Seven Held in Beijing's Artists' Village Over Support For Hong Kong Protests

china-songzhuang-jan-2010.jpg View of Songzhuang Artists' Village in Beijing's Tongzhou district, in a file photo.

Chinese authorities have detained seven people on public order charges after a poetry recital evening held on the outskirts of Beijing in support of the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

They were among about a dozen people held initially following the event at the Songzhuang Artists' Village last week.

Six of them—Cui Guangxia, Zhu Yanguang, Fei Xiaosheng, Ren Zhongyuan, Ding Ting and Zhang Miao, a news assistant from the Beijing bureau of Germany's Zeit News—were taken away by police after they attended the event.

But police also detained poet Wang Zang, who hadn't attended the poetry event, but who posted a photo of himself online holding an umbrella and making a single-fingered gesture in support of the mass civil disobedience movement calling for universal suffrage in the former British colony.

A total of 11 people were taken away when police in the Songzhuang district raided the event last week, Wang's wife told RFA.

Wang is being held in Beijing's No. 1 Detention Center on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," after being taken away by police on Oct. 1, Wang Li said on Monday.

"I had no news of him until Oct. 4, even though they had him locked up there and I kept calling to ask about him," Wang Li said. "The police just dragged their heels."

"They didn't tell me until I went again to inquire [on Sunday]."

She said she had received a phone call from the detention center on Sunday.

"They said Wang Zang was under criminal detention for picking quarrels and stirring up trouble."

Wang, an outspoken poet and social activist, also had his home searched by police and computers, umbrellas and other items confiscated by officers, Wang Li said.

A total of seven people are now being held together, she said.

"They are all being held in the same place, although I'm not sure exactly what they have been charged with."

She said she had been in touch with prominent rights lawyer Sui Muqing. "But nothing's decided yet," Wang Li added.

She added: "He didn't commit any crime. He's innocent. I refused to sign anything the police asked me to sign."

Poetry event

Beijing-based artist Kuang Laowu said the poetry event was the main trigger for the detentions.

"They took about 11 or 12 people away to the police station and questioned them, a lot of them three days after the event," Kuang said.

"Now, there are six people in total who have been criminally detained on account of the poetry reading," he added.

"[Ding Ting] was detained [on Sunday], but we don't yet know if he will be criminally detained," Kuang said. "But I'm pretty certain he will be."

"They are all likely going to be charged with picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," he said.

Kuang said state security police had also paid him a visit at home.

"They came yesterday afternoon, the state security police, and told me not to give any interviews," he said.

"Two of them came to my home."

Ding Ting's wife Chen Cheng said police had banged on the door of the couple's apartment late on Sunday.

"I wouldn't open it at first," Chen said. "I said it was late, and couldn't it wait until tomorrow, but they said no."

"When they came in, they body searched Ding Ting, and asked to see his identity card, and they told me to switch off my cell phone," she said.

She said police had told her Monday morning that her husband had been transferred to the No. 1 Detention Center.

"I went to the police station at 9.00 a.m. this morning and told them I am Ding Ting's wife, and asked where he was," Chen said.

"They said I could go there and ask if I had any questions."

China-based support

A total of 33 activists across China have been detained since Sept. 22 for publicly supporting the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, which is calling for public nomination of candidates for the 2017 elections for the territory's chief executive.

Under current electoral reform plans endorsed by Beijing, candidates will be directly elected by all of Hong Kong's five million voters, but must be approved by a committee selected by the ruling Chinese Communist Party before being allowed to run.

Of those, 21 are in Beijing, and seven are from the Songzhuang Artists' Village, according to the Weiquanwang rights website.

A group of Chinese lawyers on Monday also issued a statement in support of the Occupy movement, hitting out at Hong Kong chief executive C.Y. Leung for "misleading" China's parliament by failing to report local support for public nominations.

"[Leung] must be held responsible for misleading the National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee with his report of political reform," the statement said.

"He must listen to the advice of different social sectors and make remedial measures," the lawyers said in a statement translated by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper.

"At the same time we feel that China is closely linked to Hong Kong," it says.

The group also called on the NPC to begin legislating for electoral reform within mainland China, allowing its provincial- and municipal-level deputies to be returned by direct popular ballot.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Luo Baite and Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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