Activist Detained En Route to Rebel Village As G20 Summit Ends

2016-09-05
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Chinese human rights activists facing a relentless crackdown say they had hoped for more support from foreign leaders gathered in Hangzhou for the G20 summit, Sept. 5, 2016.
Chinese human rights activists facing a relentless crackdown say they had hoped for more support from foreign leaders gathered in Hangzhou for the G20 summit, Sept. 5, 2016.
AFP

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have detained a rights activist who tried to travel to the rebel village of Wukan, which has been under an information blackout since the resurgence of protests this year over lost farmland, his wife said on Monday.

Zhen Jianghua was detained by police in Lufeng city in the eastern coastal district of Guangdong province, close to the former fishing village of Wukan, which made world headlines in 2011 after local people took to the barricades after the death in police custody of a protest leader.

Wukan residents in June persuaded their former leader Lin Zuluan to renew a protest campaign after a committee set up to return the land made no progress.

But Lin was soon detained, setting renewed street protests in motion.

Zhen Jianghua's wife, who declined to be named, said he had been stopped by state security police in Lufeng after he arrived to find out more about the Wukan protests.

"He got to Lufeng the day before yesterday, but he was taken away by police there," she said. "He called me around 10.00 p.m. yesterday to say that he was now in a police station in Zhuhai."

"He said he would be a bit late coming home, but then ... I heard nothing more, so I called the police station, and they said they didn't know what the situation was," she said.

"Later he called to say he was safe ... he had been taken somewhere else."

But Zhen felt unable to tell his wife more.

"He said it was inconvenient for him to talk because there were state security police nearby," she said. "He couldn't really say very much."

In 2011, Guangdong provincial authorities came down on the side of the land protesters, overruling officials in Lufeng and removing former village leader Xue Chang from his post on corruption charges.

But while Lin was appointed head of the village in his place and several protest leaders were elected to a village committee, two former protest leaders were soon targeted with graft allegations and jailed for "taking bribes," in what their relatives said was an act of political revenge.

China has stepped up a massive "stability maintenance" operation targeting dissidents, petitioners and rights activists in recent days, as the country hosted the G20 summit in the eastern city of Hangzhou.

A source in Hangzhou told RFA that many of the petitioners who traveled to the city in the hope of highlighting grievances against the ruling Chinese Communist Party have been locked up in secret locations.

"Wang Yufen was locked up by them because of the G20 summit," a Hangzhou petitioner said on Monday, as the summit closed. "She was locked up in secret a few days beforehand after she went out for a walk."

"She would take a walk every evening, and then she just disappeared one day ... and she's been missing for more than a month," the petitioner said.

Put more pressure on China

Xinjiang-based rights activist Hu Jun called on world leaders to put more pressure on China over its treatment of dissent.

"The human rights situation in China continues to deteriorate, to an almost inconceivable degree," Hu said. "We have seen that the basic rights of hundreds of thousands of Hangzhou residents [to freedom of movement] have been violated, when they were driven out of the city."

"This human rights disaster is the result of the G20," Hu said. "The Chinese government has imposed detention, incarceration, physical attacks and disappearances on its people as a result."

"I think the G20 leaders should think about the harm this is doing, and complain to the Chinese government about its violence."

Chinese state media meanwhile lauded President Xi Jinping for facilitating global economic growth, suggesting that Beijing increasingly views itself as a responsible world citizen.

"At the G20 Hangzhou summit, Xi championed a Chinese remedy for the febrile world economy," the official Xinhua news agency said in an article on the summit.

"[He] strengthened coordination of macroeconomic policies and joint efforts to boost world economic growth and maintain financial stability," it said.

Official media have also hailed the ratification by China and the U.S. of the Paris convention on climate change.

"The determination and joint leadership that China and the United States have demonstrated on the sidelines of the G20 summit ... in fighting climate change wins widespread applause," Xinhua reported on Sunday.

China agreed to cooperate more closely with its trading partners on its politically volatile steel exports as the G20 wrapped up on Monday.

In a joint statement, Xi, Obama and other G20 leaders vowed to promote innovation to stimulate economic growth.

"The global recovery lacks momentum," Xi told reporters after the meeting. "We need to do more to unlock the potential for medium and long-term growth."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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