Residential surveillance at a designated location

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Upon landing at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, Kai was whisked away by agents from the Shanghai State Security Bureau (上海市国家安全局), a division of the Chinese secret police agency, the Ministry of State Security (国家安全部). He was placed under residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL), a practice condemned by the United Nations Committee against Torture. Under RSDL, Kai had no access to legal counsel while being harshly interrogated every single day for 2.5 months by state security agents. RSDL has been widely used by the Chinese government to forcefully extract false confessions due to the lack of oversight enabled by the procedure.


Detention center

Shanghai detention center

After more than 2 months of in communicado detention, Kai was moved to the Shanghai No. 1 Detention Center. Detention centers in China are not equipped with facilities designed for long term stays, as they are designed as temporary pre-trial housing facilities; however, Kai wound up spending 28 months at the detention center. British journalist Peter Humphreys has provided a detailed account of life at the detention center as well as in Qingpu Prison, where Kai is currently held.

Despite Kai being informed that his case had been escalated for prosecution, officials still refused him access to legal counsel on the grounds that this would “endanger national security”, even though Article 33 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law ostensibly allows defendants to “entrust a defender after he/she is interrogated for the first time”.



Shanghai detention center

The procuratorate finally accepted Kai’s case nearly six months after Kai’s initial arrest. This enabled Kai to finally meet with his attorney. All outgoing correspondence, including to Kai’s attorney, remained tighly monitored by authorities, with several letters to and from family rejected for discussing the case.



Kai’s trial was held on August 10, 2017 by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court after two unexplained adjournments. The trial was held behind closed doors, with US diplomats prevented from attending, in apparent violation of Article 35 of the US-China bilateral consular convention.


Supplemental procuratorate investigations

On his 55th birthday, Kai and his attorney was notified that following the trial, the case had been returned to the Procuratorate for “supplemental investigation” on September 30, 2017, before being returned to the Court on October 29. This retroactive notification was presumably to follow the stipulation of Chinese criminal procedure law which states that sentencing must be announced within two months of the trial (three months if the court requests it), but the case can be kicked back to the Procuratorate for a one-month supplementary investigation. After the investigation, the Procuratorate returns the case to the court, and the three month waiting period resets; there is no known limit on how many times a case can undergo supplementary investigation after the trial.

Ultimately, Kai’s case underwent two supplementary Procuratorate investigations post-trial (neither of which actually turned up any new “evidence”). Afterwards, an additional three-month extension for the announcement of a judgment was granted by the High Court.



Kai was concurrently sentenced to 10 years in prison, a 50,000 RMB fine, and deportation. While some previous foreign citizens detained in China found themselves deported before serving their sentences, Kai was not so fortunate.

The sentencing was carried out according to Article 111 of China’s Criminal Law. Kai’s crime was deemed “serious”, and thus punishable by anywhere from 10 years fixed imprisonment to life imprisonment. He is given only half credit for time served under RSDL.


Appeal verdict hearing

Within 10 days of the sentencing hearing, Kai filed a formal appeal of his sentence with the Shanghai High People’s Court. After a short (and again secret) appeal hearing on December 29, 2018, the original sentence was upheld in a verdict hearing three weeks later.



Kai was transfered from the detention center to Qingpu Prison just over a month after his appeal hearing. This enabled him to receive semimonthly visits from family in China, and to make two 7.5-minute phone calls a month to his wife and son in the United States. Prison officials have reportedly denied Kai access to dental floss, multivitamins, and face masks, on the grounds that he is a “serious” criminal.