Families of Chinese activists face house arrest, harassment from ‘smiling tigers’

Christian Shepherd April 16, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – When a team of Chinese state security agents picked up Li Wenzu and then prevented her from leaving her own home last week, she was scared but not surprised.

She was detained on the seventh day of a protest march she organized in an attempt to get the authorities to explain what has happened to her husband, Wang Quanzhang, a lawyer who has been missing since August 2015 during a sweeping crackdown on rights activists.

Li was initially barricaded in her home by dozens of people, including plainclothes security officers and members of the local neighborhood committee, she said. Scuffles broke out between her supporters and the crowd, according to videos shared with Reuters.

While Li was permitted to leave and go to a friend’s home the following day, her experience of being sporadically placed under house arrest and pressured by the Chinese authorities to stay quiet has become commonplace for the families of Chinese rights activists, they say.

Such “soft” detention measures are currently being used in dozens of cases, according to the rights groups, including that of Liu Xia, the widow of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo. He died of liver cancer last July while in custody.

Many of these individuals have never been charged with any crime, but are treated as guilty by association and as a threat to national security due to the embarrassment they can cause for the Chinese state if they speak out, rights groups say.

Those affected complain of their homes being bugged, phones tapped and of security cameras being installed outside their front doors. But the main method of repression, they say, is being monitored in person by China’s state security agents.

China’s ministry of state security could not be reached for comment as it does not have publicly available telephone numbers. China’s public security ministry did not respond to a faxed request for comment.


Since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has overseen a sweeping crackdown on rights lawyers and activists, with hundreds detained and dozens jailed.

Li said the freedom she was given after her brief house arrest was in her experience “only temporary”, as state security officials have become a regular presence for her and her young son.

“In 2016, state security for a period rented a flat on the second floor of my building,” Li told Reuters in an interview at her friend’s home.

The agents are often outwardly friendly and tell Li they are there to protect her safety, she said, calling them “smiling tigers”.

When Li took her son to search for a pre-school in the neighborhood, agents went with them and warned the school against accepting her child due to the family being a “threat to national security”, she said.

“When I got angry with them, they told me that I needed to behave and wait quietly at home for my husband – then my child could go to school,” she said.

Her son has still not found a pre-school place, she said.


Placing high-profile dissidents under house arrest is nothing new in China; it was even used for former head of the ruling Communist Party Zhao Ziyang after he was sacked in 1989 for showing sympathy towards the pro-democracy Tiananmen movement.

But under Xi, increasingly brazen measures have been used to silence individuals who are not formally charged in an attempt to avoid international scrutiny, according to William Nee, Hong Kong-based China researcher at Amnesty International.

“They want a degree of plausible deniability,” he said. “If they were to criminally detain Li Wenzu, they would eventually have to justify it in law.”

Liu Xia has been under supervision at home almost constantly since her husband won the Nobel prize in 2010. She is still only allowed to speak to her friends in infrequent pre-arranged phone calls and visits, they say.

Another common target for house arrest are rights activists who are formally charged but then released after they give what rights groups allege are coerced “confessions”, either to Chinese state media or during trial.

While many avoid jail time, they remain under a form of detention that Jerome Cohen, an expert on Chinese law at New York University, has dubbed “non-release ‘release’”.

Such methods, Cohen wrote in a recent blog post, go beyond simple house arrest to include an array of “informal, unauthorized and suffocating” restrictions.

Wang Yu, a prominent rights lawyer who was arrested in 2015 during the same crackdown that saw Li’s husband detained, was still under effective house arrest in late 2017, despite her release from detention in late 2016, a friend told Reuters.

Restrictions on Wang have relaxed somewhat in recent months, but she is still closely monitored by authorities, the friend said.

“She told me not to come to her home, because there were people there with her all day keeping watch, just following her around, not subtly at all,” the friend said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Tony Munroe and Martin Howell

Source: Reuters “Families of Chinese activists face house arrest, harassment from ‘smiling tigers’”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China punishes a Chinese Australian for anti-communist views

Here’s something that will definitely not help with China’s image abroad: A Chinese-born Australian resident, John Hugh, was denied entry to China at the Shanghai airport for apparently ideological reasons, the New York Times reports (paywall).
•Hugh was born in China. He moved to Australia in 1990 and has been living there since as a permanent resident.
•He was flying to Shanghai with his mother to return the ashes of his recently deceased father to the land of his birth. His mother was allowed to stay, but Hugh was turned away by Chinese officials who reportedly gave him no reason — other than “You should know” — for why he was not allowed in.
•Hugh is a fierce critic of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and founded the Embrace Australian Values Alliance, an organization that promotes values ranging from standard Western-liberal democratic to stridently nationalistic in opposition of the CPC.
•The incident shows that “Chinese officials are paying close attention to Australia’s intensifying debate about China’s influence, and that despite increased scrutiny, they believe they can accept or reject members of the Chinese diaspora as they please,” the Times says.
•David Brophy, a scholar who wrote a critical review worth reading of a controversial book on Chinese influence in Australia that quoted Hugh extensively, told the Times, “It’s deplorable that John Hugh was prevented from entering China, particularly if this was punishment for his political activity in Australia.”

Meanwhile, dissidents and rights activists at home and abroad are facing a new wave of pressure:
•Yang Jianli, an exiled U.S.-based dissident, was repeatedly interrupted by a Chinese diplomat during his speech at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, the Guardian reports.
•Fu Zhenghua, as the new head of the Ministry of Justice, is likely to continue his self-described “heavy fist” approach to handling human rights lawyers in China, advocates told Reuters.
•The latest-and-greatest surveillance tech, which is being developed with investment from the Chinese government, of course, is voice recognition, Quartz reports.

Source: SubChina “China punishes a Chinese Australian for anti-communist views”

Note: This is SubChina’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Chan Kai Yee’s comment: It has to be made clear that refusal of a criminal’s entry is not much of a punishment. It is common in the world. Public anti-communist activities are not merely anti-communist views. Since Chinese Communist Party’s leadership is regarded as essential in Chinese constitution, challenging Party leadership may be a crime according to China’s criminal law. You may be not happy with Chinese constitution and law, but you cannot deny China’s restriction and persecution of anti-communist dissidents are its implementation of the rule of law.

Whether there shall be change in the constitution and law has to be decided by Chinese people. According to my personal knowledge based on close contacts with many Chinese people, the Chinese Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping are very popular in China.

Wait and see that they will become even more popular if they can make China’s dream for rejuvenation come true.

Detained Chinese rights lawyer charged with subversion of state power: wife

Christian Shepherd January 30, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – The wife of detained Chinese rights lawyer Yu Wensheng said on Tuesday her husband had been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and that police have summonsed her after she gave interviews to foreign media.

Yu, who has been an outspoken critic of a Chinese government crackdown on his fellow rights lawyers and activists, was taken by authorities from outside his home in Beijing on Jan. 19 shortly after he was stripped of his legal license.

Yu’s wife, Xu Yan, said police informed her on Saturday that her husband was being charged with “inciting subversion of state power” rather than the original lighter charge of “obstructing a public service”, she told Reuters on Tuesday.

For the last two days, police in Xuzhou city in southeastern Jiangsu province have repeatedly called to ask her to come to the police station to speak with them in connection with her husband’s crimes, she said.

The police told her that the reason she is wanted is because she had given interviews with the foreign media, she said.

A man who answered the phone at the Xuzhou city public security bureau told Reuters he was unaware of the case.

It is unclear why Yu is being held in Xuzhou. It is not uncommon for sensitive rights cases to be transferred to different jurisdictions.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping wave of detentions and arrest of rights lawyers and activists, which has come to be known as the “709” incident after the date July 9, 2015, when the crackdown began in earnest.

In response, the families and friends of the rights lawyers and activists have often taken up their loved one’s cause in the wake of their detention, sometimes becoming high-profile activists in their own right.

An edited video of Yu’s detention showing him punching and swearing at the police officers was posed on YouTube on Jan. 22, and has since been shared repeatedly on Twitter.

Xu Yan said the video was an attempt to smear her husband.

The day before Yu was detained he had circulated a call for reform to China’s state constitution, which said China should delete a preamble that grants the ruling Communist Party primacy in leadership.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry

Source: Reuters “Detained Chinese rights lawyer charged with subversion of state power: wife”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Chinese authorities disbar second rights lawyer in two weeks

Christian Shepherd January 23, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – Authorities in China’s southern province of Guangdong have canceled the legal license of human rights lawyer Sui Muqing, he told Reuters on Tuesday, a week after another prominent rights lawyer was detained following similar punishment.

Since coming to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping crackdown on dissent, which has seen hundreds of rights lawyers and activists detained and dozens jailed.

“I’ve taken on a lot of relatively high-profile human rights cases,” Sui told Reuters. “This is the settling of accounts after the autumn harvest,” he added, using a phrase that means to face the authorities after a movement has ended.

An active and outspoken rights lawyer based in the city of Guangzhou, Sui had regularly defended fellow lawyers and activists charged by the authorities.

The Guangdong justice bureau unexpectedly called him late on Monday, asking for a meeting the next day, at which officials handed him papers saying he had been disbarred for violating conduct rules for lawyers, Sui said.

The Guangdong justice bureau did not respond to requests for comment after office hours on Tuesday.

Yu Wensheng, another prominent rights lawyer who took on similar cases, was disbarred and then detained last week.

In its document notifying Sui of its decision, the bureau said he had broken China’s law for lawyers, as well as rules on the conduct of lawyers and law firms, according to a picture of the document seen by Reuters.

As evidence, it cited Sui’s failure to prevent a client from disrupting court order in Beijing in 2014, as well as an incident in which he took photos while meeting a client in a police station in the southwestern province of Sichuan in 2017.

In the Beijing case, Sui had been defending activist Ding Jiaxi, a leading figure in the “New Citizen’s Movement” that called for Chinese officials to disclose their assets as a part of gradual political change in China.

Sui denied that he had broken the rules or the law and said the 2014 case was too far in the past to reasonably be used as evidence against him.

Rights groups say that 2016 changes to measures on the conduct of lawyers and law firms, which heightened requirements for political loyalty, were designed to make it much more difficult to take on politically sensitive cases.

Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “Chinese authorities disbar second rights lawyer in two weeks”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China Says No to Western, Advocates Its Own Human Rights Standards

Xi Jinping Thought, Declaration of ‘China Can Say No’ (3)

China has been criticized for its situation of human rights for many years. In the past it was always defensive, stressing in a poor country like China human rights means the right to survive and have a full stomach and warm clothes. Chinese leaders were often embarrassed when Tiananmen Protests were mentioned.

Recently, the EU and US have released statements expressing extreme concerns about the deterioration of human rights in China, citing measures such as internet restrictions and the detention of lawyers while Western media have been fiercely attacking China for its imprisonment of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaopo and round-up of dissidents. However, China is not embarrassed at all. It just ignored the criticism and attacks. On the country, Chinese State Council’s white paper on human rights this year lists international cooperation on counterterrorism and climate change and China’s success in hunting down and repatriating fugitives wanted for corruption as China’s human rights achievements.

SCMP says in its report that in addition, China’s white paper regards as human rights achievements China’s “abolition of the death penalty for nine offences, legislation to tackle domestic violence and moves to exonerate people who had been wrongfully convicted.”

It quotes China’s state news agency Xinhua as saying,“Never before have Chinese people enjoyed such full economic, social and cultural, and civil and political rights as today”, and “The cause of human rights in China is making consistent progress in the right direction.”

China’s Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics on a New Era sets China’s own standards of human rights. China now simply ignores Western criticism and concerns on human rights regarding dissidents, press freedom and Internet censorship. According to Chinese standards, “The cause of human rights in China is making consistent progress in the right direction.” Does it imply that the EU and US are not on the right direction?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report and People’s Daily’s editorial, full text of SCMP’s report can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2124561/china-hails-year-remarkable-progress-human-rights-us while that of the editorial in Chinese can be found at http://paper.people.com.cn/rmrb/html/2017-12/06/nw.D110000renmrb_20171206_8-01.htm.

China sentences fourth dissident in a week for subversion

China on Friday convicted a rights activist for subversion and sentenced him to three years prison, the fourth such sentencing this week and the latest move by authorities to crackdown on activists and lawyers.

Gou Hongguo, 54, an associate of the Beijing Fengrui law firm, pleaded guilty and said he would not appeal the sentence, the official Xinhua news agency said.

However a three year reprieve accompanying the sentence means Gou is likely to be released subject to strict monitoring.

A court in China’s northeastern city of Tianjin in recent days has handed out prison terms of more than seven years to activists and lawyers linked with the Beijing law firm, which has represented high-profile clients critical of the government.

Dozens of people linked to the firm have been swept up in a crackdown on dissents since July last year, as President Xi Jinping’s administration has tightened control, citing a need to boost national security and stability.

International rights groups have criticized the trials as unfair and politically motivated, and the United States has called for the release of the lawyers and activists.

Xinhua cited prosecutors as saying Gou had been influenced by the underground church leader Hu Shigen’s ideology of “overturning the government”.

Hu was sentenced on Wednesday to seven and a half years prison, and Zhou Shifeng, the firm’s director, was given seven years on Thursday, both on similar charges. Prominent activist Zhai Yanmin was sentenced on Tuesday.

Authorities have accused the firm and its associates of orchestrating protests outside courts, politicizing ordinary legal cases, and conspiring with “foreign forces” that sought to undermine China’s ruling Communist Party.

“Gou Hongguo was sent outside of China’s borders by Hu Shigen to receive training related to subverting the government,” Xinhua said.

Their “systematic ideology for subverting government power” seriously damaged national security and social stability, it said.

The court said Gou’s “light punishment” was due in part to his expressed contrition, according to a summary posted to its official microblog.

The court did not answer phone calls seeking comment.

China consistently rejects any criticism of its human rights record, saying it adheres to the rule of law.

Subversion charges are commonly leveled against critics of the party, and rights groups say in such cases there is little chance of a fair trial in party-controlled courts.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: Reuters “China sentences fourth dissident in a week for subversion”

Note: This is Reuters report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China dissident’s brother says home attacked nightly with dead poultry, bottles

Chen Guangfu, the eldest brother of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, shows how he had his hands tied behind a chair as he recounts the details of his torture and the authorities' reprisals Credit: REUTERS/David Gray/Files

Chen Guangfu, the eldest brother of blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, shows how he had his hands tied behind a chair as he recounts the details of his torture and the authorities’ reprisals
Credit: REUTERS/David Gray/Files

Security personnel in eastern China are carrying out a nightly harassment campaign against the brother of blind rights activist Chen Guangcheng, the two said on Tuesday, throwing rocks, bottles and dead poultry at his house for 12 nights in a row.

The attacks on the village home of Chen Guangfu continued early on Tuesday, he said. Two cars parked outside his house in Shandong province, shining their headlights through the windows and again security personnel threw rocks and beer bottles at the house and into the yard, he said.

“This is a country of hoodlums, not a country of law,” Chen Guangcheng said of China from New York, where he is studying law at New York University.

“If you have principles, if you do what is right, why are you afraid of people?” he said. “Why do these kinds of things in the middle of the night? What kind of person does this? Only thieves and the narrow-minded, spreading unchecked. But that’s how the Communist Party is now.”

Chen Guangcheng made world headlines last year when he escaped house arrest and spent 20 hours on the run alone before meeting up with supporters who helped get him to Beijing where he was given refuge at the U.S. Embassy.

His escape caused a diplomatic tussle with the United States at a time when then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Beijing. He was then allowed permission to go to the United States to study.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said U.S. diplomats had repeatedly raised concerns about the treatment of Chen’s family publicly and in private meetings with Chinese authorities.

“We urge the Chinese authorities to stop harassment of his family and to treat them fairly and with dignity,” he said.

Chen Guangfu, 56, said the attacks started on April 18, the same day his brother had been put on a village Communist Party blacklist for his plans to visit Taiwan and, the party said, Tibet.

“They said he’s planning to go to Taiwan to work on Taiwan independence, and to go to Tibet to support Tibet independence,” Chen said.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its own and insists on eventual unification, by force if necessary. Chen Guangcheng has not said he would try to visit restive Tibet, which China has ruled with an iron hand since 1950.

Chen, who campaigned for citizens’ rights including against forced sterilizations in China and who received a human rights award in the United States in January, has accepted an invitation to visit Taiwan in June.

Reached in at his home in Dongshigu village, Chen Guangfu said the security personnel arrived just after 2 a.m. on Tuesday, around the same time they had been arriving since April 18.

“They don’t speak, they just do this,” he said. “They throw things, put up little posters, they uproot my trees, pull out the vegetables my mother has been growing – these kinds of things to try to scare us.”

Police did not answer calls made from his phone, he said, and had refused to investigate the attacks.

Source: Reuters “China dissident’s brother says home attacked nightly with dead poultry, bottles”