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Chen Taihe: Please treat the detained lawyers well, for the sake of the society's peace and stability

August 27, 2015

“Alone a stranger in a strange land, I miss my family especially ever more at times of festivity.” In Chinese tradition, the Mid-Autumn Festival is second only to Spring Festival as the most important time for joyous gatherings of the whole family. Every Chinese is bound to feel the blessings of family ties that this festival brings us. Unfortunately, it’s impossible for many of the lawyers and other citizens who have been taken away on July 10 to be home for their Mid-Autumn Festival. They are held in detention centers or are under “residential surveillance” as lonesome prisoners. As one of the 710 detained lawyers, I know that every day in detention I longed for freedom and wished I could be outside, to be scorched by heat, drenched by rain, whipped by winds, struck by thunder, and shocked by lightning—what can such danger amount to compared with freedom? Every day I missed my family, especially my young son.

I’m very lucky; all of this sadness and suffering is now in the past. Now free, I sit under the warm and soft reading lamp in my home to write this article. When I think of these lawyer friends I often worry about them. Yesterday, I saw an interview with one lawyer that made me extremely anxious. He spoke about how all of his teeth had become loose after being abused, how he had endured unendurable pain from electric shocks to the face, and how he was tortured with his hands tied behind his back. Once again I am thankful for my good fortune, because from the time I was detained on July 12 until I was released on August 22, not a single one of the 30 Guilin public security special task force officers responsible for interrogating me had verbally abused, tortured, or ill-treated me. Even though they treated me really ferociously, and wanted to nail me with an ironclad case, making me feel that they wanted me dead, at least they had the decency of not engaging in primitive, elemental, base physical torture and destruction.

Also, as I was treated kindly, after I was released I could always continue my life and work in a peaceful state of mind. Therefore, I hereby urge, for the peaceful stability and healthy development of Chinese society, please treat all of the detained lawyers and citizens kindly. I know from my experience: They need their families to know the exact location of where they are in custody; they need their families to deposit money for them and send them clothes. Because without money to buy new lunch-boxes, spoons, cups, and toothbrushes, they can only use the old things left behind by drug dealers, murderers, rapists, and so on. Prison food is harder to swallow than pig swill. There is simply no way these lawyers and citizens can adapt. They need to listen to the voices of their families. Even with just one greeting, they will be able to feel the warmth of society. If they have young children, they will miss them terribly. They need to be looked after by the disciplinary officers, in order to avoid being threatened, persecuted, and abused by the jailers and prison bullies, and in order to avoid enforced labor, coercion, maltreatment, and suffering within the cage. During the questioning, please give them a comfortable chair, because the iron chairs used for interrogation for violent crimes are extremely uncomfortable. During questioning, please give them mineral water, drinks, snacks, and cigarettes, so that they can feel that they have individual care and help within that severe environment. They need to wash in hot water, eat vegetables, and drink milk. They need to see their lawyers and must have contact with the outside world. They need to read books. And during those long days in prison, without any friends to converse with, they must find spiritual sustenance. Please make every single investigator act in this way from the start: treat them with tenderness. Do not force them into becoming real enemies.

Perhaps, just as my investigators said to me: The party state is so big and strong—why should it fear these minuscule enemies, these insignificant drops of water? I said: Even so, but when an avalanche hits, not a single snowflake would feel itself is personally responsible for it. In fact, it is precisely these countless snowflakes that have created a dangerous mound of snow that would cause an avalanche that not a single person would be fortunate enough to survive. Our society does not need mutually hostile enemies, does not need unjust snow falling in July, and does not need an avalanche that ends in mutual destruction.

Chen Taihe
On the 14th day of the 8th month of 2015, in the lunar calendar, in my Guilin home.