Two open letters signed by a group of Chinese lawyers, scholars, writers and journalists were sent to the Chinese Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate in late August, urging an investigation into the use of torture in the “hitting the black” campaign in Chongqing. The letters stated that although on the surface the purpose of the “hitting the black” campaign is to crack down on gangsters, in essence it is a campaign driven by political motives.
The “hitting the black” campaign was launched in June 2009 by Bo Xilai, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief for Chongqing, one of four provincial-level municipalities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin are the others). The regime’s state-run media describes the “black” in “hitting the black” as either gangsters or corrupt Party officials.
This official view has come in for criticism. Because the organizers of a taxi driver protest and the lawyers of some political cases were among those arrested, the “hitting the black” campaign is widely regarded as a political campaign launched to boost Bo’s career.
Call for Investigation Into Torture
The letters refer to the February 2010 cases of Gong Gangmo and Fan Qihang. Gong Gangmo was sentenced to life in prison. Fan Qihang was sentenced to death and his sentence is currently under review by the Supreme People’s Court.
On Aug. 23, the lawyer Li Fangping, who signed the open letters, told the Chinese-language version of BBC News online that, according to a video published online by Fan’s lawyer Zhu Mingyong, Fan was “forced to confess through extremely severe torture.”
The video shows Fan Qihang dressed in a red prison uniform sitting behind bars describing how he was tortured during the criminal investigation. In the video, Fan said that he was hung up by handcuffs in a tiptoed position, and was deprived of sleep for over ten days. No longer able to endure the torture, Fan attempted to commit suicide twice by hitting his head on the wall and by biting off the tip of his tongue.
The letter to the Chief Procurator Cao Jianming quoted Fan Qihang as saying, “They used many different ways to extract a confession from me. At one point they hung me up suspended from handcuffs for five days. I could only support my weight in a tiptoed position. I would rather die than live through that pain. The handcuffs cut into my wrists and were covered with my flesh, blood, and pus. It took them over an hour to get the handcuffs off my wrists.”
The materials submitted by lawyer Zhu Mingyong for Fan Qihang’s death penalty review disclosed that during Fan’s trial, other defendants also reported having been tortured. One said, “I could not stand the torture and wanted to jump off the building but was stopped.” Another said, “The police said if I did not confess they would bury me alive.”
The only female defendant in Fan’s case, Lu Hong, said, “I was severely beaten. They cracked my head and my teeth were almost knocked out.” Another defendant cried out, appealing to the judge, “Presiding Judge, by no means should you believe the police. I had no choice but to plead guilty regardless of whether they claim it is ten kilograms or twenty kilograms of crystal meth.”
The letter to the Chief Procurator Cao Jianmin concluded Chongqing’s legal and political authorities have generated large numbers of wrongful convictions in the name of "striking hard against organized crime," and are suspected of using torture indiscriminately, harming innocents, and trampling on procedural rules.
The letter says the torture used in criminal investigations was “absolutely horrific,” and urges an “immediate investigation and to hold those persons who violated human rights legally accountable.”
The letter to Wang Shengjun, President of the Supreme People’s Court, stated that the publication of Fan Qihang’s voice and video recording, and the photographs showing his injuries, have generated a strong outcry from the public, which was already doubtful of the fairness and legality of the case. The letter calls for “removing the forced confession in Fan’s case and following strict legal procedure.”
Political Motives Disguised
Chinese political and financial commentator Wu Fan said that Bo Xilai’s “hitting the black” campaign is not aimed at decreasing crime rates for the benefit of the general public. With the upcoming Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, he argues that Bo’s actual goal is to use political struggle to make his way up the Party hierarchy.
“Bo Xilai’s ‘hitting the black’ is a cover-up for climbing his career ladder. All of CCP’s internal ‘hitting the black’ campaigns are not for the purpose of cracking down on gangsters or corruption at all.” said Zhong Weiguang, a Chinese scholar of totalitarianism living in Germany.
Radio Freedom Asia (RFA) quoted Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao as saying, “The ‘hitting the black’ campaign in Chongqing won some public support by claiming to strike hard on the gangsters. However, it has used cruel torture methods to extract confessions … It is absolutely for the sake of a political movement.”
Beijing human rights Lawyer Tang Jitian who also signed the letters, told RFA that the procedures adopted by the campaign have often openly violated the law, and if it is not stopped and corrected immediately, others with hidden political motives might incite public sentiment and follow suit.
“For instance, such basic defendant rights as meeting with lawyers and reviewing the documents are not allowed; another thing is using a special task force to replace a normal criminal investigation team. In addition, they tend to link obviously unrelated parties together and fabricate a criminal case.
“In order to swing the public sentiments and opinions, they have employed large numbers of paid-Internet commentators [also known as the ‘50 cent army,’ whose members are said to earn 50 cents per message posted online] to post misleading and provocative messages.
“All these illegal actions show that officials are deliberately ignoring human rights and the legal procedures,” Tang said.
The recent charges of torture against Bo recall other allegations of torture, though carried out more systematically and extensively, for his leading role in the persecution of practitioners of the spiritual discipline Falun Gong.
The Falun Dafa Information Center documents some of the crimes for which Bo is responsible. The data mostly relates to his time as mayor of Dalian City and governor of Liaoning Province, which ran labor camps that carried out torture, psychiatric abuse, and attempted brainwashing against Falun Gong practitioners. Such activities resulted in scores of violent deaths and permanent disabilities.
When Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung invited Bo to visit Taiwan about a month ago, Chairman of the Taiwan Falun Dafa Association, Chang Ching-Hsi said the association will file a lawsuit against Bo if he accepts the invitation.
In November 2009, the Spanish Court charged five high-ranking CCP officials, including Bo Xilai with genocide and torture for their role in the persecution of Falun Gong. Additionally Bo Xilai has been sued in 12 countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, and Spain, to answer allegations of crimes of torture and genocide.
Since July 2009, the high profile “hitting the black” campaign in Chongqing has so far led to the arrests of more than 3,000 people and the conviction of hundreds including over 100 Party officials.
Read the original Chinese article.