Categoria: Press release

Widow of Late Chinese Dissident ‘In Yunnan’ as Traditional Mourning Period Ends

Seven weeks after the death of Chinese dissident and Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, his wife is still being held in an unknown location by the authorities, sources told RFA on Tuesday.

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia holds his photo as an unidentified man (R) carries an urn holding his ashes. Shenyang City News Burea

Liu Xia hasn’t been seen in public, or by friends and close family, since she was photographed at her husband’s sea-burial shortly after his death on July 13.

Officials have said she is “free, but grief-stricken” and doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia, who is a close friend of Liu Xia’s, said she is being held under illegal detention by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in the southwestern province of Yunnan, however.

“We are actually extremely worried about Liu Xia, and we think she is at even more risk than Liu Xiaobo was [during his lifetime],” Hu said. “The authorities aren’t even going to discuss [letting her return home] ahead of the 19th Party Congress.”

Hu said Liu isn’t even being allowed to go out to carry out traditional widow’s mourning rites, seven weeks after his death.

“They have told her she has no hope of being allowed to go outside before next year’s National People’s Congress annual session [in March in Beijing],” he said. “After that, then they’ll see, but she has to go along with it for now.”

“The authorities have stepped up their security alert and their stability maintenance measures for that whole period,” Hu said.

“Apart from knowing that she is in Dali, Yunnan, I have had no news of her whatsoever,” he added.

Liu Xiaobo’s late diagnosis, and the refusal of the government to allow him to go overseas on medical parole, had sparked widespread public anger, with the governments of Germany and the U.S. offering him the best possible treatment.

Suspicious video

Concerns are growing over the mental and physical health of Liu Xia, who has suffered depression and heart problems under house arrest since October 2010, and has reportedly asked to be allowed to go overseas to seek treatment herself.

On Aug. 18, a video of Liu Xia in which she said she was “safe” leaked online.

“I am now in retreat out of town,” she said. “Please give me time.”

But her friends said at the time that the video was likely scripted and produced by the authorities, as it repeated official claims about her status.

China increasingly uses scripted statements and video “confessions” by detainees under duress to back up its narrative about their “crimes” or their mental state.

But Liu Xia’s friend, Guangdong-based writer Ye Du, said he doesn’t believe she is well.

“Liu Xia’s mental state is bound to be unstable,” Ye told RFA. “I think everyone who knows her is going to be worried about her.”

A number of social media users have been detained in recent weeks for posting supportive or commemorative statements about Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, including one social media user who asked to remain anonymous.

“Of course they are going to warn people off,” the social media user said. “But nobody here pays any heed to them.”

“They are doing it because it’s their job.”

Memorials for Liu Xiaobo

An activist surnamed Huang in the southern province of Guangdong said he and several others were detained for carrying memorials for Liu Xiaobo and posting to social media about it.

“They have all been sent back to their hometowns where they are under surveillance by their local governments, and they’re not allowed to leave,” Huang said. “There were a lot of people in Guangdong in this situation.”

A second anonymous activist said he plans to post online in memory of Liu Xiaobo on the seventh week after his death, which falls on Aug. 31.

“We all want to take this opportunity, the last in the seven-week mourning period, to commemorate Liu Xiaobo,” the activist said. “We want to protest against this dictatorial regime, and preparations are being made among people here and organizations overseas.”

“Here in China, we have to prepare in secret, because the authorities will take steps to prevent any sort of mass event,” he said. “Any form of honest self-expression is a threat, so far as they’re concerned.”

The first seven-day mourning rites after Liu Xiaobo’s death were observed in secret by activists in mainland China, and more openly in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

Activists visited beaches and shorelines, making offerings in memory of the burial of Liu’s ashes in an urn at sea in defiance of attempts by Chinese officials to prevent democracy and rights activists from making a shrine to him after death.

Activists used candles, flowers, portraits of Liu and empty chairs as a focus for their offerings, in a reference to the empty chair that represented him at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony in Oslo.

At the time of his death at the age of 61, Liu had been serving an 11-year jail term for “incitement to subvert state power,” linked to his online writings promoting democracy and constitutional government. They included Charter 08, a document that was signed by more than 300 prominent scholars, writers, and rights activists around the country.

In the document, the former literature professor called for concerned Chinese citizens to rally to bring about change, citing an increasing loss of control by the Communist Party and heightened hostility between the authorities and ordinary people.

Radio Free Asia,2017-08-29

Dissidents Voice Fears That China Will Use Interpol to Come After Peaceful Critics

Veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrate outside Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office, July 10, 2017

Veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrate outside Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office, July 10, 2017

 As China’s vice minister of public security Meng Hongwei takes the presidency of international police organization Interpol, which issued a “red notice” for wanted billionaire Guo Wengui earlier this year, dissidents in exile have voiced fears that they could be next in line.

Earlier this month in Germany, veteran democracy activist Wei Jingsheng and fellow Chinese dissidents and journalists demonstrated outside Germany’s federal police bureau over concerns that Interpol will be coopted by authorities member states to pursue peaceful activists.

“Who are the biggest criminals in the world?” Qian Yuejun, chief editor of the Chinese newspaper Europe China Guidance, said in a short speech at the rally outside Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office. “They are the people who take away other people’s human rights.”

“There are a number of authoritarian states, authoritarian regimes, that are members of Interpol, and they are now using Interpol to pursue people who challenge their power,” Qian said. “This is wrong. Interpol should be used to pursue criminals, not democracy activists or human rights campaigners.”

Wei told the gathering that his name has long been on the Chinese government’s Interpol wanted list, leading to his brief detention in Switzerland when he traveled there to attend an event.

“China has already used Interpol to do a lot of bad things, and now the vice minister of public security is in charge of it,” Wei said. “Interpol is gradually sliding down the slippery slope towards becoming a fascist organization reminiscent of World War II.”

“Now, Interpol is once more being infiltrated by the dictatorial regime in China, who have been placing huge pressure on exile dissidents for many years now,” Wei said. “They will use various excuses to target these exiles, including labeling ethnic minorities as terrorists.”

“I don’t want to see them becoming a hitman for dictatorial regimes.”

Qian said there is a precedent for such a takeover, when the organization was controlled by key figures in the German secret police.

Wei said he had contacted Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock to discuss the dissidents’ concerns, but that he had declined to get involved in the campaign, saying he doesn’t engage in politics.

Trumped-up criminal charges

Qian said that Interpol regulations prohibit any country from pursuing suspects for political, military or religious reasons, but said authoritarian member states are flouting such rules through the use of trumped-up criminal charges instead.

“Actually … Interpol itself has no power as an organization; it is more of an independent association,” he said. “It can’t be regulated by anything outside itself, so it is very vulnerable to being manipulated.”

But he said the organization does have the option of making a “red notice” advisory only, meaning that member states can choose whether or not to act on it.

Meanwhile, Meng has called for deeper cooperation between the public and private sectors to combat online and financial crime.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock responded by saying that the organization is “ideally positioned” to be the gateway and interface for more streamlined cooperation between global law enforcement agencies and private industry partners.

With 190 member countries, Interpol is the second largest intergovernmental organization next to the United Nations.

Meng was elected president at the Interpol General Assembly held in 2016 and will serve until 2020.

China already wields increasing influence among its smaller neighbors, who have proved willing to detain dissidents fleeing persecution and send them back again without the need for Interpol.

Chinese dissidents who have sought political refuge in Thailand have described a climate of fear for exiles in the country, which has cooperated with the repatriation of several peaceful critics of the regime, including Hong Kong bookseller Gui Minhai and Chongqing-based activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei.

Jiang and Dong, who had fled persecution in their home country, were handed back to Chinese authorities last November in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N. They are now in criminal detention in Chongqing, where they face subversion charges.

Jiang’s wife Chu Ling and Dong’s wife Gu Shuhua and daughter Dong Xuerui flew to Canada from Bangkok for resettlement as political refugees just days after the two men were repatriated. They now fear Jiang and Dong are  at risk of torture and other violations of their rights.

RFA, 2017-07-25

Vietnam Land, Labor Activist Handed Nine-Year Prison Term

A human rights defender jailed in Vietnam for her online activism was sentenced on Tuesday to nine years in prison and five years’ probation on a charge of conducting propaganda against the state, sources said.

Tran Thi Nga, 40, was sentenced by a court in northern Vietnam’s Ha Nam province after being convicted under Article 88 of Vietnam’s penal code, a provision frequently used to silence dissident bloggers and other activists.

Though videos and articles posted online by Nga were described by government prosecutors as anti-state propaganda, “Nga rejected the evidence [presented against her],” Ha Huy Son, one of her defense attorneys,  told RFA’s Vietnamese Service on July 25.

“Her lawyers assert that the evidence gathered against her was not collected according to Vietnamese legal procedures, and so we asked the court to release her,” Son said. “But ultimately the court did not accept our arguments, and gave her that sentence.”

Son said that he expects Nga to appeal her sentence “very soon,” adding that no one from the activist’s family was allowed inside the court on Tuesday.

“Only the police and people summoned by the court were there,” he said.

Activists and other supporters had come to Ha Nam to attend the trial, but were blocked from entering the building, activist La Viet Dung told RFA.

“The police gave the excuse that the courtroom was full, so we asked them to use speakers so we could hear from outside, but they refused,” Dung said.

“At first, they let us stand right in front of the court, but then they said we were disturbing public order and chased us away.”

Police then blocked the dissidents again by driving buses in front of them, “trying to discourage us by running their engines and discharging exhaust, but we just kept sitting there,” Dung said.

“When we returned to that spot in the afternoon, it was barricaded,” he said.

Nga, who has two children, is well known for defending the rights of Vietnamese migrant workers and victims of government land grabs, and in May 2014 suffered serious injury when she was assaulted by a group of men wielding metal pipes.

The seizure of land for development, often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents, is a major cause of protests in Vietnam and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Cambodia.

RFA, 2017-07-25

The Spirit of Liu Xiaobo

How Liu Xiaobo died says a lot about modern China and the fears of modern Chinese leaders. The government in Beijing controls a nuclear weapons arsenal and throws its weight around in international affairs. Yet it was afraid to hear the democratic ideas advocated at great cost by a courageous man of conscience.

Britain is looking away as China tramples on the freedom of Hong Kong – and my father

Theresa May emphasises the importance of British values. But Britain’s limpness over Hong Kong demonstrates how easily they are compromised.

China using opaque policy terms to tighten repression in Tibet: HRW

International rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report titled ‘Tibet: A Glossary of Repression’ highlights how China is using ‘opaque policy terms’ to tighten repression in Tibet.

“Orwell (English novelist) himself would be hard pressed to invent a better vocabulary of totalitarian management. But ultimately the message of the Chinese authorities’ terms for Tibetans is clear. Political nonconformity will be punished, severely,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at HRW.

Vietnamese Police Pursue Criminal Probe of Dong Tam Villagers in Land Standoff

Vietnamese police on Tuesday began a criminal investigation of farmers in Dong Tam village, despite a promise by Hanoi’s mayor not to prosecute them as a result of hostage-release negotiations during an April standoff between villagers and the local government, sources with knowledge of the situation said on Tuesday.

The investigation is focusing on the illegal detention of 38 police officers and officials and acts of vandalism allegedly committed by farmers after a clash over the government’s seizure of land in Dong Tam village in Hanoi’s My Duc district, according to a local media report.

A Dong Tam resident who spoke to RFA’s Vietnamese Service on condition of anonymity said residents of the village in Hanoi’s My Duc district are on edge about what will happen next.

“Now everyone here is waiting for the result [of the decision to prosecute], whatever it might be,” the person said. “Everyone is very nervous and worried.”

Police arrested several farmers from Dong Tam on April 15 for allegedly causing social unrest during a clash between authorities and commune residents who accused the government of seizing 47 hectares (116 acres) of their farmland for the military-run Viettel Group—the country’s largest mobile phone operator—without compensating them.

Other farmers responded by detaining 38 police officers and local officials, and threatened to kill them if security personnel attacked them a second time.

Two days after the clash, police released some of the farmers they had arrested. In return, the farmers freed 15 riot police, but continued to detain 20, while three others escaped.

On April 20, the farmers boycotted a meeting with Hanoi Mayor Nguyen Duc Chung who was ordered to negotiate the release of the 20 police officers and local officials.

He traveled to the My Duc district People’s Committee building about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from central Hanoi to discuss the hostage situation, but the farmers wanted him to visit with them directly in Dong Tam, according to a local media report issued at the time.

The standoff ended on April 22 when the farmers freed the 20 officers and officials after the mayor pledged to investigate their complaints and not prosecute the villagers.

“Currently, the two sides [Dong Tam villagers and the Hanoi government] are still working on the land investigation,” the villager said. “Right now we can’t say anything until it’s clear that Mr. Chung has broken his promise.”

Wait and see

Lawyer Tran Vu Hai, who went to Dong Tam during the standoff to reassure villagers, advised Dong Tam residents not jump to any conclusions about the mayor’s promise not to prosecute the farmers.

“We need to wait to see what they are going to prosecute the farmers for and what Hanoi police will say about this,” he told RFA.

“Right now we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Mr. Chung has broken his promise,” he said. “We need to wait until we are clear about the whole situation.”

“Dong Tam people have told us lawyers to be very careful about this issue right now, and not to find a way to fight the government or to criticize Mr. Chung,” he said.

Land activist Trinh Ba Phuong, who had advised farmers in Dong, said he did not believe Chung would honor his pledge from the start.

“At that time, I predicted that the Dong Tam villagers would face more difficulties, as well as the emptiness of what Mr. Chung said,” he told RFA.

Phuong is the son of activist Can Thi Theu, a resident of Duong Noi village outside Hanoi, known for her work organizing and leading protests against land appropriations.

Authorities have arrested Theu and husband for their protest activities in the past. Theu is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence for causing public disorder a year ago when she and more than 50 other demonstrators gathered at the Ministry of the Environment in Hanoi to submit petitions seeking a solution to an ongoing land conflict in Duong Noi village.

“Mr. Chung was also involved in the arrest of my parents and the Duong Noi people, so this promise of his is of no value to me,” Phuong said.

“Their plan is to prolong [the investigation] time to find loopholes so they can [prosecute] the Dong Tam villagers,” he said.

Radio Free Asia,2017-06-13