China arrests pro-democracy activists in year-end crackdown

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Originally published by Deutsche Welle in January 2, 2020

More than a dozen Chinese lawyers and activists are reportedly missing or were detained by authorities in the final days of 2019 as part of the Chinese government’s year-end crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.

Human rights groups said Thursday the latest crackdown was linked to a meeting in the eastern coast city of Xiamen in Fujian province, where participants discussed ways to transform China into a democratic country.

Read more: Why is Germany silent on China’s human rights abuses?

Human Rights Watch researcher Wang Yaqiu said the authorities chose the Christmas and New Year period to round up activists to minimize international media attention. “It is not a surprise that they chose this particular time to launch a manhunt of activists,” Wang said.

The Xiamen gathering involved a small group of people “peacefully discussing politics in a private space,” she added.

The space for civil liberties in China has severely shrunk since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, and rights activists claim that pro-democracy campaigners are routinely targeted in the communist country.

“This round of detentions and harassment is the continuation of the larger crackdown on civil society,” Wang said.

Yaqiu Wang 王亚秋@Yaqiu

Wang Yi just got sentenced to nine years for “inciting subversion.” This self-proclaimed “great, glorious and correct “ (伟光正) Communist Party again sleazily sentenced a prominent dissident during a major western holiday.

Massive crackdown

“Chinese civil society faces continuous crackdown at the end of 2019. More than 10 activists and lawyer were detained or summoned within days,” Phoebe Kong, DW’s correspondent in Hong Kong, wrote on Twitter.

Phoebe Kong 江穎怡@phoebe_kongwy

Thread – Chinese civil society faces continuous crackdown at the end of 2019. More than 10 activists and lawyer were detained or summoned within days. Most of them were taken away by police from Shandong & Zhejiang province, according to local activist group @xiaowaves.4307:54 PM – Dec 31, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy453 people are talking about this

Among those detained by Chinese authorities was Ding Jiaxi, a Beijing-based disbarred lawyer, who was previously jailed for protesting against government corruption, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) .

Read more: Top Chinese general jailed for life for graft

At least seven people, another disbarred lawyer Liu Shuqing, were released after being interrogated.

CHRD人权捍卫者@CHRDnet

*2019 in Review* Missing, detained, jailed in #China: 1,024 documented cases of prisoners of conscience, as of 11/30, thanks to 4yrs’ work by #China-based @weiquanwang: http://wqw2010.blogspot.com/2019/11/2019113050-1024.html … @CECCgov @amnesty @hrw @FrontLineHRD @omctorg @ISHRglobal @duihua

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109:33 PM – Dec 26, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy16 people are talking about this

Pro-democracy activist Xu Zhiyong and human rights lawyer Tang Jingling have gone missing or are currently unreachable, CHRD said, while activists Dai Zhenya and Zhang Zhongshun were detained for “subverting” or “inciting subversion” of state power, a charge often used by China’s ruling Communist Party to silence dissidents.

On December 30, a court in Chengdu sentenced Wang Yi, the leader of an underground Protestant church, to nine years in prison for “incitement to subvert state power.”

The latest crackdown showed that the government has “zero tolerance of even just private discussion on issues like democracy and human rights,” said Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International.

Read more: Hong Kong: China slams US bill backing protesters

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