A Quiet Crackdown, Yet Likely the Harshest in Recent Years1 Comment
Five Confirmed Criminally Detained in China
(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, February 25, 2011) Only a few days after police began targeting human rights defenders across the country in response to anonymous calls for “Jasmine Revolution” protests, signs are emerging to indicate that the current crackdown may be one of the most severe actions taken by the government against Chinese activists in recent years. CHRD has now confirmed five reports of individuals being criminally detained on “endangering state security” charges, including “subversion of state power” and “inciting subversion of state power,” as well as one report of an individual being administratively detained.
CHRD has now confirmed the criminal detentions of Ran Yunfei (冉云飞) and Ding Mao (丁矛), of Sichuan Province; Hua Chunhui (华春晖), of Jiangsu Province; and Liang Haiyi (梁海怡), of Guangdong Province. Together with CHRD’s earlier report of Sichuan activist Chen Wei (陈卫), a total of five activists have been criminally detained in relation to the online call for protests. Additionally, one lawyer was brutally beaten and eight individuals have had their residences raided and property confiscated by police. More than one hundred have been subjected to police summons, interrogation, soft detention, involuntary disappearance, or some other forms of restrictions on their movements.
“The numbers point to a bad situation that is only getting worse,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director. “In the matter of a few days, we have seen more cases of prominent lawyers subjected to prolonged disappearances, more criminal charges that may carry lengthy prison sentences for activists, more home raids, and a heavier reliance on extralegal measures than we saw during the duration of similar recent actions, like those after the release of Charter 08 or prior to the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.”
The ongoing crackdown is not limited to rights activists and dissidents. Police are also casting a wide net in pursuit of netizens who they suspect to have posted or relayed messages online about the call for “Jasmine Revolution” protests. Yuan Feng (袁峰), a young migrant worker from Henan Province living in Shantou City, Guangdong Province, was given 10 days of administrative detention by police on February 22. Police accused Yuan of “using a false ID to surf the internet” and posting information about the “Jasmine Revolution” on QQ. Yuan is currently being held in the Shantou City Detention House.
Most worrying, however, is the fact that at least five individuals have been criminally detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” or “subversion of state power” in the past five days, charges that have been used to impose jail sentences of up to a decade or longer in recent years. With more reports (which CHRD are yet to independently verify) on Twitter and other online media of human rights defenders being taken into police custody, disappeared, or put under soft detention, it appears as though the number of activists targeted may be the largest of any such sweep in the past five years.
Below is some brief information regarding the five detained individuals whose cases have been confirmed by CHRD:
- Ran Yunfei (冉云飞), 46, a writer, blogger, and activist, was criminally detained for “subversion of state power” on February 24, according to a formal detention notice received by his wife. Ran, a member of the ethnic Tu minority who studied Chinese literature at Sichuan University, is an employee of the magazine Sichuan Literature and a resident of Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. He is a prolific writer of social and political commentary. He blogs at <http://www.bullogger.com/blogs/ranyunfei/> and his Twitter account, @ranyunfei, has more than 44,000 followers. Ran has been in police detention since the morning of February 20, when he was summoned to “tea.” Officers later searched his home and confiscated his computer.
- Hua Chunhui (华春晖), 47, is a Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province-based netizen, activist, and mid-level manager at an insurance company. He was seized by police on February 21 and criminally detained on suspicion of “endangering state security,”[i] according to a notice issued by police at the Tanduqiao station in Wuxi’s Nanchang District. Hua, using the Twitter account @wxhch64, has tweeted messages about the “Jasmine Revolution.” Hua and his fiancée Wang Yi (王译) have been active in civil society initiatives in recent years; for example, the couple organized a forum in Beijing in May 2010 to discuss the demonstrations outside of the Fuzhou City trial of three activists for posting information online. Wang Yi (whose given name is Cheng Jianping) was sent to one year of Re-education through Labor in November 2010 for a tweet she posted during violent anti-Japan demonstrations in October 2010.
- Liang Haiyi (梁海怡, penname “Miaoxiao [渺小]), originally from Guangdong Province, was taken in for questioning on February 19 by police in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, along with her ex-husband. Her ex-husband was later released, but Liang remained in police custody. According to Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), a lawyer retained by her family, Liang Haiyi was criminally detained on suspicion of “subversion of state power” on February 21. Police accused Liang Haiyi of “posting information from foreign websites regarding ‘Jasmine Revolution’ actions on domestic websites” such as QQ, the popular Chinese social networking site. She is being held at the Harbin City Number Two Detention Center.
- Ding Mao (丁矛), 45, was seized from his home on February 19 and then criminally detained on the same day by police in Mianyang City, Sichuan Province, on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.” As a philosophy student at Lanzhou University in the late 1980s, Ding became a student leader during the 1989 pro-democracy protests. He was twice imprisoned for his activism, first in 1989 and again in 1992 when he was arrested for organizing the Social Democratic Party. He spent a total of 10 years in jail. He is currently the general manager of an investment company in Mianyang.
- Chen Wei (陈卫), 42, a rights activist based in Suining City, Sichuan Province, has been criminally detained for “inciting subversion of state power,” according to a formal detention notice released by the Suining City Public Security Bureau on the evening of February 21. Chen had been missing since police called him for “tea” on the morning of February 20. Officers and security guards later searched his home, confiscating a computer, two hard drives and a USB drive. He is currently being held at the Suining City Detention Center. Chen was a 1989 Tiananmen student protester when he was studying at the Beijing Institute of Technology, majoring in mechanical engineering. He was imprisoned in Qincheng prison and released in January 1991. In May 1992, Chen was again arrested for commemorating June 4 and organizing a political party, and was sentenced to five years in prison. In the past several years, Chen has emerged as a leader in organizing human rights actions in Sichuan.
Many fear that criminal detention or worse may be the fate of those currently in police custody. Among those at risk are four high-profile rights defenders—lawyers Tang Jitian (唐吉田), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Teng Biao (滕彪), and activist Gu Chuan (古川)—who have been held incommunicado for between five and eight days. Concern for the four grows by the day as police refuse to divulge any information about their whereabouts or formally acknowledge their detentions. Past experiences have shown that the longer such individuals are held by police without formal acknowledgment, the greater the risks are that they may be subjected to torture to extract confessions.
Finally, as CHRD previously reported, Liu Shihui (刘士辉), a lawyer in Guangzhou, was brutally beaten and seriously injured on February 20 while he waited for a bus to People’s Park, one of the locations designated by the online posting for the “Jasmine Revolution” protest.
The Chinese government should immediately release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained in relation to the “Jasmine Revolution” protests.
The Chinese government should hold criminally accountable police officers who use extralegal measures, such as beatings and enforced disappearance, to intimidate and harass activists and dissidents. These actions violate Chinese law, the Chinese Constitution, and international human rights conventions.
CHRD continues to urge the international community, particularly the U.S. government, the E.U., and others with diplomatic presence in China, to inquire into these detentions and disappearances.
CHRD calls once again on the U.N. Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance, the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to take urgent action and send communiqués to the Chinese government regarding these cases.
“While the attention of the world is fixed upon the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the Chinese government may believe it has been presented a golden opportunity to strike hard at Chinese pro-democracy and human rights activists. The international community should not let this go on,” said Xia. “President Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, and E.U. leaders should send the Chinese government a strong and clear message: suppression of free expression and peaceful protests is unacceptable, whether people are gathering in the Middle East or in China.”
Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 6937 or +1 240 374 8937
Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English and Mandarin), +852 8191 1660
David Smalls, Researcher (English), +1 347 448 5285
For more information, please see:
“CHRD Condemns Preemptive Strike against Protests,” February 21, 2011, https://www.nchrd.org/2011/02/21/chrd-condemns-pre-emptive-strike-against-protests/
“Chinese Police Must End Enforced Disappearances of Human Rights Activists,” February 18, 2011, https://www.nchrd.org/2011/02/18/chinese-police-must-end-enforced-disappearances-of-human-rights-activists/
[i] “Endangering state security” is a term used to describe a range of crimes stipulated between Articles 102 and 113 of China’s Criminal Law. CHRD has so far been unable to confirm precisely the article under which Hua is being detained.