Activists held incommunicado for months
Dai Zhenya, Ding Jiaxi and Zhang Zhongshun were actively involved in the New Citizens Movement, a grassroots political, cultural and social network that peacefully advocated for greater government transparency, the rule of law and an end to corruption. The authorities began targeting the movement in a crackdown during 2013 and 2014.
Dai Zhenya was deeply involved in assisting dissidents in detention. As a member of the New Citizens Movement, he also called for the disclosure of public officials’ assets. Ding Jiaxi is a former human rights lawyer, who advocated for the rights of migrant workers’ children and called for government transparency. On 18 April 2014, he was sentenced to three and a half years for “gathering a crowd to disrupt order of a public place”. His lawyer’s license was subsequently revoked. Zhang Zhongshun is a former lecturer at Yantai University in Shandong. In 2008, he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for “using a heretical organisation to subvert the law”, after playing a video related to the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989.
Dai Zhenya, Ding Jiaxi and Zhang Zhongshun were among the many lawyers and activists who joined the informal gatherings held in Xiamen in December 2019. Since 26 December 2019, police across the country have been summoning and detaining participants of the Xiamen gathering.
Increased detainment of human rights defenders
Another activist and human rights lawyer, Chang Weiping, was taken away by police officers on 12 January 2020. State security officers told his wife that Chang was under residential surveillance at a designated location for “endangering state security”, and that his lawyer license had been revoked. Chang was subsequently released on 21 January. According to media reports, other lawyers, including Huang Zhiqiang, Liu Shuqing, Zhuang Daohe and Lu Siwei, were summoned temporarily by police for “inciting subversion of state power” or “picking quarrels and provoking troubles”.
On 31 December 2019, police also raided the home of Xu Zhiyong, a prominent legal scholar and founder of the New Citizens Movement. They confiscated his safe, letters and books. Xu’s partner, Li Qiaochu, was detained for 24 hours by the police from Beijing Haidian District for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. During her detention, police interrogated Li about Xu’s whereabouts. Police also refused to give her adequate medical care. Since her release, Li Qiaochu has been under heavy surveillance. Xu Zhiyong, together with lawyer, Yang Bin, and Yang’s family, was taken away by police in Guangzhou, at approximately 6 pm on 15 February. Yang Bin and his family were later released. Xu is still in police custody.
Apart from Dai, Ding and Zhang, activist, Li Yingjun, has also been put under residential surveillance for inciting subversion of state power.
“Residential surveillance in a designated location” is a measure that, under certain circumstances, enables criminal investigators to hold individuals for up to six months outside the formal detention system, in what can amount to a form of secret incommunicado detention. When held without access to legal counsel of their choice, their families or others, suspects placed under this form of “residential surveillance” are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. This form of detention has been used to curb the activities of human rights defenders, including lawyers, activists and religious practitioners. Activists and human rights defenders continue to be systematically subjected to monitoring, harassment, intimidation, arrest and detention.
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