Responses from the Chinese government
Dui Hua received a written response from a Chinese interlocutor based in Guangdong when Executive Director John Kamm visited Hong Kong from January 7-16. The response revealed where seven Falun Gong practitioners (three female and four male) are serving their prison sentences in Hebei. All of them were convicted of Article 300 of the Criminal Law – organizing/using a cult to undermine implementation of the law – and are due for release from 2023 to 2025.
Clampdown on dissidents during the coronavirus outbreak
The Ministry of Public Security announced that over 5,500 cases of “fabricating and deliberately disseminating false and harmful information” in connection to the coronavirus outbreak had been found by the public security, as of February 21. Some of these cases were clearly politically motivated:
- Guo Quan (郭泉), former professor at Nanjing Normal University, was formally arrested on February 14 for inciting subversion, a charge stemming from his online articles critical of the Chinese government’s handling of the outbreak. The arrest came while he is serving his three-year deprivation of political rights from his previous sentence. Guo completed his full ten years’ sentence for subversion in November 2018 without having received a sentence reduction.
- Tsinghua University professor Xu Zhangrun (许章润) has been under house arrest since early February. Xu blamed the deficiencies of China’s authoritarian system that has increasingly concentrated power in the hands of Xi Jinping for causing the uncontrolled spread of the virus.
- Retired professor of Beijing Technology University Chen Zhaozhi (陈兆志) was criminally detained on March 10 for fabricating or deliberately disseminating false information. Chen shared videos of commentaries about the outbreak on Twitter. He reportedly suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and hypertension.
- Citizen journalist Fang Bin (方斌) was criminally detained on February 10 for live streaming the epidemic in his hometown of Wuhan as the entire province was in lockdown. He also called on the people to resist the Chinese government.
- Chen Qiushi (陈秋实), another citizen journalist and a lawyer, has been forced to undergo quarantine for 25 days at an undisclosed location since February 6 for reporting the outbreak in Wuhan. Chen had previously been harassed and silenced by mainland authorities for covering the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong. There are no reports of his release at the time of writing.
- Former CCTV 7 channel host Li Zehua (李泽华) disappeared on February 26 after interviewing porters who were hired to transport the bodies of those who had died from the virus.
Notable endangering state security (ESS) cases
In the final days of 2019, over a dozen rights lawyers and activists from different provinces were detained or went missing after attending a private gathering in Xiamen, Fujian, to discuss public affairs. Among them, Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), Zhang Zhongshun (张忠顺), Dai Zhenya (戴振亚), and Li Yingjun (李英俊) have been held on suspicion of inciting subversion under residential surveillance at a designated location in Shandong since December 26. Prominent activist Xu Zhiyong (许志永) went into hiding in Guangzhou after the initial crackdown. He was reportedly taken away in Guangzhou on February 15. The following day, he was held under residential surveillance at a designated location in Beijing on suspicion of inciting subversion. Xu’s girlfriend, feminist and labor activist Li Qiaochu (李翘楚), was also taken away by Beijing public security on February 16. The charges against Li and her whereabouts remain unknown.
Another case concerns what has become known as the “Shenzhen Crackdown” in November 2016. A group of activists went missing or were detained after attending a similar dinner gathering in Shenzhen to discuss politics and current affairs. Deng Hongcheng (邓洪成), Wang Jianhua (王建华), and Li Jiangpeng (李江鹏) were among the detainees who were sentenced for subversion by the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court on January 13, 2020. Deng was given a 12-year prison term, and Wang and Li were both sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Li Nanhai (李南海) and Wang Jun (王军), another duo involved in the Shenzhen Crackdown, were also sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and three and half years’ imprisonment, respectively. Both were released in February 2020. The judgment, which has not been posted online, was made more than three years after they were detained in November 2016.
On February 24, Swedish national Gui Minhai (桂民海 or 桂敏海) was convicted during a closed-door hearing and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and five years’ deprivation of political rights by the Ningbo Intermediate People’s Court for illegally providing intelligence to foreign entities. Gui’s disappearance in Pattaya, Thailand, in 2015 rattled relations between Beijing and Stockholm. Relations were further strained in January 2018, when Chinese law enforcement officers seized Gui on a Beijing-bound train in the company of Swedish diplomats. The Ningbo court claimed that Gui applied to restore his Chinese citizenship in 2018. Sweden has challenged this claim.
Twin brothers Chen Bing (陈兵) and Chen Wei (陈卫) were released from the same Sichuan prison on December 31, 2019 and February 20, 2020, respectively. Chen Bing was sentenced to three and a half years’ imprisonment for selling liquor printed with the words June Fourth on the bottles. He was initially detained and indicted for inciting subversion, but he was convicted of picking quarrels and provoking troubles by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court on April 4, 2019.
Chen Bing’s twin brother Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for inciting subversion by the Suining Intermediate People’s Court in 2011. The former June 4 student leader was re-imprisoned because he called on the public to “go for a stroll” in support of the Jasmine Revolution inspired by the Tunisian revolution in 2011. In 1994, Chen Bing, as the co-founder of the China Liberal Democratic Party, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement.