The Gao Qinrong Interview in yWeekend

(yWeekend; plus backup)  768 Petition Letters Went Unanswered.  Narrated by Gao Qinrong and organized by Xu Ying.  December 21, 2006.

[in translation]

On December 18, at a hotel in Beijing, Gao Qinrong related that he had written 768 letters of petition during his eight years in prison.  Almost every letter was 3,000 words long.  The letters were sent to the Central Disciplinary Committee, the National People's Congress, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, etc.  After he got out of prison, he still does not accept the charges against him.  So there will probably be another professional petitioner in the streets of Beijing. This person is receiving a lot of attention from the media, and his future experience will surely interest the public.

A Review of the Affair

On May 27, 1998, the internal reference edition of the People's Daily's letters from the readers published Shanxi Youth Daily reporter Gao Qinrong's article <Fake irrigation project cost Yuncheng (Shanxi) a huge amount of money>.  It was disclosed for the first time that Yuncheng (Shanxi) had started a mass mobilization campaign over three months for a political project involving fake irrigation.  Previously, Gao had already written an internal reference article and gave it to the Central Disciplinary Committee at the end of 1997.

On April 3, 1998, a certain person from the Shanxi Provincial Disciplinary Committee wanted to meet Gao Qinrong, who declined on the grounds that his mother had recently passed away.  On April 5, the Provincial Disciplinary Committee people asked Gao for a meeting again.  This kind of conversation occurred several times.

In September and October 1999, CCTV and many other media reported on this event.  At this point, this "Great Leap Forward" project could no longer be covered up.  The Yuncheng district leaders quickly issued orders to demolish all the irrigation towers.

At the same time, a special case squad was formed at the Shanxi Provincial Disciplinary Committee for the purpose of investigating Gao Qinrong.  The team stayed at the Yuncheng Jianbei Hotel and began a six month investigation of Gao Qinrong.

On December 4, 1998, Gao Qinrong went to Beijing to report on the situation.  He was met by the Yuncheng police and taken back to Yuncheng overnight.  The legal documents from the Yuncheng district public security bureau and the Yuncheng city procuratorate showed that this case had been referred by the Shanxi Provincial Disciplinary Committee.  Gao Qinrong was subsequently charged with "receiving bribes, committing fraud and pimping."

Reporters from Southern Weekend went twice to the Shanxi Provincial Disciplinary Committee office and were told that the irrigation problem is a scandal of Shanxi that is not suitable for publication, especially since the matter has been dealt with.  The office declined to provide any of the related documents and refused to grant any interviews.  From the procuratorate to the Disciplinary Committee, all those who worked on the case said that they had merely handled an ordinary criminal case and there was no need to revive the subject up six months later.

-- The above was excerpted from the article <Why the anti-corruption reporter received a severe sentence> published on January 23, 2001 in Southern Weekend.

At 3pm on December 7, 2006, I was working when a prison guard told me: "Please hurry up and pack your stuff.  You are leaving the prison!"

I was somewhat surprised, but I was immediately relieved.  I quickly took off my prison uniform and I changed into "regular clothing" on the prison corridor.  I started to walk out.  One steel gate, another steel gate.  The prisoners inside the building yelled out aloud to send me off.  I was so excited that I could not find any words to say.  I just kept bowing with my hands in front of me.

The Jinzhong prison sent me secretly to a friend's place.  I went to a bathhouse to clean myself thoroughly.  I had not gotten a good bath in eight years.  But will it be possible to erase what eight years of imprisonment had branded onto my body?

The Police Were Quite Sympathetic Towards Me

I will never forget the day when I was arrested.  At 8pm on December 4, 1998, I lost my personal freedom.

That afternoon, a friend telephoned me and said that he wanted to meet me in Beijing.  At just after 7pm, I went to the 15th floor of the Yuexiu Hotel in Xuanwu district.  My friend was not there.  He said that he was dining and he asked me to wait.  Instead three plainclothes men came over and asked, "Are you reporter Gao?"  "Yes."  Before I knew it, the three men rushed me and tackled me to the ground.  They removed my leather belt and they took away my briefcase.  That was how they "kidnapped" me back to Yuncheng.  Why did I say "kidnap"?  Because they did not show me an arrest warrant at the time.

Two of those who kidnapped me back to Yuncheng were veteran police officers.  I thought that they were quite decent people.  One of the asked me, "What is going on with you?"  "I don't know."  "You don't know why you are being arrested?"  "Who knows?  You policemen can arrest whoever you want."

Later, they found out that I was arrested for exposing the "fake Yuncheng irrigation project."  One of the policemen uttered angrily: "That is just so stupid!"

When we arrived at the Ruicheng detention center, that officer even spoke to the guard in my presence to give me "some better treatment."  So the guard on duty assigned to be better prison cell.

Meeting My Informant Gao Manqiang In Prison

On April 28, 1999, the court sentenced me to 13 years in prison to be served in 12 years (note: one year was concurrent).  I stayed at Yongji Prison before being transferred to Jinzhong Prison.  By coincidence, I met the informant who provided me with the lead on the "Yuncheng fake irrigation project."  That was Gao Manqiang, the former deputy chief of Yuncheng's liaison office in Beijing.

Certain local officials had been angered by the reports about the "fake irrigation project" that appeared in many media in 1998 and they found out that Gao Manqiang was the source who supplied me with the information.  On September 26, Gao Manqiang was arrested and later sentenced to seven years in prison.

When I received the news, I wanted to visit him in prison.  In less than three months' time, I was also arrested for trumped-up charges.  Thus, I visited him directly inside the prison.

At the time, I was living with the physical training team.  My window faced the prison hospital.  As I looked around, I spotted a familiar figure -- Gao Manqiang was right there in the courtyard of the prison hospital.  "What a coincidence!" I yelled at him.  Yes, it was him.  We embraced each other and cried.  In order to speak freely, I pretended that I had a stomach ache and I went into the hospital.

When Gao Manqiang saw me, he cried and told me about what happened to him.  He was sent to the detention center on charges of "swindling" and "creating a public seal without authorization."  The police wanted him to admit to the charges.  When he refused, the police knocked out his front teeth and broke the bone in his palm with a rifle butt.  He was also physically assaulted with blood splattered all over this clothes.  Finally, the police forcibly applied his hand print on the confessional statement.  According to him, that confession document had an extra red mark.  In less than 30 days, he was sentenced to seven years.

The worst thing occurred on April 18, 2003, when Gao Manqiang completed his sentence.  Right outside the prison gate, Gao Manqiang was assaulted with iron bars by three men.  He was unconscious for 48 days and he is now a paraplegic.  I heard that the Shanxi Provincial Supreme Court overturned his sentence and paid him 600,000 RMB in compensation.  This gave me some hope.

768 Petition Letters Without Any Reply

I have never admitted to the trumped-up charges made against me.  During my eight years without freedom, I continued to write petition letters.

In order to make sure that I am vindicated, I sent out at least eight letters a month, to the Central Disciplinary Committee, the National People's Congress, the Supreme Court, the Supreme Procuratorate, the Shanxi Provincial High Court and the Shanxi Provincial High Procuratorate.  Each letter described the unjust treatment that I had received and explained in the legal sense that the three charges against me were trumped up.  Each letter was as long as 3,000 characters.  I wrote like that for eight years.  That would make 768 letters in total!  I wrote so much that my hand was blistered.  My fellow inmates noted: "This guy is petitioning every day."  I did it because I wanted to be vindicated.

But none of these letters received a reply.  I was in despair.  There was no place left in the world to talk reason.  I don't know if it was because the prison never sent my letters out, or some other reason.  I thought about dying.  But I thought that my death would only make it easy on those people!

My Newspaper Work In Prison Led To A Sentence Reduction

By 2001, I was getting adjusted to prison life.  I looked towards getting on since I was in prison already.  I needed to continue firmly to live on.

In 2000, the prison assigned me to become the team leader of the Jinzhong Prison News newspaper.  It is a lot more difficult to run a newspaper in prison than outside, because the prison administrators will not let the prisoners roam around.  The news came from the correspondents in each prison area.  After they reported what was happening within their group, we would determine which stories made sense and I would go and gather the news accompanied by the prison police.

In 2002, there was a judging contest of the prison newspapers in northern and northeastern China.  My long report <The Call of Love> and my commentary <Lide Becomes A New Person> won Class I prizes.  On account of those two prizes, I received a 3 month reduction from my sentence.

According to custom, a technical award wins a 4 month reduction; a commendation wins a 3 month reduction; a technical award and a commendation wins a 6 month reduction.  I had earned 3 technical awards and 4 commendations.  July 9, 2006 should have been my release date because the remaining portion of my sentence were accounted for by the reductions.  But for some reason, approval did not come down.

I Did Not Have Money To Apply For Graduate School At The Political And Law University

I was a reporter for more than a decade, and I rarely had time to expand my knowledge.  But those eight years of waiting in prison realized the "wish."

Apart from learning the journalism business, I also thought that my legal knowledge was inadequate.  Since I intend to continue my appeal through the legal process, it is impossible not to know the law.  So I wrote to the Chinese Political Law University to say that I wanted to attend their graduate school.

Someone at the Chinese Political Law University office wrote back to encourage me and he included information for applicants.  But the application fee was more than 3,000 RMB.  I did not even 300 RMB.  So I could only buy some law books to read in prison.

The money had to be squeezed out from daily life.  In prison, the month wage is 8 RMB.  Although my family sent me a few hundred RMB every six months, the Hualung instant noodles cost 60 cents a pack.  There are other expenses inside prison.  Even the cheapest "Yunbin" cigarettes cost 1.6 RMB a pack.  If I wanted to buy books, it will have to come out of the instant noodle money.

My Wife Went To Petition In Beijing Once A Month On The Average

Compared to my bitter life in prison, my wife Duan Maoying's life outside prison was much more bitter.  She had to support the family with less than 800 RMB in wages.  The child has to attend school and my wife had to go to Beijing to petition on my behalf.

During my eight years in prison, she went to Beijing seventy or eighty times.  Between April and November 1999, she went to Beijing six times to petition on my behalf.  During the first half of 2000, she went six times.  That would be an average of once a month.  In order to save money, she took the night train to Beijing, did the rounds during the day and returned at night.  In the first few years, she was busy running around on my behalf and she had no time to look after the education of our child.  After the repeated disappointments, I asked her to pay more attention to our child and focus on education.  So she visited Beijing less often.

At after 5pm on the December 8 on the second day after getting out of prison, I finally saw my daughter.  She has grown up to become a big girl, but she is very introverted.  "Did you miss dad?"  "Yes."  Silence.  During the eight years of her growing up, she did not see any sign of me.  (Sob).

During those eight years, we lied to her that dad went overseas in order not to affect her.  I only had one telephone conversation with her and I sent her one birthday card.

I made that birthday card myself.  "Darling, although I don't know where mom, auntie and brother Bao are celebrating your birthday, I want you to know that dad is thinking about you from a faraway place.  I am wishing you the very best and singing 'happy birthday' ..."

When I wrote to this point, I began to cry aloud.  The prison inmates were curious and they came to see what was happening to me.  When they saw what I wrote to my daughter, they also started to cry.

Actually, my daughter is suspicious about what we told her.  One time, the child asked my wife: "Where did Dad really go?"  My wife said, "He is overseas."  "You are lying to me," said the daughter as she shoved my wife onto the sofa and raced out.

I Will Never Concede

Q: Did you give up after eight years in prison?
A: Of course not.  Those three charges against me were fabricated.  I am still hoping that the Central Disciplinary Committee and the Supreme Court could establish an investigation as soon as possibly.  This case involves corruption.

Q: Someone said that if you did not do something improper, then those three crimes could not have been attributed to you?
A: This is as obvious as a flea on the head of a bald man.  The three so-called crimes all occurred in 1996.  How come they did not prosecute me in 1996?  In 1998, I revealed that "Yuncheng wasted 280 million RMB on fake irrigation" and they busted me afterwards.  I'm just an ordinary citizen.  So why did the Provincial Disciplinary Committee thought that I was worthy of a special case squad?  There are many flaws to the crimes that they charged me with.  The relationship between the times of the events.  I won't bother to elaborate.  For example, consider the bribery charge.  I was just a reporter with <Reporter Observes> magazine of the Shanxi bureau of Xinhua agency.  I am not even a state public servant.  So how can I be bribed?

Q: Will you continue with your appeal?
A: I will continue with my appeal until I die.  A convicted criminal cannot serve as a reporter.  I can only do some other kinds of work.  Delayed justice is injustice.  That saying is somewhat dated.

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