Chinese Police Press Father in Effort to Silence Exiled Wukan Activist Son

china-wukan-09272016.jpg Zhuang Liehong stages a protest at the U.N. Headquarters in New York to call attention to the crackdown on his home village of Wukan, Sept. 2016.
Photo courtesy of Zhuang Liehong.

Police in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have tried to silence an exiled leader of the rebel village of Wukan by making his detained father persuade him by telephone to stop his activism.

Zhuang Liehong, who lives in New York after fleeing China for the United States in 2014,  told RFA's Cantonese Service on Tuesday that he got a phone call from Lufeng Police Department in Guangdong.  After the police officer confirmed if it was Zhuang, they handed the phone to his father, Zhuang Songkun.

"My father asked me if I planned any more actions over here and I then asked about his situation. He said he was being treated well by police and asked me not to stir things up overseas and be careful not to be used by other people," Zhuang told RFA.

"I told my father don't fuss too much. If they want to arrest you, just let them do it. I know the phone line has been under surveillance. My intention is to tell them if they arrest my father, there will be a price to pay," Zhuang added.

The elder Zhuang has been in police custody since Sept. 13, when he and three other people who sheltered journalists covering protests that erupted in late summer were issued with notifications of criminal detention.

While Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was attending the United Nations General Assembly last week, Zhuang Liehong staged protests at U.N. headquarters in New York in an effort to call attention to the crackdown, which followed more than 80 days of peaceful protests in his hometown, Wukan.

Wukan, a fishing village of just 13,000, grabbed world headlines in 2011 following pitched battles between police and local residents that came after a long-running land dispute and the death of an activist in detention.

Dozens of people were injured by rubber bullets and police batons during street battles in mid-September, while at least 13 were detained in mass police raids.

The latest protests and crackdown in Wukan came after a court in Guangdong's Foshan city sentenced Lin Zuluan, 72, to more than three years' imprisonment on "bribery" charges. He was made the new head of the village in 2012 as former protest leaders were elected to positions on the village committee following weeks of protests.

The elections that followed the sacking of ruling Chinese Communist Party village secretary Xue Chang for corruption were widely reported in China's tightly controlled media as a model of grassroots democracy.

Wukan residents rejected Lin's sentence, staging further protests over charges they said were trumped up.

Asked by RFA if the pressure on his father would silence him, Zhuang Liehong said: "Of course not. Am I that stupid? After all they did to the villagers of Wukan, did they silence me? I will take more actions based on my assessment of the situation in Wukan.”

Reported by Koh Fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated by Wong Lok-to. Written in English by Paul Eckert.


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