Xie Yang had worked on numerous cases considered politically sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party. He was among hundreds of legal staff and activists detained during a widespread crackdown in 2015. A letter and video from Xie has been published on the ChinaChange website.
My name is Xie Yang. I’m a lawyer at the Gangwei Law Firm, in Changsha, Hunan.
On July 9, 2015, I immediately got word of the arrest of Wang Yu, Bao Longjun, and their son.
On the morning of July 10, when I was interviewed by an overseas media outlet. They asked me: What do you think of Wang Yu’s whole family getting taken away? I frankly told them my opinion: I said that this is the beginning of the Chinese authorities’ purge of human rights lawyers. I said that a tempest would soon be upon us.
The following afternoon, on July 10 — it was a Friday — I went to Huaihua City in Hunan to take care of a case related to internal migration, a result of a large reservoir construction. This was a big class action case. Around 40,000 people had been harmed.
At about 5:00 a.m. on July 11, before the sun had come up, I heard an urgent knocking on the door.
The door was quickly kicked open. They flashed their ID badges, though they didn’t produce any legal documents.
They escorted me downstairs and packed me into a vehicle — it wasn’t a police car.
What they first asked about was the China Human Rights Lawyers Group; they asked me when I joined. I said that as far as I see it, that’s just the name of a WeChat group, called the ‘China Human Rights Lawyers Group.’
Then they said to me: Party Central has designated this Human Rights Lawyers Group an illegal organization.
By around 6:00 a.m. on July 12 the door opened and seven or eight police stormed into my room and presented me with the formal notice of arrest. The crime I was being charged with had been changed; it was no longer ‘disturbing social order,’ but was two charges: the first was ‘inciting subversion of state power,’ while the other was ‘disrupting order in the court.’ Then they grabbed me and put me in their car and drove me back to Changsha.
Actually, there were a few things that happened while I was detained under residential surveillance [in a guesthouse] and later in the Detention Center. But as for those happenings… Later, myself and the authorities made a deal. Given that a deal was made, I will abide by the terms of it. So, as for that aspect, I won’t say anymore just now.
What was this deal? It was that they would return my lawyer’s license to me, and I would forfeit a number of reasonable demands I had. After that, my case proceeded through the court fairly smoothly.
My trial was held on May 8, 2017, and the next day, May 9, was my 80-year-old mother’s birthday. They brought me back to my parents’ home.
Due to the terror of the environment at the time, my wife and two daughters decided to flee China. On March 22, 2017, they arrived in the United States.
On May 10 my wife called me from the U.S.; of course, for me, when I was able to hear their voices, I felt a great sense of relief.
On April 4, 2018, they said my case was no longer ‘pending investigation.’ But on the same day, they declared that I was a threat to national security, and that I would not be allowed to leave the country for one year.
In addition, there are some obstacles when I do my work. Whenever I fly out Huanghua Airport from Changsha to other cities in China, I’m always stopped and questioned. What’s their reason for stopping me? Illegal petitioning. This makes me really furious. They do this almost every time.
Also on the employment front, they’ve established a number of artificial obstructions.
They would come and speak to me directly and tell me that the cases I take on are sensitive, that I can’t keep accepting them. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to listen to them, because these demands are unreasonable. They’re hindering my right to practice.
As soon as I was released, I got involved in a series of sensitive cases. For instance, the Wang Quanzhang case, the Yu Wensheng case, and a number of other citizen activist cases. I was proactively involved in all of it. I wanted my license to practice law, but I don’t want to live a compromised life. I’m going to use to use my lawyer’s license to serve society.
We don’t accept the Communist Party’s attempt to instil terror in us and threaten us, or its imprisonment of lawyers. The use of these methods [of repression] will simply make Chinese society more unhinged. As legal practitioners we hope that everyone will resolve their problems within the framework of the law.
China is part of the world, and the deterioration of human rights in China is the deterioration of human rights around the world. If you simply connive at the CCP, then you’re harming the interests and human rights of the vast majority of the Chinese people.
The country needs to change; let’s work together toward it.