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廣場活碑 > 六四事記 > > 1月 13日:Thomas E. Kellogg :周勇軍的怪異案子 《香港季刊》
1月 13日:Thomas E. Kellogg :周勇軍的怪異案子 《香港季刊》

Thomas E. Kellogg :周勇軍的怪異案子 《香港季刊》 :

2011年1月13日

 

 

2008年9月29日清晨,一個看起來沒有確定國籍和證件的華裔中年人來到了香港。這個人帶著一個名字叫王行祥的假造的馬來西亞護照。當遭到詢問時,他拒絕提供自己的真實姓名。他隨身攜帶的包括銀行卡和信用卡等物件也都帶有王行祥的名字,其身上沒有任何可以確定真實身份的材料。

該人先被移民官員訊問,他們沒法得到他的名字或任何個人資訊。他隨後被香港警察訊問,警察看起來懷疑他試圖詐騙銀行。10月1日傍晚,這個人被從香港轉交到深圳。然後他在深圳被關押7個月,與外界失去了聯繫。其後,他被轉送到四川省遂寧市。但直到2009年5月公眾才知道這位真名叫 周勇軍的人的確是在中國的監獄裡。2009年11月, 周勇軍在四川省被以欺詐罪起訴,並在2010年1月判刑9年。他至今還在四川的監獄裡服刑。

 周勇軍的案子非常怪異。作為天安門廣場的學生活躍分子, 周勇軍曾因為捲入1989年學生抗議而被關押差不多18個月。他被釋放後就逃離了中國,在美國獲得政治避難。2002年左右,他開始與流亡中的精神領袖張宏寶來往。後者是氣功組織中功的創始人(中功與更著名的法輪功沒有關聯)。許多人猜測 周勇軍同時與海外民運分子和流亡氣功組織的密切聯繫提升了中國政府對他的注意,而這些關係是他後來被從香港轉移到中國的重要因素。

他這個案件本身的隱晦成分,加上最近一些足以加重他確曾參與欺詐銀行行為的疑點的出現,掩蓋了他在香港的遭遇所暴露出的對香港“一國兩制”下的自立和誠信的關注。在他逗留香港的4天裡,香港當局對他採取了雖然不違法,但還是與慣例不同的措施。自從 周勇軍被關押在廣東的消息為人所知之後,香港自治政府多次拒絕提供其處理這一案件的資訊,只是索然無味地重複政府關於移民的一般政策和重申拒絕對個例發表評論的立場。

 周勇軍的案件是這一類型中的第一個。據已知的材料,自從1997年主權轉交以來,香港政府還從來沒有把流亡活動分子移交給大陸官員的先例。政府對這一案例的處理手段應該與最近香港移民局拒絕一些流亡異議分子和政治活動家來港的行為聯繫起來看,而 周勇軍的案例更是進了一大步。

自從 周勇軍被關押在四川的消息公佈後,一些重要的旁證表明 周勇軍可能的確是為了欺詐銀行的目的來到香港。當 周勇軍意向作惡的可能性並不能免除香港自治政府的責任——如果後者確實因為政治上的考慮或與大陸政府不合適的接觸導致了在這個案子上採取不同尋常的措施的話。在一國兩制下建立的香港的自主和法制並不只是保護無辜者,它也保護罪犯。

誰是 周勇軍

現年43歲的 周勇軍是四川蓬溪人,1989年春天學生抗議行為爆發時他是政法大學政治學系的學生。 周勇軍在那場抗議中有時擔任了領導角色。他以作為在1989年4月22日 胡耀邦追悼會上在人民大會堂臺階上跪諫的三名學生之一而著名。抗議被政府在1989年6月4日凌晨被政府殘酷鎮壓了。 周勇軍在6月中被捕,被關押1年多。他在1991年1月獲釋,1992年6月逃出中國,於1993年2月到達美國。

 周勇軍在美國的最先的化身是作為一個流亡的政治活動家——這在天安門廣場抗議後逃到美國和歐洲的中國人中很典型。在後來幾年裡, 周勇軍以紐約為基地在流亡政治圈子裡保持活躍。

1998年12月, 周勇軍試圖潛回大陸,在廣州被捕。在廣州關押6個月後,他被轉送到四川,判刑3年勞改。2002年他被釋放並被允許回到美國。

 

就是在他這次回到美國之後他的路途與張宏寶的發生了交叉。很可能是這一層聯繫才使得 周勇軍於2008年來到香港,並引起中國政府對他的強烈興趣。

張宏寶是中國在1980年代中期氣功熱中湧現出的一批富有魅力的氣功大師之一。他創立了自己氣功模式,稱之為中功。在1980年代後期,他在北京到處演講,聽眾越來越多。到1990年時他實現了一定的知名度:一本在1990年出版的強調他的功力和教導的傳記賣出了1千多萬冊。

張宏寶一心要把他的公共形象和眾多的忠誠追隨者轉化為一架印錢機器。西方研究中國氣功的專家大衛·奧恩比把他稱之為“氣功界的唐納德·特蘭普”。在1990年代初期,張宏寶建立了遍及全國的中功中心網路,這些中心既從事氣功的教授和訓練也售賣各種有關的產品,包括氣功書籍和磁帶、藥物和茶。他的追隨者數以百萬計。他設立的全國性的金字塔結構保證了大筆的收入源源不斷地流入他自己的錢袋。張宏寶還很注意與共產黨官員搞好關係,他至少在那個時候沒有對任何政治傾向表現過興趣。

在蒙特利爾大學任教的奧恩比說:“那是完全的掙錢行為,他從一開始就市場化。”

張宏寶的中功也不是唯一的。成百上千的其他氣功大師領導著他們自己的組織與張巨集寶一起爭搶追隨者。這些中最著名的是法輪功,由頗具爭議的李洪志帶頭。與高度集中和忙於掙錢的中功相比,法輪功至少在其初期是高度分散的。它不那麼注重金錢(不收會費,任何人都可以加入)而更強調氣功的精神元素。1992年建立之後,法輪功的人數火箭般上升,其幾千萬追隨者不僅包括普通中國人還有中央政府高級領導人的親戚。

黨不高興了

這樣突飛猛進的發展不可能不引起共產黨官員的警惕,黨內許多人要求剷除這個他們看來是正在崛起的威脅。奧恩比說:“隨著時間發展,出現了一些反對者。有人覺得這正在失去控制。”

1990年代中,黨和氣功組織間的摩擦逐漸擴展。李洪志在1995年聽到領導層對他的活動的反感後離開了中國。在那之後,媒體上對法輪功的攻擊成為家常便飯。例如,1996年6月,《光明日報》發表文章吧李洪志稱之為“騙子”,把法輪功稱之為“封建迷信”。幾十篇類似文章在全國各地報刊上登載。

法輪功追隨者在這些公開的攻擊面前沒有退縮,雙方之間的衝突逐漸升級。1999年4月,法輪功在中國政府駐地的中南海舉行的著名抗議只是當時一系列抗議行為中的最大者。那也成為駱駝背上最後一根稻草:政府裡對法輪功任何遺留的同情都消失了,政府開始了鎮壓。

政府的鎮壓不僅掃除了法輪功,也殃及其它的氣功組織,包括中功。張宏寶在1994年化名逃離了中國,在2000年7月在關島現身。他申請了政治避難,不久就來到了美國。看起來他至少把1990年代在中國所收斂到的財富的一部分帶了出來。

 

同在流亡中的張宏寶和 周勇軍一開始是怎樣聯繫上的並不為人所知。同樣不清楚的是作為流亡政治活動分子的 周勇軍為什麼要與一個張宏寶這樣的半神人物攪在一起。在張宏寶死後提交給法庭的一些檔中, 周勇軍表示他於2003年1月搬到加州與張宏寶合作,自稱為“特別智囊和助手”。

不管他們第一次接觸的時機和原因, 周勇軍在張宏寶的流亡中功組織中的確捲得很深。 周勇軍把張宏寶稱為“我的主人、導師和慈父般朋友”,經常提起他們倆每天幾小時的對談。 周勇軍寫道:“我們的關係非常緊密。”張宏寶的流亡圈子裡並不平靜:他正與他以前的第二把手爭鬥得不可開交,也還一直為其非法的暴力行為的指控所困擾。2003年,張宏寶被控告毆打他的管家,他後來以更輕的罪名結案。但儘管有這些湍流, 周勇軍一直與張宏寶站在一起。當張宏寶於2006年7月死於車禍時,是 周勇軍在一個匆忙舉行的記者會上講話,暗示張宏寶的死亡背後可能有陰謀。

 周勇軍還成為張宏寶身後留下的巨額遺產爭奪戰中的一方。張宏寶死時有房地產和分存在幾個不同國家銀行帳戶上的存款。 周勇軍到香港正是在遺產爭奪戰進入白熱化的背景下進行的。

 

正是張宏寶遺產爭奪中出現的法律檔以及流亡的中功圈子所捲入的一些法律訴訟留下的檔強烈地表明 周勇軍不可能不知道“王行祥”這個名字背後的重要性。

王行祥是張宏寶在1990年代中期離開中國時所用的化名。他在一些存有從中國帶出來的財富的銀行帳戶上一直繼續使用這個名字。在一些法庭檔中——其中有些包括了 周勇軍自己——王行祥是作為張宏寶的代號公開使用的。這一名字也出現在香港的一些銀行帳戶上。很多人相信 周勇軍到香港就是為了獲取這些帳戶。

 周勇軍的香港之行

2008年9月26日, 周勇軍離開他在加州的家前往亞洲。他沒有告訴他的女朋友(他們一起有一個6個月的女兒)他的計畫。當他被拘留和關押在中國的消息傳出後,他女朋友公開表示 周勇軍在香港只是過路去四川探親。

9月28日, 周勇軍從澳門抵達香港。他那個寫有王行祥名字的假護照被發現了,他被香港移民局官員拘留。在這一期間,香港警察就一項針對王行祥名字下的帳號發生的欺詐案件對他進行了訊問。這些訊問在港澳渡船碼頭的移民局辦公室和香港警察局辦公室都進行過。

這些銀行欺詐案的訊問與過去一些從香港和其它地方王行祥名下的帳戶上取錢的企圖有關。在2008年5月,也就是 周勇軍到達香港的4個月前,一個自稱王行祥的人用一個在加拿大的地址給花旗銀行香港分部發傳真,要求把2百萬港幣轉帳到加拿大的一個帳戶。 周勇軍用同一名字進入香港至少使他在表面上與那個案子發生關聯。

根據 周勇軍自己的說法,一名訊問過他的香港警察在10月1日晚上打電話告訴他不會起訴,很快會釋放。這時已經被送往一家醫院檢查的 周勇軍被要求立即回到港澳渡船碼頭的警察局。 周勇軍說那個警察對他說:“我們的調查已經結束,我們不會對你起訴。我們會馬上放你。你能不能不要在那裡等醫藥,立即回來?”

 

10月1日晚8點多, 周勇軍說他被帶進一輛小客車,裡面有七八位香港移民局的官員。他以為他會被從渡船警察局直接送上渡船,但很快發現他們正駛往另一方向。 周勇軍說他們開了半個小時,穿過新界進入深圳,然後車停了,他被移交給一班大陸官員。 周勇軍在香港的時間便結束了。

在最低程度, 周勇軍在中國官員手下的遭遇顯示了把有政治上敏感背景的人士送回大陸的潛在危險性。移交之後, 周勇軍的權力遭到多次踐踏。雖然他在深圳關押期間很早就公開了他的真實身份,他仍然沒能接觸到律師或他的家庭成員。他在深圳被以王華的名字拘禁了7個月之久,與外界完全失去聯繫,這違反了中國的法律。 周勇軍在美國的律師 李進進指控 周勇軍在深圳拘押期間遭到過虐待。

只是在2009年5月他被移送到四川遂寧市之後官方才正式承認 周勇軍在他們手裡。他們開始了法律過程,並允許他有限度地接觸律師和家人。 周勇軍案件的調查和審判過程都與中國的“政治”案件一樣出現過眾多的程式問題。

(原文後面的分析、展望和參考資料略。)

……直到今天, 周勇軍仍然堅持自己無辜。雖然難以置信,他聲稱他並不知道他持有的是一本有著他過去朋友的假名的假護照。就在 周勇軍經受在牢獄裡的第三年時,人們不得不困惑也許他應該採取一個不同的策略:如果他決定完整地公開他到香港的目的,他是否能因為這一痛苦的誠實得到更多的同情,促使國際人士更願意為他的案子向北京政府施加壓力?這也許很渺茫,但現在的 周勇軍又能在哪裡找到他的希望呢?

 

THE STRANGE CASE OF ZHOU YONGJUN

By Thomas E. Kellogg

January 2011

On the morning of September 28, 2008, a middle-aged ethnic Chinese man of seemingly unknown national origin and identity arrived in Hong Kong. Traveling on a false Malaysian passport under the name Wang Xingxiang, this man, when confronted, refused to state his real name. The other items in his possession – including bank cards and credit cards – also bore the name Wang Xingxiang; there was nothing else on his person that could establish his true identity.

This man was questioned by Immigration authorities, who were unable to wrestle his name or virtually any other information from him. He was also interviewed by the Hong Kong police, who apparently suspected him of involvement in attempted bank fraud. On the evening of October 1, this man was transferred from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. He was then held incommunicado in Shenzhen for seven months, after which time he was transferred to Suining City in Sichuan Province. It was only in May 2009 that it became publicly known that this man, whose real name is Zhou Yongjun, was in fact in Chinese custody. In November 2009, Zhou was tried by a court in Sichuan province for bank fraud, and sentenced to nine years in jail in January 2010. He remains in jail in Sichuan to this day.

The case of Zhou Yongjun is a strange one. Zhou, a student activist in Tiananmen Square, spent roughly 18 months in detention for his involvement in the 1989 student protests. After his release, Zhou fled China, and sought and received political asylum in the United States. Around 2002, he became involved with the exile spiritual leader Zhang Hongbao, the founder of the Qigong group Zhong Gong—not related to the better-known Falung Gong. Many have speculated that Zhou’s ties to both overseas democracy activists and exile Qigong groups heightened the Chinese government’s interest in him, and that these ties are very much related to his transfer from Hong Kong to China.

The murkiness of his case, and, more recently, revelations which have heightened suspicions that he was in fact involved in bank fraud, have obscured the very real concerns over Hong Kong’s autonomy and the integrity of “one country, two systems” that are raised by his treatment in Hong Kong. During his roughly four days in Hong Kong, Hong Kong authorities took decisions on his case that, while apparently not illegal, are nonetheless inconsistent with established practice. Since Zhou’s detention in Guangdong has become known, the Hong Kong SAR government has repeatedly refused to provide information on its handling of the case, instead resorting to bland restatements of government immigration policy and blanket refusals to comment on individual cases.

The Zhou Yongjun case is the first of its kind. As far as is known, since the 1997 handover, the Hong Kong government has never been involved in handing over to Chinese authorities an exile activist who could reasonably fear persecution based on prior political activism. The government’s handling of the case needs to be seen in the context of recent cases of seemingly political decisions by Hong Kong Immigration, to keep various persons, many of them exile dissidents and political activists, from entering Hong Kong. 1Troublingly, the Zhou Yongjun case seems to have taken that process one step further.

Since the initial public disclosure of Zhou’s detention in Sichuan, significant circumstantial evidence has emerged that suggest that Zhou may well have attempted to enter Hong Kong in order to engage in bank fraud. Yet the possibility that Zhou may well have had nefarious ends in mind does not exonerate the SAR government, if indeed political considerations or inappropriate contacts with mainland authorities played a role in its deviations from standard practice in Zhou’s case. The protections offered by the rule of law and Hong Kong’s autonomy under the one country, two systems formula exist not just for the innocent but also for the guilty.

Who is Zhou Yongjun?

A native of Pengxi County in Sichuan Province, Zhou Yongjun, now 43, was a student majoring in political science at China University of Political Science and Law when the student protests broke out in the Spring of 1989. Zhou was a sometime leader of the student protests. His claim to fame was that he was one of three students to kneel on the steps of the Great Hall of the People in an attempt to present a petition of student demands to senior Party leaders on the day of Hu Yaobang’s funeral, April 22, 1989. The protests were forcibly quashed by the government in the early morning hours of June 4, 1989. Zhou was detained in mid-June, and held for over a year without trial. He was released in January 1991. 2 Zhou fled China in June 1992, and arrived in the United States in February 1993.

Zhou’s first incarnation in the United States was as exile political activist, a not-uncommon role for Chinese who ended up in the United States or Europe after the Tiananmen Square protests. For the next few years, Zhou remained active in exile politics, based mostly in New York.

In December 1998, Zhou attempted to sneak back into the mainland and was detained in Guangzhou. After being held in Guangzhou for six months, Zhou was transferred to Sichuan, where he was sentenced to three years of reeducation through labor, a form of administrative detention most often used in China to deal with petty crimes. He was released in 2002, and allowed to return to the United States soon after his release.

It was after his return to the United States that Zhou’s story begins to intersect with that of Zhang Hongbao. And it may be that connection, even more than his 1989 student activism, that led Zhou to Hong Kong in 2008, and also led the Chinese government to take a stronger interest in him.

Zhang Hongbao was one of the first charismatic Qigong masters to emerge at the onset of China’s Qigong boom in the mid-1980s. He created his own form of Qigong, which he called Zhong Gong – a Chinese abbreviation of the full name, which means Chinese Qigong to Nourish Life and Increase Intelligence – and lectured on its precepts to ever-larger audiences in Beijing throughout the second half of the 1980s. 3By 1990, Zhang had achieved a certain level of fame: a 1990 biography, emphasizing his spiritual powers and teachings, sold more than ten million copies.

Zhang was determined to turn his public profile and army of devoted followers into a revenue machine. In the words of David Ownby, a leading Western expert on Qigong in China, Zhang was “the Donald Trump of the Qigong world.” 4 In the early 1990s, Zhang set up a nationwide network of Zhong Gong centers, which engaged in both Qigong training and practice, and the selling of related products, including writings and recordings on Qigong, medicine, and tea. His followers numbered in the millions, and the nationwide pyramidal scheme he set up ensured a large and steady stream of revenue into his coffers. Zhang was also careful to cultivate good relationships with Communist Party officials, and, at that time at least, expressed no interest in any sort of political agenda.

“It was a real moneymaking thing,” said Ownby, who teaches at the University of Montreal. “He applied a marketing logic pretty much from the beginning.” 5

Zhang’s Zhong Gong was by no means the only game in town: hundreds of other Qigong masters, many of them heading their own organizations, vied for followers alongside Zhong Gong. The most famous of these was Falun Gong, headed by the controversial spiritual leader Li Hongzhi. Whereas Zhong Gong was highly centralized and profit-driven, Falun Gong, especially in its early years, was highly decentralized. It focused less on money – there were no formal admission fees, and anyone could join – and more on the spiritual side of Qigong. 6 Its membership skyrocketed after its founding in 1992, and its tens of millions of adherents included not just average Chinese but also close relatives of senior central government officials.

The Party Grows Wary

Such rapid growth could not but catch the eye of wary Communist Party officials, and many within the Party urged vigilance against what they saw as an emerging threat. “Over time, there were detractors,” said Ownby. “There were people who thought this was getting out of hand.”

 

Friction between the Party and Qigong groups increased throughout the 1990s. Li Hongzhi left China in 1995, after hearing rumblings of discontent in official circles over his activities. Media attacks on Falun Gong in particular became a regular occurrence after that. In June 1996, for example, the Guangming Daily published a piece calling Li a “swindler” and referring to the groups practices as “feudal superstition.” 7Dozens of similar pieces followed in newspapers across the country.

Falun Gong adherents did not take these public attacks lying down, and tensions between the two sides continued to escalate. The famous protest staged by thousands of Falun Gong followers in front of Zhongnanhai, the seat of China’s government, in April 1999, was only the largest of a series of demonstrations. As it turned out, it was also the straw the broke the camel’s back: any lingering sympathy that Falun Gong may have had within the government evaporated, and the government moved to suppress the group.

The ensuing crackdown by the government swept up not only Falun Gong but also other Qigong groups, including Zhong Gong. Travelling under an assumed name, Zhang fled China in 1994, turning up in Guam in July 2000. He claimed political asylum, and came to the United States soon thereafter. 8 He seems to have brought at least some of the fortune he amassed in China during the 1990s with him.

It is not known exactly when Zhang Hongbao and Zhou Yongjun connected for the first time in exile, or why Zhou, an exile political activist, wanted to get in touch with a quasi-spiritual figure like Zhang. In court documents filed after Zhang’s death, Zhou indicated that he moved to California to work with Zhang in January 2003, identifying himself as a “special adviser and assistant.” 9

Whatever the timing of the initial contact and the reasons behind it, Zhou’s integration into Zhang’s exile Zhong Gong world seems to have been quite extensive. Zhou described Zhang as “my master, mentor and fatherly friend,” and recalled their hours-long daily conversations. 10 “We were very close,” Zhou wrote. Life in Zhang Hongbao’s exile world was not for the faint of heart: Zhang fought bitterly with his estranged former second-in-command Yan Qingyan, and he continued to be dogged by allegations of violent illegal behavior. In 2003, Zhang was charged with assaulting his housekeeper, He Nanfang; he later pleaded no contest to a lesser charge. 11Yet despite all of the turbulence, Zhou stayed by Zhang’s side. When Zhang was killed in a car accident in Arizona in July 2006, it was Zhou who spoke at a hastily-arranged press conference, seeming to imply foul play in Zhang’s death.

Zhou was also a party to the dispute over the rather large estate that Zhang left behind. At the time of his death, Zhang’s holdings included real estate and cash, some of it in bank accounts in several different countries. 12 Zhou’s decision to travel to Hong Kong took place against a backdrop of the increasingly acrimonious and high-stakes fight over all that Zhang had left behind.

It is the legal documents stemming from the fight over Zhang’s estate – as well as the paper trail from prior litigation involving Zhang, Zhou, Yan and others in the exile Zhong Gong circle – which most strongly indicate that Zhou could not have been ignorant of the significance of the name Wang Xingxiang.

Wang Xingxiang is the alias that Zhang Hongbao used when he left China in the mid-1990s. He continued to use that name on various bank accounts that held funds that he had amassed while still in China. Wang Xingxiang is openly identified as Zhang’s alias in several court documents, including on some documents in litigation to which Zhou was a party. And that same name appears on the Hong Kong bank accounts that, many believe, Zhou traveled to Hong Kong to access.

Zhou Yongjun’s Hong Kong Sojourn

On September 26, 2008, Zhou left his home in California for Asia. He told his girlfriend, Zhang Yuewei, with whom he had a six-month-old daughter, very little about his plans; after his arrest and detention in China became known, Zhang Yuewei publicly claimed that Zhang was in Hong Kong en route to Sichuan to visit his parents. 13

On September 28, Zhou arrived in Hong Kong from Macau. His false passport, bearing the name Wang Xingxiang, was uncovered, and he was taken into custody by Hong Kong Immigration officials. During his time in custody, Zhou was questioned by the Hong Kong police over a case of alleged bank fraud involving bank accounts in Hong Kong under the name Wang Xingxiang. The questioning by Hong Kong police took place both in an immigration office at the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal and at a Hong Kong Police Department office.

The bank fraud inquiry related to attempts to extract funds from various bank accounts, both in Hong Kong and elsewhere, in the name of Wang Xingxiang, which, as noted above, was an alias of Zhang Hongbao. In May 2008, roughly four months before Zhou Yongjun’s arrival in Hong Kong, an individual claiming to be Wang Xingxiang sent fax transmissions bearing an address in Canada to a Citibank branch in Hong Kong, requesting transfer of two million Hong Kong dollars (roughly $250,000 by current exchange rates) to an account in British Columbia, Canada. 14Zhou’s entry into Hong Kong on a passport bearing the same name at least facially connected him to the case. 15

According to Zhou’s account of his time in custody, one of the Hong Kong police officers who had interrogated him informed him by phone in the evening of October 1 that he would not be prosecuted and that he would be released. Zhou, who had been transferred to a hospital for medical treatment, was asked to return to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal police station immediately. “Our investigation is over and we will not file any charges against you,” Zhou says the officer told him. “We let you go right away. Can you stop waiting there for the medicine and come back as soon as possible?” 16

At a few minutes after 8pm on October 1, again according to Zhou’s account, Zhou was put in a minibus with seven or eight men who, he was told, were Hong Kong Immigration officials. He apparently thought he would be driven from the Ferry Terminal police station to the ferry itself, but it soon became clear that they were headed to another destination entirely. Zhou claims that he was driven for roughly thirty minutes up through the New Territories into Shenzhen, after which time the car stopped and he was handed over to a group of mainland officials. Zhou’s time in Hong Kong had come to an end

At the very least, Zhou’s treatment by Chinese authorities after his return highlights the potential dangers of returning persons with sensitive political backgrounds to the mainland. Once Zhou was handed over to Chinese authorities, his rights were repeatedly violated. Although he openly disclosed his actual identity to his Shenzhen jailers very early in his confinement there, he was nonetheless given no access to an attorney or to members of his family. 17 In violation of Chinese law, he was held in incommunicado detention in Shenzhen under the name Wang Hua for seven months. Zhou’s US-based lawyer, Li Jinjin, has alleged that Zhou was tortured by Chinese authorities while in custody in Shenzhen.

It was only after he was transferred to a detention center in Suining City in Sichuan in May 2009 that the authorities formally acknowledged custody of Zhou, initiated the criminal process and allowed him some access to an attorney and family members. Both the investigation of Zhou’s case and his subsequent trial were marred by procedural violations all too common to “political” cases in China.

Analysis: Questionable Moves on Both Sides

There are many aspects of Zhou’s case which raise serious questions. First and foremost, if it was clear that Zhou had traveled into Hong Kong on a false passport, why did Hong Kong authorities choose not to prosecute him for passport fraud? According to several Hong Kong immigration lawyers, it is standard practice for the Hong Kong SAR government to prosecute individuals who show up in Hong Kong using false documents, in order to discourage others from doing so.

“This man’s case is unusual,” said Philip Dykes, a leading Hong Kong lawyer and human rights advocate. In a case like this, Dykes suggested, “you would have expected a prosecution.” 18

“They always prosecute,” another lawyer with extensive experience in immigration cases said, noting that the minimum sentence in such cases is usually eighteen months.

Yet, in Zhou’s case, the Hong Kong authorities declined to prosecute. As senior Hong Kong officials have pointed out after Zhou’s case came to light, the power to prosecute for passport fraud is in fact discretionary, 19 and it must be said that no violation of Hong Kong law has emerged in the SAR’s handling of Zhou’s case. But why did the SAR government depart from standard operating procedure in its handling of Zhou’s case? Would not the evidence linking Zhou to bank fraud – discussed in more detail below – strengthen, rather than weaken, the argument in favor of prosecution?

Many observers, Zhou’s lawyers among them, have questioned why Hong Kong Immigration chose to return Zhou to the mainland, rather than Macau, where he had come from, or the United States, his place of residence. Others, including Legislative Councillors Margaret Ng and Leung Kwok-hung, also known as Long Hair, have asked whether Immigration officials informed Zhou that he would be returned to the mainland, and obtained his consent to return. 20 As of this writing, the SAR government has not made clear whether Zhou was told that he was being returned to the mainland; it has generally declined to comment on the specifics of Zhou’s case.

It should be noted that there are one or two key discrepancies between Zhou’s own account of his time in Hong Kong and the story told by the relevant Hong Kong Immigration documents. Most crucially, Zhou suggests that he never revealed his name or the fact that he is originally from mainland China. The Immigration Department’s Record of Interview for Zhou, which begins at 11.12pm on September 30, and ends at 1am on the morning of October 1, does not suggest that Zhou revealed his identity, but it does state that he initially informed immigration officials of his actual place of birth, Sichuan province. Other immigration forms generated by Hong Kong Immigration also state that Zhou identified his place of birth as Sichuan, and that this was the basis for Zhou’s removal to the Mainland. 21

If true, this would suggest a more solid factual basis for the Hong Kong government’s decision to return Zhou to the mainland than has previously emerged. As many have pointed out, standard practice would be to return an individual either to his place of residence or his place of origin. If Zhou’s current place of residence was genuinely unknown, then it would make sense to return him to the mainland.

Yet while certain moves by the Hong Kong authorities deserve further scrutiny, Zhou himself also made choices that are difficult to understand. For example, Zhou’s decision not to reveal his actual identity remains a curious one. If, as his own account of his return to the mainland suggests, he began to suspect that he was being transported back to China, why did he not disclose his actual identity, and request deportation to the United States, his place of residence? Surely doing so would have made it much more difficult for Hong Kong immigration officials to send him back to China. It is at least possible that Zhou thought he could ride the entire episode out by keeping his mouth shut; he may have believed that, once the Hong Kong authorities tired of him, he would be put on a plane back to California. Yet doubt must have crept into his mind as he was being driven northward. Zhou’s silence as he was being driven to Shenzhen remains one of the key unanswered questions of the affair, one that begs elaboration by Zhou himself.

The Hong Kong Immigration file on Zhou’s case also casts further doubt on Zhou’s claim that he was unaware of Zhang’s use of the alias Wang Xingxiang, and also provides some circumstantial evidence connecting Zhou to the case of bank fraud for which he was tried and convicted. According to Hong Kong Immigration documents, Zhou was carrying a various credit and bank cards in the name of Wang Xingxiang; it is unlikely that someone who picked up a false passport with, as Zhou claims, a randomly-assigned name, would also go through the trouble of having bank cards created in that same name. Zhou was also carrying a business card of Zhang Hongbao’s, which, one assumes, Zhou would not have wanted to carry into the mainland with him for security reasons. Also, the date of birth listed on Zhou’s fake Malaysian passport, August 8, 1953, corresponds with the date of birth on Zhang Hongbao’s fake mainland Chinese ID card in the name of Wang Xingxiang. 22

These additional facts, when combined with revelations first uncovered by the South China Morning Post about Zhou’s extensive connections with Zhang, further undermine the credibility of Zhou’s claim that he did not know that Zhang Hongbao used Wang Xingxiang as an alias, and that he was given the fake Malaysian passport in that name at random. In sum, it is difficult to believe that it could have been a (for Zhou) unlucky coincidence. One is left to wonder: if it is in fact the case that Zhou obtained a forged passport in the name of Wang Xingxiang, why did he do so?

And yet, as more and more circumstantial evidence mounts of Zhou’s involvement in attempted bank fraud comes to light, the Hong Kong authorities’ decision to return him to the mainland becomes even more difficult to understand. If, as seems to be the case, the Hong Kong police had in their possession evidence that strongly suggested Zhou’s intent to engage in illegal activity in Hong Kong, why did they not prosecute him? At the very least, why not begin prosecution for his use of a false passport, a seeming open-and-shut case, and continue to investigate Zhou’s possible involvement in bank fraud?

What Next?

Even if one views the facts of Zhou’s case as suggestive of foul play on the part of Zhou, its outcome is nonetheless troubling. Zhou was held for months in incommunicado detention, and was denied a fair trial. His ability to speak on his own behalf, and to shed light on some of the more perplexing aspects of his case, is limited. Perhaps most importantly, his girlfriend and young daughter have no access to him in China.

What, if anything, can be done? Options are severely limited. When appropriate, the US will arrange for US citizens convicted of crimes in foreign countries to serve their sentence in the United States. Such transfers can only take place with the consent of the prisoner him or herself, and do not include the right to a new trial in America. In fact, reconsideration of the original verdict, no matter how flawed, is generally off the table.

Such an option would be an attractive one for Zhou: it would get him out of China, and would allow him to serve his sentence in a place where his girlfriend and daughter could have at least some contact with him. Yet for Zhou, prisoner transfer is not possible: he is only a green card holder, not a US citizen, and is therefore not eligible for prisoner transfer. Also, although Hong Kong does have a prisoner transfer agreement with the US, China does not. 23

In sum, Zhou’s legal options are virtually non-existent. The only option left may be political: the only way that progress might be made on Zhou’s case is if international human rights groups and foreign governments intervene on his behalf, making the case with Beijing for an early release. Yet this option too is problematic: especially since the link between Zhou and alleged bank fraud has become more pronounced, the voices calling for action on his case, never particularly strong, have grown even quieter.

It is likely that the lack of action around his case has everything to do with the lack of clarity surrounding the allegations of impropriety by Zhou. To this day, Zhou Yongjun has maintained his innocence, claiming, however improbably, that he ended up with a passport in the (false) name of his former patron completely by accident and without his knowledge. As Zhou endures his third year behind bars in China, one wonders whether he might want to consider a different approach: if he decides to fully and publicly explain his reasons for traveling to Hong Kong, might not his act of painful honesty generate a bit more sympathy for him, such that international actors in a position to weigh in on his case with Beijing might be more inclined to do so? A slim reed, to be sure, but at this point where else can Zhou pin his hopes?

Thomas E. Kellogg is program director and advisor to the president of the Open Society Institute. He is also adjunct professor of law at the Fordham Law School.

1. For more on seemingly political decisions by Hong Kong Immigration related to entry into Hong Kong, see Thomas E. Kellogg, “Stirring Up Trouble: the Johannes Chan Incident, Ideological Exclusion and Immigration Law in Hong Kong and Macau,” Hong Kong Journal, July 2009.

2. Lena H. Sun, “Chinese Activists Sentenced; Student Leader Wang Given 4-Year Term,” Washington Post, January 27, 1991.

3. David Ownby, Falun Gong and the Future of China, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 71. For a very good short summary of Zhang’s rise and fall in China, see Ownby, pp. 70-77. See also David Palmer, Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China, Columbia University Press, 2007, pp. 146-150.

4. Author interview with David Ownby, June 9, 2010.

5.Author interview.

6. Maria Hsia Chang, Falun Gong: the End of Days, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 4.

7.Ownby, Falun Gong and the Future of China, p. 168.

8. Zhang’s attempt to come to the US and claim political asylum was complicated by rape charges that had been filed against him in China; Zhang and his followers claimed that the charges were politically-motivated. See Joseph Kahn, “US Delays Asylum Hearing for Leader of a Chinese Sect,” New York Times, August 19, 2000; Erik Eckholm, “Beijing Lists Charges Against Sect Leader Who Fled to Guam,” New York Times, September 15, 2000.

9.Kristin Jones, “The Twisted Tale of a Flawed Dissident,” South China Morning Post, March 20, 2010.

10. Ibid.

11. David Pierson, “Stakes High for Accused Dissident,” Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2003.

12. According to one estimate, Zhang’s estate, which includes homes in both California and Texas, is worth roughly $2million. It is unclear if this estimate includes various bank accounts under the name Wang Xingxiang. Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Selling What the Dead Left Behind,” Los Angeles Times, December 28, 2009.

13. “He insisted on going because he wanted to visit his family,” Zhang Yuewei told a reporter. “His father has had a stroke and is partially paralyzed, and his mother has heart disease. We had a quarrel over it.” Fox Yi Hu, “How HK Handed Over a Dissident,” South China Morning Post, October 18, 2009.

14.Copies of those fax transmissions on file with author.

15. Those fax transmissions, copies of which Zhou claims were given to him during his interrogation by Hong Kong police, later were presented as evidence at Zhou’s trial in Sichuan. In his interview with prominent rights lawyer Mo Shaoping, which took place at Zhou’s prison in Sichuan on May 25, 2009, Zhou denied any prior knowledge of those transmissions. A transcript of that conversation is available online at: http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20091013_1.htm.

16. Zhou Yongjun letter to his attorneys, March 3, 2010. Available online at: http://www.inmediahk.net/node/1008351.

17. Li Jinjin, “Zhou Yongjun’s Case Report,” September 19, 2009. Available online at:

18.Author interview, Hong Kong, May 2010.

19. Legislative Council, Panel on Security, Minutes of meeting, November 3, 2009, pp. 12-13.

20. Legislative Council, Panel on Security, Minutes of meeting, November 3, 2009, pp. 11-12.

21. See, for example, the Confirmation of Departure form, dated October 3, 2008.

22. See Beijing Public Security Bureau statement, “Zhang Hongbao is a criminal suspect in China,” July 25, 2000; available online at: http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/sgxx/sggg/sgxw/t34848.htm.

23. Agreement Between the Government of Hong Kong and the Government of the United States of America for the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, April 17, 1999.

 

 


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