Published: June 20, 2013
Wednesday afternoon, Beijing time, June 19, lawyers from Guangzhou and Changsha met with Huang Wenxun (黄文勋) and Yuan Fengchu (袁奉初) in a detention center in Chibi, Hubei (湖北赤壁). They found out that the two were criminally detained on charges of “inciting subversion of state power.”
However, when the lawyers went back to the detention center to meet with the other three, the detention center told them that they had received notice from the security police, who are handling the case, not to allow the meeting. The lawyers believe that the obstruction was a result of the local authorities being alarmed by the media attention from the case.
Huang Wenxun, a 23-year-old from Guangdong who we reported on earlier in our post, “The Young Man with the Coolest Sign,” started his “Bright China Tour” in April. He had travelled across Jiangxi and Jiangsu provinces, met with friends, appealed to people in public venues, such as train stations and sidewalks, to participate in the democratic movement. He had more or less a smooth trip. In late May, he came to Chibi, Hubei province, where his friends Yuan Xiaohua, Yuan Fengchu and Chen Jianxiong. Li Yinli joined him. With the exception of Li Yinli, all are Huang’s activist friends who Guangdong authorities chased back to their hometowns in Hubei because of their street activism.
On May 25, as the five held signs in Chibi Plaze and had pictures taken, they were taken by police.
The lawyers described Huang Wenxun and Yuan Fengchu as “looking fine.” From the meeting, the lawyers learned that both Huang Wenxun and Yuan Fengchu were beaten and that Huang Wenxun was also subjected to electric shock. The lawyers reported that Huang Wenxun had protested the illegal detention, refused to sign the detention document, and shouted “Down with Dictatorship.” When he was beaten by police officers, he fought back. Huang Wenxun told the lawyers that his beliefs and values were deeply held and that he was prepared for anything.
Since the lawyers were unable to meet with the other three, they did not find out what charges were brought against them. Lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青) posted on Weibo that once he and his colleagues returned to Guangzhou, they would send a letter to police in Chibi to have the case withdrawn to put an end to this ludicrous episode.
In the past six months, China has detained at least 60 or so dissidents and activists for various activities, such as publicly demanding disclosure of officials’ assets, seeking permission for June 4th demonstrations, holding signs on the street to promote democratic values, or simply tweeting something that was perceived to be “provocative.” Some have been released, others have been charged, and the charges run the gamut: “illegal assembly,” “provoking disturbances,” “blackmailing and extortion,” “gathering to disrupt public order,” “operating illegal businesses,” “printing illegal publications,” “fraud,” “illegal transfer of assets,” and, of course, “inciting to subvert state power.”
Wide suppression is to be expected as more and more people stand up and stand out to advocate change and the authorities perceive more threats. China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate just issued a circular in which it instructs to “severely crack down on crimes threatening state security in order to effectively maintain political security.” It urges the procuratorate to “switch the mode of stability maintenance from emergency response to routine work.” It calls on prosecutors at all levels to “sufficiently exercise your functions in authorizing arrests and bringing indictments to firmly crack down on criminal activities aimed at subverting state power, such as illegal assembly, gathering a crowd to disturb social order or the order of public venues.”
From the arrests made over the last few months, we know how gratuitously any of these charges, and many others, can be brought against a citizen expressing the slightest dissent.
Lawyer Wu Quiming (吴魁明, @wukuiming)
Lawyer Sui Muqing (Weibo @隋牧青律师)