In recent weeks, China’s security and propaganda apparatus has turned its attention to foreign consulting and auditing firms coordinated raids, detain employeesBroadening an espionage law, and slowly built-up broadcasting”special Reportabout its action on state television.
The campaign has sent waves of alarm throughout the international business community, but recent prison sentences against high- and low-profile civic activists serve as a reminder that private-sector cases are a major part of political lawsuits in China. There is only one piece of the pattern. ,
China is home of course largest population of political and religious prisoners in the world. The recent increase in totals since March comes after a substantial increase since the regime began a massive detention campaign in Xinjiang in 2017, with courts passing sentences in long-awaited trials and perhaps related sanctions. is playing catch-up in view of With COVID-19.
A review of more than two dozen cases that have gained public visibility over the past three months highlights the scale of the problem, the kind of behavior being punished, and the serious flaws in the legal system that enabled such prosecutions.
Find out about the story of the week and developing stories to watch in Asia-Pacific.
A nationwide hunt for crimes big and small
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It is clear from the latest batch of cases that political and religious imprisonment is a nationwide phenomenon in China. Those detained or prosecuted since March for exercising their right to peaceful expression do not just come from major cities like Beijing or Shanghai, or from Xinjiang or regions with large ethnic minority populations. Sichuan, Recent cases have involved individuals Shandong in the northeast, guangdong in the south, and Hunan Or Hebei in between, as well as in Hong Kong – an area that may now be more 1,400 political prisonersaccording to some sources.
Those arrested or punished include Han Chinese, Tibetans, Uyghurs and a inner mongolian writers and historians who were taken from neighboring Mongolia within months of fleeing China. human rights activist yu wensheng And his wife, Xu Yan, was also detained on her way to meet diplomats from the European Union.
Harsh punishments and deprivation of liberty even for minor infractions or activities, which would not only be tolerated but would be appreciated in more democratic countries. Punishment The jailing last month of Xu Xiong and Ding Jiaxi, two legal and democracy activists, for 14 and 12 years respectively, was particularly severe. His crimes appear to have been meeting with fellow activists to discuss civil rights and democratic reform, and in Xu’s case, an open letter criticizing President Xi Jinping’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Was.
Such long sentences are not necessarily an anomaly. Other recent cases include Guo Feixiong, a free expression advocate who received an eight-year prison sentence in early May; A Falun Gong Practitioner and civilian journalists who were also imprisoned for eight years; and a uyghur singer Who was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.
Many others have received lesser sentences, but are still harsher because of the punishment they were given. A Tibetan writer He was sentenced to four years in prison for arguing that it was important for young people to learn the Tibetan language. A the petitioner Village from Henan appealed to the higher authorities on corruption and was placed in administrative detention for 10 days. a man in Shanxi Jailed for one-and-a-half years for accessing banned global social media platforms and posting messages and videos that were reportedly shared or liked nearly 7,000 times, but damaging to the reputation of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Was considered. A housewife in hong kong Twitter is facing charges of “sedition” for posts in which she criticized the police and expressed support for Hong Kong independence.
Increasing Surveillance and Shifting Redlines
The wide surveillance capacity of the regime, as well as the massive resources it can devote to individual cases, is evident in some recent rulings. focuses on a prosecution ruan xiahuan, a technologist who blogged anonymously for over a decade, provided instructions for bypassing website blocks and sharing translations of articles about censorship mechanisms. Upon learning that he has been captured and sentenced to seven years in prison, some netizens reacted With shock and dismay, given that if someone as technologically sophisticated as Ruan can be identified, ordinary Internet users are even more vulnerable.
in the matter of ju xiongAfter a week-long manhunt by security agencies across China, they finally caught him after nearly two months. But authorities don’t always rely on high-tech surveillance to zero in on dissidents. ehua liuThe mother of two US citizens and a Falun Gong practitioner was sentenced in late March to four years in prison for possessing books and printed materials related to the banned spiritual practice and harassing its followers, a neighbor had reported to police That he was distributing pamphlets.
While some dissidents are fully aware that their behavior may be punished, others may be surprised to learn that they have done something illegal. The boundaries of the CCP are constantly changing, and actions that were acceptable or tolerated in the past may suddenly be “sensitized” and punished, even with retroactive effect. Similarly, activity outside mainland China or Hong Kong may be subject to prosecution if or when the person returns to Chinese territory, even if years have passed or previous visits have proceeded without incident.
Three recent cases reflect these threats: On April 21, it was reported that a student who returned to Hong Kong from her studies in Japan to renew her identity documents, was arrested two years ago under the National Security Law from Japan for comments she made on Facebook in which she expressed support for Hong Kong independence did. He was released on bail, but his passport has been confiscated, and he is unable to return to Japan to complete his studies.
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On April 23, li yanheA Taiwan-based publisher of some non-fiction books critical of the CCP was detained in Shanghai while visiting his ailing mother.
Around the same time, it was reported that dong yuyu, a reporter for the Chinese state-owned newspaper Guangming Daily, was detained since February 2022 on charges of espionage following a meeting with a Japanese envoy. Dong, a knowledgeable observer of China’s international relations, was widely known and respected among foreign journalists and diplomats. Given the growing sensitivity of the regime to such interactions, he had become more circumspect in his writings and careful in his meetings with foreigners, but his precautions were clearly insufficient.
Dong was detained three months before he was due to retire, and his family did not initially publicize his arrest, hoping the charges would be dropped because his contacts with foreign delegates were a routine part of his job. Were. Dong’s case is now headed to trial and is perhaps most chilling for the business community, given that the raids on consulting and auditing firms are also linked to the enhanced espionage law.
Political prosecutions in China have long-lasting effects on the people targeted and on society at large. conditions in custody are poor; Malnutrition, torture, and denial of medical treatment are widespread, and deaths in custody are documented every year. Families are torn apart, careers derailed and livelihoods destroyed. Even after release, former detainees are monitored and harassed, especially around politically sensitive dates.
Last month the families of two human rights lawyers who were jailed for their work – Lee Heping And wang quanzhang The landlords who came under pressure from the authorities evicted. This was Lee’s seventh eviction since 2015. feng binThe man whose videos of Wuhan’s hospitals in the early days of the pandemic attracted global attention has been released from a three-year prison sentence, but relatives are afraid to move him for fear of police harassment, effectively leaving him had been homeless since.
The above examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to political and political religious prison Under CCP rule. The total number of such prisoners is estimated to be in lakhs. Companies targeted in recent raids are often perceived as isolated and more secure from abuse than such victims. But the underlying problem the business community now faces is comparable: a system in which laws are arbitrary, redlines change without warning, and judges responsible for the CCP have no recourse.
Foreign officials, investors, and indeed anyone exposed to China’s legal regime would do well to learn from the cases of targeted activists and religious believers. Even though their activities differ, the regime increasingly sees the potential threat they pose to its interests.