Chinese Dissidents Jailed Ahead of Moon Festival

china-moon-festival-sept-2013.jpg Beijing residents view the moon from a bridge at Taoranting Park in Beijing on the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Sept. 19, 2013.

Chinese authorities have formally arrested or sentenced a number of anti-graft and human rights activists on the eve of the traditional mid-autumn moon festival, rights groups said on Thursday.

Authorities in the central province of Hubei formally arrested Liu Jiacai, an activist in the nascent New Citizens' anti-graft movement, for "disturbing public order," paving the way for a trial, a Chinese rights group reported ahead of Thursday's Mid-Autumn Festival holiday.

Liu Jiacai was initially criminally detained by police in Hubei's Yichang city on the more serious charge of "incitement to subvert state power" after he had completed a 10-day administrative sentence handed down by police, rights activists and relatives said earlier this month.

But Hubei-based activist Liu Feiyue, who runs the People's Livelihood Watch website, said any charges against Liu were unjust, as his actions had been entirely legal and reasonable.

"Liu Jiacai's action in Yichang [city] were rights defense work of an entirely legal and reasonable kind," Liu Feiyue said. "He took part in meal gatherings with the New Citizens' Movement, all of which were legal."

Liu had recently become active in the movement, which targets ruling Chinese Communist Party officials for graft, and has staged public protests since March, demanding they reveal their assets.

"This is yet another case of suppression of the New Citizens' Movement, which is a violation of human rights," Liu Feiyue said.


Meanwhile, a court in Shanghai sentenced two activists on charges of "creating a disturbance" in apparent retaliation for their longtime rights activities and petitioning, the overseas-based China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) group said in an e-mailed statement.

The city's Zhabei District People's Court on Tuesday handed a 30-month jail term to long-term activist and petitioner Wang Kouma after holding him for nearly one year.

The same court sentenced fellow activist Wei Qin to 27 months' imprisonment during a trial closed to foreign journalists and supporters of the two men.

Wang Kouma had previously served a two-year prison sentence for seeking to expose the circumstances surrounding his mother's suspicious death and the role local officials played in it.

Meanwhile, a labor activist in the eastern province of Zhejiang found himself without a job ahead of the festival after he took part in protests outside local government offices in a bid to recover unpaid wages.

Guo Xizhen, a former worker at the Aiteli shoe factory in Zhejiang's Wenzhou city, said he had been fired with no pre-festival wages.

"This happened yesterday evening," he said in an interview on Thursday.

Millions of Chinese look forward to the nation's traditional moon-viewing and cake-eating festival, which typically features poetic couplets, moon-gazing picnics, and colorful lanterns.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, which often runs into the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, starts on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, when the harvest moon appears at its roundest and largest.

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Sept. 19.

Reported by Xin Yu for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Grace Kei Lai-see for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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