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Liu Shaoming, a 1989 Veteran and a Labor Activist, Remains Imprisoned Without Sentence

China Change, May 31, 2017


Liu Shaoming 2

Liu Shaoming’s (刘少明) work as an activist, while based in Guangdong, saw him travel across the country in recent years. In Guangdong he joined the calls for releasing dissident Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), and numerous other participants in the Southern Street Movement (南方街头运动). He traveled to Xinyu in Jiangxi Province (江西新余), Jixi in Shaanxi Province (陕西鸡西), Jiansanjiang in Heilongjiang (黑龙江建三江), and many other places where citizens gathered to scrutinize the abuse of power. Over the last few years he has been summoned in for talks with the police or detained in police lockups dozens of times, but by what he called “luck” he was spared serious persecution. One human rights lawyer has described Liu as enthusiastic and selfless — like a brother. Indeed, at 59 years of age and a veteran of the June 4 democracy protests, for most of those in the field today Liu is of an older generation of activists.

In May of 1989 he was a worker at a steel factory in Jiangxi; he left behind his wife and infant child to travel to Beijing and live in one of the tents on the square, joining the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation (北京工人联合自治会), administering first-aid to the student protesters. He stayed with them until the early hours of June 4, and departed the square with them. He was later identified and jailed for a year.

According to Liu Shaoming’s defense lawyer Wu Kuiming (吴魁明), since 2014 — apart from his civil rights activism — Liu has been most heavily involved in helping workers in the Pearl River Delta (珠三角) region defend their rights. In the evening of May 29, 2015, in Guangzhou, he was taken away by unidentified men; two weeks later he was detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” (寻衅滋事). His lawyer explained that the police have devoted enormous investigative resources to collecting and analyzing information about Liu’s participation in labor rights work, as supposed criminal activity. From this, the lawyer says, it’s clear that Liu’s labor rights work is the reason the authorities apprehended him.

Xiao Shu (笑蜀), a well-known writer on activist affairs who has observed the labor movement in Guangdong for many years, said that Liu Shaoming is one of the founders of the “Labor Defense Volunteers” (工维义工) collective in Guangzhou, a loose coalition of volunteers in southern China who advocate on behalf of workers’ rights. It had only been founded a few months before Liu Shaoming was arrested, but even by then the group had gotten involved in numerous labor rights incidents. Xiao Shu noted: “Over the last five months [in 2015], they’ve been involved in a strike at the Guangxin Shoe Factory in Ebu, Haifeng County, Guangdong (海丰县鹅埠广信鞋厂), and labor rights incidents at the Second Heavy Machinery Group in Sichuan (四川二重) and the Lide Shoe Factory in Guangzhou (广州利得鞋厂). The Lide strike was a total victory, and Liu Shaoming’s contribution was essential.”

On December 3, 2015, the Guangdong authorities targeted numerous labor NGOs in the Pearl River Delta region. Seven activists — including Zeng Feixiang (曾飞洋), Zhu Xiaomei (朱小梅), Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), He Xiaobo (何晓波), and Meng Han (孟晗), among others — were arrested on charges of “gathering crowds to disturb public order” for organizing strikes and fighting for the legitimate rights of workers. Another several dozen people were summoned and interrogated. China’s state media engaged in an all-out character assassination of them, accusing their small-scale grassroots organizations of “long-term receipt of funds from foreign organizations, profiting off labor and management disputes, severely disrupting social order, and severely trampling on the rights and benefits of workers.” Over the course of 2016, under immense international pressure and domestic cries of support, these labor activists were gradually given suspended sentences or released on probation.

But not Liu Shaoming. He has been treated like a different sort of criminal, and was indicted on January 5, 2016. Despite the fact that the police had collected a vast amount of information and evidence about his labor rights activities, when they arrested him the focus of the prosecutor’s accusations lay elsewhere entirely. Their charges said:

“An investigation performed according to the law has ascertained: From 2014 to May 2015, the defendant Liu Shaoming himself composed and compiled the documents “A Letter to the CCP’s Low-ranking Soldiers and Police in the Armed Forces” (《给中共当局基层武装力量的士兵和警员的一封信》), “A Letter to My Chinese Compatriots” (《告中国同胞书》), “My Views on the Overseas Democracy Movement” (《我对海外民运的看法》), “My Personal Views on the Reformist and Revolutionary Schools” (《我个人关于改良派和革命派看法》),  among many essays and expressions which engaged in rumor mongering and slander against the state power and socialism. These texts were distributed via WeChat, QQ, Telegram and other software on his cellular phone, and were received by numerous friends on WeChat and Telegram; he also on numerous occasions disseminated these texts to WeChat and QQ friend groups, under the circumstances that he was fully aware that there were a large number of friends in those groups, identifying himself under the term of endearment ‘Old Migrant Worker Liu Shaoming,’  all of which had the effect of inciting subversion of state power and overturning the socialist system.”

Two defense lawyers pointed out that the police arrest of Liu Shaoming was “simply because the police regard Liu is a ‘troublemaker.’ Even if they had no evidence, they would still have arrested him.”


Liu Shaoming


China Change has observed a key feature of the Chinese government’s suppression of civil society over the last several years, which goes some way to explaining the “special treatment” Liu Shaoming has been subjected to: this is that, horizontally, Liu’s activism spanned across the rights defense movement, political dissent, and labor rights spheres, and vertically, that its origin can be traced all the way back to the June 4 democracy movement and the ideas that animated it. This, in the eyes of an increasingly paranoid Chinese government, makes Liu appear somehow more “dangerous” — even though all of the activities he has engaged in, whether 28 years ago with the June 4 demonstration, or the labor activism in the Pearl River Delta today, are perfectly permissible under the Chinese constitution.

“When it comes to political cases,” remarked a human rights lawyer who wished to remain anonymous, “the key basis for the decision to arrest, investigate, and sentence a politically sensitive individual is not a question of the facts of the matter, but a question of whether they want to do it or not. It’s all about whom they want to get rid of and persecute.” Liu Shaoming now suffers the misfortune of having become one of the people the Party authorities want to remove from the scene.

Liu Shaoming was tried in the Guangzhou Municipal Intermediate People’s Court on April 15, 2016, for “inciting subversion of state power.” The hearing ended without a sentence. It is now over 13 months since the trial, and Liu has still not been sentenced. China’s Criminal Procedure Law stipulates that under normal circumstances “A people’s court shall pronounce the judgment on a case of public prosecution within two months or, not later than three months.”

In his statement of self-defense in court, Liu Shaoming responded to the charges thus: “Because of some essays and memoirs I wrote which accurately recorded that period of national and personal history, and because I expressed some political opinions that diverge from those of the authorities, I’ve been accused of ‘rumor mongering,’ ‘slander,’ and ‘inciting subversion of state power’ and put in the defendant’s chair in a court of law. Whatever the result, I will assume it calmly. This is the most I can do to comfort the fallen spirits of those who have laid down their lives for the project of democracy in China. As to whether I’m innocent or guilty, history will be the fairest judge. Whether it’s the 20 square meter cell of jail, or the 9.6 million square kilometer thought prison of the entire country, for those who yearn for freedom there is little difference.”

Of his own activism, he said: “The pursuit of liberty and democracy is what I have dreamed of and pursued my entire life… Our resistance and suffering today is nothing but the final stage of resistance and suffering in the five thousand years of history of the Chinese people. This time we’re making a stand without any of the slaughter and bloodletting of the past: this is a rational, peaceful, non-violent pursuit, to bring the light spring wind of constitutional democracy and liberty to this great ancestral land, and to bless China.”

He said that public security personnel in pre-trial interrogations focused exclusively on his involvement in labor activism, as well as on his support for human rights lawyers. But, he said, given that the indictment contained no mention of this, “You don’t mention it, I don’t defend it.”

In 2015 and 2016 China rolled out an intense battery of new legislation: the Foreign NGO Law (《中华人民共和国境外非政府组织境内活动管理法》), the Charity Law (《中华人民共和国慈善法》),  the Cybersecurity Law (《网络安全法》), the State Security Law (《国家安全法》), and most recently a draft of the State Intelligence Law (《中华人民共和国国家情报法》草案), which will likely become a law in the near future. The international community has regarded this series of laws as primarily a formal codification of well-practiced repressive policies. They demonstrate how the Chinese authorities regard civil society as the greatest threat to the regime, and they’re aimed to maximally restrict the normal activities and growth of civil society in China.

From when he left Jiangxi as a steel factory worker, to his current imprisonment, half of Liu Shaoming’s life has been spent in the Pearl River Delta region as a migrant worker. He has worked as a porter, a construction laborer, an enterprise manager, a factory director, an advertisement salesman, and a copywriter for advertising pamphlets — he couldn’t be any more the Chinese everyman. Peng Jiayong (彭家勇), a colleague who has worked with him on labor rights, said: “He established a studio for advocating on behalf of workers and joined forces with them completely —  eating together, living together. He never accepted any money from any organization, and no one ever gave him a salary or stipend. His juniors affectionately called him ‘Uncle Liu.’”




‘In Winter-frozen Earth, Spring Starts to Quicken’: A 2016 New Year’s Message from China’s Labor Community, January 1, 2016.

Chinese Authorities Orchestrate Surprise Raid of Labor NGOs in Guangdong, Arresting Leaders, December 10, 2015.





Activist in Xinjiang Sentenced to 19 Years for Online Writings and Rights Activities

By Yaqiu Wang, published: January 21, 2016


张海涛On January 15, rights activist Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was sentenced to 19 years in prison by the Urumqi Intermediate Court in the northwest Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The 44-year-old Zhang was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and “probing and illegally supplying intelligence abroad” (为境外刺探、非法提供情报罪). The court also ordered the confiscation of his personal assets of 120,000 yuan ($18,000). The accusations leveled against Zhang include publishing online articles attacking socialism, assisting the work of foreign media, and “rumormongering.”

The harsh sentence handed down to Zhang, a Han Chinese, came as a surprise to both Zhang’s lawyer and family. Lawyer Li Dunyong (李敦勇), who represents Zhang, told China Change that he believed the heavy sentence has a lot to do with the fact that Zhang lives in Xinjiang and has criticized the Chinese government’s Xinjiang policies.

Dissent in this restive region with a large ethnic Uighur population often meets with particularly harsh retribution. “Being a Han Chinese gives you no protection,” said lawyer Li. In 2014, Xinjiang-based democracy activist Zhao Haitong (赵海通), also a Han Chinese, was sentenced to 14 years for “inciting subversion of state power.”  

“The 19-year sentence is utterly ludicrous. I know my husband is a very honest man. The only thing he did was say some honest things online,” Zhang’s wife, Li Aijie (李爱杰), told China Change.  “Accusing him of supplying intelligence abroad is beyond laughable. He did give information about human rights issues to overseas media outlets like Radio Free Asia and Sound of Hope, but there was nothing secretive about the information. It was all public.”

Zhang was first criminally detained by Urumqi police last June for “inciting ethnic hatred” and “ethnic discrimination,” and later formally arrested on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” After nearly five months in detention, the charges were changed to “inciting subversion of state power.”

Originally from Henan Province, Zhang first came to Xinjiang to partake in the electronics retail business after being laid off from a state-owned company in the 1990s. One day in April 2009, while on vacation at his home in Nanyang (南阳), Henan, a group of policemen from Urumqi broke into Zhang’s house and took him to a train station, putting him on a train to Urumqi. During the train ride, the police handcuffed and shackled him, and stopped him from using the restroom. After 30 days of interrogation in a detention center for alleged fraud in Urumqi, Zhang was freed.  

张海涛_wife and baby

Zhang Haitao’s wife and baby.

Upon release, to seek justice for the unlawful and unexplained detention, Zhang took legal action, as well as petitioned to different government offices, but to no avail. Through his numerous failed attempts to gain redress for the case, Zhang gradually learned the serious ills of the Chinese political system and began to publish articles online critical of the Chinese government. Meanwhile, he also started to help other petitioners have their own stories of suffering heard online. Zhang became a volunteer for the human rights website Human Rights Campaign (“权利运动”) in China and in 2010 signed a petition urging the Chinese government to abolish the extra-legal Reeducation Through Labor detention system.

In the past five years, Zhang had been under constant police surveillance. When the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the Two Meetings approaches, the police often briefly detain him to prevent him from commemorating those who died in the Massacre or creating any “instabilities.”

Li Aijie, his wife, told China Change that she suspected that the government is going to confiscate the apartment she and her husband own. “We have no money. The only way they can collect the 120,000 yuan is to take our apartment away. The community management people have come several times asking to see the ownership certificate of our apartment,” Li said. “The government is determined to force us out of Xinjiang, but where can my son and I go?” Zhang and Li have a one-month-old infant.

When asked whether she is worried that giving interviews to foreign entities would invoke further government wrath, Li Aijie replied: “There is nothing to be afraid of anymore. Look at the situation we’re already in. How worse can it get?”


Yaqiu Wang researches and writes about human rights in China. Follower her on Twitter @Yaqiu.



Wu Gan the Butcher

By Yaqiu Wang, published: July 22, 2015


On May 19, rights activist Wu Gan (吴淦), better known for his online name “Super Vulgar Butcher” or the “Butcher” for short, set up two pull-up standees in front of the Jiangxi Province Higher People’s Court. He was there to protest the court’s denial of the defense’s access to files of the “Leping Wrongful Conviction Case” (“乐平冤案”). In May 2002, police arrested four suspects in a case of robbery, rape, and dismemberment that occurred in Leping, Jiangxi province, in 2000. The four confessed under torture and were sentenced to death with a stay of execution. In early November 2011, a suspect in another case claimed responsibility for the crime. In light of the admission, rights lawyers took on the case by representing the four and requesting a retrial, but the Jiangxi Higher Court refused their repeated and lawful request to review the case files. This case, as well as the Nie Shubin case (聂树斌案) and the recently overturned Huugjilt case, are among the typical cases of miscarriage of justice that China’s rights lawyers pursue.  Correcting wrongs in China’s faulty judicial system is at best difficult, if not impossible altogether, and rights lawyers have, over time, come to develop methods to put pressure on the courts. On that day, the lawyers for the four victims had already staged a sit-in outside the courthouse for over a week to no avail.

Wu Gan in front of the Jiangxi Higher Court on May 19, 2015.

Wu Gan in front of the Jiangxi Higher Court on May 19, 2015.

Wu Gan, who works for Beijing Fengrui Law Firm (北京锋锐律师事务所), had messages for the chief justice of the court, Zhang Zhonghou (张忠厚). The poster on Wu Gan’s right was an image of tomb stone for Zhang and a couplet deploring his lack of a righteousness and basic humanity; on his left, the poster announced that the “Butcher” was raising money on behalf of the four victims so that they could bribe the justice for a retrial, a prevalent vice in China’s judicial system, and asked the chief justice to set a price. Wu Gan stood between the two posters with both his middle fingers up. It was Wu Gan’s signature protest.

Wu Gan was detained that day and received a penalty of 10 days of administrative detention for “disturbing order of the work unit, and publicly insulting people.” However, on May 27, he was criminally detained by the police in Fujian, his home province, and transferred to the remote Yongtai Detention Center (永泰看守所), for allegedly “creating disturbances” and “defamation.”

On May 28, many of the media throughout China — including the core of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece media such as the People’s Daily, Xinhua, and China Central Television (CCTV) — started bombarding their audiences with reports about Wu Gan. The People’s Daily article said that Wu Gan was an “arrogant, vulgar, vicious person who used offensive speech,” and was given to slandering people. The article also “exposed” Wu’s private life saying he was “having an extramarital affair,” that he had “abandoned his ex-wife,” and that Wu’s father and brother were “outlaws.” Xinhua and CCTV proceeded further to discredit Wu based on interviews with Wu’s “former colleagues” and “village relatives.”

At present, the search results for “Super Vulgar Butcher” or “Wu Gan” on Google or Baidu give sites containing articles reposted or rewritten from the aforementioned CCP mouthpiece media, showing the extent of the Party’s propaganda efforts to discredit Wu Gan. Dissident columnist Mo Zhixu commented: “The People’s Daily, Xinhua News Agency, and CCTV are all out to defame the Butcher. Few since 1949 have enjoyed such solemn treatment.” “Nothing new,” an online author pointed out insouciantly. “Among those who enjoyed the same treatment were Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇), Deng Xiaoping (邓小平), and Peng Dehuai (彭德怀).”

Made a Name for Himself in the Deng Yujiao Case

Wu Gan, who is 43 years old this year, was born in a village in Fujian province’s Fuqing municipality (福建福清). Based on his own account, he didn’t finish junior high school and, as an adult, served as a soldier, a security checker at an airport, and engaged in business. Wu Gan has long publicized his personal information online in order to “dispel the doubts of netizens, and challenge unscrupulous officials to do the same.”

Beginning in 2008, Wu Gan became active in major forums, blogs, and used many internet names before finally settling on “Super Vulgar Butcher.” Wu Gan says he chose this name to spurn “the so-called elites who theorize too much and do too little.”

On May 10, 2009, a government official from Badong county in Hubei province (湖北巴东) named Deng Guida (邓贵大), along with other county officials, went to a leisure center. While there, the officials propositioned a 21-year-old female attendant Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇) for sexual favors but Deng rejected them. Outraged, Deng Guida tried to rape her. In a panic, Deng Yujiao pulled a fruit paring knife she was carrying and stabbed Deng Guida. Deng Yujiao then took the initiative to get Deng Guida to a hospital emergency room and dial 110 to surrender herself. Deng Guida died, and the Badong police opened an investigation into Deng Yujiao on suspicion of intentional homicide.

Wu Gan with Deng Yujiao.

Wu Gan with Deng Yujiao.

On May 14, Wu Gan posted a description of the case online, alongside his personal information, his ID number, and the account number set up to receive donations. He said he would take actions “to help this sister who defended her honor with a [fruit] knife.” Wu Gan’s friend, You Jingyou (游精佑), told China Change that, although he did not know Wu Gan at that time, once he learned that he and Wu were from the same province, he quickly sent a thousand yuan donation. “After I sent the money,” You said, “I thought that, apart from the Deng Yujiao-related activities, Wu himself will have expenses. I then sent another thousand yuan to Wu’s own account making clear that this money was for his own personal use, to spend as he pleased, and requested that he not put the money into the donation account. The next day, Wu Gan called me and said that he would also put the second thousand yuan into the public donation account.”

On May 16, Wu Gan went to Badong county to assist Deng Yujiao’s relatives in hiring a lawyer, and Wu was also the first non-family member to visit Deng Yujiao in the hospital. Wu Gan posted updates on the progress of the case and gave many media interviews. A photograph of Wu Gan at Deng Yujiao’s bedside giving her a thumbs up went viral, making Wu Gan an instant online celebrity. It also gave the local government a taste of the power of public opinion on the internet. Following these actions, lawyers from Beijing took on the case, netizens from across the country formed “observation groups” in solidarity with Deng Yujiao, and journalists headed to Badong county to investigate the case. On May 28, on the pretext of “preventing lightning strikes,” the local government cut off television broadcasts, the internet, and even interrupted part of the shipping on the Yangzi River by ordering that ships not stop at the Badong port, bringing the local areas into a state of “semi-martial law.”

On June 16, the Badong County People’s Court issued a verdict exempting Deng Yujiao from criminal punishment.

Around the same time, the Chinese government also scraped a planned policy to require personal computers sold in China be equipped with the “Green Dam” software that would purportedly filter pornography but was really a massive state surveillance initiative, after the planned move had been met with overwhelming criticism online. Looking back, that was a hopeful time of Chinese internet when netizens found their places and voices in social media but the censorship had yet to fully catch up, and when liberal Chinese enthused that the internet would change China.

The Case of the Three Netizens in Fujian

One evening in 2008, a 25-year-old female named Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲), who resided in Minqing county in Fujian province (福建闽清), returned home along with friends from a night at a KTV feeling sick and died the next day. The local police identified the cause of death as “ectopic pregnancy” leading to “bleeding from a tubal rupture.” Yan’s mother, however, believed that her daughter had died after being serially raped by a group of men, including local policemen, and repeatedly petitioned the authorities for investigation into her daughter’s death. Three netizens in Fujian, Fan Yanqiong (范燕琼), You Jingyou (游佑精), and Wu Huaying (吴华英),  assisted Yan’s mother in writing petitions and making a video. The details of this case spread quickly online.

Demonstration during the trial of three netizens in Fujian.

Demonstration during the trial of three netizens in Fujian.

From June to July 2009, police in Fujian arrested a large number of netizen activists involved in this case. The three netizens were arrested for “slandering.” While the case was being heard, Wu Gan went several times to Fujian to participate in a series of demonstrations. Wu established a “netizens’ concern group,” gave briefings on the court hearings, wrote an open letter to the Fujian People’s Congress, and undertook other actions as well. During the court hearings, Wu held placards at the entrance to the court, put up banners, shouted slogans, sang songs, and reported the court situation live on Twitter. Remembering Wu Gan’s activism, You Jingyou told China Change: “In the spring of 2010, the warden at the detention center told me that someone had pitched a tent in front of the detention center but ‘was quickly driven off.’ I laughed to myself and thought that person had to be the Butcher as no other person in this world would pull such a stunt.”

On April 16, 2010, the day the court was to pass judgment in the case, the court was surrounded by a cordon of hundreds of police and several layers of barricades. About a thousand people gathered at the court entrance loudly shouting: “The three netizens are not guilty of any crime!” In the end, the court sentenced Fan Yanqiong to prison for two years while You Jingyou and Wu Huaying were each sentenced to one year. A netizen who was present tweeted, “After the sentencing of You Jingyou and the others, the Butcher slumped on the floor, his eyes red and wet.”

The case against the three netizens of Fujian was seen as the Chinese government’s landmark case for suppressing freedom of speech on the internet. Since that case, online freedom of speech has steadily declined. In today China, internet in 2010 feels positively like a golden age.

The cases, both large and small, in which Wu Gan participated and played a leading role were too numerous to keep tabs on. Many of these cases, such as the Qian Yunhui Case, visits to the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng,  the Xia Junfeng Case, and the Fan Mugen Case, gained wide attention from both domestic and foreign media thanks largely to legal and citizen activism. (Click here for a link to a China Change report on a land rights incident in which Wu Gan participated.)

In the recent incident of police shooting dead a destitude peasant in Qing’an city of the northernmost Heilongjiang province (黑龙江庆安),[1] Wu Gan announced online that he was willing to provide legal assistance and to raise fund for the family of Xu Chunhe (徐纯合), the victim. The next day, Wu Gan stated that he had met with an eyewitness to the shooting scene and had also obtained smart phone video footages of the incident. Obstructed by police, Wu Gan was unable to go to Qing’an himself, but he made public the video, audio and photographs relating to the incident that he had obtained. In the video, Xu Chunhe’s child is heard telling her father: “Stop fighting, father! Let’s go home!” The heart wrenching video quickly spread throughout the internet.

Shortly before his own detention, Wu Gan raised over 36,000 RMB for Ren Ziyuan (任自元), a Shandong high school teacher who was released in May after serving ten years in prison for “inciting subversion” and suffering debilitating torture, to help the latter to transition to life outside prison.

Over the years, the authorities surveilled, harassed, evicted, and temporarily detained Wu Gan. When the news came that Wu Gan had been criminally detained this time, some netizens exclaimed that “Wu Gan has finally paid the price.”


TheHog Butchering Model ”

When Wu Gan got involved in a case, he would first issue information about the case online,  and appeal to netizens to follow the case and collect personal information about the officials involved in the case, especially evidence of their corruption. On the internet, Wu Gan often satirized and spoofed these officials. Meanwhile Wu Gan would call on noted rights lawyers, scholars, and media personalities to become involved in the case. When the moment was right, he himself would go to the scene and also mobilize netizens and petitioners to do the same. On the scene, apart from holding placards, shouting slogans, and other such commonly used means of protest, Wu Gan would also perform a variety of performance art. In addition, he would set up online crowd funding to pay for the activists and to assist the families of the victims. Wu Gan called his unique form of activism “butchering hogs.”

The act he staged in front the courthouse in Jiangsi notwithstanding, other examples include: After Yu Shiwen (于世文), Chen Wei (陈卫) and ten others were arrested by the Zhengzhou police in early 2014 for commemorating Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) and those who perished in the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, Wu Gan issued an ‘arrest warrant’ online for the arrest of the then Bureau Chief of the city’s Public Security Bureau. Wu himself then went to Zhengzhou and posted copies of his arrest warrant at subway entrances, on electric poles, at entrances to government departments, and other such places. During the Kunming elementary students’ prostitution case, Wu Gan put up a sign that read “Tomb of the Kunming Justice Department” outside the entrance to the court. Artist Kuang Laowu (邝老五) commented: “When Wu Gan took part in helping others defend their rights, he used performance art consciously and aptly to move the case toward a reasonable solution.”

Based on his own experiences, Wu Gan wrote articles to pass on his methods to those  struggling to defend their rights or to right an injustice. “The Butcher’s Bible” (《杀猪宝典》) is one. “Rights Defense Guidebook for Property Owners Facing Eviction and Demolition” (《被拆迁征地户维权宝典》) and the “Petitioners’ Hog Butchering Guidebook” (《访民杀猪宝典》) are two other examples.  In the widely circulated “The Butcher’s Bible,” Wu Gan wrote: “You should know that what the officials fear most are death and losing their official positions. So you must grip him like a mad dog bites or like dogskin plaster sticks to the skin, attacking his official position. There are many ways of doing this. You may use performance art, live webcasts, online spoofing, reporting him to his superiors, exposing him on the internet, digging up dirt on him, his family and others close to him, and describing all of his wrongdoings in his offical capacity. Blame him for all the misconduct of his predessessors. There is no injustice in doing this because, as the incumbent, he represents an office, and should bear all the responsibility for it.” “When you are butchering hogs, you want to be high profile, open, and transparent as this is the best way to protect yourself. Go butchering hogs with your head raised high, and don’t act like you are conducting underground activities. It would be best to live webcast your action, so do your homework to learn how to use internet first.”

Wu Gan made use of the human resources of noted lawyers, scholars, and the average netizens; he integrated seamlessly online public opinion and real actions; he transformed  online pressure into offline pressure. The dissident community greatly approved his methods. Wu Qiang (吴强), a political science professor at Tsinghua University, said that the hog butchering methods are “a Chinese-style radicalism and a most effective model of non-violent struggle.” Chen Guangcheng believes that “the hog butchering model is most noteable for its bold creativity,” and its “invaluable and effective methods are worth popularizing.” Chen also noted that arresting Wu Gan is “an attempt to put a stop to the spreading application of the hog butchering model that fuses online and offline actions.”


Wu Gan’s career as a rights activist is not without controversy. In the Kunming elementary students prostitution case, one netizen expressed doubts: “Wu Gan purportedly raised more than 40,000 yuan from netizens, and flew three round trips to Kunming. That sounds to me like a tourist. I say, give a half directly to the victims, and give the other half to me: I will put on the same performance art that the Butcher performed and I guarantee my performance will be of higher quality.” In the Xia Junfeng case, there were also netizens who accused Wu Gan of pocketing 30,000 yuan from netizens’ contributions to Xia’s surviving wife and child, but Xia’s wife came out on Weibo and dismissed the charge.

People who have come to know Wu Gan spoke about him warmly.

屠夫吴淦Wang Lihong (王荔蕻), who served a nine-month prison term in 2011-2012 for organizing protests in support of the three netizens in Fujian, told China Change: “Wu Gan has an air of worldliness about him, and perhaps some of the ‘elite’ don’t like this. But what I’ve seen is his sincerity and sense of right and wrong. He has a sense of humor and is an optimist. He cries when he sees the sufferings of political prisoners and their families, so he braved slander to raise money for them.”

Young activist Huang Bin (黄宾), who has met face to face with Wu Gan four times, wrote on his blog: “In order to denigrate the Butcher, the media inside China’s Great Firewall concocted a great deal of defamatory materials against him without elaborating on the specifics, and these clumsy propaganda tactics would perhaps fool some people who do not know Wu Gan. But most people who have met with and spoken to him admire his courage, honor, and the sacrifices he has made.”

Wang Lihong told China Change, “Because of his notoriety, many victims of injustice called him up for help. He would patiently listen to them and write down their stories. Once he could verify the accuracy of a case, he would go out and put up a fight, often against local authorities, with his idiocincratic methods.

Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇), “China’s Protest Archivist” who is routinely harassed by security police, told China Change that: “When I was driven out of Guangdong province by the security police and had no place to go, Wu Gan brought me to his relative’s home in Fuzhou for shelter, helped me find work, and told netizens in Fuzhou to take care of me. He is an optimistic and chivalrous person. Accusations of misusing funds are sheer rubbish put out by the Fifty Centers [people paid by the Party to slander people]. They tarnish every rights defender who is an effective doer.”

Since Wu Gan’s Arrest

Since his arrest, people have come out to support him, especially petitioners who have built connections with him over the years through grassroots activism. The “Hog Butchering Workshop” (杀猪工作室) makes regular announcements about case development, and an expert consultation group (屠夫案知名专家顾问团) consisting of well-known intellectuals, journalists, legal professionals and other personalities, as well as a citizen support group, have been formed. Netizens established a website and a Twitter account dedicated to Wu Gan.

Meanwhile, internet censorship of Wu Gan is extraordinarily severe. No information about his case could be published on Weibo or WeChat, including photos of Wu Gan and people supporting him. His wife’s bank account, to which supporters had been sending donations, became inaccessible recently.

Fujian police established a task force for the Wu Gan case. He was interrogated dozens of times in the first days by many police officers, some from Beijing, according to his lawyers Wang Yu (王宇) and Li Fangping (李方平) who were able to meet him and report about the meetings in the first few weeks of his detention, despite vindictive obstruction by the detention center. On June 29, however, his lawyer Yan Xin (燕薪) was denied of meeting on the grounds that the case is involved with national security.

On July 7, Wu Gan was formally arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and “creating disturbances.”

On July 10, Chinese authorities astounded the world by arresting lawyers and staffers at Fengrui Law Firm, including Wang Yu and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), director of the firm. As of July 21, at least 242 rights lawyers, staffers and activists in 24 provinces have been criminally detained, disappreared, held incommunicado in what’s known as “residence under surveillance,” summoned, or temporarily detained. The Party’s proganda jauggernaut has since been running full gear, churning out reports,  commentaries, TV segments that announced the firm as a “major criminal ring” and the rights lawyers “pests” and “troublemakers” in a style reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, the ugliest pages of the CCP rule.

Wu Gan told his lawyer Li Fangping, “I wind up in prison after so many years of fighting injustices, so I might as well relax and take a break. My job now is stay well, keep my spirits up and my morale high.” He wanted his wife to be strong and take good care of herself, and he asked the lawyers to bring him books on philosophy and Tang and Song poetry. Yan Xin, the last lawyer who visited Wu Gan on June 8, brought back these words from him: “My case is an absurd and entertaining movie. The filming has begun, and I have gotten into character.”


[1] On May 2 this year, in Heilongjiang province’s Qing’an city, a middle aged man named Xu Chunhe took his three young children and his 80 year old mother to the train station to board a train. After Xu was stopped for no reason by train station attendants, Xu had an altercation with the police on duty, and was shot to death by the police. A heated debate ensued online over whether or not the police had sufficient reason to open fire. Netizens demanded that the local authorities make public surveillance video from the scene, but the Qing’an authorities refused to do so. On May 5, Xu Chunhe’s cousin signed an agreement with the Harbin Railway Police stating that he would not pursue the matter any further. On May 14, CCTV aired an edited version of the surveillance video of shooting incident and announced the conclusions of the local railway police: the police acted appropriately in shooting Xu Chunhe. On May 16, Wu Gan issued a statement questioning whether Xu was seen throwing his daughter down in the video. After that, many more analyses and photographs appeared online casting doubt on the CCTV video.


Yaqiu Wang (王亚秋) researches and writes about civil society and human rights in China.



Washington Post: She was a quiet commercial lawyer. Then China turned against her. Profile of Lawyer Wang Yu, July 18, 2015.

AP: Activist known for brash tactics among dozens held in China, July 26, 2015


Chinese version 《屠夫吴淦》