Moon Festival Shines Spotlight on China's Prisoners of Conscience


2014-09-08
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china-liu-xiaobo-portrait-crop.jpg An undated file photo of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
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Most political prisoners in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, were again deprived of being with their families at the traditional Mid-Autumn festival, which fell on Monday, as people in the country lighted lanterns, ate moon cakes and appreciated the round moon to mark the auspicious occasion, relatives and fellow activists said.

"We want to send our best wishes to all our members who are behind bars at this Mid-Autumn Festival, which is usually a time of joyful family reunion," Germany-based poet Bei Ling told RFA on behalf of an international writers' group.

"Independent Chinese PEN has always worked for the freedom to create in mainland China and protested [on behalf of writers]," he said.

He said neither Liu, a former literature professor, nor outspoken journalist Gao Yu would be able to take part in the festival from prison or detention center.

Liu was jailed in 2009 for 11 years for "incitement to subvert state power," while Gao's televised "confession" was aired by state broadcaster CCTV in May after being detained on suspicion of leaking state secrets.

Liu's wife, Liu Xia, has been held under house arrest at the couple's Beijing apartment since her husband was announced as the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Relatives detained

Meanwhile, the relatives of three detained rights lawyers detained on charges of subversion in the southern city of Guangzhou said they had no way of delivering greetings or traditional mooncakes, to their loved ones in detention.

Last month, the authorities in Guangzhou extended the criminal detention of Tang Jingling, Wang Qingying and Yuan Xinting after holding them for more than two months in criminal detention since May 16.

The lawyers were detained, initially on public order charges, in connection with a memorial event marking the 25th anniversary of the military crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.

But the charges were later changed to the more serious charge of "incitement to subvert state power."

"I feel terribly sad, because he's in there, and we're out here under the same sky, but with no way to be together," Wang's wife Zeng Jieshan told RFA on Monday.

"I feel bad that our son is walking now and can say 'Daddy,' but he's not here to see it," she said.

Zeng said she went to the detention center where Wang is being held on Sunday, but that the authorities refused to allow her to take in money and mooncakes.

"I can't give him money because they need an ID card [and mine has been confiscated by the state security police]," Zeng said.

"I also took him some clothes and some mooncakes, but they wouldn't take anything in for me, so I was very unhappy about that," she said.

Hard to celebrate

Meanwhile, Tang's wife, Wang Yanfang, said she would find it hard to celebrate while worrying about whether her husband is being mistreated in detention.

"I think about him by himself in jail at Mid-Autumn Festival," she said. "About whether he's being mistreated, and how he spends his days."

"He hasn't been allowed to have a lawyer visit him once yet," Wang Yanfang said.

In Nanjing, the mother of former Nanjing Normal University lecturer Guo Quan said her husband still has another four years of a 10-year subversion sentence to serve.

Guo, 46, was detained on Nov. 13, 2008, by police near his Nanjing home and formally charged with "subversion of state power" the following month.

He was sentenced on Oct. 17, 2009, to 10 years in prison, having been refused access to his own lawyer during the trial.

Guo's arrest sparked a wider investigation into the opposition New People's Party, which he claimed had 10 million members among the country's most disgruntled citizens.

"My son is very loyal to his parents, and our family is very traditional," said Guo's mother, who gave only her surname Gu.

"Before he went to jail, we would always be together on Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year and every Sunday, too," she said.

"He would always come over and eat with us and chat to us if he wasn't away on business," Gu said.

Gu said she is focusing on staying alive long enough to welcome Guo on his release.

"I'm 74 years old...and I can't die yet," she said. "I have to see my son get out of jail."

Mid-Autumn Festival, traditionally a harvest celebration, starts on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, when the moon appears at its roundest and largest.

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival fell on Monday and coincides with worldwide viewing of the "supermoon," which occurs when the moon is at the closest point on its orbit to Earth.

Reported by Tian Yi 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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