Rights Activist Formally Arrested Following Detention in China's Guangdong

Wang Aizhong's wife says she won't keep quiet, while the wife of fellow activist Ou Biaofeng dismisses claims he wants a government-appointed lawyer.
Reported by Gao Feng and Chingman
Rights Activist Formally Arrested Following Detention in China's Guangdong Guangzhou human rights activist Wang Aizhong (left) is shown with his wife Wang Henan (right) in undated photos.
Provided by Wang Henan

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have formally arrested rights activist Wang Aizhong on charges of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," RFA has learned.

Wang, 45, was detained at his home in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou at the end of May, while his apartment was searched by police, who confiscated reading materials and computer devices.

"They told me very clearly that Wang Aizhong has been formally arrested,"  Wang's wife Wang Henan told RFA after a meeting with two state security police officers earlier this week.

"They told me the notification document had been mailed to me by the procuratorate and that I should have received it already," she said. "They said they had come to see me to gauge my attitude."

"I told them that I won't be quiet until he is released," Wang Henan said. "They said they weren't trying to get me to stay quiet, almost as if they didn't care any more."

Wang was a key activist during protests in Guangzhou in January 2013 that were sparked by the rewriting of a New Year's Day Southern Media Group editorial calling for constitutional government.

Activists, journalists, and academics faced off with the authorities for several days after the Southern Weekend newspaper was forced to change a New Year editorial calling for political reform into a tribute praising the CCP.

The protest was one of the first overt calls by members of the public for political freedom since large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations were crushed in a military crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

He was later detained in 2014 on suspicion of the same charge, shortly before the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Wang said she hadn't received the notice of formal arrest at the time of her meeting with the state security police.

"They told me face-to-face, but I hadn't gotten the notice yet, so I was still in suspense," she said. "I felt as if they were trying to torture his family members."

Another rights activist detained

Fellow rights activist Ou Biaofeng has been detained in Hunan province for seven months on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power," his wife told RFA.

He is currently being held in the Zhuzhou Detention Center, and his case has yet to be referred to the state prosecutor for trial, Wei Huanhuan said following a similar meeting with Zhuzhou municipal state security police.

She said they had claimed that her husband had asked the government to appoint a lawyer for him.

"They claimed that Ou Biaofeng did this on his own initiative," Wei said. "They said if the family was cooperative, and if he showed a good attitude, then the case could be resolved very quickly."

The acceptance of state-appointed lawyers, a video "confession," and family silence in the face of media inquiries are often mandated by police and prosecutors if defendants in political cases wish to get a more lenient sentence.

"I asked them if they wouldn't just let us hire him a lawyer, and [the leader] said 'what's the point of doing that if this way he gets a lighter sentence?'," Wei said. "He said it was up to us."

"Even if [Ou Biaofeng] actually did write something like that, it would only be because he has been held there in isolation for a long period of time, and brainwashed and threatened by them," Wei said.

"It's not really compatible with his legal rights, and in that sense can't really be considered a choice on his part," she said.

Wei said the authorities don't want genuine human rights attorneys involved in political cases, because they make the process harder at every step.

"Once the case goes to the procuratorate, the defender can get involved and read the case files," she said. "But if it's all under their control, they can do the whole thing behind closed doors."

She said she wouldn't accept the police claim that Ou had asked them to find him a lawyer.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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