Rights Activist 'Takes Refuge' in U.S. Embassy in Beijing: Relatives

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Chinese election activist Li Biyun (C) seated on a wheelchair surrounded by supporters outside the court in Foshan city, Guangdong, Sept. 6, 2013.
Photo courtesy of a Li Biyun supporter.

An outspoken rights activist from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong took refuge briefly in the U.S. Embassy in Beijing after being followed by state security police during a visit to seek medical treatment, her relatives told RFA.

Li Biyun, who hails from Guangdong's Shunde city, was in Beijing to seek further treatment for her medical problems, her niece said on Thursday.

"She was followed and surrounded by state security police in the embassy district," her niece said. "There were so many of them that she began to be afraid, and she sought refuge inside the embassy."

Li had called her niece at around 6.00 p.m. on Wednesday after entering the U.S. embassy compound at around 5.00 p.m., she said.

She said the officers following her were from Shunde city, and Li had feared being detained and taken back there.

"She called me at around 10.00 p.m. to say that it was over, and that she was outside on the street alone," Li's niece said.

Li's sister Li Caiyun said she had arrived in Beijing to see doctors on July 3, and had been around 200 meters from the U.S. Embassy when police surrounded her.

"She was afraid that they would arrest her and lock her up again," Li Caiyun said. "She has already been through that, and she was afraid that that was what the Shunde state security police were trying to do."

There was no immediate comment from the U.S. mission in Beijing.

In December 2014, Li, 48, was dumped at high speed by the side of the road after being jailed on public order charges during which she alleged torture at the hands of police.

No opposition parties allowed

A court in Guangdong's Shunde city found Li guilty of "obstructing civic duties" after she tried to stand as an independent candidate in elections to her district People's Congress.

Since her detention, she has been coughing up blood, and has had difficulty walking due to leg injuries sustained during her "release" from detention.

In 2011, Li joined dozens of political activists across China in a campaign to file applications to stand for election to district-level National People's Congress (NPC) bodies, in spite of official warnings that there is "no such thing" as an independent candidate.

Li's candidacy enjoyed widespread popular support after her earlier advocacy work on behalf of local residents whose farmland had been sold off by local government for development.

Activists tried to use a clause in the election rules which allows anyone with the endorsement of at least 10 constituents to seek nomination.

Many of the candidates, like Li, hailed from the least privileged groups in Chinese society, including those who have been forcibly evicted from their homes or who have long campaigned for their legal rights.

Apart from a token group of "democratic parties" that never oppose or criticize the ruling party, opposition political parties are banned in China, and those who set them up are frequently handed lengthy jail terms.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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