Prison News II

In Chinese Communist Party detention centers and prisons, torture is a common occurrence. Wardens and prison guards put their faith in the idea that “only torture solves problems” and that torture is “the only way.” This is the result of the party’s longterm faith in and reliance on violence. As the saying goes: “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun.”

Many people might not know that much of the most appalling torture occurs under police custody, prior to entering into or being registered in the legal processes; this enables wanton cruelty to take place behind the cover of closed doors.

According to the law, an individual detained by public security should immediately be sent to a detention center; however, public security will commonly lock up individuals in criminal police “interrogation rooms” for days, weeks or even longer, depending on the whims of the public security detail. Only after they have achieved their goal of intimidation and coercion will they send their prisoner on to detention center for processing. Those who have experienced this ordeal truly understand the idea of “no law, no heaven” (i.e. there can be no heaven without the protection of the law), and know intimately the phrase “when you arrive at a place where the law cannot reach you, then you will know what it’s like to be skinned alive.” Moreover, this period of time won’t be calculated into your eventual sentence, the timing for which is again subject to the whims of the public security bureau, though they usually chose to begin the sentence date on the day before entering detention.

When I was in detention, a friend and fellow inmate, Old She (pronounced “shuh”) surreptitiously told me the following story: while in police custody, his hands were cuffed to the back of his chair, and he was tied to the so-called tiger bench (an iron chair with a high back) in the “interrogation room.” The public security attached a chain through the handcuffs and cinched his hands up, forcing him into an an excruciating position. He was also chained at the neck and the hips, his legs sticking out in front of him propped up on a long bench. His knees were chained separately to a spot on the floor so that he could not lift them. The public security began raising his feet with bricks, placing up to three bricks under his feet until the point where the pain of his knees bending backwards was unbearably excruciating: he felt as if the iron chains had become unusually sharp, as though they were cutting into his bones. Sometimes the public security would sit on his knees and push down, and while pushing down on his knees would say, “wow! you can really hold out, can’t you! How’s this? Can you stand this? It’s pretty comfortable for me!”

At one point Old She couldn’t hold out any longer, and he became incontinent. Public security expertly caught some of his urine in an empty pull-top can (like a beer or soda can) they had waiting nearby, and then poured the urine down his mouth. Other public security guards standing nearby chimed in: “you’re getting such high-class treatment — you get to drink from a pull-top can! It’s so convenient, right?!” “You’re lucky you didn’t take a crap, otherwise I’d have to make you eat it the whole thing!” That’s what the cruel warden said as he was pouring the piss down his throat.

The public security were divided into a few groups who took turns carrying out interrogation via deprivation: Old She wasn’t allowed to sleep for long periods of time, and each day he was given only a small paper cup of water. Undergoing torture of this kind for a fortnight can feel more like a year. After being tortured like this he had no choice but to agree to what they wanted him to agree to, and he “admitted” the “facts about the crime.” Old She said the only thing he wanted at that point was to get out of that hell hole, thinking that perhaps when he got to the detention center “things would be a little better.” When he was signing his confession, the public security guards said with a wink and a nudge, “You are agreeing to this — we didn’t force you to sign, right?!”

On the morning he was to be sent off to the detention center, the public security officers had bought some piping hot fried doughnut cakes. A “well-intentioned” people’s police officer said laughingly, “it’s been days since you’ve eaten anything; we’ve just bought some doughnuts — you should eat some while they’re still hot.” As he said this, he broke off a piece of the cake and started to stuff it into Old She’s mouth. Old She immediately whipped his head away, and the piece fell to the ground. The officer noticed that Old She was watching him cradle his hand — he’d burned it on the doughnut — and he said, “I should have burned your teeth out!” There’s no doubt that if he’d forced the doughnut into his mouth they would have clamped his mouth shut on the burning hot cake and not let him spit it out, causing painful burns.

At last he was being sent to the detention center. The public security officers hand cuffed him behind his back, and shackled his feet together. He was able to walk only in small shuffling steps; a chain from the shackles was held by one of the officers. After over a fortnight in their captivity his legs were swollen and disfigured, and he felt unable to walk normally.

From the “interrogation room” to the detainee van there was a ramp, and as he walked down the officer holding the chain yanked the chain and he fell into a “big horse’s crawl”: his two hands cuffed behind him were unable to support his fall, and he landed in a face plant on the cement ground. As he struggled painfully to get up, the officer came over and offered him a hand in feigned sympathy, saying, “Look, you weren’t careful, and see what happened! Your mouth is all bloody…”

The experience of these two prison friends makes it clear that the evil of the Chinese Communist Party gets in the very marrow of your bones, and no medicine can cure it. They’ll say what they like, and do what they like, no matter how horrific. Their laughter exposes the poison of their hearts and shows the extent of the destruction of character. Even if China eradicated the authoritarian dictatorship tomorrow, these poison-hearted, corrupt slaves of power will have a corrosive effect on society that cannot be ignored, and they remain an impediment to China’s path towards justice.

To all those friends who have been disappeared, to those friends who are still in captivity: please take care!

Chen Guangcheng

Washington, DC

Feb. 13, 2016