China Detains Former Prosecutor Who Criticized President's Plan For Unlimited Rule

2018-03-07
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Human rights activist Shen Liangqing (L) was issued an investigation notice (R) by police in his native Anhui Province in eastern China for what his friends say was for his criticism of the government's plan to eliminate term limits for top leaders.
Human rights activist Shen Liangqing (L) was issued an investigation notice (R) by police in his native Anhui Province in eastern China for what his friends say was for his criticism of the government's plan to eliminate term limits for top leaders.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui have detained a former state prosecutor on public order charges after he criticized plans to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely, his friends and relatives said.

Shen Liangqing, who has been a vocal critic of the government in recent years, was taken away by around 10 police officers from his home in Anhui's provincial capital Hefei on Tuesday evening, his son Shen Li said.

"They came here at about 8.30 p.m. and left at 9.25 p.m., but they wouldn't give us any details during the hour or more than they were here," Shen Li said.

He added: "They had a warrant with them, calling him for questioning, and the reason given was suspicion of 'picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.'"

Police had also produced a search warrant, before proceeding to make copies of all the content on Shen's computer and cell phone, he said.

"When they were done copying them, they took them away," he said. "They told him on the way there that he had been causing trouble for them by 'saying stuff online'," Shen Li said. "So I think it's something to do with something he said."

Academic Yi Chun, a close friend of Shen's, said his detention could be linked to criticisms he made of plans by the ruling Chinese Communist Party to amend the country's constitution to abolish a two-term limit on the presidency, paving the way for indefinite rule by Xi Jinping.

"I'm not surprised at all, because I think it might have something to do with [the constitutional amendments] because they are pretty sensitive," Yi told RFA. "He definitely did make comments [on that topic], and I think it's definitely linked to that."

Parliament session brings heightened security

He said the detention also comes at a time of increased security as China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) holds its annual session in Beijing.

"The authorities are really clamping down now on what dissidents can say, and [Shen] was particularly outspoken; he didn't censor himself at all," Yi said.

"He said exactly what he was thinking. That's the kind of person he is," he said. "Controls are much tighter now, and they will crack down on any opposing views."

Yi said Shen's detention also comes at a time of huge political persecution of China's human rights lawyers, possibly affecting his access to legal representation.

"It may not be very easy to get in contact with one," he said.

An officer who answered the phone at the Wuhu Road police station where Shen was initially taken declined to comment on the case.

"Yes, that's right," the officer said when asked if it was the Wuhu Road police station. But after he found out who was calling, he said: "You have the wrong number. This is the number of a company."

Shen, 56, is a former prosecutor with the People's Procuratorate in Anhui, who took part in the country's pro-democracy movement starting in 1984, when he edited a publication titled "Students and Society" that promoted democratic politics and human rights.

He was later sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment by a Hefei court, which found him guilty of "incitement to subvert state power" after he took part in the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement.

He continued to be a vocal critic of the regime after his release, openly supporting the 2014 pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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