China Detains, Questions Activists Over Wukan Foreign Media Reports


2016.09.19
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china-wukan-09192016.jpg People with land disputes in Chongqing, China show solidarity with protesting villagers in Wukan, Sept. 17, 2016.
RFA

Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have jailed one activist and questioned another for "spreading rumors" over a recent crackdown by riot police in the rebel village of Wukan following weeks of protests.

Shenzhen-based rights activist Huang Meijuan was handed a 10-day administrative jail term by police in Shenzhen, which lies just across the internal immigration border with Hong Kong, her husband told RFA.

Wu Bin, an activist known online as Xiucai Jianghu, said Huang was detained by officers from Shenzhen's Buji police station on charges of "spreading rumors" on Sept. 14 after she posted a Voice of America report on the Wukan crackdown protests to social media.

He said Huang's five-year-old son, has a learning disability and depends entirely on his mother.

"They detained me [two days later], saying I had been giving interviews to overseas media, and that I was spreading rumors about events in Wukan village, which is a sensitive topic, and not to be discussed," Wu told RFA.

"They also threatened me, saying they hadn't detained me this time because there was nobody to look after the little kid, but that I had broken the law," he said.

"They told me: 'We made the case for you with our bosses, and we're going to give you another chance, and let you off with a warning'," Wu said.

"They didn't take long taking my statement, and then they shut me in a small room and warned me not to speak to the overseas media about Huang Meijuan getting detained," said Wu, who was released in the early hours of Sunday morning. Huang remains behind bars.

Former resident writes to U.N.

Former Wukan resident Zhuang Liehong, who now lives in the United States, said he has written to the United Nations to express concern over the crackdown on more than 80 days of peaceful protests in his hometown.

Dozens of people were injured by rubber bullets and police batons during street battles last week, while at least 13 were detained in mass police raids that Zhuang said were still going on, leaving villagers frightened.

Wukan, a fishing village of just 13,000, grabbed world headlines in 2011 following pitched battles between police and local residents that came after a long-running land dispute and the death of an activist in detention.

The elections that followed the sacking of ruling Chinese Communist Party village secretary Xue Chang for corruption were widely reported in China's tightly controlled media as a model of grassroots democracy.

As Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in New York on Monday to attend a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Zhuang said what happened last week in Wukan was "unacceptable."

"The actions of the Guangdong authorities were excessive and I can't accept their oppression of local people," he told RFA. "They are also restricting the media, and the crackdown is continuing."

"I call on the U.N. to demand that the Chinese government steps in and saves the people of Wukan."

Hong Kong vigil

Meanwhile, dozens of rights activists and democratic politicians in Hong Kong staged a candlelight vigil in support of Wukan.

Pan-democratic lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said the vigil was intended as a show of solidarity from Hong Kong, whose traditional freedoms are increasingly subject to erosion and influence from Beijing.

"Today we have Wukan, tomorrow this sort of violence may occur in Hong Kong," Kwok told the 100-strong rally, who chanted "release Lin Zuluan and all Wukan villagers" and tied black ribbons to the fence outside Beijing's representative office in the former British colony.

Lin, 72, was jailed earlier this month for three years on "bribery" charges as villagers planned to relaunch a protest and petitioning campaign over lack of progress in the return of land sold by Xue Chang.

Veteran pro-democracy protester Lee Cheuk-yan compared the Wukan crackdown to the People's Liberation Army bloodshed in Beijing's
Tiananmen Square in 1989.

"What happened in Wukan serves as a reminder to our youth that China hasn't fundamentally changed," Lee said.

Fellow activist Richard Choi said the detention and physical assaults on Hong Kong journalists trying to cover the Wukan crackdown had also angered many in the city.

"In the past five years, we can see that the human rights situation has worsened, compared with Wukan as it was [in 2011]," Choi said.

"It's also very clear that the treatment of Hong Kong journalists [by Chinese authorities] is getting worse," he said. "There used to be a lot more freedom to report on China, but now they are obstructing journalists from Hong Kong."

Reported by Yang Fan and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Lau Siu-fung for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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