Wang Quanzhang: In prison, I was tortured to extract a confession

The human rights lawyer gives first interview since finishing his sentence in April. He spent four years in jail for "subversion against the state". After being beaten for hours, the prison authorities forced him to sign an affidavit declaring his guilt. Wang: "Police, investigating magistrates and judges have distorted the law."

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Tortured in prison to extract a confession. This is the story of human rights attorney Wang Quanzhang, shared with the Japanese Kyodo news agency yesterday in the first press interview after serving his sentence in April.

Wang spent more than four years in prison for "subversion against the state". After serving his term in a Shandong prison, the activist was only allowed to reach his family in Beijing on April 27, after two weeks of quarantine for the coronavirus and a further seven-day detention.

He was arrested in 2015 in a security operation called "709" (since it began on July 9 of that year), which also targeted 300 other colleagues - including some Protestant and Catholic Christians. Many of them were tried and then sentenced; several have "confessed" their faults on video; others emerged from prison physically and psychologically shattered, due to torture.

Wang rose to the fore for defending not only Falun Gong faithful, but also political activists (including members of the New Citizens Movement), underground Christian communities and peasants who were victims of expropriations deemed illegal.

Wang reports that two police officers in prison guarded him 24 hours a day. To break down his resistance, they forced him to stand with his hands up for 15 hours straight. When, exhausted, he would drop his arms, his jailers shouted "traitor!".

After being slapped in the face for hours, beaten and kicked, the 44-year-old activist was forced to sign a sworn statement in which he "confessed" that he had attempted to overthrow the government thanks to funds received from abroad.

During the first trial against him, which took place behind closed doors, the activist was thrown to the ground by the guards for asking the judges what they meant by "government of the country founded on the law".

The Chinese Criminal Procedure Code explicitly prohibits the use of torture to extract confessions. When Wang then tried to appeal the four-year sentence, a bailiff threatened him with an extension of the sentence to eight years.

“My cases prove that (China's judicial procedure) is sloppy. It is public safety police, prosecutors and court authorities that disrupt law," Wang concluded. Last month, he announced that he wanted to appeal his sentence.