21 Jun 2021

New graphic report takes reader into the heart of China’s hidden RSDL prisons

Safeguard Defenders’ new illustrated report, Locked Up: Inside China’s Secret RSDL Jails, out today, is a deep dive into the dark world of China’s Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL). For the first time ever, RSDL is depicted with rich artwork, satellite images and architectural sketches to bring the reality of this secret prison system to light.

Download PDF of report here

RSDL is China’s system of state-sanctioned kidnapping that it is using against thousands of people every year (new data we are also releasing today show that RSDL may have claimed up to almost 60,000 victims since 2013). The system, which has been condemned by the UN as tantamount to enforced disappearance, has most famously been imposed on hundreds, maybe thousands, of Chinese human rights defenders such as dissident artist Ai Weiwei, human rights lawyers Wang Yu and Wang Quanzhang, as well as on foreigners, especially those caught up in hostage diplomacy cases, like Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The very nature of RSDL, that it takes place at hidden locations with the victim in isolation and incommunicado, and in facilities other than police stations and detention centres, means that there are very few images, or even information about their whereabouts. That RSDL is used by the Ministry of State Security for suspected national security ‘crimes’, and against foreigners, also adds another reason to why it is kept so secret.

Locked Up: Inside China’s Secret RSDL Jails is an attempt to remedy this by bringing alive the stories told by its victims with the use of artwork and second person narrative to allow the reader to travel, black hooded, right into the hidden facility, into the cell, into the interrogation room, and even into the tiger chair. Every detail in Locked Up is sourced from testimony provided by victims, their families or lawyers.

To coincide with the release of our new report, Safeguard Defenders is publishing brand new data on the scale of the RSDL system in China. As of 1 June 2021, we have collected official statistics to show that RSDL has, since its inception in 2013, been used on between 27,208 and 56,963 victims.

This data, which draws on official government statistics, along with extensive victim testimony, proves the systematic and widespread nature of both disappearances and torture, and has been filed with relevant UN organs. Under international law, enforced disappearance or torture that is widespread or systematic is a crime against humanity.

Read the full story and see the remarkable graphics by clicking here.

Download the submission to UN organs here (includes our new RSDL data).

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