Chinese Rights Activist Interrogated For 'Insulting National Leader'

Editor Ding Lingjie is the latest of many activists to be held in connection with the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website.

Ding Lingjie in an undated photo.

An editor working for a prominent Chinese human rights website is being held on suspicion of "insulting a national leader,' weeks after the end of a major political congress in Beijing, fellow activists said.

Editor Ding Lingjie of the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website is being held at the Shijingshan Detention Center on the outskirts of the Chinese capital after initially 'disappearing' in Shandong's Zibo city.

She met with her defense attorney Ren Quanniu for the first time this week.

"One of the reasons they detained her was to do with a video clip regarding [President] Xi Jinping that was given to her by petitioners, that she posted directly to the site," Ren told RFA after the meeting.

"When they were interrogating her, they wouldn't let her watch it. All they wanted was her admission that it was she who posted it," he said. "The interrogators told her she was being questioned on suspicion of 'insulting a national leader.'"

Ren said the authorities had violated China's criminal code during the investigation.

"Not one of them told her their full name, nor did they produce any form of ID, which is against the Criminal Procedure Law," he said.

"All she knew was the charge she was accused of. Neither did they provide her with any of the documents she was supposed to be given. She has received no documents since her detention," Ren said, adding that Ding's case has been shrouded in secrecy from the start.

"We don't even know which government agency is prosecuting this case," he said. "Before I met with her, I had thought it was the Shijingshan police department, but I asked them about this twice and they said they had never heard of the case. I suspect that their name was used [as a smokescreen]."

Ren said Ding is also in poor health.

"According to what she told me, she can't straighten her back properly," he said. "I asked her about this, and she said it was due to bone hyperplasia. She said her health has worsened because of having to sleep on hard boards in the detention center."

Ding's friend and colleague Cheng Yulan said she had been denied permission to visit her friend in the detention center on Wednesday.

"Firstly, we are worried because the charges against her have changed, and also, another concern is that her health is poor. We are short-staffed now; our website has suffered a huge blow, but we will definitely carry on."

Website targeted

Website founder Liu Feiyue is currently being held incommunicado on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" in the Suizhou No. 1 Detention Center.

His detention came after China Rights Observer group founder and veteran democracy activist Qin Yongmin was detained in the provincial capital Wuhan in 2015.

Qin is currently awaiting trial on charges of "incitement to subvert state power" at the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, while his wife Zhao Suli has been missing for more than two years.

Staff say censors have also targeted the group's website, deleting a number of articles, including one written by Qin.

President Xi has already shown himself to be far less willing to tolerate dissent and criticism than his recent predecessors, rolling out a massive ideological crackdown at the start of the year that includes detailed policing of foreign online content, social media activity and the country's news organizations.

An Aug. 25 directive issued by a "stability maintenance" steering group under the party's Central Committee orders complaints departments at all levels of government and party to ensure that no petitioners are allowed to crowd around the outside of government buildings in the run-up to the party congress.

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.