China ex-officials see reprisals for baring abuses

AP News
Posted: Jul 22, 2014 8:13 AM

BEIJING (AP) — A former Chinese official who publicly accused Communist Party investigators of physically abusing him has been detained, and a second who complained of brutality said authorities are investigating him.

The two officials were among four party members who broke with the ruling party's intense secrecy and told The Associated Press this year they suffered months of abuse while detained in separate cases in 2011-12.

The ruling party, which is in the midst of its most extensive anti-corruption campaign to date, is sensitive about allegations its investigators use torture to extract confessions.

"It's a typical case of vindictive retaliation," said a lawyer for the four party members, Cai Ying, in a phone interview Tuesday.

"The authorities are using the claim that they should not have accepted interviews with the foreign media that brought a negative impact as the main reason to retaliate," said Cai. "But really it's because they feel they have lost face because we exposed their corruption."

One of the former officials, Xiao Yifei, was detained Friday in the central city of Ningyuan in Hunan province. The other, Zhou Wangyan, said he is under investigation in the city of Liling, in the same province.

Their lawyer, Cai, too, says police in another city, Yiyang, have re-opened a case against him that had been resolved earlier in his favor. He said judicial authorities told him to drop the cases and stop trying to elicit support for the abused officials. Police in Yiyang said they had no knowledge of Cai's case.

Experts say several thousand people are secretly detained every year for weeks or months in the party's investigation system, known as shuanggui (SHWANG'-gway), which operates with little oversight. The party says the apparatus is needed to fight corruption.

The officials' accounts gave a rare insight into the potential risks faced by the ruling party's 85 million party members if they are detained by party investigators without access to family or lawyers.

Xiao, former deputy party secretary of an industrial park in Ningyuan, told the AP in February how he had been kept hooded for more than a month in a 2011-12 investigation. He said he was deprived of food and sleep, hung up by his wrists and dragged along the floor by his feet.

Xiao's wife, Ouyang Xiaohong, said the couple were stopped Friday on a road in Ningyuan by men with a motorcycle and two cars. She said Xiao was taken away in one of the cars.

Ouyang said she was notified the next day by authorities in the city of Yongzhou, which oversees the county, that Xiao was being held in a police station while officials investigate him for abuse of power.

"They took my husband away because he has been accusing the local leaders of wrongdoing. They are clearly trying to punish him," Ouyang said. "I'm very worried that he might be beaten in detention. Last time when this happened, he was very badly beaten."

Xiao's wife showed the AP a notice she received from the Yongzhou prosecutors' office about the investigation. It provided no detail of the basis for the allegation against him. Officials reached by phone at the Yongzhou prosecutors' office said they were not aware of the investigation into Xiao.

Zhou, former director of the land bureau for Liling, called his 184 days in detention in late 2012 a "living hell." He said he was whipped with wires and forced to eat excrement, and the interrogators broke his hip.

Since the AP report came out in March, Zhou was dismissed from his position. The party placed him on probation for two years, suspending him from holding party posts. Party members on probation are expected to show remorse or are expelled.

Zhou said the city's party discipline agency, which was responsible for his 2012 detention, has been looking through his former office's records for anything to incriminate him. Zhou said he heard about this investigation from associates who were questioned about him.

Zhou said city officials told his wife and younger sister they might get in trouble if he fails to stop calling publicly for justice.

"I must persist in having my innocence restored," Zhou said in a telephone interview. "They want me to stop accusing them of using torture. I will keep fighting for the truth."

Yi Dingfeng, the propaganda chief of the city of Liling, said Zhou's case had been concluded and he knew of no new investigation.