Prominent Chinese Rights Activist 'Released' on Bail, But Surveillance Continues

Xu Qin, a close associate of jailed veteran dissident Qin Yongmin, remains under police surveillance and has yet to make contact with friends.

Xu Qin, a key figure in the China Human Rights Observer group, is shown in an undated photo.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu have released a prominent rights activist on "bail" from criminal detention after holding her since February, but she remains under close police surveillance, RFA has learned.

Xu Qin, a key figure in the China Human Rights Observer group founded by jailed veteran dissident Qin Yongmin, was held on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a public order charge typically used in the initial detention of activists.

She had been a vocal supporter of a number of high-profile human rights cases, including that of detained human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng.

Zhang Enguang, an associate of Xu's from the eastern province of Shandong, said he had received a brief call from Xu at the beginning of the month saying that she was now out on bail.

"We didn't speak for long, because she was using a phone and SIM card supplied by [the police]," Zhang told RFA. "Out of the seven months that she was incommunicado, she spent the first month in detention."

"After she got out of detention, she was held under residential surveillance at a designated location," he said. "She now has another year to go under bail conditions."

He added: "We know that Rose China [an affiliate of China Rights Observer] looks dead in the water right now, given that Qin Yongmin was just sentenced to 13 years."

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hubei handed down a 13-year jail term to veteran pro-democracy campaigner and rights activist Qin Yongmin on July 11, after finding him guilty of subversion.

Qin, 65, was sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment by the Wuhan Intermediate People's Court, which convicted him of "incitement to subvert state power." He had served nearly 26 years in jail prior to the latest sentence.

Zhang said he believes Xu was released as a result of Qin's jailing.

"I think that the pressure on Xu Qin eased up after the sentencing of Qin Yongmin," he said.

Hubei-based Rose China activist Wu Lijuan said Xu is still likely under close police surveillance, because she hasn't heard from her yet.

"I think that Xu Qin has been innocent right from the start, and she should have had her freedom all along," Wu said. "Also, I haven't been able to get in contact with Xu Qin yet, so I'm pretty sure that the authorities [are behind this], not letting her get online."

"There are bound to be certain restrictions still in place," she said.

Xu's husband Guo Mingwen confirmed Wu's suspicions.

"I think the surveillance is continuing ... residential surveillance," Guo told RFA in a brief interview on Wednesday.

Asked when Xu would likely return to normal life, he replied: "I don't think that's going to happen, not in China. I don't think so."

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.