two of them would puff on the cigarettes and then blow the smoke toward my face while I was forced to sit there. All of the breathing space around my head was smoke. I said: “It’s not too appropriate for you to do that, is it?” They said: “What can you do about it? We’ll smoke like this if we want!” So they kept on “smoking” me like that. It wasn’t to force me to confess; it was just to torment me and make me miserable.
After the first seven days, they figured I’d already been tormented. So later when they’d make me sign interrogation records, if I didn’t cooperate or raised objections or asked for changes, they’d say: “Xie Yang, do you need to be sent back to the furnace for a while?” They were threatening to torture me again. They also said: “Xie Yang, we’ll torture you to death just like an ant.”
CHEN: What else did they say to you?
XIE: From start to finish, they used my family and child to threaten me. They said: “Your wife is a professor at Hunan University–surely she must have ‘economic problems’? [e. g. corruption] If you don’t cooperate, we might be forced to expand this matter. If you don’t come clean and explain things clearly, we’ll go after your wife without a doubt.”
They said: “And we know your brother’s a civil servant, a minor official. Surely he has some problems we could investigate? And we know you have a nephew who has bright prospects and works at the Hunan Bureau of Letters and Visits. Is he really that clean? Don’t force us to go and investigate them.”
They also threatened my children, saying: “Your daughter Xie Yajuan is a student at Bocai Middle School in Changsha. If her classmates and teachers knew that her father was a counterrevolutionary, could she even raise her head up? How could she ever get a job as a civil servant in the future?”
CHEN: What else did they say?
XIE: Yin Zhuo and the others also threatened the lives of my wife and children. The exact words were: “Your wife and children need to pay attention to traffic safety when they’re out in the car. There are a lot of traffic accidents these days.”
CHEN: Did you ask what he meant by that?
XIE: No, I knew what it meant. I was extremely scared then. They used my wife and children to threaten me [starts to sob]. I said: “If that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve answered all of your questions truthfully. I’m locked up here. If that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
CHEN: What then? Did they say anything else?
XIE: They said a lot. For example: “We know all about how many women you have out there. Don’t make us tell your wife—it would have an impact on your family.” I said, if you’ve found something go ahead and tell my wife. They thought I was just like them.
CHEN: What else?
XIE: They threatened to investigate my friends. Yin Zhuo said: “It would be easy for us to expand the scope of our investigation. We have plenty of resources. If you don’t cooperate with us, we can investigate your friends one by one and put them through the wringer. We’ve got the resources and we have our methods. In this case, there’s no limit to how far we can take the investigation—that includes your law firm, your friends and colleagues. We’ll go after whomever we please and deal with them however we want.” This type of threat permeated the entire interrogation process, especially during the first seven days.
CHEN: And then? What else did they say?
XIE: They mainly used my children to threaten me [starts to sob]. Yin Zhuo said: “We’ve arrested a bunch of lawyers. Lawyer Zhang Lei (张磊) has been arrested in Zhejiang.” I cried for a long time when I heard that. Zhang Lei had a newborn baby at the time I was arrested, just over a month old. I was very sad when I heard that Zhang Lei had been arrested and cried for a long time because I was worried both for his child and for mine.
CHEN: What next?
XIE: Zhuang Xiaoliang and Yin Zhuo said to me: “We’re mainly looking at your attitude. Your case is the number one case up above. You think you can go to Beijing and file complaints about mistakes we’ve made—don’t you think Beijing knows we’re putting you through all this? We’ll make you suffer any way we please!”
CHEN: Was your ordinary access to food and drink ensured while you were in residential surveillance in a designated location?
XIE: No, they deliberately didn’t let me drink water. At 11:30 a.m. someone would deliver food, but each time they wouldn’t let me eat and deliberately dragged on and didn’t let me eat until after 1 p.m. By that time, the food was already cold.
They didn’t let me drink water during their interrogations. If I wanted a drink, I needed to request permission but they wouldn’t let me drink. They’d deliberately put water in front of me, but they wouldn’t let me drink any—that sort of thing. They’d put the water in front of me, but they used control over one of my basic needs—the need to drink water—to make me miserable.
Once I was so thirsty that I started drinking from a bottle of water they’d put in front of me. Zhou Yi snatched it away and started beating me, saying that I’d tried to attack a police officer.
CHEN: During the period of residential surveillance in a designated location, other than beatings, threats, the “dangling chair,” sleep deprivation, and smoke in your eyes, were there other methods they used to coerce you?
XIE: They also tried to induce me to implicate and frame other people. They said they wanted me to inform and expose.
CHEN: Explain what happened.
XIE: It was probably the middle of August 2015. The first round of concentrated interrogations was over. Because I couldn’t take the torture anymore, I’d signed anything they wanted me to sign. That was over. Yin Zhuo and the rest now wanted me to implicate and frame other people. Yin Zhuo said to me: “Xie Yang, you’ve only been a lawyer for three years. Even if you did bad things every day during that time, it wouldn’t amount to much. If you implicate other members of the Human Rights Lawyers Group (人权律师团), you’d be performing meritorious service and could get lenient treatment. You could implicate Liu Weiguo (刘卫国), Liu Jinxiang (刘金湘), Chen Jiangang, Zhang Lei, Qin Yongpei (覃永沛), Zhu Xiaoding (朱孝顶), Pang Kun (庞琨), Chang Boyang, (常伯阳), Ge Wenxiu (葛文秀), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Wen Donghai (文东海), Cai Ying (蔡瑛), Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), or Hu Linzheng (胡林政). Inform on any one of them, and you’ll be performing meritorious service. We’ll report it up to our superiors and get you released on bail.”
CHEN: How did you answer?
XIE: I said there’s no organization called “Human Rights Lawyers Group”—it’s just a chat group, not an organization. I said I’m an independent person and don’t take orders from anyone. I don’t have a lot of contacts with other lawyers and haven’t had too many interactions with the lawyers you’ve named. I don’t have anything to offer you. I refused to frame other lawyers.
CHEN: Besides implicating other lawyers, did they want you to inform on anyone else?
XIE: Yes, Yin Zhuo also named a number of citizens, like Ou Biaofeng (欧彪峰) in Changsha and Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民) in Beijing. There were a bunch of other names that I didn’t recognize. Yin Zhuo and the others wanted me to inform on and frame them. They brought in a bunch of documents on Ou Biaofeng for me to look at in order to get me to implicate and expose him. They prompted me to try and get me to say what communications I’d had with them, what sorts of cases I’d handled with them, and that sort of thing. I refused.
CHEN: What did Yin Zhuo say after you refused?
XIE: He was very disappointed. After another week, he came to see me and said: “Forget about the others. We’ve asked the main responsible persons in the Changsha Domestic Security Unit. They said if you can report on and expose things that Hunan lawyers Cai Ying (蔡瑛) and Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱) did—even one of them is enough—they’ll give you lenient treatment and we can release you on bail.”
CHEN: How did you reply?
XIE: I said I wanted to perform meritorious service but that I hadn’t had much interaction with Yang Jinzhu and hadn’t ever seen him in Changsha. I said I wanted to report on and expose any wrongdoing, but I didn’t really know anything about him and didn’t have any materials to give them. As for Lawyer Cai Ying, I said even though I knew him we hadn’t worked together and I didn’t have any materials on him either. I said we’d only eaten a few meals together and had a few drinks—no interaction beyond that.
CHEN: That was the second time you refused Yin Zhuo. What did he say?
XIE: Yin Zhuo said he was giving me a chance and I was squandering it. He said I was asking for punishment by not accepting the opportunities he was offering me.
CHEN: Let’s stop here for today and continue again tomorrow.
(The interview concluded at 4:56:06 p.m. on January 5, 2017.)