No Reunion for Activist Couple

Chinese police threaten online activists with further detention if they try to meet.

Screen grab of Cheng Jianping's controversial tweet, Oct. 17, 2010.

A bride-to-be who was sent to labor camp on her wedding day over a retweet the authorities didn't like said she and her fiance have been warned that any attempt to get together will trigger further detentions.

Cheng Jianping, who was detained in November 2010 after she posted an anti-Japanese message on Twitter, said she had recently managed to evade  state security police surveillance teams for long enough to board a train out of her hometown.

Cheng is being held under surveillance in her registered hometown of Xinxiang, in the central province of Henan, in spite of a long-term live-in relationship with her Wuxi-based fiance Hua Chunhui.

Arriving in the southern city of Guangzhou, Cheng had hoped to join the hundreds of millions of Chinese trying to find a train ticket home to spend the Lunar New Year with their loved ones, but instead went incommunicado for several days after getting sick with a high fever.

On emerging from her bed, Cheng received several calls from state security police in Henan and Wuxi warning her not to continue with her plans.

If she did so,  Hua, who suffers from diabetes and needs frequent medical care, would be redetained immediately, police said.

"I really want to go there and take care of him ... but if I go there for the new year, the state security police will put him back in jail," Cheng said in an interview this week.

"His situation is quite dangerous, so I daren't go. I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to cope with the result," said Cheng, who was released last November after serving a year in a "re-education through labor" camp.

A brief meeting

Despite having lived for some time with Hua at his home in Wuxi, Cheng was immediately taken after her release back to Henan.

Hua has said that he was himself held in secret detention by Wuxi's state security police until Cheng had been placed under close surveillance in her hometown.

The couple were allowed a brief meeting last month which lasted an hour before being broken up by police, who led them away to their separate locations once more.

Cheng was handed her term in labor camp for "disturbing social order," for postings she made online, state security police said at the time.

Cheng's sentence was sparked by a retweet dated Oct. 17, 2010, which called on the nation's "angry youth" patriotic movement to charge in and smash the Japanese pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo.

"Angry youth! Charge!" Cheng added to an original tweet by Hua.

Hua's tweet read: "Actually with these anti-Japanese demos, the smashing of Japanese goods and so on is nothing new. It was done many years ago by [former Nanjing University professor] Guo Quan. If you really wanted to kickstart things [add energy] it would be better to fly to Shanghai and smash the Japanese pavilion at the World Expo."

Wave of protests

Cheng's sentence came amid a wave of anti-Japanese protests over a simmering territorial dispute sparked by Japan's detention of a Chinese fishing boat captain in the East China Sea.

The sometimes violent 2010 demonstrations were believed to be the largest in more than five years, and included protests and marches in Chengdu, Xi’an, Zhengzhou, and Hangzhou.

Chinese authorities are keeping up the pressure on the country's rights activists and political dissidents ahead of the Lunar New Year, with many reporting being called in for questioning by state security police in recent days.

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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