Chinese Activist 'Disappears' After Returning From Hong Kong Protest

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Demonstrators sit in a street of the Central business district after a pro-democracy rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014.
Demonstrators sit in a street of the Central business district after a pro-democracy rally seeking greater democracy in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014.

A rights activist from the southern Chinese province of Guangdong who attended a mass pro-democracy rally in neighboring Hong Kong on July 1 has been out of contact with family and friends since returning to mainland China.

Jia Pin, who was a vocal campaigner for human rights and for an inquiry into the death of Shandong dissident Xue Mingkai's father, crossed the internal immigration border to Hong Kong on June 30 ahead of the rally, in which an estimated half a million people took to the streets to demand public nomination of election candidates in 2017.

Jia, who at the time reported being threatened with criminal detention by China's state security police if he continued to Hong Kong, has been incommunicado since returning to Guangdong on foot via the border crossing at Shenzhen on Tuesday, his friends said.

Repeated calls to Jia's cell phone went unconnected on Wednesday.

"I have been trying to get in touch with him this whole time," Jia's friend and fellow activist Luo Xiangyang told RFA. "I haven't heard anything. A lot of people are looking for him."

Luo said Jia had received a phone call from state security police shortly before leaving for Hong Kong, in which they tried to put pressure on him not to take part in the demonstration.

"But he still went anyway, which was brave of him. Since he got back, I haven't seen hide nor hair of him," Luo said. "I don't know why."

'Off for a while'

Guangdong capital Guangzhou-based rights activist Xiao Yuhui said another friend, Xie Wenfei, had received a brief call from Jia on the day he returned to Guangdong.

"He told Xie Yunfei [yesterday] to tell everyone his phone was going to be off for a while, and to tell them not to worry about him," Xiao said.

"At the time, he said his phone would be off for a few hours... so if they still haven't managed to get in touch with him until now, then it's not looking good."

"The state security police said they would put him under criminal detention if he went to the Hong Kong protest," Xiao added.

Xie confirmed that he received the call around 11.00 a.m. local time on Tuesday. "If everyone's asking where he is, and the authorities have got their eye on him, then it's probably not going to be good for [Jia]," Xie said.

Jia was a prominent campaigner at January 2013 street protests in Guangzhou over official censorship of an editorial in the cutting-edge Southern Weekend newspaper.

He has also carried placards in public calling on China to abide by United Nations human rights treaties and for officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party to disclose details of their assets.

President Xi Jinping has launched a nationwide anti-graft crackdown, targeting high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies," since coming to power in November 2012.

But the party regards any popular involvement in the anti-corruption campaign as highly sensitive and potentially threatening, and has already sentenced a number of activists to jail for calling on officials to reveal their wealth.

Health fears

Elsewhere in Guangzhou, Yuan Xinting, one of three top rights lawyers detained in May and now formally arrested on charges of "incitement to subvert state power," has written to his family about fears for his health while in detention.

Yuan's lawyer Ge Wenxiu said he has concerns about his client's health following a recent meeting in which Yuan said that his blood pressure was high and that he was suffering from bowel problems.

"This has been going on since June 23, and this is a health problem he had before [he was detained]," Ge said. "But it has recently got much worse."

"I [did] apply for medical parole for him, but this was turned down by the investigating agency," he said. "Further requests for a meeting [with Yuan] were also refused."

The May 16 detention of Yuan, Wang Qingying, and Tang Jingling comes as the government pursues a policy of nationwide harassment and physical attacks on Chinese lawyers, especially those involved in politically sensitive or high-profile cases.

Signature campaign

Last month, Chinese lawyers launched a signature campaign against moves by the government to formalize recent curbs on their profession and punish lawyers acting "outside of professional boundaries."

They also called on the head of the ruling Chinese Communist Party-backed All-China Lawyers' Association Wang Junfeng to resign over the controversial new rules, warning of a "large-scale infringement of the civil and political rights of lawyers, and Chinese citizens in general."

Law enforcement agencies have also denied lawyers the right to visit clients in detention in a number of high-profile political cases in recent weeks, including the detention of top rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and his defense attorney.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong on the 17th anniversary of the handover to Chinese rule to demand full and universal suffrage, including the public nomination of candidates in the 2017 chief executive race without prior vetting by Beijing.

However, the Hong Kong government on Tuesday stopped short of asking for public nomination, saying mainstream public opinion supports the use of a pro-Beijing nomination committee.

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





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