Detained Chinese Rights Activist Calls For Information on 'Disappeared' Wife

2017-08-25
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Chinese democracy activist Qin Yongmin and wife Zhao Suli are shown in a photo from October 2013.
Chinese democracy activist Qin Yongmin and wife Zhao Suli are shown in a photo from October 2013.
Photo courtesy of rosechina.net

Detained veteran rights activist Qin Yongmin has called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to reveal the whereabouts of his disappeared wife, refusing to "confess" to subversion charges against him.

Qin was detained alongside his wife Zhao Suli in 2015, and both were initially held in an unknown locations.

But while Qin has since been tracked down by friends and lawyers to a detention center in the central city of Wuhan, Zhao has been missing for more than two years.

Qin, who is awaiting trial on charges of "incitement to subvert state power" at the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, issued the demands after a rare meeting with his lawyer Liu Zhengqing on Wednesday.

Qin's Aug. 11 letter to the judge in the trial also refused to "confess his crimes" and insisted on an open trial, amid concerns that the case may be heard behind closed doors.

It also called on the authorities to ensure he has access to a lawyer of his choosing, and to ensure that Zhao attends his trial.

Zhao's sisters have previously told RFA they believe she may be dead, but Qin, a co-founder of the short-lived, banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), reportedly thinks she is still alive.

Liu confirmed his meeting with Qin when contacted by RFA.

"[We met for] about two hours, but I haven't had access to the case files yet, so I haven't read them," Liu said. "So we talked mostly about the defense, but I can't really make any public comment."

"I have only just gotten involved in this case, and if I make comments, I might not be able to represent my client," he said.

But he said he was unable to give any further details.

"This was the first time I have been allowed to visit him, and this case is very sensitive," Liu said. "I can't really give interviews to the foreign media, otherwise I won't be allowed to visit him again."

Three lawsuits filed

Qin's older brother said Liu's caution stems from the fact that the authorities had already forced his previous attorney Ma Lianshun to give up the case by denying the annually renewed business license to his law firm.

"They already stripped Ma's law firm of its professional status, so Ma was unable to access the relevant documents, because there was someone on the inside stopping him," Qin's brother said.

Chongqing-based rights activist Xie Dan said Zhao's family has now filed three lawsuits in their hometown in Henan province to force the government to reveal her whereabouts, which are still being processed by the courts.

"The courts in Henan are slightly better, and are still able to follow due legal process," Xie said. "They have filed seven lawsuits in Wuhan, and not one of them has been dealt with according to the legally prescribed process."

Xu Qin, who heads the China Rights Observer organization founded by Qin, said the case had already been through two pretrial meetings in September and November, but that the authorities seem to be delaying it deliberately.

"China Rights Observer insists that the Wuhan government expedites the case of Qin Yongmin according to law," Xu told RFA. "We have been of the opinion all along that Qin Yongmin and the organization ... he founded are innocent of any crime."

He said Qin is being held in isolation from other detainees in the police-run facility, and that fellow activists are donating money for him to buy food to supplement the extremely poor diet in the detention center.

However, anyone donating to the fund has now also become a target for police harassment, Xu said.

A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin was sentenced to eight years in prison for "counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion" in the wake of China's Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

He served a further two years' "re-education through labor" in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled the "Peace Charter."

Qin then served a 12-year jail term for subversion after he helped found the CDP in 1998 in spite of a ban on opposition political parties.

"Subversion of state power" carries a minimum jail term of 10 years in cases where the person is judged to have played a leading role.

Reported by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service, and by Xin Lin for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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