A few hours ago this morning, China time, veteran activist Xiao Yong (肖勇) made calls to fellow activists and told them that he was on a vehicle to Shaoyang, Hunan (湖南邵阳), and that Shaoyang Public Security Bureau issued him a notification for two-year reform-through-labor, a form of jailing widely used on dissidents and activists, and a notification of rights which states that he may request for an administrative review within three days.
He told Wen Yunchao (@wenyunchao), renowned media professional and activist based in Hong Kong, that the decision was based on his purchase of three motorcycles three years ago. At the time he reported the case of his own initiative and the local prosecutors had decided not to bring charges against him. However the public security told Xiao Yong today that the decision for reform-through-labor was based on his failure to report illegal incomes from that incident.
Xiao Yong has been an activist based in Guangzhou for the last few years. According to a friend of his with whom I spoke just a short while ago, he had traveled to many places in China to participate in rights struggles. While on trains, the friend said, he would engage travelers in conversations about freedoms and rights. And he had been frequently summoned by police to “hecha”, or to be interrogated, warned and threatened.
On March 30th this year, shortly after the Two Meetings (两会) in Beijing concluded where Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once again spoke of the urgent need for political reform and called upon the people to push for it, Xiao Yong and a dozen or so others were on street in Guangzhou holding signs such as “No vote, no future”, “Hu Jintao leads the way to disclose assets” and more. Six were detained on allegations of “illegally gathering, marching or demonstrating,” including Xiao Yong. They were released after a month or so on probation.
Xiao Yong was forced to go back to his hometown in Shaoyang, Hunan, where he has sustained a lot of pressure from not just authorities but also relatives and friends, his friend told me over the phone. He told friends that he felt the authorities were out to get him and they probably would throw him in jail as soon as this year.
The news of Xiao Yong’s abrupt two-year reform-through-labor came as a shock today. In Twitter’s Chinese community, people expressed disbelief and anger over such despicable abuses of power on the part of the Chinese government. Some remind us that this has been a pattern used on many other activists, while others see it as an attempt to terrify other activists.
For those of you who follow China’s human rights situation closely, Shaoyang has been in the news lately for the death of Li Wangyang (李旺阳), a dissident from the 1989 movement who was found dead in early June. Police insisted he had committed suicide, but too many questions are pointing to murder. His relatives and friends who brought the news his death to the world have since been held illegally without anyone being able to reach them.
Xiao Yong made it clear in his calls that he wants to get legal assistance to challenge his case.
Our readers may have already come across two headlines about China today: China, along with Russia, again vetoed a UN resolution seeking to sanction against Syria; the famed artist Ai Weiwei is being prevented by police from going to the court to hear the very verdict in his own case.
Today is one of those days that afford you a better look at the people running China.