A Swedish teenager was thrown into a jail in China for a month and then prevented from leaving the country for almost a year, forcing him to give up his spot in a prestigious college engineering program — all because he got into a fight outside of a nightclub in Beijing, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Noak Jonsson described his ordeal to the Journal and talked about what it’s like to spend time in a Chinese jail.
Noak and his family moved to Beijing in 2007 for his father’s work. He and his siblings attended international school, and his parents seemed happy with their lives in China.
Then one night in 2o13, the year before Noak was due to move back to Sweden to start college, he was out with some expat friends at a club in Beijing when an argument over a girl’s purse turned into a physical fight.
A bystander was injured in the altercation, but Noak insists he didn’t hit anyone. When he was put in the back of a police car and taken to a cell, he assumed he would be released quickly. Instead, he spent a month in a Beijing detention center and wasn’t able to leave the country for about a year while his case was resolved.
Here’s how he described life in Chinese jail:
- Bad food: Noak stayed in a cell with several other inmates, and meals were reportedly delivered in two buckets through an opening in the door. Most of the time, inmates were served “watery soy broth with a vegetable or two.”
- Inmates taking shifts to enforce the rules: When Noak arrived, two men in his cell were sitting up for “watch duty” to “maintain order.”
- Lacking basic necessities: Noak went two weeks in the detention center without a blanket while he was waiting for a package from his parents to go through screening at the detention center.
- Little communication with family: Noak’s father said he couldn’t see or talk to his son. Over the holidays, Noak’s lawyer visited with a letter from the family, which he had to read aloud because Noak wasn’t allowed to keep it.
Beijing’s No. 1 Detention Center, where Noak was held, is considered a “first-class” facility suitable for holding foreigners, notes the Journal. It’s considered one of the highest-quality detention centres in China and is held up as an example of how the country is committed to reforming its system amid accusations of abuse.
Noak was allowed to leave the detention center after a month, but then he had to wait for his case to be dismissed by the court, which didn’t happen until the following year.
Even after the man injured in the fight sent a letter to prosecutors saying Noak had stepped in to try to stop the fight, Noak still had to wait months for his case to be dismissed.
He’s now back in Sweden and says he hopes to return to China one day.
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