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11 Nov 2019

This society eats people, part II

Part Two of Bao Longjun's story on disappearing into China's secret RSDL jail system

Bao Longjun (包龙军), male, born 1970 in Inner Mongolia, is a long-time legal rights activist. He worked for the Feng Rui Law firm in Beijing with his wife, the rights lawyer Wang Yu and disappeared lawyer Wang Quanzhang. Bao was one of the first to disappear in what became known as the “709 Crackdown” against rights lawyers in the summer of 2015. He was seized at Beijing airport with his teenage son before they could board a plane to Australia, where his son was planning to attend school. That same night, security agents raided his Beijing home and abducted his wife. The couple was placed separately under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location and remained prisoners until they were finally freed more than a year later.

This is the second part of Bao's story under Residential Surveillance at a designated location (The first part can be read here). It is being published to mark the publication on 1 November of the second edition of our ground-breaking book 'The People's Republic of the Disappeared' (available on Amazon worldwide as paperback and as kindle ebook). Click here to buy now.

I had been a prisoner in this closed and lonely environment, without books, newspapers, TV, for already 40 days at this point. I had taken to reciting all the poems I knew deep in my memory. 

I missed my family the most. I wondered if my son had made it abroad? Who was taking care of my father, who had been bedridden and sick for three years? How was my mother’s health? Sometimes I would ask my captors about my son, but they always gave me the same excuse—they had no idea. They would say: “Your wife is out. She will take care of him. There’s no need to worry.” Of course, that too was a lie

After the first 40 days, they found something else to do.

They asked me to provide the password for my phone. After they asked several times, I finally relented. I remembered clearly the night when I gave them my password, the thunder and lightning outside felt like it was going to split the building in two. Afterwards, they recovered part of my Telegram chat logs from my phone, which mainly included some information on [activist] Xue Mengcun and my support for Occupy Central [a 2014 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong]. 

They wanted to know everything I had done, everything about my past, everything private, and every contact I had had with others.

In their eyes, I was obliged to tell them everything about myself. I had no privacy or right to hide anything. They acted as if they had the absolute right to do this to me. They act is if they own you, as if you are just one of their animals, a pig. They can control you in whatever way they want. This made me angry, but I could only curse on the inside. On the surface I had to appear obedient. 

While I was detained, sometimes I would hear strange sounds. I heard a woman continuously crying for a few days. The sound was intermittent. It didn’t sound real, but it made me very anxious. It sounded like Wang Yu’s voice.

I asked the interrogator who was crying. Was it Wang Yu? They told me that nobody was crying; that I must be hearing things. Then I heard them whispering about the sound insulation not being good enough. 

One day the guards came into my room and put a black hood over my head again. I thought perhaps that I was going to be released. But after a few turns, I was just taken into another small room. It was the room where I had stayed in the beginning, the one they had to renovate. Now the walls were no longer covered by white padding but by dark red leather. The whole place smelled pungent from the renovation.

One of the guards, as if expecting congratulations, asked me, “Doesn’t it look nice now?”  “These are all cells. How does it matter if they are beautiful?” I retorted. 

After the transfer, my interrogators came every day for the next three days, mainly pressing me for details about my wife and Wu Gan.  Then they didn’t come for eight or nine days. When they came back, they tried to convince me that once I was released, I should try to persuade my wife to abandon her path. They left abruptly to let these words sink in. Somehow, I was suddenly filled with hope again.

Of course, after a few days my hope was dashed again. It was 8 September, and the Beijing interrogator came back, with a large group of people this time. He told me they were changing me to another location.

They moved me to Tianjin. I had already been detained for two months in Beijing. Now a further four months in Tianjin were about to begin. The Tianjin room was newly renovated—it was as though they were renovating secret facilities like these all over the country—and it smelt pungent, with the same leather covering on the walls, the same bed cover and tablecloth. Everything was the same. 



In Tianjin, my cell was on the first floor. I could hear the sounds of birds and people outside. But not long after they installed an iron plate over the window. They also took away my armchair and swapped it for a small round stool. It was very uncomfortable to sit on since it had no back support.

The armed guards in Tianjin were stricter. They looked younger, fresher, so they followed the rules more zealously, and they were unbending. The space I could move around was much smaller than in Beijing, and they limited the amount of time I was allowed to walk in my cell. 

I grew angry. “Is this Residential Surveillance? Does the law allow you to implement Residential Surveillance at a case handling location? What basis is there for you to hold me? Doesn’t the law require basic evidence for a criminal act? Months have passed. What kind of criminal evidence do you have? What reason do you have to keep me?” 

It was getting harder to sleep. Since I couldn’t sleep in the night, I felt super tired during the day, but they never let me rest. It was also not easy to wash. They did not let me take a shower for the first half of the month that I was there. Their excuse was that there was no water. I was made to wear the same clothes I wore in Beijing. After requesting many times, they finally gave me new clothes and socks and I was able to take a shower once a week.

I became obviously thinner. Once when I was taking a shower, a guard whispered to me, “I remembered you looked muscular when you first arrived. Not any more.” 

You can’t eat well or sleep well in that place. There was always someone staring at you. They even check to make sure you are really defecating when you go to the toilet. One guard told me that they had to make sure people weren’t pretending to use the toilet in order to avoid standing all day. There was no peace. 

I had to ask their permission for everything, including swallowing my own saliva. I couldn’t stand all the rules. I asked to see the leader. Someone who seemed like a platoon leader came in. He said, “Asking for permission to swallow your saliva is for your own good. We are afraid that you might choke.” I often woke up from nightmares. Sometimes I would be so panicked from a bad dream that I would jump out of bed. Once, I even scared a guard. But what hurt the most was what they did to my son. 

One night, after I had been in captivity in Tianjin for over a month, I was half asleep when someone came into my room and told the guards I needed to get up for an interrogation session. I hadn’t had nighttime interrogations for a long time; not since my first week in RSDL. I felt that it must be something big. I was nervous. 

I asked them to bring me my clothes. At night the guard made me keep my clothes in a storage box outside the room. They had so many small rules. After I had dressed, the interrogators came into the room with the same laptop and camera that they always brought.

“Bao, didn’t you always ask me for news about your son? Now we have some; good news and bad news. Which would you like to hear first?”

As soon as they said they had news about my son, I was excited that my mind became cloudy, or perhaps it was a premonition of what he was about to say. I heard snatches of him saying that my son hadn’t gone to Australia, but was studying at the Number One Middle School in Ulanhot [in the Inner Mongolia region] with help from the Tianjin police. Wasn’t this good news? Ulanhot Number One Middle School is very hard to enter. Shouldn’t I thank the Tianjin police? 

I remember saying something like, why would I want to thank the police? It was you who wouldn’t let him leave to study overseas in the first place. Which is better, Melbourne or Ulanhot? Isn’t it obvious?

I demanded to know how they could deprive my son of his right to study abroad. Then I remembered. What was the bad news? I asked. He said my son had been kidnapped and then smuggled into Myanmar. But local police had found him and deported him back to China. There was an investigation. He showed me a report from Yunnan police, attached was a photo of my son. 

This was the first news I had had of my son for three months.

The photo was the kind taken when you enter a detention center. I had also made one under when I entered the Tianjin detention center. When I saw the photo of my son, my tears flew uncontrollably. I cried for three full days. I missed my son so much. I held onto images of him playing with me when he was young. I dreamed of hugging him, kissing him. I swore that I would never shout at him again.

I told the guard: “You don’t know how kind-hearted he is. If we saw a beggar, he would always get one kuai from me and give it away.” I didn’t walk any more, only sat there and let my tears flow. I sincerely doubted that my wife was “fine” like they said. I asked them: “Where is Wang Yu? Didn’t she leave together with him? Who took my son?” 

A few days later, they started interrogating me frequently. They asked if I knew Tang Zhishun and [activist] Xing Qingxian [the two men who were trying to help his son escape out of China]. I said I didn’t.



After another seven to eight days, they brought a print out of my Telegram chat history. I told them that they could just write down the Telegram group record and I would sign it.

The chat history was just about supporting friends who were taken during Occupy Central, and helping them find lawyers. They claimed that my behavior was a criminal act, receiving outside funding to endanger state security.

I pointed out: 1) those who supported Occupy Central were all detained on charges of disturbing public order, which is not a crime of endangering state security; 2) any money was provided by Xue Mengchun, the deputy chief of a company, not a foreigner, so it had nothing to do with accepting foreign funding; and 3) the lawyer’s fee that I helped to pay was simply for representing a client and had nothing to do with endangering state security. 

Since when is representing a case endangering state security? The guards had grown stricter. They had changed to a team of evil guards. I was not allowed to walk at all. I asked if I could stand. But they told me not to even think about sitting down again if I stood up.

When I was thirsty and asked for water, the guard told me that in the future, for my health, they couldn’t let me drink cold water. But they also wouldn’t give me warm water to drink. I had to stay thirsty until meal times. I still remember one thing the guards said: obedience is everything.

Soon it was December. They still hadn’t found any evidence to prove my guilt. By now, I felt that they had become less strict. Sometimes a guard would open a curtain a little bit, and although a sheet of metal covered the windows, the gorgeous and beautiful sunshine couldn’t be covered. The sun shined inside the room.

That was freedom sunshine. 

They started trying to convince me to accept a state-appointed lawyer. I told them that I wanted my own lawyer, and they asked me to suggest some names. I gave them a few, such as Fang Ping and Jun Jie. They told me that some of these lawyers had been taken too and told me not to make trouble for others. They would detain any lawyer I named.  

“Do we still have the law?” I asked. “No. The law does not apply to you,” they answered. 

I strongly opposed accepting one of their lawyers. I told them that I could represent myself. But it didn’t make any difference. They tried to convince me every day. In the end, they almost begged me to sign. They told me, “You can see that nobody comes to this corridor anymore except us. All the others have signed. You are the only one who didn’t. Once you sign, you will be able to go home.”

I didn’t see another way out. I told them, “I have never had any news about my wife. You guys think she might be taken like me, so can you go find out if she was taken? If she was also taken and if she signed accepting state-appointed power of attorney, then I too will sign.” 

They seemed very happy and left. They came back before noon and showed me a picture on their phone. It was the “application” Wang Yu had signed accepting the state-appointed lawyers. I later found out she had not signed such a document; they had completely faked it. But at the time, I thought I recognized Wang Yu’s handwriting so I signed their document and accepted their lawyer. That was 5 January 2016. 

Three days later, I received a notice of arrest from the Tianjin Procuratorate. In the evening I was sent to Tianjin Number 2 Detention Center. By that time, my six months of RSDL had been used up. 

I always think, in determining whether a regime is cruel or not, we should look at how it treats its citizens. Political philosopher Montesquieu once wrote that the feature of an autocracy is to make the people afraid. People do love freedom, but the reason why they succumb to autocratic regimes is because there are no restrictions on power. There are no ways for redress. 

Since the day Wang Yu was wrongly convicted,  I completely lost my confidence in this country. I gained a deeper understanding of the judicial darkness of this country. Now, in the face of these illegal acts and injustices, I don’t know how to resist, because legal redress is broken. I have a clear understanding that this country has all the power, and its ruler will keep hold of this this power unscrupulously. 

This is a society that eats people.

It is not just, it is not fair, and it has no conscience. 

The latest updated second edition of The People's Republic of the Disappeared is available on Amazon worldwide.