Prominent Chinese activists “officially arrested” after being detained for months

The Chinese government launched a mass arrest against several pro-democracy activists and intellectuals on December 26 last year, and last weekend, prominent Chinese civil rights activist Xu Zhiyong was confirmed to have been officially arrested after being put under residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) for four months. On the other hand, five other activists were released on bail around the same time. And on Monday, another Chinese lawyer Ding Jiaxi was also confirmed to have been arrested by Shandong provincial police.

According to several human rights website outside of China, prominent Chinese civil rights activist Xu Zhiyong’s sister received a call from police in Shandong province on June 20, as they informed her that they had officially arrested Xu, four months after he was allegedly put under RSDL for attending a gathering in Xiamen City on December 13, 2019. However, the charges against him as well as where he is being detained remain unknown.

Due to his participation in the aforementioned gathering in Xiamen last December, Xu went into hiding in February this year. During that time, he published an article online, condemning Chinese president Xi Jinping for lacking the ability to deal with crisis, including the COVID19 pandemic and the anti-government protest in Hong Kong.

A few weeks after he went into hiding, Xu was arrested by police in Guangdong province. On the same day, his girlfriend Li Chiaochu was also taken away by police from her residence in Beijing, and the police also raided her house. At the time, police verbally informed Xu’s family members that he had been charged with “inciting subversion of state power” and had been put under RSDL.

Chinese human rights lawyer officially arrested

Chinese lawyer Ding Jiaxi also attended the gathering in Xiamen in December last year, and after he was arrested by police on December 26, 2019, he had reportedly been put under RSDL at an unspecified location. On Tuesday, almost six months after he was put under RSDL, Ding’s sister received the official notification from a police station in Shandong Province, informing her that Ding has been officially arrested for “inciting subversion of state power.”

However, before receiving the official confirmation, Ding’s wife had been desperately trying to secure information about his whereabouts and conditions. However, in more than 180 days, the police never provided the family with any information.

“The lawyer I hired was only given a notification that rejects his application to meet with Jiaxi, and the police also told the lawyer that Jiaxi had been charged with inciting subversion of state power and was put under RSDL,” said Luo Shengchun, Ding Jiaxi’s wife.

Luo was very worried that Ding could experience some tortures while he was in RSDL. Ding was also imprisoned for three and a half years in 2014, and the reason of his detention was because he demanded government officials to release details of their properties and assets. During his imprisonment, Ding never owned up to the charges against him.

“Back then, the Chinese government would impose sentences onto a defendant even when he didn’t plead guilty,” Luo said. “Seven years on, the Chinese government has adjusted their way of handling such cases. When the defendant refuse to plead guilty, the government will not allow them to go through trials. Rather, they will remain in detention until there is a breakthrough.”

In January, Luo met with some officials from the White House National Security Commission, and they expressed concerns towards the detained activists in China. “China claimed in front of the UN that all detainees’ legal rights will be guaranteed, but in my husband’s case, his legal rights has never been guaranteed,” Luo said.

“I hope the Chinese government can respect and follow international treaties in the UN and China’s criminal laws, and I call on them to not use extreme measures on him.”

This article was first published in Mandarin on DW’s Chinese website.



William Yang is a journalist based in Taiwan, where he writes about politics, society, and human rights issues in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

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William Yang

William Yang is a journalist based in Taiwan, where he writes about politics, society, and human rights issues in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.