Agriculture billionaire Sun Dawu, who is currently standing trial in the northern Chinese province of Hebei on a slew of charges that rights activists say are politically motivated, was subjected to “cruel and inhumane treatment,” his defense team said.
Sun, 67, is on trial at the Gaobeidian Municipal People’s Court amid unprecedented security that lawyers said is tantamount to a secret trial.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network said he is being targeted for political reasons, due to his association with detained democracy activist Xu Zhiyong.
Following his detention April 2021 alongside dozens of Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group employees, some of whom are members of his family, Sun and six others were held incommunicado under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL).”
He told the court that he had requested a transfer to a regular detention center because of the way he was treated under RSDL.
“During RSDL, I once requested to be transferred to the detention center because my treatment produced misery beyond words and life was worse than death,” Sun told the court on July 16, in comments translated by his defense team.
“I went on a hunger strike for three days,” he said. “[Eventually] they gave me an hour of yard time. I saw the sun for the first time in three and a half months.”
Sun was detained in April 2021 alongside dozens of Dawu Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Group employees, some of whom are members of his family, after Dawu employees in August 2020 tried to stop a state-owned enterprise from demolishing a company building.
Seven of the defendants were placed under RSDL, and also reported being subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment, the defense team statement said.
Family also mistreated
Sun’s brother Sun Sanwu said he had lost around 26 pounds in weight during his time in RSDL.
“The treatment we received under RSDL was inhuman,” he told the court. “I signed whatever they asked me to sign. I only begged them to send me to the detention center as soon as possible.”
“First, they made me confess, and then they put a hood over my head and took me to the law enforcement investigation center to synchronize my speech,” he said.
Sun, a former pig farmer, stands accused of a slew of offenses, including “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” “gathering a crowd to attack an organ of the state,” “disrupting official duties,” “illegal mining,” and “illegal occupation of agricultural land.”
His son Sun Fushuo also reported mistreatment during interrogation: “I was handcuffed to the interrogation chair for 30 hours until my legs were swollen. They said that if I refused to cooperate, they would place me under RSDL,” he told the court.
“They all knew what they were doing. The police interrogators made it clear: Don’t think we can’t make you submit; we can place you under RSDL. I knew that RSDL was terrible, and I was scared,” he said.
“The subsequent interrogation transcripts were made under such duress.”
Sun Dawu’s former assistant Ji Weilian is “extremely weak and on the verge of a mental breakdown” since going into RSDL, the defense team’s statement said.
Dawu Group legal direct Yang Bin said the trial was effectively being held behind closed doors, with only one family member allowed into the court per defendant.
“There is a high-level of stability maintenance measures in place,” Yang said.
Several members of Sun Dawu’s defense team turned down requests for interviews when contacted by RFA in recent days, saying it was “inconvenient,” a phrase often used to indicate pressure from the authorities.