Chinese lawyer-turned-citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who was detained after reporting from the front line of the coronavirus epidemic in the central city of Wuhan, remains "under the supervision" of the authorities, a close friend has said.Chen's friend and mixed martial arts (MMA) star Xu Xiaodong said via a statement on YouTube that Chen is in good health, but has yet to return home."[Chen] Qiushi is still under the supervision of a certain agency and hasn't come home yet," Xu said."According to sources in China, Hong Kong and Japan, he has no money ... and never incited anyone [to subversion]," Xu said. "He has never been in touch with any opposition groups overseas.""For the time being, there will be no prosecution or trial."Taiwan's Central News Agency also quoted friends of Chen's as saying he remains under incommunicado detention.Chen was taken away by police on Feb. 6 after he started livestreaming from hospitals in Wuhan.Similar treatment was meted out to rights activist and citizen journalist Fang Bin, who was detained on Feb. 9, and to a former anchor with state broadcaster CCTV, Li Zehua, who was detained on Feb. 26.One of Chen's last broadcasts was from the newly built prefabricated hospital in Wuhan, which he had reached on a borrowed electric motor scooter, and which he described as "not fit to house infectious disease patients, as it was obviously designed to be a battlefield hospital."'I will carry on reporting'In a video posted about the events of Jan. 29, Chen had already expressed concerns that the authorities were on his trail."I have the coronavirus in my face, and the entire law enforcement system of China on my tail," he said. "But I will carry on reporting from Wuhan for as long as I am still alive.""If I'm not afraid to die, why would I fear the Communist Party?"Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing have denied an application for bail for former Tsinghua University professor Geng Xiaonan and her husband, who were detained after she spoke out on behalf of a number of prominent Chinese dissidents, including Chen Qiushi.A Sept. 16 notice issued by the Beijing police depart rejected Geng's lawyer's bail application.Geng and her husband were detained earlier this month on suspicion of "illegal business activities" linked to the publishing company they run together.The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about their detention.U.S.-based lawyer Chen Jiangang said China's legal system has no concept of rule of law, and functions simply to further the interests of the ruling Chinese Communist Party."China does not have the rule of law, only the rule of man," Chen Jiangang told RFA in a recent interview."The law is only applied to limit and suppress, and is of no use when it comes to ensure that the authorities govern according to law," he said, adding that the problem has worsened under the rule of general secretary Xi Jinping.He said defense attorneys are of little use, because China's party-controlled judicial system limits what they can do.Reported by Mia Ping-Chieh Chen for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Twelve Hong Kong activists detained by the mainland Chinese authorities as they tried to escape to the democratic island of Taiwan by speedboat have been allocated officially approved lawyers, sparking concerns that they may have accepted the arrangement under duress.Hong Kong’s secretary for security John Lee told local media over the weekend that lawyers had been “selected” for them from a list provided by authorities in the southern port city of Shenzhen, just across the border in mainland China.The 12 detainees, aged 16 to 33, are being held on suspicion of "illegal immigration" at the Yantian Detention Center. They were intercepted by the China Coast Guard after they tried to escape by speedboat to the democratic island of Taiwan last month.All 12 also face criminal charges in Hong Kong, with 10 of them wanted for manufacturing or possessing explosives, arson, rioting, assaulting police officers, or possession of offensive weapons, the city’s government has said.Lee told local media that the Hong Kong authorities aren’t accorded visitation rights, as would normally be granted to overseas diplomats.Pro-democracy lawmaker Eddie Chu said it was worrying that the detainees have effectively been allocated lawyers approved by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.Sichuan-based rights lawyer Lu Siwei, who has repeatedly been refused permission to visit one of the detainees after being hired by their family to represent them, said he wasn’t alone.He said none of the lawyers hired by the Hong Kong detainees’ families had managed to meet with their clients, as of Monday.“I haven’t had a meeting,” Lu said. “None of us has. We really don’t know what’s happening now but we are going to keep trying.”“We won’t keep going to the detention center because they won’t let us in, so there’s not much point, but we will lodge a formal complaint in an attempt to get the police and prosecutor’s office to give us an explanation,” he said.Government-approved lawyersA second lawyer for one of the 12, who asked to remain anonymous, said he had been told that lawyers had been appointed on behalf of the detainees when he showed up at the Yantian Detention Center in a bid to meet with his client.“The way things are going, it seems as if they are [appointing government-approved lawyers],” the lawyer said. “They are doing this behind closed doors, and they don’t offer any explanations or information.”Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said the 12 Hongkongers are being subjected to the full treatment usually meted out to political cases in mainland China.“We have also experienced this and we all know what it’s like,” Hu said. “This sort of thing can destroy your mental and physical health.”He said the 12 detainees are likely to be made an example of by the Chinese authorities, as they have come to symbolize the entire protest movement that began last year as widespread public opposition to plans to allow extraditions to mainland China.“These detentions are being made to show tens of thousands of young people in Hong Kong [the consequences of activism],” Hu said. “They are creating an atmosphere of terror that will make everyone think twice.”Pressure not to defendHu said the detainees are likely under huge psychological pressure from police not to try to defend themselves in court.“The Chinese police are sure to be telling them that if they make trouble [by hiring a good lawyer], there won’t be a good outcome,” Hu said. “They will have to pay a higher price, or their relatives be punished, if they do.”He said there is some hope that international diplomatic pressure could affect the outcome for the Yantian detainees.In Hong Kong, the detainees’ families have hit out at the Hong Kong authorities for failing to support them or to negotiate with the Chinese police for their return.Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam and her senior officials have said they won’t interfere with law enforcement in another jurisdiction.The families have also raised concerns over the lack of assistance for those who need medical treatment, as well as the lack of visits by lawyers or relatives.Incommunicado detention is a known risk factor for torture and other forms of mistreatment in detention, and has been linked to several high-profile torture cases in mainland China in recent years.Reported by Lau Siu-fung for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have formally arrested a dissident poet who spoke out in support of the Hong Kong protest movement and his wife on "subversion" charges.Police in Yunnan's Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture have applied for indictments of poet Wang Zang and his wife Wang Li for "incitement to subvert state power," with the charges citing his recent poetry, essays, interviews with foreign media, and performance art since his last release from prison in 2015.Wang was taken away on May 30 by police from the Chuxiong Economic Development Zone police department.According to the U.S.-based Human Rights in China (HRIC), lawyers Lu Siwei and Zhang Lei were able to meet with him on Sept. 17."They reported that though Wang was in relatively good condition and grateful for the solidarity expressed by his supporters, he was extremely concerned about his wife and the well-being of their four children," the group said.A person familiar with the matter told RFA on condition of anonymity that Wang Li's younger sister Wang Xiaomin has also been detained and taken to the police station for questioning after speaking out about the authorities' treatment of her family."[Wang Xiaomin] is in such a difficult situation, with eyes everywhere and surrounded by police officers, so the information she has given [me] has been very limited, but what she has sent has been very useful," the source said."Maybe she is now in trouble because of this, because she is now incommunicado ... this is the most worrying thing that has happened so far," the source said. "If the authorities really want to silence her, she may never reappear.""They really don't want anyone hearing about Wang Zang and his family," they said.'Innovative methods'Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said different regions of China are currently vying with each other to see who can crack down more heavily on dissent."They want to show that they each have their own way of protecting national security, and their own innovative methods," Hu said. "They are showing that they will arrest anyone who speaks out of line, and even their relatives if they won't keep quiet."Dozens of police and officials raided the family home on May 30, pinning Wang Li, the couple's four young children, and Wang Zang's elderly mother to the ground, HRIC said in a Sept. 21 statement on its website."[Police] then took the entire family to the police station. Wang Li was interrogated for more than ten hours before being allowed to return home," it said. "Police agents stayed at Wang’s home for two days, ostensibly to 'take care of the children'."The family has been under close surveillance since, with their bank cards frozen and parcels sent by well-wishers intercepted by police.The charges against Wang Li appear to stem from her speaking out about her husband's arrest via social media and interviews she gave to foreign journalists, HRIC said. She was redetained on June 27.According to notifications of arrest received by the family in September, Wang Zang and Wang Li were formally arrested by the Chuxiong Prefecture Public Security Bureau on July 3 and July 24, respectively, for "incitement to subvert state power."Wang Li is being held in the Chuxiong Prefecture Detention Center, HRIC said.Wang Zang was previously a resident of Beijing's Songzhuang artists' village, and has previously been targeted with repeated forced evictions and a jail term for showing online support for the 2014 Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Authorities in Shanghai are moving ahead with the prosecution of a citizen journalist who reported on the emerging coronavirus epidemic in the central Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year.Zhang Zhan, who lives in Shanghai but who traveled to Wuhan in early February, was taken away from Wuhan's Caiguang Hotel near Hankou railway station on the night of May 14.She was held by police near her home in Shanghai's Pudong district on suspicion of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," a charge frequently used to target peaceful critics of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.Zhang was then formally arrested on that charge on June 19 on the orders of the Pudong state prosecutor, and is currently being held in the Pudong Detention Center.She recently dismissed her defense attorney, Ren Quanniu, who had been hired by her mother, her mother told RFA in a recent interview.Zhang is currently being force-fed in detention after she started a hunger strike to protest against her treatment."I don’t know what to do now," her mother told RFA. "Only Ren can take this case, although he's from out of town and it's a long way for him to come.""This will affect Zhang Zhan's whole life," she said. "I am worried that things could get serious if this goes on for a long time."However, she declined to comment on Zhang's hunger strike.Zhang's father declined to comment when contacted by RFA."I can't talk right now: I am driving and I am on the expressway," he said.Pressured by policeRen said the family is currently under pressure from state security police in Shanghai."Zhang Zhan's mother didn't want to end my instruction, but ... the state security police were putting pressure on her, so it was hard for her to decide," he said.He said he had been told "don't come any more," by state prosecutor Zhao Xing of the Shanghai municipal procuratorate, who said the decision to fire Ren had come from Zhang's family.Zhao told him that another lawyer had been hired by the authorities to replace him."I will continue to act as [an informal] representative," Ren told RFA.A friend of the Zhang family surnamed Wang said Shanghai police had initially tried to have Zhang Zhan committed to a psychiatric hospital, but the family refused to allow this, so the plan was dropped in favor of pressing criminal charges.Solidarity with Hong KongZhang, 40, was detained by police in Shanghai in September 2019 for holding up an umbrella in solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement on the streets of Shanghai, and demanding an end to Communist Party rule.She was released after 65 days in detention, during which time she went on hunger strike twice.Zhang moved to Shanghai from the northern province of Shaanxi in 2010, and formerly worked as a lawyer before official retaliation took away her license to practice.In Zhang's last YouTube video posted on May 13, she had reported on the impact of a huge fall in passenger numbers on the livelihoods of Wuhan's taxi drivers, as well as loss of employment in the wake of the lockdown among the city's residents.She also spoke out against the intimidation of local people by the urban management police, or chengguan, and about a sense of despair at life in China.The Chinese government has targeted thousands of people for speaking out about the coronavirus epidemic in the country since it began in late December in the central city of Wuhan.Between Jan. 1 and March 26, nearly 900 internet users were penalized by police for their online speech or info-sharing about the coronavirus epidemic, across almost every province, region, and municipality in China.Charges used to question, detain, and arrest people included "rumor-mongering," "fabricating false information," “sowing panic,” “disturbing public order,” and "breach of privacy."Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
Authorities in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state have arrested three students from the Rakhine Student Union for ignoring a law against large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic by participating in a protest against the Myanmar government’s 15-month internet ban on eight townships in the state. Toe Toe Aung, Kyang Naing Htay and Oo Than Naing staged their protest Wednesday in front of the Rakhine state government office building in the state capital Sittwe, holding signs critical of the government and military. They were arrested mid-protest and were officially charged with violating the Natural Disaster Management Act Thursday evening. According to Myanmar’s military, the government ban on internet service to townships where Myanmar forces have been fighting the rebel Arakan Army (AA) since December 2018 keeps government troop movements secret while dampening speech that incites ethnic tensions. The policy has however hampered aid workers helping war refugees and left people uninformed about the coronavirus pandemic. The director of a local legal support group told RFA’s Myanmar Service that charging the students out of concern for public health was disingenuous. “It is totally irrelevant to charge these students using the Natural Disaster Management Act. They were holding a protest. They didn’t do anything else, so it is obvious the authorities are trying to indict them for protesting,” Nyein Chan of the Thazin Legal Aids group said. “Are they going to charge other crimes like robbery or murder that occur during this pandemic under that same law? We should question them. They are manipulating the law to prosecute these students,” said Nyein Chan. The Legal Clinic Myanmar office told RFA it would provide legal services for the arrested trio. “These students have asked us for legal help. We are cooperating with other CSOs to give the students the help they need. Well will try to prevent them from being charged by irrelevant laws,” said Mya Thuzar, an attorney at the clinic. “As we are now in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, things are so unstable. So, we will make sure they will not fall into the wrong hands,” Mya Thuzar said. Unlawful arrests A Sittwe University Student Union official told RFA the three students were arrested in unlawful ways. “We are pointing out the wrongdoings of the government and military. I would like to appeal to prosecute them lawfully. They say no one is above the law, whether that is the state government or anyone else,” said the student union’s vice-chair Bhone Pyae Phyo. “The law is the law. They should apply the law equally to everyone, so I would like to appeal to the authorities to handle the case lawfully,” said Bhone Pyae Phyo. Aung Than Wai, a Sittwe resident, told RFA that arresting the students goes against democratic ideals. “The ruling government said they are working to maintain the rule of law, but they always detain everyone who speaks against them. This is very undemocratic,” said Aung Than Wai. “They always try to silence us. We all know how many townships in Rakhine state are under an internet ban and for how long. These students are just trying to highlight that. The government is always trying to control all of us. This is a clear persecution of the people,” the Sittwe resident said. At least 289 civilians have been killed and 641 injured in Rakhine state and in Paletwa township of neighboring Chin state since hostilities between the AA and the national army escalated in December 2018, according to an RFA tally. Students charged in Mandalay Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, police in Mandalay charged 15 college students from the All Burma Student Union when they also staged protests demanding an end to armed conflicts and the Rakhine internet ban. Ba Chit, a student who got charged by the authorities told RFA, “They summoned me to come for interrogations. They didn’t arrest me. They asked for the details of the protests.” “They also asked about our activities in the past. They asked me to sign a proclamation that we wouldn’t protest again but I refused. They said I was free to go,” Ba Chit said. Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, another member of the student union in Mandalay, told RFA, “I and the other members are still in our college. I told the police I would not come.” “If they come to take me in person, I will go with them. But I will not back down. We are protesting against the 2008 Constitution. So, we will not acknowledge any charges under the constitution,” the student said. RFA attempted to contact the police station in Mandalay for comment but were unsuccessful. Reported by Ni Min Tun and Khaymani Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.