Beware of Legal Rights in China

      No Comments on Beware of Legal Rights in China
Wu Yuren, husband of Canadian Karen Patterson and daughter Hannah

Wu Yuren, husband of Canadian Karen Patterson and daughter Hannah

No doubt about it, I am Canadian, and for a short time, I lived in China. Thinking that the Rule of Law in Canada is interpreted the same in China would seem logical but incorrect. Just because there are laws on the books, decreed by the government, similar in both countries, is insufficient to take the Canadian view of law and apply it to the People’s Republic of China. A case in point is Karen Patterson’s Chinese husband, Wu Yuren, who offered moral support for a friend and ended up beaten up and detained, with little access to his family or lawyer. He is still detained. His case is a good lesson to both Chinese and foreigners that China’s legal system works differently from Canada.

Firstly, the Chinese Rule of Law does not apply equally to all citizens, politicians and police. While it is codified into law by the government, its application varies. The Rule of Law is to protect the government from its citizens, and not the other way around. To note this subtle distinction will save you much grief. There are many documented cases of Chinese laws seemingly being flouted, even though they are written on the books.

Documented and what happens in practice should be noted. There are so many cases where people disappear for months at a time, beaten by police, denied access to a lawyer and family. All these are supposedly illegal in China, but happens regularly. Such is the case with Karen Patterson’s husband, a Chinese national.

China uses black jails, where citizens that have petitions of wrongdoing are rounded up and thrown into jail, petition squelched, beaten up, then deported back to their provinces. All this underground, by the police, who deny such treatment exists. Yet there are so many documented cases.

There are cases of defense lawyers being arrested for defending a client. They disappear for months, eventually emerge beaten up, stripped of their legal credentials and thrown into jail.

Most trials are not open to the public, not even for immediate family members. Held in secret, punishment can be severe, appeal almost impossible.

In the case of Karen Patterson’s husband, Wu Yuren, he is a Chinese national, and naturally subject to all the laws and treatment by the Chinese government. This would be so even if he had immigrated to Canada and renounced his Chinese citizenship. While China does not acknowledge dual citizenship, those born on Chinese soil can still be considered Chinese. This issue should be noted by those that immigrate to Canada and believe a Canadian passport will offer some additional protection. This may not be necessarily so. As for Karen and Yuren’s daughter, she was born in China and is therefore a Chinese citizen. She could apply and come to Canada, but until she leaves the country she can and will be held as a Chinese citizen. Others have tracked Wu Yuren’s legal troubles.

For those foreigners not born in China that visit China, they must abide by Chinese law. Your embassies will attempt to visit you and talk with the Foreign Services representative of the Chinese government, but there is no guarantee of help from your country. You are in China and must abide by Chinese law.

Forewarned is forearmed. Living in China carries a certain amount of legal risk. While the vast majority of foreigners experience no issues with China’s legal system, note that in China you may be locked up indefinitely, denied access to your family and legal representation, beaten by police, and there may be nothing you can do. It’s not that there is discrimination against foreigners, because these are the same conditions that face native Chinese. That is life in China.

When I travel to China I do worry about being caught in China’s legal system. Even for those fluent in Chinese, even if one is a lawyer in China, all issues are not clear and transparent. There may be political or business connections that aim to hurt you and your family.

If you visit or study in China for an extended period of more than 3 months ensure you register with the Canadian embassy. At least if they have a record of you and you disappear, they’ll know where to start the search. Chances are that nothing will happen during your stay, as nothing happened when I studied in Beijing. Just remember that all is not as it seems, that Canada and China look so similar but can be very dissimilar.

Yang Licai’s account in full:

What Wu Yuren and I went through at Jiuxianqiao police station

In the afternoon of May 30, 2010, the property management of 798 art district again cut the power to my studio. I called the property management maintenance department but they wouldn’t provide the electricity. In order to for work and life to resume, I borrowed a gasoline generator from a friend Wu Yuren.

At around 3 pm on May 31, 2010, about 20 men came to my studio and took the generator by force. I recognized some security guards from 798 property management among them. I went to the police station at 798 to report the case and identified the man who took the generator to a policeman named Hou Kun.

Hou Kun told me that they are all from 798 property management and my generator was there too. He said I can only file a police report at the police station. I called 110 as he suggested. I also called Wu Yuren and my younger brother to tell them about the generator. Soon Wu Yuren came to the 798 police station in a scooter and we sprayed a few graffiti at the walls in 798 in protest, such as “798 property management robs, shameless.”

Then a policeman from Jiuxianqiao police station arrived in a police car. I decided to go to the police station to file a report and Wu said he would go with me. So he put his scooter away and went to the police station with me in the police car.

At around 4 pm, police told us to wait in the waiting room. About 20 minutes later they took us to an interrogation room. The police officers who handled the case didn’t ask us anything about the crime we were there to report, instead they held me and Wu Yuren (without any oral or written subpoena).

We were not allowed to leave the room or make phone calls or go buy drinking water. I questioned the police: I said I was the victim and came to report a case, so why didn’t you record my report but hold me in custody? Wu Yuren was only accompanying me, why did you hold him in custody? On what legal grounds did you do this? The police didn’t reply, but instead, said that I was not cooperating.

Their attitude was bad, so Wu argued in my defense. Several policemen pushed and shoved Wu into a small room separated by iron bars with “women’s” written on the door. Officer X [name deleted], deputy chief of the police station who was on duty that day, also grabbed Wu’s cell phone (without showing us any search warrant).

Police asked me to hand over my cell phone too and I refused and put it in my pocket. Police approached me, trying to take the phone by force, and I warned them that forcible physical search is against the law, so they backed down.

Wu and I protested the policemen’s misconduct many times, and asked Officer X to give Wu’s cell phone back, but the policemen all turned a deaf ear. Some policeman was shooting us with a digital video camera. Wu and I requested to call our families and call the police inspectors to complain. Police said they asked their supervisors who denied our requests.

At around 7 pm, my brother came looking for me at the police station. But the police wouldn’t let me see him. Wu and I asked to see our families so that they could send us food. Police agreed. Wu and I met my brother. I gave him my cell phone and told him that the police didn’t accept my report according to legal procedures but held Wu and I in custody and grabbed Wu’s cell phone. My brother and his friend bought dinner and sent to the police station. Wu and I had dinner in the interrogation room.

On the night of May 31, I don’t know when exactly, Wu and I were led out of the small room and put into the same interrogation room. Wu said to the policemen guarding us that he wanted Officer X to return the cell phone. Several policemen at the scene started scorning him in contempt tone and abusive language, such as, “You f**ker…you behave yourself”, “You f**ker, Are you trying to give me a hard time?”, to provoke and taunt Wu. Some pointed fingers, some cursed, and some pushed and shoved. Wu protested aloud, saying, “Please clean up your language and don’t touch me!”

‘Officer X’ came to the interrogation room and told Wu, “You behave yourself!”and said scornful things to him. Wu told him, “give me my cell phone back. On what grounds did you take my cell phone?” ‘Officer X’ told the policemen nearby, “get him out of here.”

Then Officer X and several policemen grabbed Wu by force, dragged him out of the room. Soon I heard Wu screaming loudly. It lasted about 30 seconds and then the voice weakened. About 3 to 4 minutes later, I heard him screaming again. It sounded like he was going through tremendous pain.

I suspected that he was been beaten by the police so I protested loudly, asking them to stop violating Wu. Police didn’t answer me. So I went to the window, opened the screen window and cried for help towards the street outside, saying on top of my voice “police are beating people!” but no one answered me. The street light was on outside, and there were not many passers-by or cars. Several policemen dragged me away from the window and put me in the separate room again. I started a hunger strike in protest of what the police did to Wu.

In the early morning of June 1, I saw Wu in the hallway at the police station. He looked tired and in pain, with one arm hanging down stiffly. I asked him what had happened. He said, “I can’t move this whole arm. And It hurts so bad. Police did this.” Then we were separated again. In the afternoon when I came back from the toilet, I saw Wu briefly again. He said his wife came to see him but the police wouldn’t allow it.

Then police showed me a subpoena, saying that I was subpoenaed for the graffiti. I refused to sign it in protest against the unjust treatment before. Police again show a “inspection permit”, asking to check my belongings. I said if they want to search my body they need a warrant, so several of them held me and searched me by force. They also took my belongings. The police again asked me about the graffiti and recorded. I refused to answer any questions except giving them my basic personal information. And I refused to sign the report.

After a while, two policemen started to ask me about the generator being robbed. So I recounted the whole thing to them in great detail, signed and put my fingerprint on the report. Then the police returned my belongings.

At almost dusk I was taken away from the Jiuxianqiao police station by the police without prior notice and sent to the Chaoyang district detention house. While waiting in an interrogation room, policemen from Jiuxianqiao police station brought Wu to my room. Policeman B read a “written decision of detention” in front of him and asked him to sign. Wu asked him, “Why are you asking me to sign when it doesn’t even say how long I will be detained?” Policeman B said, “That will be decided after you are sent to the detention house. Sign first.” Wu refused and was taken away by police. After that I never saw Wu again.

At around 10 pm that night, I was detained for 10 days by Beijing Public Security Bureau Chaoyang district branch for “obstructing police duty, later caught by the police.” I was then transferred to Chaoyang district detention house.

Yang Licai

July 3, 2010

Note: During the G20 Summit here in Toronto, Canada, the Ontario provincial enacted a new law in secret. Police used this law to search, arrest and beat up common citizens. All this without a required warrant. While the Charter of Rights and Freedoms were seemingly suspended, certain parts of Toronto looked like they were under martial law. This was the first time I have seen this happen in Canada. Maybe the differences between China and Canada are not so dissimilar after all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *