Jiangxi Activists Threatened After Tweets

2013-02-26
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china-sina-weibo-dec-2012.jpg
A Chinese netizen uses Weibo, the Twitter-like microblogging service of Sina, in Guizhou province, Dec. 15, 2012.
ImagineChina

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi have stepped up pressure on activists who called on local officials to make public their assets, in spite of vows by incoming president Xi Jinping to crackdown on graft.

Activist Zhang Zhecheng was visited by 7-8 police officers shortly after posting the suggestion online via a popular Twitter-like service last week, he said on Tuesday.

"They came the very next day, and told me that [what I had posted] was 'unharmonious'," Zhang said. "Because my wife and child were there, and they hadn't ever seen anything like this before, I deleted it in front of them under duress."

"They haven't been back to visit me, but they have visited my relatives ... and they have put pressure on my sister and her husband via my brother-in-law's employer," he said.

Zhang has been part of the nationwide "Protect the Diaoyu" campaign in support of Beijing's claims to the disputed island chain known as Senkaku in Japan since 2004.

He said he believed none of his actions had violated Chinese law.

"There is nothing wrong with demanding that officials declare their assets," Zhang said. "According to [president-in-waiting] Xi Jinping, officials should accept the supervision of the people."

"Officials take money that belongs in public coffers, money that was earned by the sweat and blood of others."

"If they can do as they please with it, then this country is finished, and its people will be condemned to a sort of hell on earth," he added.

Called for 'a chat'

Fellow activist Wei Zhongping said he had been approached shortly after Chinese New Year by unidentified men who acted in a menacing manner, whom he managed to escape by running away.

Later, he had been called in by his employer "for a chat" about the post.

"My boss came to see me today and told me to quit sending out random posts," Wei said. "He said I shouldn't be calling on officials to declare their assets."

"I told him that we [the people] are the masters of society, and it is normal for us to demand that officials reveal their assets," he said.

A third Xinyu activist, Liu Ping, said she had received a threatening phone call after sending out a similar tweet.

"I got a phone call saying I had a large sum in U.S. dollars, given to me by the Americans, and that they wanted to borrow some of it," said Liu, who has previously been targeted by the authorities for attempting to stand as an independent candidate in elections to her local People's Congress.

"We have been subjected to oppression ever since we tried to stand as candidates," she said. "We don't hate this government ... but they treat us like the enemy."

Liu said she had been exercising her right to express her opinion, and that a "harmonious society" was a two-way street.

Targeting corruption

Incoming president Xi Jinping, who takes over formally from Hu Jintao in March, has warned that the ruling Chinese Communist 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.

The new rules have been announced in Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai, as well as in smaller cities like Zhangzhou in the southeastern province of Fujian, and Yancheng in the eastern province of Jiangsu, official media reported.

The rules apply to requests for property registry searches, which could previously be placed using a person's name as search criteria.

China scored poorly in an annual global corruption index published last year by Transparency International, which measures perceptions of graft around the world.

Mainland China ranked 80th out of 176 countries, down five places from the previous year.

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