Activists Released After Congress

Activists held during China's leadership transition begin to return home.
2012-11-16
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tiananmen-congress-security-camera-305.jpg
Security cameras look out over Tiananmen Square in Beijing during the unveiling ceremony of China's new Politburo Standing Committee, Nov. 15, 2012.
AFP

Authorities across China have begun to release rights activists held in detention centers and hotels or under house arrest following the smooth transition of power to the next generation of ruling Chinese Communist Party leaders this week, though a number remained unaccounted for on Friday.

Beijing-based activist Xu Yonghai, a member of an unsanctioned Protestant "house church," said his house arrest had ended on Friday, a day after China announced the line-up for its next-generation Politburo Standing Committee.

"They have basically lifted the restrictions on me," Xu said by telephone. "I went to buy groceries today with no police following me."

But he said some of his friends and fellow activists, including opposition party activists He Depu, Gao Hongming, and Wang Ling, had failed to show up for a planned gathering.

"Maybe some of them are still being held," he said.

Forced 'on holiday'

China launched a nationwide security clampdown ahead of the 18th Party Congress and the once-in-a-decade leadership transition, sending rights activists to labor camps and forcing lawyers and dissidents to leave their homes or remain under house arrest.

Beijing-based pro-democracy activist Zha said he had arrived back in the capital on Thursday after being forced to go "on holiday" to the southern region of Guangxi.

He said He and Gao had also returned to Beijing as the 18th Party Congress after the Party Congress concluded on Thursday.

"He Depu and his wife got back [late on Thursday], and Gao Hongming came back to Beijing from Yunnan [Friday evening]," Zha said. "[The police] told me that the police restrictions were being lifted today; I got that from them directly."

Held in a hotel

Elsewhere in China, activist Liu Feiyue, who runs the Hubei-based rights group China Rights Observer, said he had been brought back home by police after being held under unofficial detention starting on Nov. 7, a day before the Congress began.

"I got back [on Thursday]," he said. "I was being held in a hotel in a southern suburb, and I was only allowed out for meals."

"The rest of the time, I was locked up," he said, adding that many of his friends were apparently still under police detention linked to the Congress, which has seen unprecedented security measures against activists, petitioners and rights lawyers this year.

He said Hubei-based veteran pro-democracy activist Qin Yongmin, who has been the target of police harassment since his release from jail in November 2010 after serving a 12-year term for subversion, had yet to be freed from security restrictions.

'Home this whole time'

In neighboring Sichuan, civil rights activist Yuan Jian said he had been held under house arrest for more than a week during the Party Congress.

"I have been home this whole time," said Yuan, adding that he had been allowed to move around freely following the announcement of the new Communist Party leadership. "This is the first time I have been able to receive a phone call," he said.

Midnight detention

In the provincial capital, petitioner and land rights activist Wu Ping said she and fellow petitioner Li Hong had been detained by state security police in Beijing in the middle of the night on Sunday.

"Our county Party secretary came and asked us what use petitioning in Beijing was, as all they did was bounce the complaint back to the local level to deal with," Li said.

But she added: "I think a lot of petitioners will now gradually be released and sent home."

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service and by Lin Jing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.