Suppression Ahead of 30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre

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Suppression Ahead of 30th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre

Updated July 9, 2019 (we will update this list as we confirm cases & case details)

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders—May 30, 2019) On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, Chinese authorities took into custody a number of activists and netizens in an apparent attempt to silence any expression or thwart any action aimed at commemorating the victims and mark the anniversary. Several artists on a “national conscience exhibit tour” have gone missing, feared to have been detained. Authorities stepped up online policing and summoned users for questioning on their comments about politically “sensitive” topics, like activist Zhou Weilin (周维林), who though released has had his phone and computer confiscated. Activist and former participant in the 1989 protests, Wang Debang (王德邦), was also summoned for questioning and interrogated about his plans for the anniversary. 

The government’s pre-emptive strikes against anyone trying to mark the 30thAnniversary had started in early May. So far, we have documented a number of cases involving individuals either detained or forced into disappearance, including forced travel, in connection to the anniversary. CHRD urges the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally release them.

This year’s pre-June 4thcrackdown continues a 30-year long campaign by the Chinese government to try to erase the memory and rewrite the history of the bloody military suppression of peaceful unarmed protesters and residents of Beijing and other cities on June 3-4, 1989.  The Chinese government has systematically curtailed citizens’ exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, information, press, peaceful assembly, and association in discussing or commemorating or obtaining information about the 1989 movement and Tiananmen Massacre. 

Against tremendous pressure and personal risk, many Chinese have spoken up and kept the Tiananmen memories alive. In April, Chengdu authorities convicted four activists of “picking quarrels” after holding them for three-years in pre-trial detention on “endangering state security” charges for their role in producing and sharing photos online of a wine label referring to June 4th 1989 to mark the 27th anniversary in 2016. In November 2018, a Zhuhai court sentenced activist Li Xiaoling (李小玲) to three years in prison, suspended for five years, after she shared a photo of her holding a sign in Tiananmen Square to mark the anniversary in 2017.  

Each year, around this time, the government has taken strict measures to silence its critics and prevent any public expression of mourning. These measures include taking activists on “forced travel,” putting them under house arrest, or surveillance, and censoring words on the Internet like “Tiananmen,” “June 4th,” or “massacre.”

The government has also targeted leaders and participants in the 1989 movement and subjected them to harsh persecution. One example is Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who died in 2017 in police custody while serving an 11-year sentence. Several are currently incarcerated for their post-1989 advocacy for human rights, rule of law, and democratic reforms. We have documented 19 cases involving 1989 leaders and participants currently in detention or imprisoned in China for their post-Tiananmen activism. 

Since early May, authorities have detained, disappeared or forced to travel several Chinese apparently in connection to the approaching 30thanniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. Additionally, several others have been taken in for questioning or put under de facto illegal house arrest. Below is a list of the cases we have tracked: 25 individuals who have been detained/disappeared/forced to travel; and 12 individuals known to have been questioned or put under house arrest, for a total of 37 individuals known to be affected, though the true number is likely higher.

25 individuals who have been detained/disappeared/forced to travel (in chronological order):

  • On May 7, Changsha police criminally detained netizen Ou Daoqi (欧道齐) on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Mr. Ou wrote in a WeChat group a one-sentence criticism of Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 29. Police had threatened his family not to publicise his detention, so Ou’s situation was unknown until late May. Ou’s current location is unknown. 
  • On May 15, Anhui police seized dissident writer Shen Liangqing (沈良庆) while he was walking his dog at night and criminally detained him the next day on “picking quarrels” charges, but did not inform his family until May 22. He is being held at Hefei City Detention Center. On May 28, Shen received a visit from his lawyer, Liu Hao (刘浩). Shen told his lawyer that unknown men grabbed him while he was walking his dog and put a black hood over his head, making him believe he had been kidnapped, before police showed identification. At the detention center, police denied Shen food and water and use of a toilet for 24 hours, and subjected him to gruelling interrogations focused on June Fourth and if he had accepted any interviews with overseas media. On June 20, Heifei police formally arrested Shen on “picking quarrels” charges. Shen is a prolific tweeter through his account @sliangq and frequently comments on human rights issues. Shen has been involved in democracy activism since 1984 and served a 1.5-year prison sentence in 1992 on “inciting subversion” charges. 
  • On May 16, Sichuan police took independent filmmaker Deng Chuanbin (邓传彬), also known as Huang Huang (晃晃), from his home at night shortly after he had tweeted a photo of the wine bottle produced by the Chengdu activists (above) that alluded to June Fourth. Nanxi District, Yibin City police criminally detained Deng the next day on charges of “picking quarrels.” On May 20, police returned to his home to seize electronic items. He is being held at Nanxi District Detention Center. Police reportedly warned his family against hiring a lawyer. 
  • On May 20, Beijing police took the founder of the group “Tiananmen Mothers,” professor Ding Zilin (丁子林) on forced travel to her hometown of Wuxi City in Jiangsu. She won’t be returned home until after the anniversary. Police have put several elderly parents of victims killed in 1989 who belong to the group “Tiananmen Mothers” under control, according to media reports.
  • Ahead of May 21, Zhuzhou, Hunan police began to forcibly disappear through “forced travel” 3 activists to prevent them from taking part in any activities or speak out to commemorate the June 4th anniversary. The first activist to be taken away, Ou Biaofeng (欧彪峰), had been taken to Guizhou and Yunnan for at least half a month, accompanied by two national security officers. He has been forced to turn off his phone and will be held until after June 4. Police took Chen Siming (陈思明) away on forced travel on May 27, reportedly to Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in western Hunan. A third activist, Guo Min (郭闽), has also reportedly been forced to travel but his location is unknown.
  • On May 25, Beijing police took activist Li Hai (李海) away on “forced travel.” His current location is unknown.
  • On May 28, Beijing police seized activist Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), searched his home, and put him under criminal detention the same day on suspicion of “picking quarrels.” Police initially called his family on May 28 and said he had been taken away on suspicion of having a “gun”, an accusation, which according to his wife, was completely fabricated. She believes that police detained him because of a Twitter post he wrote alluding to the upcoming June Fourth anniversary. The family did not receive the detention notice until May 31, which confirmed the “picking quarrels” charge and that he is being held at Fengtai District Detention Center. On July 4, Beijing police formally arrested Zhang on charges of “picking quarrel” and added a charge of “promoting terrorism and extremism and inciting terrorist activities.” Zhang recently served a two-year prison sentence for his role in the New Citizens’ Movement in 2013, and police detained him during the crackdown surrounding the 27thanniversary of June Fourth in 2016.
  • On May 28, six artists from Beijing Songzhuang Art Village went missing while in Nanjing on a “national conscience exhibit tour,” according to the wife of one artist Zhui Hun (追魂). The other missing artists are: Yuan Guolei (原国镭), Jia Qiong (贾穹), Pang Yong (庞勇), Zhao Jinhe (赵金鹤), Cheng Yan’an (程延安). On May 29, police from Nanjing PSB Xuanwu Sub-branch searched the Beijing home of Zhui Hun, orally confirming to his wife that he had been criminally detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels” and confiscating his art, books and other material. Zhui Hun’s real name is Liu Jinxing (刘进兴). On June 27, lawyer Liang Xiaojun attempted to meet with Zhui Hun at Nanjing No. 3 Detention Center, but his request was refused.
  • On May 29, the son of Gao Yu (高瑜) told Voice of America his mother had been taken away that day on forced travel. Her location is unknown.
  • On May 30, officers from Wuhan Changqing Huayuan Police Station seized dissident Zhang Yi (张毅) from a hospital where he was visiting his mother. They gave him a 15-day administrative detention for “picking quarrels,” though it is unclear the exact reason for this punishment. Zhang’s family have still not received a written notice for his detention as of June 5. Zhang was a student leader at Wuhan University Law School in 1989 and received a two-year sentence for “disrupting traffic order” as a result. He was reportedly tortured in prison, resulting in deafness in one of his ears. and after his release has persisted in commemorating the anniversary. He had previously been detained in 2018 for commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre.
  • On May 30, Hubei Province Yichang City national security officers took dissident Liu Jiacai (刘家财) on forced travel until June 6.
  • On May 30, Beijing police took prominent activist Hu Jia (胡佳) to Hebei on “forced travel.” He told Voice of America he expected to be returned home on June 5.
  • On an unknown date in May, Guangzhou national security officer took lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) on forced travel. Tang had just recently been released from a five-year prison sentence in late April. His current location is known.
  • On June 1, three Guilin police officers seized young democracy activist Jiang Xiaosong (蒋晓松), who is a convenor of a Guangxi Guilin internet group. Reportedly, he and some other netizens had discussed going to Hong Kong to commemorate the June 4th anniversary at the annual vigil in the city’s Victoria Park. On the same day as Jiang was seized, Guilin and Liuzhou police summoned a group of netizens and banned them from travelling to Hong Kong for a week to prevent them from attending the vigil.
  • On June 3, Xingtai City police and national security officers in Hebei seized activist Liu Xing (刘星) and his fiancee Zhang Wenhe (张皖菏) from their home in Qiaodong district an hour after he posted a message on Twitter commemorating June 4th. They both received 15-day administrative detentions for “picking quarrels” and were held in Xingtai District Detention Center and their mobile phones confiscated.
  • On June 4, Guangzhou police detained activist Xie Wenfei (谢文飞) from his home and gave him a 10-day administrative detention punishment on unknown charges for announcing on June 3 on WeChat that he would fast over June 4th. After his release on July 13 from the unknown location were he served the administration detention, he was forced to travel and did not return home until July 17.

12 individuals put under illegal house arrest or summoned for questioning (in chronological order):

  • On May 16, Guilin City police questioned activist and former participant in the 1989 protests Wang Debang (王德邦). Police interrogated him about his plans for the anniversary, his family, and his economic situation.
  • On May 17, police began to put several elderly parents of victims killed in 1989 who belong to the group “Tiananmen Mothers” under control, according to media reports. Police questioned the the Tiananmen Mothers spokeswoman You Weijie (尤维洁) on May 17, and since then she has been under strict control. Another member of the group, Zhang Xianling (张先玲), has been under control since mid-May
  • On May 22, Hefei City police criminally summoned Zhou Weilin (周维林) on suspicion of “disrupting order of a public place.” Police released Zhou the same day but confiscated his phone and computer.
  • On May 26, police in Wenjiang District, Chengdu criminally summoned for questioning activist and former 1989 participant Chen Yunfei (陈云飞) on suspicion of “picking quarrels” in regards to a video feauturing Ding Zilin (丁子霖), the founder of the “Tiananmen Mothers” group. Police released Chen later that day, but confiscated his phone.
  • On an unknown date a few days before May 30, police put Zhuzhou activist He Jiawei (何家维) under de facto house arrest, and confiscated his phone, computer, and bank cards . He suffers from diabetes, recently had a stroke, and has difficulty moving, so was not able to be forcibly travelled.
  • On May 30 and 31, Hubei Yichang national security officers summoned dissident Shi Yulin (石玉林) for questioning and warned him not to post anything related to June 4th on social media. Shi posted a commemoration of the 30th anniversary on June 4 on WeChat, and moments later police called him to delete it. He refused at first, but lated deleted the post.
  • On May 30 Guangxi police put Nanning activist Huang Yuzhang (黄雨章) under de facto house arrest to prevent him from going out to commemorate the June 4th anniversary.
  • On May 31, Wuhu City police in Anhui put activist Zhu Xiaoping (朱小平) under de facto illegal house arrest (by stationing officers outside her home to) to prevent her from going out to commemorate the June 4th anniversary. The move comes the day after Zhu refused to answer the phone when national security officers rang her three times.
  • On May 31, Beijing national security officers came to the home of former Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar Chen Xiaoya (陈小雅), who recently authored a book titled “The History of the ’89 Movement,” to question her again about her activities. She has been under increased surveillance and control since January 2019.
  • On June 3, Hunan national security officers brought activist Yuan Xiaohua (袁小华) in for questioning after he wrote a message on WeChat that he would be fasting over June 4th. Officers confiscated his mobile phone and claimed he could collect it later.
  • On June 3 and 4, Fujian police summoned for questioning netizen Xiang Jinfeng (项锦峰) over comments he made on social media about June 4th. Since then, an online chat group that Xiang was a part of has been deleted.


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

Frances Eve, Deputy Director of Research (English), +1 661 240 9177 franceseve[at], Follow on Twitter: @FrancesEveCHRD

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