Chinese Activists Held Over Call for Wealth Disclosure

2013-03-13
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Security guards holding umbrellas stand outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 12, 2013.
ImagineChina

Authorities in the Chinese capital on Wednesday detained five activists who tried to submit a letter calling on ruling Chinese Communist Party officials to declare their assets to the annual parliamentary session.

The activists had targeted 205 ministerial-level officials in their open letter, but were detained by police on Tiananmen Square.

Li Huanjun, Yang Shuangjun, Li Maolin, Luo Lijun, and one other activist who remained unnamed, were detained as they approached the Great Hall of the People, where the National People's Congress (NPC) is winding up its annual session this week.

"When we got to the army checkpoint outside the Great Hall of the People, we told the police that we wanted to submit a citizens' opinion in a letter," Li said.

"We said we couldn't find the way in... and he said he'd take us, but in fact they brought us to this place, where we are all under CCTV surveillance."

Li Huanjun said they had told the police the exact contents of their letter.

"We said we just wanted to hand in the letter, and then we'd be off," he said. "But now we all have to give statements."

"It's not as if we killed someone, or set fire to something, and we're not criminal suspects," he added.

An officer who answered the phone at the Tiananmen police station declined to comment on the activist's detention.

"I don't know the circumstances, but I'll take down the details, and confirm it for you," the officer said.

Li Maolin said the activists had been denied food, and had to apply to staff for an escort to visit the bathroom.

Activist under house arrest

Another Beijing-based activist, Zhang Bincheng, said on Wednesday he was now being held under house arrest after being detained several times and beaten by police for putting up a banner on the street calling on officials to declare their wealth.

"They are afraid that I'll put up another banner while the parliamentary sessions are on in Beijing, so they have said I can't go out," Zhang said.

"They are in my home 24 hours a day... Yesterday, at dinner time, they beat me because they got mad because they said I was being troublesome."

Authorities across China have stepped up pressure on activists who call on local officials to make public their assets in recent weeks, in spite of vows by incoming president Xi Jinping to crackdown on graft.

Clampdown on graft

Xi has warned that the Party must beat graft or lose power, sparking a nationwide clampdown on corruption.

However, political analysts say that officials with friends in high places are unlikely to be touched by the crackdown, and reports suggest many are liquidating their assets and making moves overseas.

Authorities in a number of Chinese cities recently began banning searches aimed at discovering the number of properties a person owns.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.