China Broadens Pre-Congress Crackdown on Government Critics, Rights Activists

2017-10-04
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A Chinese paramilitary police officer secures the front gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing, Sept. 28, 2017.
A Chinese paramilitary police officer secures the front gate of the Forbidden City in Beijing, Sept. 28, 2017.
AFP

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou have forced more than a dozen dissidents and rights activists to leave their home amid a widening crackdown on critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The activists, who are members of the Guizhou Human Rights Forum group, have been ordered to leave their homes in the provincial capital Guiyang by police in the run-up to the 19th Party Congress on Oct. 18, they said.

High-profile dissidents Gao Yu and former top Communist Party official Bao Tong have also been forced to leave their homes in Beijing, amid a nationwide “stability maintenance” operation targeting thousands of activists and dissidents.

“I have been told that they are taking me away to a mountain resort on Oct. 5 or 6,” a Guizhou-based dissident who asked to remain anonymous told RFA on Wednesday.

“We are being placed under tight restrictions … and we won’t be allowed to come back until the end of October, after the 19th Party Congress is over,” the activist said.

The Forum has been the target of official harassment since it was set up on World Human Rights Day in 2005, with members subjected to police surveillance, detention, and house arrest whenever it tries to meet.

It was formally banned by the authorities, according to notices issued by the local government in December 2012, shortly after President Xi Jinping took power as party general secretary.

In Beijing, Bao Tong, former aide to late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang and veteran political journalist Gao Yu have also received notices ordering them to leave.

“The period in the run-up to the 19th Party Congress is highly sensitive, so I can’t give media interviews,” Bao said when contacted by RFA on Wednesday.

“My understanding is that I will be able to do so again after the 19th Party Congress is over,” he said. “Either that, or I’m banned from giving interviews for the rest of my life, and that would never do.”

Meanwhile, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, a former founding member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party said he will soon also be taken away on an enforced “vacation” as part of the stability maintenance plan.

“I haven’t had the notification yet, but it will be coming soon,” Zou Wei told RFA. “The government is on a stability maintenance footing now. Some people have police stationed outside their front door, watching them.”

Hubei detentions

Anyone who complains about being forced to leave home and “take a holiday” under escort by the state security police faces possible detention and criminal charges.

Authorities in the central province of Hubei have detained three activists after they complained about interference in their lives by state security police.

Chen Jianxiong, Liang Yiming and Yuan Bing were detained after refusing to cooperate with restrictions imposed by police in Hubei’s Chibi city.

Now, Yuan and Chen are being held on criminal detention, fellow activist Yuan Xiaohua told RFA.

“[Chen’s sister] found out via Yuan Bing’s wife that they were taken to a detention center by security police yesterday,” Yuan Xiaohua said. “We have confirmed that they are being held under criminal detention.”

“Chen’s sister took some clothes and money to him today, but it coincided with Mid-Autumn Festival, and they weren’t at work so they couldn’t take it, so it’ll have to wait until Oct. 9 now,” he said. “They said he would be locked up for one month.”

Yuan Xiaohua said the detentions could be linked to an altercation the two men had with state security police charged with surveilling them ahead of the 19th Party Congress.

“There was some kind of altercation … because the state security police had been to Yuan Bing’s school and spoken to his son and his son’s teachers, telling them to watch out for him,” Yuan Xiaohua said.

“He felt threatened, as if they were trying to terrorize him, so he went over there and got very angry with them,” he said.

Rights activist Wang Fazhan said he has recently been called in by state security police for “a chat.”

“The local government is worried about getting the blame if something happens [during the 19th Party Congress],” Wang said. “A lot of people have been called in for a chat, and some have even been locked up.”

Reported by Qiao Long and Yang Fan for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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