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As the 30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre Approaches, China Arbitrarily Rounds up Dissidents and Activists
China Change, May 30, 2019
In the evening of May 16, Deng Chuanbing (邓传彬) posted a picture of a “Remember 8964” wine bottle on Twitter. Father of two school children, he lives in a town in Yibin, Sichuan province. Within half an hour, local police arrived. They ringed him from outside asking him to flash the upstairs lights to prove that he was home. We don’t know what the conversation was like, but he posted on WeChat, “I caved in again, and deleted the wine bottle photo.”
The wine bottle Deng Chuanbin had photographed at a friend’s home some time ago was not the same wine bottle that led to the incarceration of four men in Chengdu for three years without trial. It wasn’t until recently that three of them were released on probation and one remains in jail for refusing to admit guilt. Deng’s had the same label, transparent and cohesive, affixed to a regular wine bottle.
Just a photo of a wine bottle with the phrase “Remember 8964” proves too much for the Communist regime. At four in the morning, a swarm of police entered his house in the midst of lush greeneries and rice patties. He woke up his son, an elementary schooler, and told him that he had to go away for a while to do some business. The boy asked him whether he’d be gone for more than a day or two; he said it would be longer. As he spoke, he was encircled by officers while others looked around his house and videotaped.
Around 10 the next morning, Deng called his wife who works in a factory in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, using the cellphone of the local police chief. He told her that he’d be away from home for a while. The call lasted for about one minute.
By that evening, police had raided his home, cut off the family’s Wifi, and took away their router in addition to all of his electronics: cellphones, iPad, laptop, desktop, video camera, camera, hard drives, and flash drives. His aging parents were shown a detention notice alleging Deng to have “provoked trouble” (寻衅滋事) and forced to sign it. They were given neither a copy of the notice nor a list of confiscated items.
One can argue the wisdom of posting such a photo at such a sensitive time, but the real question is: Why can’t Deng Chuanbin, or anyone in China, post a photo like that? The world has had too much of such “wisdom” dealing with an increasingly totalitarian China for our own good.
On May 20, a few men searched Deng’s home again (he lives with his parents to facilitate his children’s schooling), ransacked his room, and took away, among other things, cables for all the electronic devices. The police told the family not to hire lawyers for him.
On May 24, a lawyer met with Deng Chuanbin at Nanxi District Detention Center of Yibin city. He said he wasn’t mistreated or beaten in custody. He felt sorry for his children as he is the only parent looking after them.
Deng Chuanbin’s activism embodies the best of China’s grassroots aspirations over the past two decades: In the early 2000s, he was a young migrant worker in Guangdong. When his home province of Sichuan was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2008 that killed thousands of schoolchildren and residents, he became a volunteer and rushed back to provide aid. They call it Year One of China’s civil society—the first time Chinese society acted on its own accord, not by government’s direction. He stayed in the earthquake zone for two years working for various teams to build houses and help the locals to rebuild their life.
He became involved in the rights defense movement, active both online and offline. For nearly ten years, he has been part of NGO programs that help treat and rehabilitate HIV patients, victims of contaminated blood, in Henan province.
He learned to be a documentary maker and, over the past few years, he interviewed political prisoners. The project came to an end after it was leaked to the police.
This is not the first time he was targeted in connection with the Tiananmen anniversary. In 2014, he was forced to leave his home in Zhongshan, Guangdong, on June 3. The next day, he was taken out of the province by two domestic security police. They threatened his wife and older brother; they told him that if he came back to Zhongshan, they would beat him to death.
In May 2015, he was interrogated by police for his activities, in particular a two-week training he had attended that March. He was subsequently barred from leaving China on June 7, 2015 to attend the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) training in Geneva. China Change has a translation of his account of the interrogation.
He had recently returned Sichuan from visiting his wife in Guangdong. Along the way there and back, he had visited activist friends, some of them recently released from prison, others, such as Zhen Jianghua, still behind bars.
“The biggest blow this summons dealt on me is this,” Deng wrote in 2015. “Home, my home, is no longer safe. The authorities have many means to deal with you, and they can turn your entire family into hostages.”
Deng is on medication for low thyroid.
More Detentions in Recent Days
On May 13, Hubei rights activist Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) was kidnapped by five unidentified people from a guesthouse in the southwest outskirts of Beijing. He has since been out of contact. Yin was previously imprisoned for three years and six months for group demonstration in Hubei in support of the 709 lawyers. He was released last December.
On May 14, in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, dissident Wang Mo (王默) was detained. Friends believe that it had to do in part with the coming June 4th anniversary, as well as Wang Mo’s involvement in raising funds for Guangxi lawyer Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿) who was detained in late April.
Wang Mo was just released from prison on April 2 after serving four and half years for supporting the Occupy Central in Hong Kong. His November 2015 court statement, “I Committed No Crime Trying to Subvert the Communist Regime,” was widely praised by the dissident community for its eloquence, honesty, and straightforwardness.
Wang Mo told friends that he had yet to adjust and suffered from insomnia and anxiety since his release.
On May 15 in Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, dissident and former prosecutor Shen Liangqing (沈良庆) was walking his dog when two men jumped out of a dark corner and kidnapped him. He cried for help thinking he was being attacked by robbers. Then a middle aged man emerged claiming he was a police officer and flashed his ID. Shen was then black-hooded, taken into a car, and driven to Baohe Public Security Bureau.
For days the news of his disappearance circled on Twitter. A local friend who suspected that Shen had been taken into custody was summoned by police. A notice of detention addressed to Shen’s sister appeared a few days ago but it bears no name of the detainee and was deemed by lawyers as an invalid document.
His dog was taken along with him to the police station. He doesn’t know the whereabouts of his dog as the police refused to send it to a friend of his per his request.
On May 28, lawyer Liu Hao and Shen’s sister met with Shen Liangqing in the detention center and learned the details of Shen’s kidnapping as well as the subject of interrogations: the 30th anniversary of June 4th massacre and interviews he has given to overseas media. For 24 hours, they wouldn’t let the recalcitrant dissident sleep, eat, drink water, or use the toilet.
In 2015, he was detained for nine days for retweeting a social media post about the death toll of the warehouse explosions in Tianjin. Last year he was briefly detained again for criticizing Xi Jinping’s amendment of the Constitution to remove term limits.
At midnight of May 28, Beijing activist Zhang Baocheng (张宝成) was detained and his home raided. Police claimed that Zhang possessed guns. In 2013 Zhang was sentenced to two years in prison for taking part in the New Citizens Movement demonstrations in Beijing’s crowded commercial districts.
Also on May 28, six artists from Beijing Songzhuang art colony disappeared in Nanjing. They were on tour showing an art exhibit called “Conscience Movement in China.” Yesterday afternoon, Nanjing police arrived in Beijing and raided the home of lead artist Zhui Hun (追魂).
On May 27, a young artist named Zhang Yue (张玥) acknowledged the June 4th Massacre during the 13th AAC Art China award ceremony held in the Forbidden City. He said that he had to make concessions to censorship in his work and he was “embarrassed” to accept an award standing so close to Tiananmen Square on the 30th anniversary of June 4, 1989. Now his name as well as his speech have been scrubbed off China’s intranet.
Labor crackdown continued in China, largely unnoticed. Following the disappearance of three NGO workers earlier this month, a social worker named Tong Feifei (童菲菲) disappeared on May 22. According to @feministChina, she works at Guangdong Mumian Social Work Association, a labor NGO focusing on migrant worker rights advocacy. Tong Feifei is a graduate of sociology at Peking University. According to China Labor Bulletin, she conducts training for social workers. She also opened community classrooms in Guangzhou to serve migrant workers.
Follow us on Twitter @ChinaChange_org.
‘If I disappear’: Chinese students make farewell messages amid crackdowns over labor activism, Washington Post, May 25, 2019.
Citizen’s Statement Regarding the Arrest of Ten Advocates for Demanding Disclosure of Officials’ Assets
Citizen (公民), formerly known as Gong Meng or Open Constitution Initiative, and founded by some of China’s preeminent rights lawyers, is a NGO based in Beijing that provides legal assistance to the disempowered and promotes the New Cititzens’ Movement. Read the original here.
From what we know and have learned, we believe that Yuan Dong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing and the seven others who demanded public disclosure of officials’ personal wealth are innocent. In recent days, however, the Chinese authorities have announced the formal arrest of the ten one after another. With astonishment, we state:
1. The Personal Expressions of the Ten Citizens Do Not Constitute a Criminal Offense
On March 31, 2013, Yuan Dong, Zhang Baocheng, Ma Xinli, Hou Xin and two others unfurled banners in downtown Xidan plaza, Beijing, calling for officials to publicly disclose their personal assets. Ten or so minutes later, they were taken away by police, and later, four of them were criminally detained on charges of “illegal assembly.” According to Article Two of the Law of the People of the People’s Republic of China on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations, “assembly” refers to “an activity in which people meet at a public place in the open air to express views or aspirations.” Assembly differs from average expressions in that assembly must be a collective expression through a gathering of a certain number of people. For example, Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance stipulates that collective expression of views by more than 50 people require a notice of intention. On that day, only four people were there holding the banners while Yuan Dong gave a speech. The others on the scene were onlookers, not participants of an organized event. The five were simply expressing their personal views by exercising their right to free expression and right to “criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary” conferred by Article 35 and Article 41, respectively, of the Constitution. Their action does not constitute an assembly in legal term, and there were no such things to speak of as “disobeying an order of dismissal” and “seriously undermining the social order,” elements of the offense of illegal assembly as defined by Article 296 of the Criminal Law.
Of the ten arrested for advocating asset disclosure by officials, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing, Sun Hanhui, Wang Yonghong, Li Wei, Qi Yueying didn’t appear on the Xidan scene on March 31, nor were any of them the person-in-charge of that event or directly responsible for it. Some of them had similarly expressed their personal views in other locations in Beijing, but again, none had “disobeyed an order of dismissal” or “seriously undermined the social order,” elements constituting a criminal offence, nor had they been stopped or penalized by the Public Security officers. Their actions cannot possibly constitute illegal assembly or the offence of “provocation and disruption.”
2. The Ten Advocates’ Call for Asset Disclosure by Officials Also Reflects the Universal Norm and the Will of the People
Fighting corruption is every government’s responsibility. Mr. Xi Jinping has also vowed to “shut power in the cage of regulation.” Although Chinese government has been talking about fighting corruption every year, and has indeed punished many corrupt officials, corruption is becoming more rampant than ever. Everyone recognizes that corruption is a malignant cancer of contemporary China. The root of the problem is the absence of a system capable of checking it. Public disclosure of officials’ personal assets is an effective anti-corruption mechanism, and 137 countries and areas around the world have established or implemented asset disclosure policies.
Out of their sense of responsibility as citizens, the ten advocates stood up to call for asset disclosure by officials. In March they held a discussion to draft a proposal for related laws, hoping to promote the establishment of a mechanism in an incremental way. Unfortunately, instead of adopting their suggestions, the government put them in jail. On the one hand, this is persecution of the healthy elements that work to build a civil society, and on the other it discredits the anti-corruption promises made by China’s top leaders.
3. We Therefore Make the Following Appeals:
We first appeal to the Chinese authorities: Please mend this mistake by respecting the rule of law in this case, recognize the innocence of the ten men and return their freedom through proper legal procedures, and provide necessary compensation to them. Mr. Xi Jinping once pledged to “carry out judiciary justice in each and every individual case,” and we hold him to his word. We will watch every detail in the development of this case concerning the ten men arrested for advocating asset disclosure by officials to see if that pledge was made in good faith. We will then decide whether we can pay any respect at all to the relevant authorities. We thereby urge the relevant authorities: The trial of the ten citizens must be independent, public, fair, and meeting all the requirements of judiciary justice.
We also appeal to the public: Please pay close attention to the ten citizens’ case. Rights exist for all or for none. Violating one citizen’s rights violates every citizen’s rights; those whose rights are trampled are not far away from us, and their fate is closely related to our own fate.
Finally, we must appeal to both Chinese and foreign media: Please fulfill your obligation as reporters, zoom in on the case of the ten citizens, ask questions about every detail and every procedure, and report the truth without trepidation.
We solemnly promise: We stand together with Yuan Dong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing and rest of the ten citizens to continue to push for asset disclosure by officials. At the same time, we will hold ourselves to our aspiration of being a real citizen, and we will begin to change our country and society by changing ourselves for the better. We will not give up no matter what difficulties await.
Citizen Xu Zhiyong (许志永)
Citizen Xiao Shu (笑蜀)
Citizen Wang Gongquan (王功权)
Citizen Teng Biao (滕彪)
Citizen Liu Weiguo (刘卫国)
Citizen Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵)
Citizen Liang Xiaojun (梁小军)
Citizen Li Fangping (李方平)
Citizen Xiao Guozhen (肖国珍)
May 25, 2013
Following earlier detentions in Guangdong and Beijing, on April 27, another ten activists in Xinyu, Jiangxi (江西新余) were taken into police custody for demanding that government officials disclose their assets. Since then, seven of them have been released but Liu Ping (刘萍), Wei Zhongping (魏忠平) and Li Sihua (李思华) are still been held.
According to Beijing-based rights lawyer Li Pingfang, those who were released gave accounts of being slapped in the face, wearing shackles, and being locked in iron cages. They said that the police interrogation focused on their participation in advocating asset disclosure by officials.
For days, Liu Ping’s daughter, a college student, has been visiting the Public Security authorities for the detention notice that, by law, the family is supposed to receive but has never been provided.
From a Weibo post on May 7th by Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠), Liu Ping’s lawyer who teaches law at East China University of Political Science and Law, we learned that Liu Ping has been criminally detained for allegedly “subverting state power.” Mr. Zhang visited the detention center in Xinyu on Tuesday morning, submitted Power of Attorney letter and a request for meeting his client, but his request was declined without an explanation.
He told the local public security authorities that “Liu Ping is merely an ordinary laid-off worker. If she were charged with subversion just because she stated some plain truths out of a sense of justice, it would cause a public outcry, not to mention that it will cast a shadow on the new administration for which people have some expectations.”
In 2011, Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping and Li Sihua campaigned in the election of people’s representatives in Xinyu as independent candidates. They were met with all manners of harassment and suppression, including forced disappearance, beatings and other forms of torture, passport confiscation, home searches, and seizure of personal objects.
The recent detentions in Xinyu are part of a wave of arrests across China over recent months. They are aimed at stamping out more visible citizen activism that has been on the rise. On March 31, four Beijing residents unfurled banners demanding that officials publish their assets as the Party has been promising for 30 years. They were taken away by police on the spot and subsequent detained for “illegal assembly.” A video posted on You Tube shows the protest scene in Xidan, a downtown commercial district only a couple of miles from the Tian’anmen Square , and the man who is giving a speech about the need to push for asset disclosure is Yuan Dong (袁冬), a stock brokerage manager and a regular participant in citizen dinner gatherings.
From April 15 to 17, four more Beijing residents, who held the similar demonstrations in other locations in Beijing, were detained on the same charges of “illegal assembly”. Around the same time, it was confirmed that another two were detained for the same reason. That brings the total number of detentions to ten for anti-corruption activism (one of them on bail due to poor health).
The Beijing Ten are: Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), Zhao Changqing (赵常青), Sun Hanhui (孙含会), Wang Yonghong (王永红), Ma Xinli (马新立), Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), Yuan Dong (袁冬), Hou Xin (侯欣), Li Wei (李蔚), Qi Yueying (齐月英). Brief bios of eight of them can be found here (link in Chinese).
On April 26, a group of lawyers representing some of the detainees issued a statement entitled “No Crime Was Committed to Peacefully Call for Public Disclosure of Officials’ Assets” to appeal for withdrawing the case against the ten citizens.
A decision on whether the first four, detained on March 31, will be formally arrested is due on Wednesday, May 8. If tried, they could face up to five years in prison.
Also in April in Guangdong, several netizens were given 10-20 days of detention for holding signs, or unfurling banners, in public, that promote democracy and human rights, or condemn the dictatorship of the communist party.
One of the activists, Liu Yuandong (刘远东), was formally arrested on April 3, as his wife was notified, but an activist in Guangdong told SRIC that the family has yet to receive the notice of arrest despite repeated requests for it. It is unknown then with what Liu Yuandong has been charged, but relatives and friends said the authorities had been investigating his finance and tax records, likely to trumpet money-related charges against the businessman-turned-dissident.
Readers might wonder why the Chinese government is targeting citizens engaged in anti-corruption activism. Hasn’t Xi Jinping himself been vowing to crackdown on rampant graft inside the party? Dissident intellectuals pointed out that the regime is not afraid of what you say, no matter how strong; however, it is fearful of any form of organization and collective activities, and it has been cracking down harshly on these street demonstrations and also regular dinner gatherings of like-minded citizens known as “same-city dining and getting drunk” (tong cheng fan zui, 同城饭醉).
In Beijing, Shanghai, Zhengzhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, there have been reports of security police preventing such parties from occurring by temporarily detaining participants in the police stations, keeping them from leaving home, or making threats. In some cases, security police sat next to the parties watching them.
A recent study of censorship in China, conducted by a team of Harvard scholars, reached similar conclusion: “Censorship is oriented toward attempting to forestall collective activities that are occurring now or may occur in the future—and, as such, seems to clearly expose the government’s intent,” the article says.
By Xu Zhiyong, Xiao Shu, Teng Biao, et al.
April 18, 2013
As of noon today (April 18, Beijing Time), at least seven citizens in Beijing have been criminally detained for demanding asset disclosure by government officials. Around noon today, the family of Mr. Zhao Changqing (赵常青) received a notice that he had been criminally detained. Around eight o’clock last night, lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜) was taken away for a criminal summons on allegations of “illegal gathering.” Also last night, Mr. Sun Hanhui (孙含会) was criminally detained. And before him, on the evening of April 15, Mr. Wang Yonghong (王永红) was criminally detained, both on allegations of “illegal gathering.”
Earlier on March 31, four citizens—Yuan Dong (袁冬), Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), Hou Xin (侯欣) and Ma Xinli (马新立) –were criminally detained after displaying a banner in Xidan (西单, downtown Beijing about two miles west of the Tian’anmen Square) calling for officials to disclose their assets.
On December 9, 2012, Sun Hanhui, Ding Jiaxi and dozens of other citizens initiated the campaign to call for China’s 205 top officials to disclose their assets, and the campaign has since collected over 7,000 signatures that, along with a written proposal, were submitted to the National People’s Congress during the Two Sessions in March. Carried out by the Public Transportation Security Bureau of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, this wave of detentions appears to be targeting the four citizens who demonstrated in Xidan.
The public is indignant about the gross and epidemic corruption in China. The central government has vowed repeatedly to rein it in, but has not taken effective measures to do so. It is completely legitimate for citizens to call for disclosure of officials’ assets, and citizens have the freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Constitution, to voice their demands by displaying banners. The government has promised asset disclosure for over 30 years. While they have not made good on their words, they are now trying to charge citizens who push for it. How is it a crime for citizens to fight corruption?
In most of the democratic countries with rule of law, it has long been a norm for government officials to declare their assets. But in China, citizens, like Yuan Dong, Ding Jiaxi, Sun Hanhui, Wang Yonghong, Zhao Changqing, are being detained for demanding it. Is this what the so-called “China Dream” is all about?
State power cannot deprive citizens of their right of free expression granted by Article 35 of the Constitution. We resolutely demand the immediate release of Yuan Dong, Ma Xinli, Zhang Baocheng, Wang Yonghong, Li Wei, Sun Hanhui, Ding Jiaxi, and Zhao Changqing, the seven citizens (Hou Xin is out on bail due to a heart condition) who have participated in calling for Chinese government officials to disclose their assets.
Please join us to sign the appeal by sending your name, profession and city of residence to the asset disclosure campaign mailbox email@example.com.
Xu Zhiyong 许志永, Doctor of Law, Beijing
Xiao Shu 笑蜀, journalist, Guangzhou
Wang Gongquan 王功权, entrepreneur, Beijing
Teng Biao 滕彪, Doctor of Law, Beijing
Liu Weiguo 刘卫国, lawyer, Jinan
Fu Yonggang 付永刚, lawyer, Jinan
Zhao Yonglin 赵永林, lawyer, Tai’an
Zhou Xingyuan 周兴远 , lawyer, Shanxi
Guo Lianhui 郭莲辉, lawyer, Jiangxi
Liang Xiaojun 梁小军, lawyer, Beijing
Li Xiongbing 黎雄兵, lawyer, Beijing
Ai Xiaoming 艾晓明, scholar, Guangzhou
Hu Jia 胡佳, citizen, Beijing
The Chinese original is being circulated widely on Weibo and Twitter. Here is the link to the version Yaxue published via google docs.