Five-month+ Solitary Confinement: Huang Xueqin and Wang Jianbing were detained in other form of “RSDL"

On April 1, after being forcibly disappeared for nearly 6 months and 10 days, Attorney Xiao Yunyang successfully met with the detained labor activist Wang Jianbing virtually at the Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center. We learned from Wang’s relatives and friends that: Wang was detained in solitary confinement for the first five months at an “isolation area” outside the detention center, and it was not until nearly a month ago (which is March 2022) that he was transferred back to the place of detention formally written on his “Notice of Arrest” - Guangzhou No. 1 Detention Center. During the meeting, Wang said that during the period of solitary confinement, he was in poor healthy conditions, his diet was very irregular and messy, his digestive system was not functioning properly, he physically felt unwell and mentally felt very tormented, and he was also suffering deeply from depression. Only after being transferred to a collective detention center in the past month, did his physical and mental conditions slightly recover.

What does the five-month solitary confinement mean?

Previously, the Chinese government has long used “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL)”, a form of solitary confinement, to suppress political dissidents and NGO activists. During the at most six-month RSDL, tortures such as sleep deprivation, abdominal beating, extended and tiring interrogations, and forcing the individual to sit on a tiger chair or dangling stool can be used to force the dissident to confess. Ten UN special procedures, including the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, have described the RSDL as “similar to isolation and secret detention”, equivalent to enforced disappearances, and the Chinese government has drawn international criticism for this.

In the Huang&Wang case, the police held Wang in solitary confinement and interrogation for at least five months in the name of “pandemic isolation”. During this period, Wang was subjected to dozens of exhausting interrogations and various physical and mental tortures from his own mind, which was no different from the actual detention situation of the RSDL. However, by using the ground of “pandemic isolation”, the Chinese authorities have circumvented the term of the much-criticized “RSDL” measure on legal paper.

The detention situation of Huang Xueqin is believed to be consistent with that of Wang. Although the Guangzhou police rejected the lawyer’s application for interview and document review on the grounds of the recent COVID-19 epidemic in Guangzhou, we cannot confirm the specific detention situation of Huang at the moment. However, during the same period when Wang was transferred back to the No. 1 Detention Center, we also indirectly learned that Huang was also transferred back to the No. 1 Detention Center, and mentioned that during the past six months of detention, she lost at least 5kg in weight (she was already very thin before her arrest, less than 50 kg). Therefore, we believe that the situation of solitary confinement and enforced disappearance of Huang and Wang are likely to be the same.

The purpose of using “pandemic isolation” as grounds for solitary confinement is very obvious. The Chinese authorities continue to abuse secret solitary confinement and torture as an interrogation tactic to force dissidents to plead guilty and compromise. Now they are attempting to use more “creative” means to achieve this substantive purpose while trying to evade condemnation from the international community for using RSDL, like “pandemic isolation” on Wang’s case, which is merely another form of RSDL with a difference name. There is no end to the forms of enforced disappearance that the Chinese government has taken against activists, and the international civil society should continually pay close attention to this!

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