'Zhengzhou 10' Supporters Take To Streets To Call For Their Release

2014-08-06
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Protesters gather in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 2, 1989.
Protesters gather in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 2, 1989.
AFP

Supporters of 10 detained anti-corruption activists took to the streets in the central Chinese province of Henan on Wednesday to draw public attention to their cause.

The "Zhengzhou 10" refers to a group of activists mostly being held for holding a memorial to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on a student democracy movement and two late former premiers, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang.

Police have also detained a number of campaigners who have flocked to Zhengzhou to call for their release in recent weeks.

Last month, civil rights activist Meng Xiaodong was detained by police after taking part in a rolling vigil outside two Zhengzhou detention centers where some of the activists are being held.

"Today, around a dozen of us split up to distribute leaflets on the streets and in places of leisure," civil rights campaigner Zhang Shengyu told RFA on Wednesday.

"We are telling the citizens of Zhengzhou about this so as to help the Zhengzhou 10," Zhang said.

"[The leaflets] include an introduction to the Zhengzhou 10 and how they ended up in the detention centers."

He said the group was also displaying the leaflets in public places. "Some of us are sticking them up at bus stops and on power cable poles," Zhang added.

The Zhengzhou 10 comprise seven activists who attended the memorial event, a journalist, and two lawyers who tried to represent them.

Zhengzhou petitioners Jia Lingmin and Liu Diwei, activists Chen Wei, her husband Yu Shiwen, Hou Shuai, Fang Yan and Dong Guangping were formally arrested on public order charges last month after being detained at the end of May.

Journalists Shi Ping, who goes by the pen-name Shi Yu, Yin Yusheng and Shao Shengdong were also detained around the same time, but Shi and Shao were later released on bail, according to the Chinese rights website Weiquanwang. Yin Yusheng is under criminal detention rather than formal arrest.

Two lawyers hired by those arrested, Chang Boyang and Ji Laisong, were themselves formally arrested.

The majority of the group have been charged with "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," while Chang has been charged with "conducting an illegal business," according to Chinese rights groups.

'Sleeping rough'

The leafleting campaign comes after police broke up a makeshift camp at the gates of one of the detention centers.

Activist Hu Yuhua said those taking part in the vigil are now having trouble finding a place to sleep, as police prevented them from camping outside the gates of the detention centers.

"Even the small guesthouses won't let us stay, so everyone is sleeping rough right now," Hu said. "Today, we are handing out leaflets."

Of the Zhengzhou 10, eight people are being held inside the Zhengzhou No. 3 Detention Center: Chang Boyang, Ji Laisong, Dong Guangping, Yu Shiwen, Chen Wei, Hou Shuai, Jia Lingmin and Liu Diwei.

Fellow activist Song Ningsheng said police had stepped up their campaign of detention and intimidation of activists at the beginning of August.

"They have detained some citizens, and threatened a lot of people, and forced them to leave town," Song said. "Those who stayed behind ... are calling on the government to abide by its own laws."

"We are all planning to stay here until they release the people they are holding," Song added.

Beijing-based rights lawyer Hu Guiyun said a number of lawyers have been raising funds to hire lawyers to represent detained campaigners.

But local authorities have so far prevented lawyers from meeting with the majority of detainees.

"We have requested meetings with [detainees in] the Zhengzhou case, but no meetings have been set up," Hu said. "These citizens who went to Zhengzhou have also been campaigning for the right of the detainees to meet with lawyers."

"So now, we lawyers want to help protect the rights of those rights activists," she said.

Tiananmen anniversary

Authorities detained dozens of activists, lawyers, academics and journalists before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square bloodshed, and tightened controls on dissent, free speech and the Internet.

Many of those who were placed under house arrest or taken on enforced "vacations" were later released, while others face trial on public order charges similar to those the Zhengzhou 10 are accused of.

The ruling Chinese Communist Party bans public memorials marking the event, although police have escorted the relatives of those who died from house arrest to cemeteries to pay their respects to loved ones in private.

The party has continued to ignore growing calls in China and overseas for a reappraisal of the 1989 student protests, which it once styled a "counterrevolutionary rebellion."

The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989 remains a mystery.

Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government, which labelled the six weeks of pro-democracy protests a "counterrevolutionary uprising," has not issued an official toll or list of names.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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