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 fourth part below. See also CDT’s translation of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
— darkmamu (@darkmamu6) July 21, 2020
I continued my hunger strike, I was committed. On the third day, an opportunity came up. The cop from the Northeast came in to do count. I confronted him at the door. You want to beat me? Why don’t you do it now? He couldn’t come in and complete his count, and he left.
Then the warden came. She said, “Li Tingyu cares a lot about you. After you said the police beat you, she called her lawyer. She wanted me to tell you that she wishes you well. Do you have anything to say to her? Any requests?” I said that I wish her well too. And that I wanted to buy an English dictionary.
I could buy books, and I heard about Jane [Li Tingyu’s English name]. So I started eating again.
I didn’t pay attention when I was in school. I skipped classes, got into fights, and basically learned nothing. I didn’t know much English. In 2015, Jane signed me up for online classes in Hujiang. I would babble along when I was done with my work. Jane obviously found my pronunciation intolerable. She asked me to just study the phonetic alphabet first.
A few days later, the warden got me a dictionary. It had a red cover, and reminded me of those classic moments in the 1970s. She said it’s a gift, that no payment was required, and that if I wanted more books I should just go to the library. I went and found an American-style pronunciation guide. I also found a novel written by a British author. Every day, I exercised, read, and studied English.
The bathroom was located in the outdoor space. The shower was directly above the toilet, and the hot water was from solar power. We were allowed to shower twice a week. The surveillance camera was pointed towards the bathroom with no blocking. When using the toilet we would use a basin for cover, and we’d turn our backs against the camera while showering. Xiao Yang didn’t do that. When he showered, he faced the camera on purpose. There was no toilet in our cell. When they locked the door at night, we had to use a big black plastic bucket as a toilet. To prevent odor, we had to throw in a mushy soap and keep stirring it until the suds were about to overflow. We took turns doing that.
Xiao Yang was about 30 years old. He was a traffic cop, an urban guy. He looked down on Xiao Zhao, who was from the countryside. Although they were both charged with theft, he often said nasty things to Xiao Zhao. One time they almost got into a fight over some petty business. I stopped them.
In October, they finally thought to come see me. I was so bored! As I was thinking over the slim chance they’d be letting us out, two people came, a bald supervisor and a young person in an FC Barcelona jersey. I’m a Barca fan. The bald supervisor had some paperwork in hand. He said: “Lu Yuyu, let’s talk.”
“What do you want to talk about?”
“Let’s talk about Jin Feng. What’s your relationship with him?”
“Friends on the internet. We haven’t even met in person. What’s there to talk about?”
“How about the Guangbao Party?”
“I’m sorry. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Alright. Let’s talk about you. Do you want to get out early?”
“We want you out soon as well. But you have to explain your situation first.”
“What situation? I told you a long time ago, even under your laws I’m innocent.”
“That means you want to go through trial procedures?”
“I can’t control whatever procedures you have. I’m innocent.”
The conversation led nowhere, and they left.
Days went on like this. Occasionally, people got excited when some female inmates would come through to clean the floor. Xiao Yang received his verdict at the end of October. He got a year and a half. In early November, he was sent to prison. We didn’t get a new cellmate.
On November 11, they made an announcement over speakers, telling everyone to pack up. Any chance they were letting me out?
I took all my personal stuff and walked out of the gate. A van was waiting there. I was put on ankle shackles and got into the car. Then two armed police joined me.
As the prison van drove into the city, Xiao Zhao said that we were going to the city jail. The prison van drove across the city, and moments later we arrived at Dali City Jail.
We walked through a series of gates. Outside a security room, police officers used their feet to inspect our stuff. Xiao Zhao and Lao Zhang were escorted to their cells. Before we parted ways, Lao Zhang said: “Lu Yuyu, take care.”
Lao Zhang was 45 years old, but he looked 50. His beard and hair were grey.
I was left there alone, uneasy. I thought about whether I should fight back if my new cellmates messed with me. A police officer came, asked a few questions, and then left again. A few officers were smoking and chatting in the security room. There were about 30 cells next to the security room. This was the center of the jail, like a giant, flat Beijing courtyard.
Later, a chubby police officer brought me to the furthest cell. There were five cellmates in there, cleaning things up. I guess they were assigned there to do merits.
The outdoor space was just like what we had in the prefecture jail. They put metal wire above it like a cage. There were some cigarette butts left there by police officers. The ground was about 20 cm lower than the cell floor. I thought to myself: That would make my running exercise a little inconvenient. [Chinese]