Chinese Muslim Rights Activist Flees After Alleged Police Stabbing

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china-ding-jiaxi-li-wei-trial-april-2014.jpg A policeman walks past the Haidian District People's Court in Beijing, April 8, 2014.

Police in China are hunting for a rights activist who is believed to have attacked two state security police officers with a knife, killing one before fleeing the scene.

Beijing police are offering a 50,000 yuan (U.S. $7,520) reward for information leading to the arrest of Jin Zhongqi, known among China's human rights community as a passionate advocate for those made homeless by eviction.

The alleged incident took place on Xueqing Road in the western district of Haidian at 2 p.m. on Monday and left two people injured, including a passing professor, the police statement said.

The warrant was issued on Wednesday and warned the public to prepare for violence from Jin who is a member of the Muslim Hui ethnic group.

While, the Beijing News said the stabbing was sparked by a "toe-treading" dispute, fellow activists said Jin was under constant surveillance by state security police who followed him everywhere around the clock.

Beijing-based eviction activist Ni Yulan said she had known Jin through his rights activism for many years.

"He is a very good person, very passionate, and he has helped petitioners and homeless people by letting them stay at his place," Ni said. "That's why the state security police have been watching his family."

"Jin Zhongqi has been the target of daily attacks and verbal abuse from state security police, who follow him everywhere, every day," she said.

"Sometimes they stop him taking public transport, or from going about his business."

Calls to the police contact number given on the arrest warrant rang unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Under house arrest

Ni's husband Dong Jiqin said Jin has also been placed under house arrest on a number of occasions, and had the water and electricity supply to his home cut off by the authorities.

Jin, who was among those who brought food to Ni during her house arrest, has also been subjected to threats and beatings at the hands of state security police, Dong said.

"We can't be sure right now whether they were actually following him at the time of the attack, but he had posted photos of a male and a female police officer following him on the bus," he said.

"He has done so much to help others defend their rights over the years," Dong added.

Gu Yi, director of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the United States (IFCSS), said the authorities haven't released the identity of the person who died in the alleged attack.

He said China's internet censors are now deleting any information about the case that appears on social media sites controlled by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

"I posted a photo to the Chinese Muslim Network website with some information about [Jin's] past history as a rights activist, but it was deleted within less than a minute," Gu said.

Gu appeared to have doubts that the incident unfolded as media reports claim it did.

"There a strict controls on any online information about this," Gu said. "That wouldn't happen if it was a straightforward criminal case."

Intolerable pressure

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the death and injuries were a tragedy caused by a system that puts intolerable pressure on the country's human rights community.

"China's law enforcement system employs all kinds of illegal measures to persecute its citizens and to violate their human rights," Hu said.

"This causes great distress and injury to those individuals and their families," he said

Hu said rights activists and dissidents rarely break the law, and yet they are routinely targeted by state security police who are themselves brutalized by the system of which they are a part.

"They are sad people, who have to act as heavies for the Communist Party in order to feed their families," Hu said. "They themselves have no dignity."

He said the entire system is putting a huge strain on Chinese citizens.

"If the Chinese Communist Party keeps going with the sorts of methods employed by its political police, then I don't think that this will be the last case of its kind that we see," Hu warned.

China is no stranger to public acts of violence in connection with protest over human rights abuses.

In 2013, a wheelchair-bound man detonated a homemade bomb at Beijing Capital International Airport as a protest against police brutality that left him disabled with no redress.

Ethnic tensions flare

The Hui are culturally more similar to mainstream Han Chinese than Xinjiang's Turkic-speaking Uyghur people, but retain some Islamic customs like avoiding pork and circumcising male children.

Ethnic tensions have nonetheless flared in recent years, notably in huge riots following a 2004 car accident involving a Han Chinese and a Hui Muslim in the central province of Henan.

In June 2012, authorities in the northwestern Chinese region of Ningxia handed jail terms of up to six years to 14 ethnic minority Hui Muslims for "inciting violence" and "obstructing public duty," following clashes over the destruction of a mosque at the end of 2011.

And in 2013, police in Tongxin county near Ningxia's Wuzhong city detained around 40 Muslim Hui people following riots sparked by the forced demolition of a local mosque by the authorities. Four were later released, and 36 stood trial.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Sing Man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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