How To Be Interrogated by the Public Security Bureau in China

Have you ever wondered what happens when someone gets summoned by the Chinese public security bureau to assist in an investigation?  Will they bring out a rubber hose and beat your immediately?  Or will they apply the infamous Chinese water torture?

Here is a case study (see 6park) written by a Chinese citizen in the city of Wuhan.  The background was that the author had gotten to know an individual named Ren Jie in Shandong province over the Internet.  They exchanged ideas about democracy, contemporary affairs and political systems in China.  At the end of April this year, Ren Jie called the author and said that he would be in Wuhan and would like to meet.  So they met and talked about the usual things for some time.  After Ren Jie returned to Shandong, he was arrested afterwards.  Meanwhile, four members of the Wuhan national security bureau appeared at the author's workplace and asked him to go with them for some questions.  The questioning took 8 hours over the course of two days.  The interrogation was not conducted by the Wuhan people, but by national security bureau people from Shandong province.  In the end, the author was sent home.  Here is the outline of the interrogation according to his recollections.  Since it took eight hours, you will have to imagine how the same issues were re-visited over and over again, in different order and phrasing.

Q: Do you know why we want to see you?
A: It must be on account of Ren Jie.

Q: Tell us about how you got to know Ren.
A: I knew him over the Internet.

Q: Tell us exactly how it happened.
A: Last year, I joined the QQ-group China Pan-Blue Alliance organized by Mr. Wen Yen of Wuhan city, and I was presenting to everyone about this group of people who were interested in a peaceful re-unification of China.  I got to know Ren Jie in one of the QQ-groups.

Q: Why did you talk about?
A: Democratic ideas such as democratic systems, social practice and political systems.  Current affairs and political systems in China.

Q: What are the details?
A: In China, there are many inequitable social conditions, due to the people lacking democratic rights.  They can only be solved with a complete democratic system.

Q: That is what you think? or is that what Ren thinks?
A: We both have these ideas.  We share some common understanding!

Q: How do you think democratic systems can be realized?
A: There are many possibilities for realizing democratic systems in China.  Reform or revolution.  Top-down or bottom-up.  Gradually or rapidly.  Only if the majority of the people can get together will the country change.

Q: The majority of the people getting together?  Do you mean setting up an organization?
A: I did not say anything about setting up any organization.  I say that we must unite in order to change the inequitable social order.  I did not say either Ren Jie or I will call for everybody to unite.

Q: You are very careful about your choice of words.
A: I am only talking about the truth of the facts.

Q: Fine.  Alright.  Tell us about what happened when Ren Jie came to see you in Wuhan.
A: He came to Wuhan at the end of April.  I met him and I took him back to my place.  I told him to rest while I went off to work.  In the evening, I went back to my place and I took him to have dinner with my parents.  Afterwards we went back to my place.  Then we went for a walk down Aviation Boulevard and Zhongshan Park, and we chatted.

Q: What did you talk about?
A: Democratic ideas, current affairs in China, political systems and those kinds of things.

Q: How will you realize your ideals?  Do you need to call people to unite?
A: The establishment of a democratic system requires people to become aware and unite.

Q: What is the name of the political party of these people who unite together?
A: If there is no more banning of political parties in the future, such a group, or party, or their convocators might be considered a political party!

Q: Did Ren talk to you about establishing such a political party? Was his aim in coming to Wuhan to make you into a member of this political party?
A: I never said that Ren came to Wuhan because he wanted to build this political party and develop me!  Are you leading me?  Ren's main purpose in coming to Wuhan is to see if I can be a worthy friend.  The principal contents of our conversation were the exchange of ideas and exploration of issues.

Q: Did you talk about the matter of establishing a political party?
A: No.  We did not discuss that!

Q: Alright, let us talk about the problem of the political party formed by the masses that you just spoke about.  Did you talk about the name of this political party?
A: Some day, when the ban on political parties is lifted, there will be many names to choose from.  The overseas democratic movement got some publicity.  But the name of any political party will no doubt go around worlds like China, mainland, democratic, free, front, alliance, party, or whatever.

Q: Have you heard about the name Civil Front?  According to our information as well as Ren Jie himself, he wanted to form a party called the Mainland Civil Front.
A: Oh, I don't know about that.  Did Ren say that he wants to form his own political party?

Q: When you mentioned mainland, democratic, free, front, alliance, party and so on, which ones did Ren Jie prefer?
A: He said Mainland Civil Front sounds better.

Q: Did Ren come to see you in order to establish the Mainland Civil Front?
A: I never said that he came to see me in Wuhan in order to establish the Mainland Civil Front.  While we were together, we never broached this subject.  We were principally interested in exchanging ideas and discussing politics.

Q: You are not being truthful.  This was not according to the information that we have!
A: I only know to speak the truth of the matter.  When he came here, this was what he said as well.  To make a friend and to chat.  He did not say he was establishing any political party.  If I follow what you mean, you are saying that he came here to develop new members to establish a political party.  But that would not be true.

Q: You are responsible for what you say!
A: I am responsible for every word that I say.  I can face my friends, the law and my own conscience ...

Q: Hold on.  When Ren Jie came to Wuhan, did you exchange any presents?
A: No!

Q: Did he give you a little pamphlet?
A: Yes.  That happened!

Q: What is the title of the pamphlet?
A: I don't remember.  After he left Wuhan, I glanced at it a couple of times and then I threw it away!

Q: Threw it away?  Where?
A: I shredded it into pieces and then I threw in the garbage bin.

Q: Why did you shred it?
A: If someone sees it and gets enlightened, wouldn't that be "bad" for that person?

Q: We have also obtained that pamphlet from Ren.  You tell me about the details of the contents?
A: It is more or less about the current social conditions, their origins and their analyses!

Q: Did this pamphlet discuss the problem of establishing a political party?
A: I only glanced at it a couple of times.  I thought that it was more or less about the same old things.  I did not try to memorize the details.  I did not notice anything about establishing political parties!

Q: We only have a limited amount of time.  You see that I have been very accommodating towards you.  Besides summons, we also have detention orders.
A: Are you threatening me?

Q: How can you say that?  What do you mean by 'threatening'?  (He opened a briefcase and took out a blank detention form)  Do you believe that I can handcuff you?
A: I believe you.  Alright.  So - you -  are - tough!  Let us not digress and get back to our discussion.

Q: What mailboxes did you use to communicate with Ren Jie; for example, the mailbox ladanzhanyou?  Did Ren Jie discuss any articles with you through this mailbox?  What other mailboxes do you have?
A: I have the mailbox ladanzhanyou.  But I have not used that mailbox since the end of May.  I had used this mailbox to register at a web site; thereafter, I got so much mail from that web site that I could not use it anymore because it was too much to look at.  Later, I could not even open it; maybe some hacker took it over, or may there is some other reason.  So I don't know if Ren Jie ever used the ladanzhanyou mailbox to send out such an article.  I have another mailbox at

Q: Did Ren Jie use the ladanzhanyou mailbox to publish the article about establishing a political party? Or your other mailbox.
A: I don't about the first one, but not through the second one.

Q: Did Ren mention any other netfriend, such as XX in Shanghai?
A: I can't remember.  I have more than 200 netfriends on QQ.  I have chatted with them, but I don't remember all their details.

(They asked me for my mailbox and QQ information.  I gave them the information without a thought, and one of them went out of the room to check my mailbox and QQ)

Q: Do you accept the responsibility for what you say?
A: Of course, I accept the responsibility.  I can face my friends, the law and my conscience.

Q: Tell us what you think about Ren?
A: He is courageous.  He has a heart.  He is willing to sacrifice for his ideals.  I admire him!

Q: Ren also thought that you are clear-headed and analytical and a good talent!
A: He is exaggerating!

Q: Let us continue to talk about what you think about Ren.  Did you think that Ren wants to establish a political party?
A: I have no idea whether or not he wants to establish a political party.  He did not tell me.  Maybe he does.  What do you say?

The interview terminated eventually, and I signed and applied my palm print on the transcript.

The author's thoughts:

The national security bureau people were quite polite.  The Wuhan people did not take part.  The Shandong people held good attitudes, and they were professional.

The key focus of the conversation was: Did Ren Jie come to Wuhan to get me to establish a political party?  My response was: He came to Wuhan but I was busy and we only had a short time together; we did not discuss anything about political parties; we only exchanged ideas and discussed theories.

The national security bureau person kept going back to this matter, and wanted me to talk about it.  I told them: The most important thing was to find the truth and that is what I told them; I said that I can understand that they traveled a long distance and they must hope to get some results; but you can't have 'results' at the price of ignoring the truth.

Interrogation techniques:

They just kept asking the same questions again and again.  It is as if they had written down the list of questions that they wanted to ask, and then they jumped back and forth and asked similarly phrased questions for the purpose of looking for inconsistencies to invalidate your truthfulness.  It was very exhausting! 

They would also switch out your concepts -- for example, when I said "If someday the ban on political parties is lifted, we can form political parties", the interrogator changed it to "You want to establish a political party!"  As another example, when I said "Democracy can only be possible when the people unite," the interrogator changed it to, "You want to establish an organization to bring people together." 

And they also make leading statements.  For example, they say "Talk to us how about you and XX are establishing a political party."  There was nothing about establishing any political party before this, but they act as if this supposition were true and want you to describe how you intend to proceed.

For this author, it was apparently easy because he had a bottom line which he was going to defend on all accounts.  Therefore, none of the tactics worked against him.