May 8, 2017
For anyone with the time and inclination, the 3,000 kilometres of roads to Beijing from Guanping, a village deep in the verdant mountains of southwest China next to Myanmar, make for a stunning expedition. A tour guide might talk up the highlands of southern Sichuan province, the culinary scene in Chengdu, the ancient imperial history of Xi’an and the remnants of the Great Wall around the modern capital.
But Chen Jiangang, a lawyer who has attracted prominence abroad and anger at home for publicizing shocking allegations of Chinese torture in custody, was on a very different kind of road trip when he set off from Guanping last week. After several dozen armed security forces suddenly descended upon him in the midst of a family vacation, he was forced to drive back to Beijing in his Honda Accord accompanied by two members of China’s secret police and an official with the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice.
The long, slow trip back – a kind of mobile house arrest – marked one of the more bizarre entries in the annals of Chinese enforcement of justice, as authorities kept Mr. Chen on the road while a client was suddenly put on trial far away.
On Monday morning, the lawyer woke up 1,200 kilometres from the courtroom where Xie Yang, one of hundreds of Chinese human rights defenders rounded up during a 2015 crackdown, was tried for “inciting subversion of state power and disrupting court order.”