China Change, October 31, 2019
Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) is a 60-year-old Beijing resident, a dissident and human rights activist. Last October, when the 85-year-old mother of renowned Sichuan activist Huang Qi arrived in Beijing to petition for the release of her son, Zhang Baocheng housed her for over a month. He accompanied her as her “bodyguard” on visits to different state organs to submit her petition, and also took her sightseeing. He called her “Mother Huang” (黄妈妈) and posted photos on Twitter. Some of the videos of “Mother Huang” making appeals, such as this one, might have been filmed by him. Beijing police called him in several times warning him of consequences for his actions. Now we know what the “consequences” are.
On May 27 of this year, he was arrested and his home raided, including cellphones. He was initially charged with “possessing guns” but by now we know no “guns” were involved. He had been denied access to lawyers until recently. According to the two lawyers who met him in Beijing First Detention Center, his case has been handed to Beijing Second Procuratorate for indictment, and he is charged with “picking quarrels” and “promoting terrorism, extremism, and inciting terrorist activities.”
But the interrogations, according to the lawyers, centered on details of him helping Huang Qi’s mother as well as his Twitter expressions.
Though the authorities amassed more than 10 volumes of case files, the lawyers said, there is no substantial evidence for both charges. The evidence for “picking quarrels” is “fabricating and disseminating information about Huang Qi being seriously ill, and helping Huang Qi’s mother to petition in Beijing.”
For the evidence of “terrorist involvement,” police cited a retweet of an ISIS video by Zhang Baocheng, but we can neither retrieve this retweet nor his comment about it. If such a retweet existed, it’s most likely to condemn it, not endorse it. It’s worth noting that in late September the famed law professor He Weifang’s brother, He Weitong – also a legal professional – was criminally detained for a WeChat posting of ISIS executing civilians as a way of criticizing China inviting Taliban leaders to Beijing for a visit.
Friends of Zhang Baocheng fear that Zhang’s case might be handled severely since cases handed to Beijing Second Procuratorate tend to be major cases. Lawyers also revealed, without giving further details, that Zhang had been subject to “targeted persecution” during detention.
Zhang Baocheng was imprisoned for two years from April 1, 2013 to March 30, 2015, for his participation in the New Citizens Movement.
Meanwhile, Huang Qi’s mother has been under house arrest since her return to Sichuan in late 2018. Huang Qi’s lawyers Sui Muqing (隋牧青) and Liu Zhengqing (刘正清) have since been disbarred, and other lawyers who wanted to represent Huang Qi have not been able to get in touch with his mother to sign the power of attorney authorization. So Huang Qi does not have a lawyer now. In July, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and we know nothing about his current conditions.
This year, China has rounded up scores of activists across the country rather randomly, thrown them in jail, threatened their families, and suppressed information about their cases in an effort to wall off attention.