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Detained 24 Hours in Shanghai on the Way to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony – An Open Letter to the Australian Foreign Minister

December 6, 2010

Re: Unlawful Detention by the Chinese Government

Dear Honourable Foreign Minister, Mr. Kevin Rudd,

At the end of November I received an invitation to attend the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony and Banquet in celebration of the 2010 Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. I decided to fly to Oslo from Melbourne via Beijing where I could visit friends and relatives.

On 1 Dec I obtained a double entry visa to China on my Australian passport. I was however unlawfully detained by the Chinese authorities during my transit in Shanghai.

The police came on board before everyone disembarked. They demanded that I go with them, saying that a couple of things needed to be sorted out.

At Putong Immigration Office, they conducted a thorough search of my body and luggage for over than an hour. They could not find anything, as the written report indicated for the record. Afterward, however, they declared that I would be prohibited from entering China.

I protested immediately.  My visa was issued by the PRC Consulate in Melbourne, which granted me official permission to enter China. If there was any lack of communication between bureaucracies of the Chinese Government, it should not be part of my problem. If the Chinese authorities changed their mind after issuing me the visa, I did not receive any notice. My arrival in China should therefore be deemed legal and reasonable.

The Chinese Government refused me the entry, but even by what are stipulated in the Chinese law I had not done anything wrong in the whole process of my application and my arrival. The Chinese authorities should have apologized for their mistake, as well as compensate me for my financial loss. Quite the contrary, they rejected my proposal of not entering China but instead using the transit facilities at the airport and flying directly to Oslo. Not only did they express no regret for my inconvenience owing to their mistakes, they went further and tortured me during the 24 hours before they were required to notify the Australian Embassy.

The Chinese government may have the authority to refuse my entry, but they don’t have the right to tell me where I can go after leaving their jurisdiction. They have no right to cut off my journey to Oslo to attend Liu Xiaobo’s ceremony. Instead they forced me to return to Australia, and before that, engaged in torturous mistreatment of me.

In the past I have visited China every year without a hitch. I did have close contact with certain dissidents who had caused Chinese government some headaches, but I did not contravene any Chinese law. When I first met Liu Xiaobo, he was a free man.  Chinese law does not prohibit foreigners to see its ordinary citizens. When I learned the news of Liu Xiaobo’s sentence of 11 year imprisonment, I happened to be on a flight to Beijing. Once off the plane I immediately rushed to Liu Xiaobo’s residence. I did not conceal my identity to the National Security people who were observing. They did not allow me enter the house, but allowed Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, to come out for a chat with me. Sometime after, we also had a gathering to celebrate Liu Xiaobo’s birthday under the open surveillance of the National Security people.

This time, without legal warrant, without giving any reasons, more than 10 police illegally held me for 24 hours. They not only restricted my freedom, but treated me as a criminal. Here I will not go into detail except to mention a few things. Firstly, after questioning and finding nothing, the policy ordered me to sit and not move like a dog. Secondly, in the confined room where I slept, 4 policemen stayed there for the whole night, plus a few more outside.  Thirdly, there was no privacy even in the toilet. The toilet had no window, but one policeman was in the toilet watching; another policeman was standing at the door also watching, apparently enjoying the pleasure of humiliating me.

Fourthly, and most unbearable, they did not allow me to call my wife in Australia to keep her posted. I requested 9 times; they rejected 9 times.

Dear Minister, I am now writing this to you, not because I believe I can seek justice from the Chinese government, but because I believe in the Australian government. I believe that our government will stand up to protect its citizen whenever its people suffer from unlawful infringement on human rights.

I look forward to your advice.

Sincerely yours,

Zhang Heci

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