China Slaps Travel Ban on Nuclear Researcher-Turned-Poet Activist

china-guangzhou-three-trial-june-2015.jpg Police maintain a heavy presence outside a court in Guangdong during the trial of the Guangzhou Three in Guangdong, June 19, 2015.
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Authorities in the central province of Hunan have prevented a prominent poet from leaving the country, saying he isn't obedient enough to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Liang Taiping, who lives in the Hunan provincial capital Changsha, had planned to attend a conference in Thailand, but was stopped by airport security before he was able to board his flight to Bangkok on Thursday, he told RFA.

"They stopped me as I was going through security at the airport," Liang said. "To begin with, they wouldn't tell me why, just that I wasn't allowed to leave the country."

"I didn't find out until my lawyer spoke to them that my local police department had marked me as a threat to national security," he said.

However, when Liang pursued the matter, the authorities could produce no evidence of what threat he might pose.

"This term, 'harming national security' is so broad and vague," he said, adding that he had called the head of the state security police in his home district of Yuhua to ask why he was being barred from leaving the country.

"His reply was extremely direct," Liang said. "He said that I didn't do what the Communist Party told me to do."

"That was the reason they wouldn't let me leave China," he said, adding: "He said that they'd let me leave the country when I started to obey the Communist Party."

Sacked for 'absenteeism'

Liang, a former staff member at the Central Nuclear Industry No. 230 research facility, said he had lost his job as a result of his activism, in particular his public support for last year's Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

"They put pressure on me via my work unit to try to get me to make concessions to the state security police," Liang told RFA.

"They wanted me to admit my mistakes and write a guarantee statement promising never to get involved in civil society or any other activism again," he said.

Liang, who has been involved in a recent campaign for the release of detained Guangzhou rights lawyer Tang Jingling, was eventually let go for "absenteeism," a charge he strenuously denies.

"The way they fired me really didn't stand up ... because they even counted my weekends ... and public holidays as absences," he said.

Authorities in Guangdong have placed dozens of supporters under surveillance after they planned to attend the subversion trial of Tang Jingling, Wang Qingying, and Yuan Xinting, known as the Guangzhou Three.

Tang, Wang, and Yuan were detained amid a nationwide roundup of dissidents ahead of the politically sensitive 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement.

They are among 13 people who remain behind bars for marking the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed last year, according to the overseas-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, which collates reports from rights groups inside China.

Others include veteran political journalist Gao Yu, jailed for seven years in April for "leaking state secrets overseas," and prominent rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, who faces up to 10 years' imprisonment for each of the ethnic hatred and public order charges against him.

Application denied

Meanwhile, authorities in the eastern province of Jiangxi turned down an application by rights activist Liu Jiaqing to visit the former Portuguese territory of Macau, which still maintains an internal immigration border with the rest of China.

Residents of mainland China must apply for special passes to visit Hong Kong and Macau, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and 1999 respectively.

Liu's application was denied, however.

"I have had problems trying to leave the country for a long time," Liu told RFA on Thursday. "In November 2013 I applied for a passport, and they took my money, and I still have the receipt, but they have never sent me the passport."

He said his bail restrictions had been lifted last month, so he had asked once more for his passport.

"They told me they wouldn't give me my passport, so I asked if they would give me a travel permit [to Macau], but they said they wouldn't give me that, either," Liu said.

Liu said he believes the authorities are using the restrictions on his movements to extract concessions from him.

"This persecution from the Communist Party is very bad right now, and if it continues, it could mean we have no source of income at all," he said.

"If you get involved in activism, they have words with your company, and then the job goes, after a short time," Liu said.

Liu has been an active supporter of Guangzhou-based rights activist Sun Sihuo, better known as Sun Desheng, who stood trial in Guangzhou's Tianhe District People's Court on Nov. 28, 2014 for "gathering a crowd to disrupt public order" alongside fellow activist Yang Maodong, better known by his pseudonym Guo Feixiong.

The two men were detained after taking part in street protests for press freedom and calling for greater government transparency and protection for human rights. The court hasn't yet announced a verdict or sentence.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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