Police in the central Chinese city of Changsha have denied claims that legal activist Jiang Tianyong has been tortured whilst in detention, and have released a video of Jiang walking.

Its claims were made before Jiang’s wife Jin Bianling was due to testify at a US Congress hearing to “examine the torture, disappearances, and detention of human rights lawyers and democracy advocates in China,” on Thursday afternoon, Washington DC time.

jin bianling congress
Photo: Lee Ching-yu, Jin Bianling, Chen Guiqiu, and Wang Yanfang in Washington DC. Photo: Twitter/Jin Bianling.

A prominent rights defence figure in China, Jiang previously worked on numerous high-profile cases, including those of fellow lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Chen Guangcheng. He most recently advocated for the families affected in China’s crackdown on lawyers and rights activists. His disappearance in November prompted responses from rights groups, the UN and other countries.

Torture claims

Jin said on Twitter last week that, according to a source “with a conscience inside the Changsha system,” Jiang was tortured, and is having problems with this legs.

“He cannot stand on his legs,” Jin said, saying Jiang was suffering from swelling.

Changsha police posted on its Weibo account on Thursday, saying rumours were spreading online that Jiang was tortured whilst in detention. The post quoted Jin’s claim that Jiang was having problems with his legs, and included a video of Jiang walking around.

“After investigation, it was understood that Changsha city’s public security organs fully protected the suspect Jiang Tianyong’s legal rights, and arranged especially for a doctor to inspect his old leg injury and provide therapy.”

“Currently, Jiang Tianyong’s old leg injury has been cured, and he is in good health.”

YouTube video

The video was filmed on Wednesday afternoon as Jiang was exercising at the location where he was being detained, they said.

It shows that Jiang’s legs are not swollen, and that he can stand on both legs and walk normally, they added.

Patrick Poon, researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that the post may be related to Jin’s scheduled testimony, and raised doubts about the authorities’ version of events.

“The video actually cannot prove that he was not tortured as it’s unclear when it was taken. It’s only a single-sided story. The best way to show that he’s not tortured is to ensure that he has regular access to a lawyer of his own choice and access to his family,” he said.

See also: Ministry of Truth: A brief history of televised ‘confessions’ in China

“The UN Committee Against Torture noted in its Concluding Observation on China’s 5th periodic review that regular access to a lawyer is an important element to ensure that the detained person is not subjected to torture,” Poon added.

Jiang appeared in an “interview” with state TV in March saying that he had orchestrated claims that rights lawyer Xie Yang was tortured in prison.

YouTube video

He has been held in “residential surveillance at a designated location,” a form of secret detention, since December 1 2016, police said. He is suspected of the crime of “inciting subversion of state power.” His family has not heard from him since he disappeared in late November, and lawyers have not been able to meet with him, according to his wife Jin.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.