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Michael Caster, editor (anthology)
“You are now under residential surveillance at a designated location. Your only right is to obey.” With these words, Chinese lawyer Xie Yang was introduced to the brutality of Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), China’s rapidly expanding system for enforced disappearances. Little is known of RSDL, or what happens inside. The People’s Republic of the Disappeared will change that. RSDL facilities, often secret, custom-built and unmarked prisons, are run by police or State Security officials. Inside, people are placed outside the normal legal system, left in solitary confinement, interrogated repeatedly, and often subjected to torture. There is no oversight of the police, and no protection for those inside. In RSDL, you simply vanish. In RSDL, the police have total control. This book exposes what it is like to be disappeared in China. It is the first anthology written by the victims themselves, from lawyer Wang Yu who was abducted in the middle of the night to engineer Tang Zhishun who was taken from across the border in Burma; from IT worker Jiang Xiaoyu who was beaten and threatened with permanent disappearance to Pan Jinling whose only crime was dating an NGO worker. The People’s Republic of the Disappeared includes a foreword by well-known exiled human rights lawyer Teng Biao. The foreword and introduction provide the reader with an understanding of RSDL. The legal chapter at the end offers an exhaustive, authoritative analysis of the domestic law giving rise to RSDL, and the international legal framework that China brazenly violates. These chapters, along with stories by lawyers Tang Jitian and Liu Shihui trace China’s obsession with disappearing dissidents from the early 2000s, through to the Jasmine Revolution movement in China in 2011, and into the current system of RSDL. This book is essential reading for academics and journalists, governments and nonprofit workers alike working on or interested in China, because these stories illustrate, with narrative clarity, the hollowness of China’s rhetoric of the rule of law. Likewise, it is worthwhile reading for anyone studying authoritarian regimes and the struggle for human rights.
Eva Pils, author of China’s Human Rights Lawyers: Advocacy and Resistance (Rou

"Direct and compelling, these first-person accounts give us a sense of the terrors of detention by China’s Party-State security apparatus, but also of the resilience of those who have come back and decided to speak about their experience. A rare and important collection."

Renee Xia, International Director of Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).

Enforced disappearance in China, especially under Xi Jinping's rule, has become prevalent - widely used by police to persecute human rights activists and lawyers in recent years, as this book of personal accounts powerfully documents. It's conducted under the cover of Chinese law, which specifically legalizes the use of "residential surveillance at a designated location," a de facto form of enforced disappearance. The editors have compiled the first-personal accounts of this serious violation of human rights in China. It's timely and valuable.

Terence Halliday, Co-author of Criminal Defense in China (Cambridge University P

Before the 2012 reforms of the Criminal Procedure Law, China’s activist lawyers feared being illegally "disappeared.” Within the new law many activists registered great alarm at new language that could legalize disappearances for long periods. Since the 709 Crackdown against lawyers and activists their worst fears have become brutal realities. This book gets behind the benign mask China shows the world to reveal a cynical use of law to subvert justice, destroy dignity, and erode humanity.

In the most comprehensive collective portrait to date, Disappeared compiles powerful first-person accounts of the degradation of criminal procedure law as defenders of justice are snatched from their homes and offices and coerced to admit they were subverting a state that repudiates international conventions and global norms for treatment of lawyers and citizens alike. These compelling accounts, helpfully framed by Teng Biao’s foreword  on “Atrocity in the Name of the Law,” and Michael Caster’s lucid description of a law that is designed to crush the human spirit, disrupt lawyers’ collective action, and subvert China’s nascent civil society, demonstrate yet again that China is a deviant state, standing outside the community of nations who are committed to the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the dense web of legal standards articulated by the United Nations.

Yaxue Cao, Director of

Until about six years ago, I was a blithe Chinese-American unaware of the practice of secret detention in China. On my trips back to China, I visited friends and relatives, traveled to scenic mountains and rivers, enjoyed the best food, and marveled at China's spectacular changes without knowing that somewhere in a nondescript hotel room, or basement, an abducted human rights lawyer or civil rights activist — people who in other parts of the world are honored — was being cut off from their family and lawyer, and horrendously tortured.

I can't be that Chinese person anymore. I can't be that American anymore. If you are like I was, this book is a necessary eye opener. For those who are already aware, this book will add depth and clarity to your understanding of abuse in China.