Posted by Joel Martinsen on Friday, July 3, 2009 at 6:04 PM
Liu Shihua, Pu Enfu, and a police officer
The case of a Kunming man accused of helping his daughter become a prostitute, and protecting her by letting police carry off his two foster daughters, may be an example of coerced confessions and overzealous law enforcement after all.
The initial story, which came to national attention through a Southern Weekly report at the beginning of June, painted a picture of police brutality. In March, police picked up two elementary school-aged girls on suspicion of prostitution, and beat up their parents who were brought to the station for questioning. The two girls were tested at a hospital and found to be virgins. The police apologized, but the father, Liu Shihua, demanded 200,000 yuan in compensation for the abuse his family had suffered.
A few days later, that story was contradicted by reports that claimed that Liu had misled police into carrying off his two younger daughters (actually foster daughters) to protect his biological daughter who was the real prostitute. And the two girls' mother, Zhang Anfen, was accused of misleading the hospital into issuing fake test results, as well.
The police detained Liu and Zhang for their role in aiding prostitution, and the local publicity department accused the media of mishandling its reporting of the affair.
Now Wu Hongfei, a Southern People Weekly journalist and the lead singer of Happy Avenue, has posted a teaser of an upcoming report containing new allegations of police misconduct.
Wu wrote up a short summary of her findings in a blog post that is probably a bit less dispassionate and rigorous than tomorrow's story in The Beijing News will be:
An Appeal for Legal Assistance and Media Attentionby Wu Hongfei
After speaking to the lawyer a number of times, the following is what we believe to be the facts:
Liu Shihua and his family were taken in by the police on March 16, and under duress, he was forced to confess that his two foster daughters had been acting as prostitutes. One was thirteen and one was fourteen.
Zhang Anfen did not believe that her daughters, in elementary school, had engaged in prostitution and took them to the hospital to check whether they were still virgins.
When an Yunnan Information Times journalist reported this, it attracted media attention, and loud public opinion slanted toward the Liu family. The police apologized and admitted that their enforcement of the law had been rough, and that they had arrested the wrong persons.
Afterward, Liu Shihua sought 200,000 yuan in compensation, infuriating the police. At the same time they were pretending to discuss compensation with a lawyer, they secretly uncovered a record of Liu's prior sentencing for stealing a horse. They were even happier to discover that Liu had an older daughter of his own whom the police had once fined 1,300 yuan.
The police forcibly searched their home and carried off all evidence that the confession had been forcibly extracted, such as jeans that had been beaten to shreds.
At the beginning of June, he was detained by police for a second time, and another confession was extracted. After seven days or so, he was induced to confess that his older daughter (16 years old) had engaged in prostitution. After that, Li Shihua was said to have kept his daughter for the purpose of prostitution. His eldest daughter was detained by police. The police issued a notice, which was used by all media in Yunnan, that said that Liu Shihua had hosted prostitution, had swapped daughters for each other, and had tricked the media.
Reporters had no opportunity to contact the eldest daughter. When Zhang Anfen was released, because her husband was still being detained and she suspected that reporters had been sent by the police, she told them what she had been forced to tell the police, that her eldest daughter had engaged in prostitution.
A few days ago the eldest daughter spoke to a reporter for the first time: she had not engaged in prostitution, but she did have friends, and there had been sexual activity. Ever since she was young she did not know here parents, and she had grown up with her grandmother and grandfather. The first time she laid eyes on her father was after the two of them died, when she was a little older than ten. She hit puberty early.
The 1,300 yuan fine had been coerced. And because of the first fine, the second was naturally easier.
The claim that Liu Shihua aided his biological daughter in prostitution is logically unsound. Why would he earn money to send his two foster daughters to school but have his biological daughter become a prostitute?
Liu's health is not good, so in his working in the earth and stone sector, he acted as a low-level foreman, hiring other workers to do the actual work. Before he was arrested, he had 30,000 yuan deposited in an account, so it is difficult to believe that he would press his daughter into prostitution out of economic necessity.
His daughter was lonely and unaccustomed to Kunming. When she made a few friends, Liu strenuously objected and hit her. In light of how he disciplined his daughter, why would he then permit her to become a prostitute?
The claim by the plice that his daughter engaged in prostitution is unsupported by the evidence. First, no client of hers was arrested. In addition, they clearly picked the wrong person and forced a confession.
At present, Liu Shihua is still under detention and will soon be formally arrested, and this case will be a lock. If that happens, the chance that he will be released for medical treatment is very low. He'll be in prison. An innocent in prison. If his TB recurs in while in prison, it's very likely he'll die. Purely because he resisted out of regard for his daughter's dignity. Because the police detest this type of "troublemaker."
I know that this type of case is not rare, and there are many that are far worse, and many that are far bleaker. But this case came to the surface because of two stubborn, illiterate farmers who refused to abandon their personal dignity and the dignity of their daughters.
Police are seeking an arrest and are looking to hijack public opinion so that it is no longer on the side of Liu Shihua and his family (locals are prejudiced against people from Huajie, Guizhou Province, and Zhaotong, Yunnan Province), coerce the media, and are attempting to seduce the lawyers to switch to the side of the police. And they are trying to silence the voice of the outside media, in order to bury this case! We don't know how many buried cases there are in this world, but this case had the good fortune to be discovered by the media! To draw the attention of lawyers! This is an excellent turning point: if we are successful, it means that police will no longer be able to bully sex workers minors whenever they feel like it. There will be even more people, women, and children, who will be protected and will face fewer threats and harm.
Therefore, I appeal for legal aid to join in and I strongly hope that other media outlets like Phoenix, CCTV, and major online portals will continue to follow up. Using the power of the media to pressure the police to not be so aggressive. This case involves the protection of minors, the protection of a woman's reputation. If it can be overturned, then like the Sun Zhigang case, it will be a step forward for justice in China!
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.