NEW YORK—Lawyers and Chinese civil rights activists are planning to lodge formal complaints with the United Nations and the Hong Kong government over the detention of former 1989 student democracy activist Zhou Yongjun on charges of “economic fraud” after he tried to visit his ailing father in 2008.
A number of lawyers and civil rights activists said they were planning to lodge formal complaints over Zhou’s detention, especially as it took place in Hong Kong, where freedom of speech and the rule of law were promised protection by Beijing.
“If the Hong Kong authorities can just hand him over to China, then where are Hong Kong’s freedoms?” New York-based lawyer Li Jinjin said.
“It seems to have turned into just another part of communist China.”
Authorities in the southwestern province of Sichuan are preparing to try Zhou, a former leader of China’s 1989 student movement, with trying to cheat money out of a Hong Kong bank account.
Zhou was a student at the Chinese University for Political Science and Law at the time of the student protests and ensuing military crackdown on June 4, 1989.
He was among a group of students who knelt in front of the Great Hall of the People on April 22 that year to present a list of demands to China’s leaders after the death of moderate premier Hu Yaobang.
Li said court documents charged Zhou with using the pseudonym Wangxingxiang to write a letter demanding payment of several million Hong Kong dollars from an account at the Hang Seng bank.
However, he rejected the charges, saying that they didn’t match police statements on Zhou from Hong Kong.
“The Hong Kong authorities are having nothing more to do with this case, which just goes to show that there is nothing to link Zhou Yongjun with this case,” Li said.
“So why does the Chinese government want to detain him? It’s clearly the case that the Chinese government is detaining him like this because of Zhou’s history.”
Zhou, who is a permanent resident of the United States with two children, was detained in the wake of the June 4 crackdown and released in 1991 following international political pressure for the release of student leaders.
He arrived in the United States in 1992 and was granted permanent residency.
Seeking to return to China to visit his sick father, Zhuo was arrested last year in Shenzhen after repeated requests for an official permit to return to China were turned down by the Chinese embassy in the United States.
According to his Chinese-appointed lawyer, the Hong Kong Immigration Department confiscated his passport and told him there were some people who wanted to talk to him in mainland China, and then took him across the border to Shenzhen.
Li said Zhou was initially held at the No.1 Detention Center in the southern city of Shenzhen, and later transferred to the Shenzhen Yantian Detention Center.
Zhou’s U.S.-based partner Zhang said police had already visited Zhou’s home in Sichuan and threatened his father.
“The police have been around to Yongjun’s family home and told his father that his case has to do with politics,” she said.
“They said his crimes were ‘quite serious.’ They said his family shouldn’t post anything about this on the Internet, nor any anti-Communist or counter-revolutionary writings.”
Zhang said police had also threatened the old man, who fainted during their visit.
“For example, they warned that people could ‘disappear,’ and so on,” she added.
Zhou’s China-based lawyer, Chen Zerui, said the court had already set many temporary dates for his trial, but kept postponing them, often an indication that police lack enough evidence to proceed.
He also said the court had withheld some documents from him and wouldn’t let him photocopy them, meaning that he had no way to fully grasp the strength of the case against Zhou.
Chen, assistant to top Beijing-based lawyer Mo Shaoping, was appointed only in late August after Zhou’s family tried to hire Mo to defend him in May.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Zi Jing. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.