One Step Further in China’s Persecution of Dissidents’ Family Members

Intimidating, sabotaging the life of, dissidents’ family members is nothing new in China. It has been a time-honored practice of the Chinese government to suppress dissent. After all, Liu Xia has been under house arrest in Beijing for two-and-a-half years now, and her only “crime” is that she’s the wife of Nobel Peace winner Liu Xiaobo, serving an eleven-year prison term for drafting Charter 08 (《零八宪章》) to call for democratic change in China.

Today, Associated Press reported that Liu Xia’s brother Liu Hui was formally charged with “fraud” in a real estate dispute, and his lawyer Mo Shaoping said the criminal charges were unwarranted and the dispute has since been resolved. Despite the economic charges, the arrest and indictment of Liu Xia’s brother is believed to be a step further in the Chinese government’s attempt to pressure the family since the successful visit of Liu Xia shortly before the New Year in December and subsequent attempts by activists and netizens to visit Liu Xia and call for her freedom. The Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jinling (唐荆陵) told Radio Free Asia that “the Chinese government has explicitly demanded that Liu Hui’s family not engage the renowned rights lawyer Mo Shaoping as their lawyer, and this only confirms that the case is indeed one of political persecution.”

Dissident intellectual Mo Zhixu (莫之许), a close friend of Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, revealed today on Twitter (@mozhixu) that Liu Hui was detained once last March. Friends kept quiet about it for fear of making things worse for his family. Liu Hui was later released on probation. He said, this time around, the authorities are hoping to stop the campaign to visit Liu Xia by arm-twisting him.

As hard as it is to believe, these are the lengths to which the Chinese government will go to persecute family members of dissidents, without any justification. They will go to your spouse, your children, your aging mother and father, your employer, your friends, your landlord, your girlfriend or boyfriend; they will go to anyone who is in any way related to you. They will go after them if they want to. They do that at will because they can, because the party owns China, and owns you–at least that’s how they look at it.

Today on Twitter, I came across another piece of alarming information. The Hangzhou-based rights lawyer Wang Cheng (王成 @wangchuxiang) tweeted that, since September, 2011, he has not been able to work normally due to the behind-the-scenes obstruction by certain “mysterious organ.” Now, the “mysterious organ” struck again, this time against his wife who was employed by a tech company in Hangzhou. The company was forced to terminate their contract with her, beginning March 31, 2013.

Last week, Tongji University (同济大学) in Shanghai fired Dr. He Xiaolian (何小莲), a history professor who has served the university for 20 years. Why? because she is the wife of Li Huaping (李化平), a Shanghai-based dissident, online writer whose letter to Xi Jinping was this blog’s first post in 2013. Li Huaping told  Weiquanwang that firing his wife is Shanghai municipal government’s latest move to retaliate against him for his involvement in promoting new citizen movement in mainland China and same-city citizen dinner gatherings in Shanghai. Li Huaping’s wife is currently a visiting scholar in Wisconsin University, and Tongji University informed her of her employment termination via email. Over the last couple of weeks, Li Huaping himself has been summoned 4 times by state security police in Shanghai for total 64 hours, and his only remaining blog was cancelled yesterday.

“In this letter I only want to talk about one issue,” he wrote. “When dealing with dissidents, you and the government of the People’s Republic of China should, and must, observe procedural justice according to the law.” That would seem a distant “China Dream” when the Chinese government thinks it is a good idea to pressure the university to fire his wife in reprisal for his activities mostly in civil society development.

Lawyer Wang Cheng is one of the signees of Charter 08, the initiator of the abolishment of re-education-through-labor signature campaign that collected over 10,000 names, and most recently, earlier today also issued a statement on Twitter. Of his engagement in social and public affairs, he brought charges against the election of Zhang Dejiang and others to the offices of the NPC Chairman and Deputy Chairmen as a violation of China’s Constitution. He said he had heard that a certain “mysterious organ” is going to apprehend him soon, and he announced four people to be his defense should that rumor materialize.

Also today, on a different note, activist Liu Shasha (刘沙沙, @lss007), the woman who had braved several beatings visiting Chen Guangcheng’s village and was largely responsible for inspiring the Free Chen Guangcheng movement, and the Hong Kong activist Yang Kuang (杨匡, @why_yang) were engaged in the most movie-worthy manner. The two fell in love over the course of a series of actions they had taken together. And in early March they visited Liu Xia’s apartment and shouted out to her through a loud speaker. Today when the two reunited in Shenzhen, they were taken into police custody for several hours. Shasha was released, while Yang Kuang was taken away to be deported back to Hong Kong. “From inside the dim police vehicle he proposed, surrounded by five policemen,” Shasha tweeted. “I accepted.”

Liu Shasha and Yang Kuang outside Liu Xia's apartment building in early March, 2013.

Liu Shasha and Yang Kuang outside Liu Xia’s apartment building in Beijing in early March, 2013.

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