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” 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, and on July 17 began sharing his account of his detention and treatment on Twitter. CDT has translated the third part below. See also CDT’s translation of Part 1 and Part 2.
— darkmamu (@darkmamu6) July 20, 2020
My jail cell had a surveillance camera, and so did the outdoor space. At first, there weren’t any audio recording devices, but a few days later they installed them. I talked nonsense underneath it on purpose, and so did Xiao Yang. He said some bureau chief was working for drug dealers. Xiao Yang said he used to be a traffic cop. One day he was high on meth, and he circled around and around Xiaguan on someone else’s motorcycle. Then, well, then he wound up in here, charged with theft.
One day, Xiao Zhao was bored. He wrote some words on the wall of the outdoor space with his nails. I did so too. We were caught and everyone was told to write a self-criticism. I said that I was the one who wrote those things, don’t trouble the others, and that I wouldn’t write the self-criticism. They said, if you don’t write it, we’ll stop selling things to you!
My three cellmates wrote self-criticisms. I refused, so they stopped selling to us–not even toilet paper. I was hungry and didn’t have enough to eat. I refused to answer questions during interrogations.
“Why won’t you answer our questions?” The jail won’t sell me anything. I’m hungry!
Later that afternoon, they sent us some toiletries and food. They said they didn’t have much left and we just had to make do with these, and that they’ll sell to us next time. That evening, Xiao Zhao said if it were at the city jail, you’d be beaten up badly. He said that two days before, the city jail warden told them that they’d be transferred to the prefectural jail, and that they should try to perform some deeds of merit. On the afternoon of my arrest, they were transferred from city jail to this prefectural jail. This jail didn’t normally take in male inmates.
A few days later, I was moved to a different cell. Maybe the original cell didn’t give them a good enough audio recording? I tried to poke around and see which cell Jane [Li Tingyu’s English name] might be in. Xiao Zhao told me that even if I could find out, I wouldn’t be able to see it. Xiao Zhao was charged with theft. He drove around in a minivan, pretending to be a moving company. He broke into people’s homes when a chance came up and took their stuff. He had been locked up for six months now. I once saw his indictment—he even took potted plants.
We had a library but not many books to read. We were allowed to go once a month. One day, Xiao Zhao and others went there and took back a lot of books. I picked two, one by Gu Long, the other was an American soldier’s memoir of the Vietnam War. We were allowed to watch TV in the evening. Everyday there was some soap opera on Hunan TV. As they watched TV, I read books or simply did nothing. People must be looking for us, I thought. We had been updating our Twitter on a daily basis with no interruptions. But now we stopped for so many days, friends must be looking for us.
Around Day 10, someone deposited 1,000 yuan in my account. They wouldn’t let me see the deposit slip. I took a sneak peak and saw it was deposited by Xu Hui (@yangpigui). It must have put in a lot of effort to find me in this prefectural jail.
Around Day 20, someone came and asked me what my older brother’s name was. The next day, Attorney Xiao and Attorney Wang came and brought with them good wishes from the outside. They mentioned a series of familiar names. With so many people who care about me, I thought, it’s all worth it. I signed a pile of powers or attorney.
The interrogations went on. I once said that if we have to go through tens of thousands of cases one by one, it will take a year. They said they have orders, and that there’s no way around them. Around Day 20, interrogations suddenly stopped. In the months that followed, I was completely forgotten, except once in a while I’d get a notice to switch cells.
I received some clothes and shoes. My big sisters were quite thoughtful.
They didn’t allow smoking in the prefecture jail. It didn’t take me much effort to get used to this, but Xiao Zhao and the others were having a hard time. Every day, they talked about smoking. They rolled scratch paper into fantasy cigarettes. He said he regretted coming to the prefectural jail— no opportunities for merits, and no cigarettes to smoke. He’d rather have stayed at the city jail, where he could smoke. Once in a while, we’d smell cigarette smoke from the lobby, and they would lament about it.
From time to time, the jail would summon the three of them for a talk. I was never included. I assumed they were asking them about me. Xiao Zhao and Xiao Yang used to tell me to forget about it, that I can’t beat them. Xiao Wang was young. He was charged with defrauding someone of something like 100 thousand yuan, and he was stupid enough to take that person to his home. He never tried to persuade me to do anything. About two months later, he was suddenly transferred back to the city jail. I guess it was because he never did any persuasion. Then came Lao Zhang, a man from the northeast.
Lao Zhang used to sell grilled squid in Shuanglang. He stabbed someone with a beer bottle over territorial disputes and was jailed for 10 days. A year later, he was suddenly in jail again. He said they had connections and wanted more money out of me.
The second day after he came, he asked me to play poker with him. We used marinated eggs as chips. We played all morning to kill time. Lao Zhang lost everything. We called it a day. I gave those marinated eggs back to him, I couldn’t have eaten all of them anyway.
Lao Zhang jogged every morning, from the cell to the outdoor space and back. I followed him, and so did Xiao Zhao, 30 minutes every day.
The female inmates lived next door. We could hear them talking from the outdoor space during the day. Xiao Zhao often knocked on their walls but never got a response. One day he was reported by them. The cops came in and scolded him, and he didn’t dare to knock again.
The lights in the cell were always on. I had trouble falling asleep, so I covered my face with a t-shirt. A female officer said that was not allowed and told me to take it off. She sounded tough. I said I couldn’t sleep, that I’d had enough. Then she called up two male officers to threaten me. One of them had a Sichuan accent, the other had a Northeastern accent. They said I must immediately take it off. I refused. 30 minutes later, they left. Male officers were not allowed in jail cells at night. At our morning count, the two of them came in. The Northeastern officer said viciously: “Lu Yuyu, stand straight!” I said I couldn’t stand straight. He came over and tried to push me to the ground. My head hit the wall during struggle. The Sichuan officer joined him and grabbed my arms, pushing me to the ground. I was in pain and couldn’t fight back, so I shouted that the officers were beating me up. Apparently that worked, they let me go.
I went on the first hunger strike of my life. I wrote on a piece of paper that the police had beaten me up, and put it towards the surveillance camera. The cops didn’t come in. They summoned Xiao Zhao for a talk. When he came back, Xiao Zhao asked me to eat. I didn’t go out. I didn’t stand up for the count. I just lay in bed and drank water whenever hunger set in. The next day, Attorney Wang came. The Sichuan officer took me to see him. I told Attorney Wang that I was beaten up by the police. And just like that, he walked away, dejected. Attorney Wang told me to watch my health. I took the opportunity to make a statement: “I am in good health. I don’t have any illnesses. If I die or become sick in jail, the CCP did it.” [Chinese]