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.
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.
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.
— 江天勇妻子金变玲 (@jinbianling) May 12, 2017
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.