[CHRB] Police Stamp Out Protests in Wukan Village; New Developments in “709 Crackdown” Cases (9/13-20, 2016)Comments Off on [CHRB] Police Stamp Out Protests in Wukan Village; New Developments in “709 Crackdown” Cases (9/13-20, 2016)
China Human Rights Briefing
September 13-20, 2016
Freedom of Assembly & Expression
Protests in Wukan Village Violently Put Down, Elected Village Leader Sent to Prison
From the early morning of September 13, Guangdong police violently put down months-long demonstrations in Wukan Village, injuring many villagers and detaining at least a dozen. Police also briefly detained five Hong Kong journalists and offered cash rewards to anyone who could “turn in” foreign reporters. The villagers had been protesting to demand the release of a popular village leader, Lin Zulian (林祖恋), who was detained on June 18 and then sentenced to 37 months in prison for “accepting bribes” and other crimes on September 8.
Lin, who was elected by villagers in 2012, had helped organize efforts to lodge grievances over official corruption and land grabs, which led residents to take to the streets in late 2011 and again in 2014. Lin, 72, was put on trial at the Changcheng District People’s Court in Foshan City under tight security; police blocked roads to the village and cut off access to the area near the courthouse. Formally arrested on July 21, Lin was shown on state television “confessing” to crimes related to financial kickbacks. His family has suggested that Lin may have admitted guilt and had cooperated with authorities with the hope of getting a suspended sentence.
Hundreds of armed policemen entered the village on September 13 and broke up the demonstrations, with some firing rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd, injuring many villagers. Officials have blocked communication channels from and into the village, and retaliated against those who have shared information about the police activity. Foreign media reported that police manhandled and detained five journalists from Hong Kong before expelling them from Wukan on September 15.
Police took an undetermined number of villagers and supporters elsewhere into custody (Wukan authorities have stated that 13 villagers were detained). Among those reportedly detained, Huang Meijuan (黄美娟), a woman who lives in Shenzhen, received a 10-day administrative detention on September 15, two days after authorities summoned her for allegedly sharing online a Voice of America report on the situation in the village. Police detained activist Zhen Jianghua (甄江华) twice in a span of several days in connection to Wukan. Police first seized Zhen in the village on September 3 after he had spoken with protesters. He was forcibly returned to his home in Zhuhai City on September 7, but the next day more than 10 officers seized Zhen after he had sent out a statement online about his time in custody. Zhen alleged that police officers tampered with his computer and cell phone in an apparent attempt to fabricate evidence and track his communications. Zhuhai police reportedly informed his wife that he was being held on suspicion of “illegally inciting an assembly, procession, or demonstration.” Police subsequently let Zhen go, warning him to stay away from Wukan.
Wukan Village, located in Lufeng City, first attracted domestic and international attention when residents railed against land expropriation and government corruption in 2011. Under intense media glare, local officials allowed residents to choose new leaders in a secret ballot election in March 2012. However, the experiment in grassroots democracy in Wukan has since disintegrated. There were reported illegalities in village committee elections held in 2014, when police detained several candidates who had helped organize the 2011 protests. Eventually, Wukan officials pressured some leaders elected in 2011, including Lin, to step down from their posts, and even forced several to leave the village.
Trial of “709 Crackdown” Detainee Yin Xu’an Held Behind Doors
A Hubei court put activist Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) on trial on September 13 in a hearing that ended without a verdict. The Daye City People’s Court tried Yin for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a charge tied to his demonstration of support for detained activist Wu Gan (aka “The Butcher”) and also for his taking part in other protests around “politically sensitive” topics. Authorities did not send out advance public notice of the trial and blocked Yin’s family members from attending, and the courthouse was surrounded by a heavy police presence on the day of the hearing. Yin is the fifth detainee from the “709 Crackdown” known to have stood trial, following four others who were convicted of “subversion of state power” in early August.
Police took Yin Xu’an into custody in July 2015, three days after he and other activists had called for the release of activist Wu Gan (吴淦), who was detained in May 2015, by posting photos online of them wearing t-shirts with Wu’s image in front of the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan. Yin was held incommunicado until May 2016, when he was granted a meeting with his lawyer, Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), at Daye City Detention Center, during which Yin disclosed that he was subjected to torture. His trial had originally been scheduled for August 18, but the court postponed it for unclear reasons.
Tianjin Police Claim Detained Activist Xing Qingxian “Fired” His Lawyer
Tianjin police recently told the lawyer of detained activist Xing Qingxian (幸清贤) that Xing had “fired” him and “hired” another attorney, in another apparent case of forced “lawyer firings” that have characterized the trend of police stripping detainees’ right to legal counsel of their own choosing. As reported on September 14, an officer from Tianjin No. 2 Detention Center informed the lawyer, Liu Rongsheng (刘荣生), of Xing’s supposed “decision” but, just as with other “709 Crackdown” detainees, no written documentation was provided, and no family members were allowed to communicate with Xing to confirm this. Weeks before, on August 23, a detention center official reportedly told another lawyer, Gao Chengcai (高承才), that “There is no Xing Qingxian here,” denying knowledge of the activist’s whereabouts.
The fact that police have blocked any lawyer or family member to visit Xing raises concerns that he may have been tortured or otherwise coerced into taking on a police-appointed lawyer. Xing has been held incommunicado since October 2015, when he was seized in Myanmar along with activist Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), the son of lawyers Wang Yu (王宇) and Bao Longjun (包龙军). Xing Qingxian was formally arrested in May 2016 on suspicion of “organizing others to cross national borders.”
Rights Lawyer Ren Quanniu Disappeared Into Police Custody After “Release on Bail”
Rights lawyer Ren Quanniu (任全牛) has not returned home since being “released on bail awaiting further investigation” on August 5, when police escorted him to his residence for just a half hour to allow him to pack. Police have been holding Ren in an unknown location in Henan Province, from where he could occasionally call his wife from a police officer’s phone. Since early September, however, all communication has been cut off. Ren’s wife said he told her during the calls that police forced him to undertake daily “political education” and accept “review” by police.
Police in Zhengzhou put Ren under criminal detention on July 8 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he called for an investigation into the rumored sexual assault of detained legal assistant Zhao Wei (赵威) at Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center. Zhao herself has not been seen or contacted by supporters since she was said to be “released” from detention on July 7, though there have been occasional weibo postings praising authorities which are attributed to her. The whereabouts of several other supposedly “released” “709 Crackdown” detainees also remain unknown, including lawyers Bao Longjun (包龙军), Gou Hongguo (沟洪国), Wang Yu (王宇), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), and Zhang Kai (张凯). Chinese authorities have made rampant use of enforced disappearance in other circumstances, most recently around the G20 Summit, held in Hangzhou in early September.