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Chinese police target activists who supported Hong Kong protests

Chinese police. (Beijing Patrol/Flickr)
June 04, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained a rights activist who expressed online opposition to Beijing’s plans for a draconian national security law in Hong Kong.

Xiao Yuhui was taken from his home by police in Guangdong’s Huizhou city after he retweeted a social media post opposing the plan to directly impose a law banning sedition, subversion, foreign interference, and activities supporting independence on the city, to be enforced by China’s feared state security police.

Xiao’s friend and fellow activist Liao Jianhao told RFA that his family were informed that he is under criminal detention when they went to inquire after him at the police station.

“The answer they got down at the police station was that they couldn’t visit Xiao Yuhui,” Liao said. “[They were told] he would be transferred somewhere else [in China] within the next three days.”

“They were unable to say exactly where that would be,” he said. “They said that this was peculiar to criminal detention.”

Liao said Xiao was detained after he retweeted a post referring to an online letter-writing campaign by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper the Apple Daily, in opposition to the national security law.

The person who originally posted the link to the campaign in a WeChat group was also detained, Liao said, although he knew few details about her.

“This woman has now been released on bail pending trial,” Liao said. “The two of them retweeted the Hong Kong [letter-writing compaign] in WeChat and called for public accountability regarding the situation in Hong Kong.”

Xiao is a veteran rights campaigner and an expert in China’s now-defunct “one-child” family planning policy.

He was detained by police on alleged “credit card fraud” charges in 2016, and received a probationary sentence.

But he had kept a low profile since, and fellow activist Liang Songji said his detention showed how hard the ruling Chinese Communist Party is preparing to crack down on anyone who opposes Hong Kong’s national security law.

“They are trying to block anyone or any opinions supporting Hong Kong’s struggle …  [for democracy], so you can get invited to ‘drink tea’ [with the state security police], summoned to the police station, and even arrested for this,” Liang said.

Rights lawyer Wu Kuiming was also summoned to the police station to give a statement regarding the offending post, he said.

“Wu Kuiming is also a member of this [WeChat] group,” Liao said. “This means they are taking statements as evidence and are more likely … to frame Xiao Yuhui.”

Poet also detained

Meanwhile, police in the southwestern province of Yunnan have detained outspoken poet Wang Zang, who has also shown public support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Wang was taken away on May 30 by police from the Chuxiong Economic Development Zone police department in Yunnan’s Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture.

He was released after being held in custody for 12 hours and could face charges of subversion, according to Beijing artist Yan Zhengxue.

“[Wang’s wife] Wang Li said on WeChat that the local police came to charge him … that there were 20 cops upstairs and 20 cops downstairs,” Yan said. “She can’t reach the phone now [as she’s under police surveillance].”

Police seized Wang Zang’s passport, ID card, and the family’s cell phones, and the family is currently under effective house arrest at their home, Yan said.

Repeated calls to the Chuxiong Economic Development Zone police station rang unanswered during office hours on Monday.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said Wang’s detention came on the eve of the politically sensitive anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

“Wang Zang has been totally consistent in his concern for Hong Kong,” Hu said. “But I don’t think he has posted much that could support criminal charges by the authorities.”

Wang, who hails from Yunnan, was previously a resident of Beijing’s Songzhuang artists’ village, and has previously been targeted with repeated forced evictions for showing online support for the 2014 Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.