Chinese Police Jail Activist For Two Weeks Over Smog Protest Retweet

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Originally publish by Radio Free Asia on March 12, 2015

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained a man after he retweeted calls for an anti-smog protest last weekend, his lawyer told RFA on Thursday.

Guangzhou-based rights activist Guo Chunping was handed a 14-day administrative sentence for suspicion of “planning to hold an illegal gathering” last week after he retweeted a message calling for a “face-mask gathering” on March 8.

The March 4 tweet read: “Give us back our blue skies: face-mask gathering on International Women’s Day,” Gu’s lawyer Ge Wenxiu told RFA.

“After he retweeted it, the authorities punished him because they believed he had plotted to carry out an illegal gathering,” Ge said.

“Guo was taken away by police on March 6, and placed under formal administrative detention on March 7,” he said.

Chinese police have the power to jail people they regard as troublemakers for up to 15 days under administrative detention, without the need for a trial.

Official harassment veteran

Guo, an outspoken rights activist, is no stranger to official harassment.

In 2012, he was summoned for questioning by state security police after he wrote a couple of microblog posts containing links to articles supportive of the December 2011 rebellion in Guangdong’s Wukan village, and of blind Shandong activist Chen Guangcheng, now based in the United States after being held under house arrest with his entire family.

Guo, who was also among a group of dinner guests turned away by police after they tried to visit outspoken activist Li Biyun at her home in Guangdong’s Shunde city last month, is scheduled for release on March 21, Ge said.

“They also searched his home and confiscated one computer and two cell phones,” Ge said after visiting Guo in the detention center.

“He said that some people have to pay a price to promote a more civilized society, and he can accept it if the authorities think that what he’s doing is illegal and want to detain and punish him for it,” he said. “He said he accepts the outcome with peace of mind.”

Ge said detention center staff appeared to be treating Guo well.

Xi’an detains two activists

Guo’s detention comes after authorities in the northern Chinese city of Xi’an detained two activists who tried to promote the same street protest over the toxic smog that routinely blankets the country.

Zhang Hui and Feng Honglian, known online as “Wu Mian,” are being held in a police-run detention center, suggesting the authorities plan to bring criminal charges against them, fellow activists said.

As Zhang and Feng were detained, government censors deleted a groundbreaking online documentary made by a former journalist with state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), probing the cause of China’s “airpocalypse” pollution problem.

“Under the Dome,” by former anchor Chai Jing went viral on the country’s tightly controlled Internet, clocking tens of millions of views in the first two days of its release.

Meanwhile, the authorities are continuing to hold five women’s rights activists who had also planned activities in three cities on International Women’s Day.

Li Tingting, Wei Tingting, Wang Man, Zheng Churan and Wu Rongrong, the founder and executive director of the Hangzhou-based rights group Women Center, have remained behind bars after police detained at least 10 people across the country on March 6.

The activists had planned to hold activities to raise awareness of sexual harassment on public transportation on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 8, the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said.

Their campaign would have involved placing stickers on buses and other public transport vehicles in Guangzhou and Beijing, the group, which collates and translates reports from rights groups inside China, said in an e-mail onWednesday.

Black jails

The action was planned following reports that delegates to the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), might introduce an anti-sexual harassment bill, it said.

The five detained activists have fought for the rights of individuals living with HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis B, the disabled, women discriminated against in cases involving rural land entitlement,
employment, and higher education, and female victims of rape or sexual harassment, as well as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, CHRD said.

According to a recent report by Amnesty International,  Chinese police switched tactics following the abolition of the “re-education through labor” camp system in 2013, arbitrarily holding people in other locations instead.

Legal education centers, various forms of administrative detention, ‘black jails,’ and illegal house arrest were all used to silence perceived troublemakers, while many activists were held under criminal detention on vague public order charges, the report said.

The deprivation of adequate medical treatment to those in various forms of custody is also frequently cited by rights groups as common practice in Chinese detention centers and black jails.

Shanghai-based evictee and rights activist Ma Yalian this week began a hunger strike in protest at the authorities’ refusal to allow her to seek medical treatment, fellow activists said on Thursday.

“She told me that they weren’t allowing her to see a doctor,” Shanghai-based activist Han Zhongming told RFA. “They have also illegally detained her and mistreated her during her detention, by beating her.”

“She is now on hunger strike,” Han said.

Repeated calls to Ma’s cell phone rang unanswered on Thursday.

An employee who answered the phone at the Qingpu City Political Study Center, where Ma is being held, denied that she was being held there.

“We don’t have anyone here called Ma Yalian,” the employee said.

Between 2001 and 2004, Ma served a total of two-and-a-half years of “re-education through labor” in connection with her attempts to win redress for herself and other evictees.

In 2006, Ma won a Housing Rights Defender Award, along with six other Chinese citizens, from the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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