By Yaqiu Wang, published: January 18, 2016
Xu Qin (徐秦), the acting secretary-general of Rose China (玫瑰中国), a human rights organization based in Hubei Province, was taken away by the Beijing police on January 8. Xu’s family later received a notice from the police informing them that Xu was arrested on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” Rose Group’s deputy secretary-general Pan Lu (潘露) told China Change.
According to Pan, Xu’s arrest was somewhat anticipated, given that she has been a citizen rights activist for years. “Ms. Xu has gone to the street and raised protest signs to demand the release of the Feminist Five, Pu Zhiqiang and other human rights activists. She has also formed close relations with petitioners, serving as a connector between rights activism and petitioning,” Pan said.
After suffering from an incident of medical fraud which resulted in disability about six years ago, Xu began legal action to seek justice, and also travelled to Beijing to petition. After numerous failed attempts to gain redress for her case, she became disillusioned with the Chinese political and judicial system, as she wrote in an essay in which she announced her decision to renounce her Communist Party membership. Xu later joined Rose Group, a human rights organization formed by prominent dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏), in 2014.
Largely unreported, the 61-year-old Qin Yongmin and his wife have been taken away by police from their home in Wuhan for just over a year now. Last September the police claimed that they were investigating Qin for “inciting subversion of state power” but have not brought formal charges against him. Mr. Qin has spent 23 years of the last 30 years in prison.
The mission of the Rose Group is to “promote political dialogue and strive for peaceful transition,” according to the group’s website. The group has published letters to President Xi Jinping, calling on him to hold dialogues with Chinese citizens and uphold the constitution and the rule of law in China. The group has also repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to gain official registration from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its affiliated group China Human Rights Observer (中国人权观察), on the basis that freedom of association is guaranteed in the Chinese constitution.
Pan suspected Xu’s arrest could be related to her meeting with petitioners in Beijing a couple of days before her arrest on January 8. In December, a call for petitioners to travel from around the country to petition in Beijing on January 10 quickly spread online through WeChat groups. “Petitioners who answered the call were from all realms — victims of the Fanya Investments scheme, illegal land expropriation, education inequality, and others. Nowadays petitioners’ appeals are no longer only economic, but also political,” Pan said.
But the plan was largely derailed after local police forces intervened, and the hundreds who arrived in Beijing were taken away by nearly a thousand police stationed near the State Bureau of Letters and Calls, Radio Free Asia reported.
The arrest on January 8 was not Xu’s first. In November 2013 she was detained without explanation, she believes for her role in uncovering the Food and Drug Administration’s cover-up of hospitals using sham medical products. In March, while en route to Beijing for work from her hometown in Gaoyou (高邮), Jiangsu Province, she was briefly detained by local police. She was later prevented from leaving her own home because the Communist Party’s Two Meetings were being held in Beijing.
Xu is not the first member of the Rose Group to be detained. Founder and director of the group Qin Yongmin and his wife have been missing since January 2015. Authorities have to this day refused to respond to their families and lawyers’ repeated inquiries about their situations. In May, another key member of Rose Group, Liu Xinglian (刘兴联), was arrested and later charged with “inciting subversion of state power.”
Pan told China Change that over a dozen activists connected in one way or another to the Rose Group have been arrested since 2014, and that he himself is under constant police surveillance. “The government arrested all of our key members,” Pan said. “The only reason they haven’t arrested me is because I’m in poor health.”
Yaqiu Wang researches and writes about human rights in China. Follower her on Twitter @Yaqiu.