[CHRB] China: Stop Detaining Activists & Silencing Political Expression Around 19th CCP Congress (9/28-10/17/2017)

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[CHRB] China: Stop Detaining Activists & Silencing Political Expression Around 19th CCP Congress (9/28-10/17/2017)

China Human Rights Briefing

September 28 – October 17, 2017


Arbitrary Detention

Freedom of Expression

Detentions Ahead of 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress

In the run-up to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 19th Congress, which opens on October 18, police across China have detained activists and tightened control over political expression online. As of October 16, CHRD has documented 14 criminal detentions and two cases of enforced disappearance. Many others have reportedly been put under administrative detention or soft detention at home, forced to “travel” with police escort, visited by police, or warned not to post sensitive messages in social media.

Most of the 14 under criminal detention face the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” which has been widely applied by police as a pretext for incarcerating government critics, including posting comments or sharing information online that authorities deem threatening to “political stability.” Police have increasingly used the charge against civil society activism since the Supreme People’s Court issued a relevant interpretation in 2013 which stipulated that the Internet is a “public space” that can be “disrupted” by speech.

Below are the 14 confirmed cases of criminal detention:

  • Activist Li Xuehui (李学惠) was criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” He was suspected of making  a video mocking Xi Jinping, with Wang Xiuying (王秀英), a petitioner (pictured). Wang, 80, is the only person shown in the video, which appeared on YouTube on September 18. Two days after the video was posted, Wang, her daughter, Wang Fengxian (王凤仙), and Li were all detained. Li and Wang Fengxian, who is being criminally detained on unknown charges, are being held at Shijingshan District Detention Center. The whereabouts of the elderly Wang are unknown.


  • Henan petitioner Liu Minjie (刘敏杰) was detained while petitioning outside the Supreme People’s Court in Beijing on September 20. Between September 21 and 25, Liu was forcibly returned to Dingzhou City, criminally detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” formally arrested, and indicted—an unusually quick pace for the handling of a case. On September 29, his daughter received a phone call from the Dingzhou City Detention Center, where Liu is being held, and an officer said that he could be put on trial within 10 days and receive a five-year prison sentence. Liu was granted a meeting with his lawyer on October 9, and his trial reportedly may take place on October 16. Before being detained, Liu had petitioned to seek justice over the execution of his son.
  • Two singer-songwriters have been detained since late September. The two had released songs about human rights and democracy over the past few years. Police took Xu Lin (徐琳) (pictured top left) into custody on September 26 while he was visiting family in Hunan, and he was put under criminal detention in Guangzhou the same day. Liu Sifang (刘四仿) (bottom left) was seized in Jiangxi the following day. Both are reportedly being held on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Xu Lin is confirmed to be held at Nansha District Detention Center. Liu’s current location is unknown. Two of their recently released songs have focused on Liu Xiaobo and a so-called “Twitter Party,” a reference to the Twitter followers of Guo Wengui, the self-exiled business tycoon currently in the United States who has accused top Chinese officials of corruption. (See more information below.)
  • Jiangxi activist Yang Wei (杨微, also known as Yang Tingjian, 杨霆剑) was criminally detained on September 27 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” He is being held at Zixi County Detention Center in Fuzhou. Yang was previously detained in 2016 after attempting to run as an independent candidate in his local people’s congress election.



  • Guangdong activist Huang Yongxiang (黄永祥) was seized and criminally detained for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” on September 30. Huang’s detention is in apparent reprisal for his attendance at a seaside memorial for Liu Xiaobo in Jiangmen City in July. Most of the other participants in that memorial service had been detained earlier and then released. It is likely that police seized Huang, and continue to hold him, under a pretext of “maintaining security” prior to the Party Congress. He is being detained at Xinhui District Detention Center in Jiangmen.


  • In Chibi City, Hubei, three individuals, including two recently released activists who served prison time in connection to the New Citizens’ Movement crackdown, have been criminally detained when they went to the police to demand an end to harassment against them. Activist Chen Jianxiong (陈剑雄), his girlfriend, Liang Yimao (梁一鸣), and activist Yuan Fenchu (袁奉初, also known as Yuan Bing, 袁兵) were taken into custody on October 2 and all of them are held at the Chibi City Detention Center on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Family members of the detained were reportedly told by police that they will be detained for a month, or until the 19th Party Congress ends.


  • Tianjin petitioner Yao Lijuan (姚丽娟) has been criminally detained on October 4 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Police seized Yao after she uploaded to WeChat a video that she recorded when hired thugs harassed and monitored her at her home. She, who requires treatment for cancer, is being held at Xiqing District Detention Center in Tianjin.


  • A resident of Anhui, Wu Kemu (吴克木), who is active on social media, who made frequent comments critical of government officials’ abuse of power, was criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels” on October 12. Police searched his home, and he is currently held at Xuancheng City Detention Center. It is unclear exactly what comments he made in WeChat have led to his detention. Wu works for a truck company and is a devout Christian.


  • Human rights defender Zhen Jianghua (甄江华), was detained on September 1, just weeks before the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Congress, also as previously reported by CHRD. Zhen has been held incommunicado since September 1 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power.”



  • Human rights defender Li Xiaoling (李小玲), as previously reported by CHRD, was put under criminal detention on August 8 and formally arrested on September 12 on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” She has been held at Zhuhai No. 1 Detention Center in Guangdong.



2 disappeared into police custody:

  • Ding Lingjie (丁灵杰), an editor with the human rights NGO Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, has been missing since September 22. Ding was visiting family in Zibo City, Shandong when police seized her. Her family has not received any notice from police about her detention status.


  • Li Yu (李宇), an activist based in Chengdu, was taken away by a dozen policemen in the middle of the night on October 14 in Chengdu. His current whereabouts are unknown. The policemen came from Deyang, Sichuan, Li’s home county, where presumably he was taken. Police did not produce any warrants. Li’s cell phone has been turned off. For years, Li has hosted an online group that he launched, called “Jiaoma Club,” where activists gather to share information and comments on current events and organize advocacy activities.

4 Detained for Discussing Guo Wengui’s Allegations About CCP Corruption

Several Chinese netizens and activists, in violation of their free expression rights, have been detained for sharing information and opinions about the corruption allegations made by Chinese businessman Guo Wengui against CCP officials. The allegations against top Party leaders have galvanized world attention as the government has geared up for 19th CCP Congress. Below are the cases that CHRD has documented:

  • Buddhist monk Zhang Wenwu (张文武, who also uses the religious name Shedacheng, 释大成) was formally arrested on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on July 28. Police initially seized Zhang from his home and criminally detained him on June 21. Zhang had discussed and supported Guo Wengui’s corruption allegations related to top official Wang Qishan. Police reportedly seized materials related to Guo from Zhang’s home. Authorities have blocked his lawyers from visiting him at Shaoyang City Detention Center. Before being detained, Zhang had supported human rights defenders like the “709 Crackdown” lawyers and oft-persecuted, disbarred lawyer Gao Zhisheng.


  • Beijing police forcibly disappeared a WeChat group host Liu Pengfei (刘鹏飞), after seizing him from his home on September 6. Police raided his residence, taking away phones and computers. Liu ran the “Huanqiu Shibao” (环球实报) WeChat and Twitter groups, which disseminated short messages, images, and video clippings, and exchanged news and comments on Chinese and global affairs. Liu’s detention may be related to sharing and discussing Guo Wengui’s allegations on these platforms. Liu is being represented by human rights lawyers Mo Shaoping (莫少平) and Shang Baojun (尚宝军). Liu reportedly has been moved to Chongqing, but his family has not received any detention notice and do not know where he is being held.


  • Henan netizen Chen Shouli (陈守理) received a five-day administrative detention on September 19 for making an off-color joke two days prior in a WeChat group chat that was discussing Guo Wengui’s allegations. According to the punishment notice, such an action constituted “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Police were able to track down Chen by tracing his IP address.


  • Beijing activist Song Zaimin (宋再民) has been detained in a psychiatric hospital since being seized from his home on June 28. Song is reportedly being held because he expressed support for Guo Wengui. On June 24, Song shot photos and a video at Pangu Plaza, a commercial development of Guo’s, next to the Beijing Olympic Village. The exact hospital where Song is detained is unknown. Prior to being seized, Song had continued his activism associated with Xu Zhiyong and the New Citizens’ Movement, by organizing monthly dinner gatherings of activists to discuss current events.


CCP School Professor Arrested for Calling for Elections at Party Congress to Replace Xi Jinping

Sichuan police arrested a retired CCP School professor in June, after he released an open letter in April in which he called for democratic elections at the 19th Party Congress. Prof. Zi Su (子肃), 61, was formally arrested in Chengdu on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” on June 14. Zi had released his open letter on WeChat critical of Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 28, pointing out that Xi was unsuitable to continue to serve as head of the CCP and suggesting a replacement be elected. (See below for CHRD’s translation of Zi’s letter.)

Police had previously seized Zi on October 25, 2016, criminally detaining him for two days on suspicion of “inciting subversion.” Zi was released on “bail pending further investigation” on November 25. Chengdu national security officers took him away on April 29, 2017, the day after his open letter was released. Zi’s family was informed on May 11 that police had again put him under criminal detention. Zi is being held at Chengdu No. 2 Detention Center, and his lawyer has not been able to meet him. Zi Su’s family, including his sister (also a Party member), and defense lawyer sent a letter in June to the Sichuan Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CCP, decrying police abuse of power in detaining Zi in violation of his right to freedom of expression.

At least six other individuals across China are confirmed to have been detained for expressing support for Zi’s proposal online. All but one has been released:

  • Sichuan activist Huang Xiaomin (黄晓敏) has been formally arrested on an unknown date on a charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for supporting Zi’s proposal in WeChat groups. Huang went missing in May for three months. On September 5, authorities finally confirmed the location of his detention and granted Huang a meeting with his lawyer. He remains held at Chengdu Detention Center. Huang had previously worked at a Party School in Xinjiang before being fired for teaching about June Fourth. He received a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2009 for attending a protest and his involvement in rights advocacy after his release.
  • Two activists were criminally detained on May 5 and then released on bail on June 3: Yunnan activist Zhang Ai (张艾) was held on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for circulating Zi Su’s letter, and Hunan activist Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志) reportedly was held on unknown charges.
  • Others administratively detained and later released include: Huang Jianping (黄剑平) of Jiangxi, Shao Zhongguo (邵重国) of Shanxi, and Zhu Delong (朱德龙), a retired professor from Capital Normal University in Beijing, who “seconded” Zi’s proposal.

Zi Su, a Chengdu native, taught economics at the Yunnan Provincial Chinese Communist Party School. A CCP member for 30 years, Zi turned to social media and often criticized the CCP and advocated for democracy and rule of law in China. He retired in 2014 and moved back to Chengdu in 2015. Prof. Zi continued to speak up for human rights and, prior to being taken into custody in 2016, had expressed support to the four men detained in Chengdu for producing a wine label with images commemorating June Fourth.


An Open Letter from Zi Su (CHRD translation):

“Proposal for Democratic Direct Elections at the 19th National Congress and Nomination of Mr. Hu Deping as New General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party”

Proposer: Zi Su
Seconder: Zhu Delong

The Chinese Communist Party is at a turning point in history, and the question is: Will it follow the historical trend towards democratic constitutionalism, or instead go down dictatorship’s timeworn road to collapse?

Mr. Xi Jinping has been in office for five years since being elected general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party at the 18th Party Congress in 2012. In judging his overall record, I think that Mr. Xi Jinping has served with some distinction. His main achievement has been to confront the corruption that festered during the previous administration of Hu Jintao. He has punished several corrupt officials. However, Xi’s crucial mistake has been to imitate Mao Zedong by creating a personality cult around himself and focusing on concentrating his power. This has been manifested by Xi heading up more than a dozen groups and committees, which goes against the democratic constitutional orientation of reforms to the political system.

Xi also has launched an unbridled attack on human rights defenders and democracy activists, while increasingly suppressing free speech online. His anti-corruption drive has been conducted under a one-party dictatorship, with Xi making substantial use of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to investigate corruption cases of Party and government officials. However, the campaign has been executed selectively, and even without transparency about the standards of criteria used [to target officials]. Xi’s biggest mistake has been to institute the “Seven Taboos,” and comprehensively restoring the ideology of the Maoist era. Such a policy was fervently opposed by Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, and other past Party leaders who advocated policies of reform and opening.

In view of this, many people inside and outside the CCP believe that Xi Jinping is unsuitable to continue in the role of General Secretary of the Central Committee. I propose launching a direct election for the upcoming 19th National Congress of the CCP [in the fall of 2017]. I personally suggest that Mr. Hu Deping, the son of former General Secretary Hu Yaobang, assume the post of general secretary. Since Hu Deping’s political philosophy leans toward democratic constitutional reform, it provides the Party and the country an opportunity to reverse the course of Maoist-era restoration that is occurring at this historical juncture.

For the future of both the CCP and China, I think it is the responsibility and duty of every Party member and Chinese citizen to select a CCP and national leader who can conform to the historical trend toward democratic constitutionalism. I invite those inside and outside the Party who agree with my opinion to sign this proposal.

April 28, 2017

[Translated by CHRD]

(Chinese original)


Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 863 866 1012, reneexia[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Victor Clemens, Researcher (English), +1 209 643 0539, victorclemens[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens

Frances Eve, Researcher (English), +852 6695 4083, franceseve[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD


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