In 2016, citizen journalist Lu Yuyu and his girlfriend at the time Li Tingyu, were formally arrested after having been detained for over a month. The two had been chronicling “mass incidents”—the official name given to protests, riots, and other forms of social unrest—across China on the “Not News” (非新聞) blog and @wickedonnaa Twitter account since 2013. Reporters Without Borders awarded the detained Lu and Li a Press Freedom Prize in 2016. While Li was reportedly tried in secret and released in April 2017, Lu was sentenced to four years in prison that August for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a catch-all charge frequently used to prosecute activists.
Lu was released from prison last month, four years after his initial apprehension in June 2016. He has detailed his experience in detention, and his opinion that the option to document protests “no longer exists in China” in a recent interview with William Yang.
On July 17, Lu shared the first entry of his account of his detention and treatment an Twitter:
— darkmamu (@darkmamu6) July 18, 2020
His tweet reads: “Now that I’ve finally defeated my procrastination, let’s start at the top.” Lu has titled his account “Incorrect Memory”—an allusion to the CCP’s monopolization of PRC history by determining “correct” narratives. Recently, a foreign ministry spokesperson earned a lot of scorn after she claimed that a white paper on coronavirus response was intended to “leave a correct collective memory for all mankind.” The first part of Lu’s narrative has been translated in full below. CDT will continue to translate selected excerpts from Lu’s Twitter diary account of his time in detention as they are published.
Midday on June 15, 2016, the weather was as good as always. Having rice noodles at a noodle bar in the old city of Dali, Jane [Li Tingyu’s English name] told me that a manager at the express delivery place had texted her multiple times, asking for us to retrieve our packages as soon as possible.
We didn’t sense anything unusual. After having noodles, we rushed back on our electric bikes. It was not far from the old city to Gantong, about seven li [three and a half km/two miles]. After we arrived at the express delivery place, Jane went in to get our packages. There was a corridor between the street and the station, about 10 meters long. I was waiting for her on the street when several men closed in on me. I had imagined countless times what this would be like and how I should react, but it happened too fast. I didn’t have the time to react or even to get scared. My hands were cuffed from behind and I was thrown into a nearby car, then they used a black cloth to cover my head and face. I thought maybe they didn’t know Jane was still inside the package station, which was an incredibly naive thought—several female officers took Jane from the package station. Jane yelled out my name as she was thrown into another car. By then, I had started to feel bad.
Then a middle-aged man told me they were from Dali Public Security Bureau, and that they were arresting me for this and that. I wasn’t in the mood to listen. They asked me to take them to where we were living. They had their people stationed all along the way, and the driver occasionally stopped to speak with them. When we were close to my home, I saw Jane in a car, her head and face covered in black cloth. That was the last time I saw her. Perhaps I’d never see her again.
They thoroughly searched our place. They took photos of me with everything. Xiao Huang was barking incessantly downstairs, I wondered who would take care of him. Just before Chinese New Year, Xiao Chou left. We thought he would come home after he was done playing, just like he used to do. But not this time, he never came back. We tried to find him but quickly gave up. He could be anywhere, and we were too busy. Jane asked me why I wasn’t upset and why I gave up searching. I said life was about bidding farewell anyway. What’s there to be upset about? I was just playing tough.
About two weeks ago, after many rounds of negotiations with Jane, we adopted Xiao Huang on the condition that we must neuter him after he grew up. I thought we should take him home first, and that we’d never neuter him. Xiao Huang was a bit wobbly in his steps at first but he settled in very quickly. On the third day, he climbed upstairs on his wobbly legs and slept next to me.
About two hours later, I was sitting in the tiger chair inside a room of the Dali Public Security Bureau. They asked me all kinds of questions. Everything I did was made public, there was nothing to hide. As I was answering their questions, I thought: What will happen to Xiao Huang? Will they release Jane?
The interrogation went past midnight and included several different police officers. They offered me food halfway through, but I had no appetite. They tested me for drugs. At 4 a.m. I was put into a car, I didn’t know where we were going. I asked if they had released Jane. One of them smirked and said, “You should worry about yourself.”
The car stopped about 30 minutes later. It was raining. After a brief conversation, they took me through several gates. The last gate had a sign that said “no men allowed.” I was stripped of all my clothing, and after changing into some stinky clothes, passed through that no-men-allowed gate.
The jail cell was about 30 square meters, and the outdoor space was about 10 square meters. You were only allowed outdoor access at certain times during the day. I had three cellmates. One of them quickly got up to make the bed for me and threw me a smelly blanket. I couldn’t sleep. At 7 in the morning, they came to do counts. I didn’t have breakfast, the food wasn’t appealing. At 8, I was interrogated again. They asked me to look at the messages I posted on Weibo. Didn’t Sina delete them already? Maybe Sina gave them this data from their backend? Or, maybe they had been collecting them from early on. I looked at these messages one after another until 1 a.m., when I went back to my cell to sleep.
During my interrogation, I asked them to take care of Xiao Huang, and if I could retrieve some cash for daily goods. One police officer told me that I won’t be getting out anytime soon, and that they found someone to take care of Xiao Huang. I didn’t know if he was telling the truth. He then told me it wasn’t convenient to get money, that Jane has 300 yuan, and that I should ask her to spare half of it. I said no, Jane also needed money. Later they said Jane will keep 200 yuan and I can have 100, and that they’ll let me get more later. I agreed.
Days went on like this, I was so exhausted. About four days later, I told them that from then on I wouldn’t answer any questions after 5 p.m. After that my interrogation sessions ended at 5 every day. The same day, I was asked to sign a notice. Only then did I learn that our case was being handled by a special task force of the Ministry of Public Security—Case 1517 Picking Quarrels and Provoking Trouble. That must be referring to the date January 7, 2015… No wonder my email kept getting hacked back then! [Chinese]
Translation by Yakexi.