In 2016, citizen journalist Lu Yuyu and his then-girlfriend 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. The Committee to Protect Journalists interviewed Lu about his detention on July 30.
Lu was released from prison in June, and on July 17 began sharing his account of his detention and treatment on Twitter. He posted the seventh installment on August 3:
— darkmamu (@darkmamu6) August 3, 2020
Part 6 ended with the police putting a motorcycle helmet on Lu’s head to immobilize him. CDT’s translation of Part Seven follows. See also CDT’s translation of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.
A prosecutor told me, whether I confess or not, I have to obey the police. My case had been going back and forth between the prosecutor and the police for months, and this was the first time I’d seen a prosecutor. His tone was harsh.
That evening, they transferred a few more people to my cell. They were all heads from the other cells, and they took turns monitoring me at night.
The next day, a medical examiner came to evaluate my injuries. I was so angry that I couldn’t feel the hunger anymore. I thought it would actually be good if I just died like that.
On the morning of the third day, the prosecutor and the warden came.
They said they had seen the surveillance footage, that the armed officer hit me first and was wrong. He said they’ll ask him to apologize.
I said I don’t want the armed officer to apologize. He hit me, but I hit him back. I want that police officer to apologize.
That afternoon, the warden called me in and asked the fat policeman who hit me to apologize. He sounded reluctant. Then the warden said I was the first one in the history of this jail who dared hit an armed officer, and that I had his personal respect. But, he said, my case was assigned higher up, and they were only responsible for holding me here. Going forward, he said we can always talk things out, and that we could get rid of the helmet first. As for the handcuffs and leg cuffs, we’d have to get permission from the PSB and wait until I was emotionally stable.
The warden brought me a bowl of noodles. I hesitated before digging in. I kind of regretted it—I should have held out a little longer to see if I could have my handcuffs and leg cuffs removed.
It was a few days before the Lunar New Year, and it was very cold. With a few dozen jin of iron chains on my hands and legs, I couldn’t sleep at night. Ah Long found a way to get my long underwear through my leg cuffs so I could get some sleep. He used to share a cell with a death row inmate, so he knew how to take pants on and off through leg cuffs.
Ah Long was in his twenties, from Sichuan Province. He was arrested along with his boss for making drugs from common cold medications.
I laid in my bed all the time and didn’t even get up during the day. No one came to interrogate me anymore. I laid there at night listening to my cellmates chatting. That was how I learned of another cell that didn’t have to do labor. They were people with an education, and they hadn’t been just ordinary people when they were on the outside. Every day they just had to write some articles and poems for “Window to the Heart,” a newspaper that no normal person could bear to read.
When I grew up, I stopped really caring about holidays. The New Year was no different. It seemed that Jane [Li Tingyu’s English name] was like me. During the three years we were together, we rarely celebrated anything. Sometimes when the weather was nice, we’d bike along Erhai Lake, or wander around the Old Town, or go to Walmart and buy stuff. The farthest we went on our bikes was Xizhou. Jane was a bit slower than me. I would lead the way, then wait for her. Once she told me not to go so fast, to wait for her.
On New Year’s Day, Xiao Sang’s family worked their connections to send us some food. The police officers called us up and we had a meal together. That counted as a New Year’s celebration. I was still in my handcuffs and leg cuffs. How did Jane celebrate?
A few days later the warden had someone take off my cuffs. He asked whether I had any requests. I said I want to buy books, and I that I didn’t have enough to eat. He said that we’d get to that.
Dali’s winter wasn’t cold, but the sunlight didn’t reach our cell. We had to wear warm clothes. There was no hot water, just cold running water. When the sun would shine on the courtyard, we’d run out to take a shower. The cold water splashing on our bodies felt like it was shattering our bones. We’d yell to keep our momentum and finish.
Not long after the New Year, Attorney Wang Zongyue came. I didn’t tell him about the beating. It was a long trip for them from Guiyang to Dali, I thought I should try and take care of the things I could myself.
Days dragged along, each one like the last. We woke up, did counts, ate, and slept. I’d only feel a little warmth when I received wire transfers from big sister Wang Lihong every month. Then I knew that people on the outside cared about me.
On March 24, the Dali Prefecture Procuratorate came for my arraignment. They said my case had been transferred to the intermediate court, and that my charge had been changed from “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” to “inciting subversion of the state.” The new paperwork didn’t have Jane’s name. Did they release her?
In the meantime, the warden kept his word. He brought me a set of New Concept English. Once in a while, he’d send some good food. I had more and more cellmates. They played poker and chess. It was much livelier than before.
On April Fool’s Day, my case was returned to the Dali Procuratorate, and my charge was changed back to “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Two women brought me the indictment. Finally, my case was going to be heard in court, and I’d know just how long my prison term would be.
In late April, some of the prosecutors and police officers came again. They said they had released Jane, and that she had agreed to use the lawyer appointed for her before the trial. They furtively showed me the very last part of the verdict. Perhaps they also wanted me to change lawyers or confess. I just pretended that I couldn’t take a hint.
Jane was given a suspended sentence of two years, with three years’ probation. I didn’t know if that was true. As long as she’s out, I thought.
The days got warmer. Some people were transferred out after receiving their sentences, like Gulu and Ah Bu. New people came and went. I had even more cellmates. Sometimes there wasn’t enough room for us to sleep. The newcomers would sleep on the floor. One of them had been arrested for stealing a cheap cell phone. Normally the police wouldn’t bother to arrest someone for such a small claim, but he was unlucky. He stole from a foreigner. I saw his paperwork, his victim was named Teresa Something.
Lao Dong was sentenced to five-and-a-half years. He asked me to write an appeal for him. I agreed, knowing it would be worthless—I was bored anyway.
In June, I finally received my notice to appear in court. It was only an arraignment, but at least it was one step closer to the actual court date.
I was thinking about what I should say in court, or whether I should write something down. In the end, I didn’t write anything down. [Chinese]
Translation by Yakexi. CDT will continue to translate selected excerpts from Lu’s Twitter diary account of his detention as they are published. See also CDT’s translation of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.