‘Your only right is to obey’: China’s thousands of disappeared
By Philip Sherwell
22 January 2022
Determined to avoid embarrassment at the Winter Olympics, Beijing is crushing dissent with a system of ‘black jails’ into which tens of thousands have vanished.
When the police came for Xie Yang, he knew what to expect. The human rights lawyer was first sucked into China’s programme of mass disappearances in 2015, and later recounted the horrors he encountered during months in the communist state’s clandestine “black jail” network.
He described how he had been shackled to a metal chair, punched and kicked. How interrogators hung him from the ceiling and beat him. How they threatened to leave him an invalid if he did not confess his crimes.
Xie used to tell friends: “Don’t let silence become a habit.” But the torture he suffered left a psychological scar. In court two years later, he earned his release by admitting on video that he was “brainwashed overseas” and by denying his previous claims of mistreatment.
This month he was abducted again from his home in the southern province of Hunan under the charge of “inciting subversion of state power”. Orders were issued to his family not to give interviews.
His immediate “offence” was to protest about the treatment of a teacher thrown into a psychiatric hospital last month after she criticised the authorities.
But the timing suggests an additional reason: a determination to erase awkward distractions from the countdown to next month’s Winter Olympics, an event intended by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to showcase the glory of the People’s Republic in Xi Jinping’s tenth year at the helm.