Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have detained an environmental activist on public order charges as she planned a Valentine’s Day reunion with her husband, a fellow activist newly released from police detention.
Ji Shulong had planned to be reunited with husband Hao Zhiquan on Wednesday after his release from more than a month’s police detention for pursuing a complaint against local ruling Chinese Communist Party officials.
But she herself was detained on Tuesday evening on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge commonly used to target government critics and activists in China.
Ji, an outspoken petitioner and anti-pollution activist who complained about industrial pollution in her hometown in Jiangsu’s Funing county, had been placed under house arrest as a form of criminal detention more than four months earlier, but the authorities then came to place her under formal arrest, taking her away on Feb. 13, Hao told RFA on Thursday.
“They actually built [an industrial park] on agricultural land belonging to ordinary people,” Hao said. “The developers managed to get investment by bringing in all of the chemicals that people elsewhere didn’t want to handle.”
“The Funing county government was treating this as a money earner, because it had a stake of its own,” he said.
Video angers officials
Hao said Ji was detained after she shot video footage in support of a complaint about the pollution caused by the industrial park.
She was initially held under criminal detention by police, but this was later changed to residential surveillance and she was granted police bail, although the charges against her weren’t dropped.
“The video basically showed her entire experience trying to make a complaint, and she also explained … that she made the video to protect herself from further persecution during the 19th party congress [last October],” Hao said.
“But no sooner had I posted the video than she was locked up for a month under criminal detention.”
Police told Ji that the 10-minute-long video had seriously angered leading officials in the Funing county government, who had ordered her detention on the quiet, Hao said.
Funing resident Chen Qiaolan, who also opposed the industrial park alongside Ji, said she and her husband were motivated by concern for the environment, and were now being targeted for retaliation by powerful local officials.
“The video really angered the leadership of Funing county,” Chen said. “Ji Shulong had limited means, and then she was left without her farmland.”
“She hired a lawyer but nothing came of it; I hope the rest of the world will support her,” she said.
Hao said he now just wants his wife home safely.
“I just want her back home safe and sound,” he said. “It’s hard to know what kind of treatment she is getting in there … and we can’t spend Chinese New Year together, because the local government wants to cover up the evidence of pollution and of their corruption.”
But he said he and Ji feel compelled to continue with their activism.
“We have to do this because there are injustices, things we can’t accept,,” he said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.