Police in China's Shandong Detain Outspoken Poet For 'Subversion'

Lu Yang, the pen name of Zhang Guiqi, is being held by police in his home city of Liaocheng.

Police in China's Shandong Detain Outspoken Poet For 'Subversion'

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have detained an outspoken poet on suspicion of subversion, RFA has learned.

Zhang Guiqi, 49, who is widely known by his penname Lu Yang, is being held under criminal detention by police in Shandong's Liaocheng city on charges of "subversion of state power," according to Independent Chinese PEN's freelance coordinator Zhang Yu.

Zhang said the reasons for his detention at this time aren't immediately apparent, but could be related to a video Lu uploaded to social media.

"We are just guessing for now," Zhang said. "That video was of him at home displaying two banners; he didn't say very much."

"But it was on quite a sensitive topic ... because it was critical of [President] Xi Jinping," he said. "He was greatly affected by the epidemic, and maybe he thought that the authorities should take responsibility."

"It's probably that that video was just too [politically] sensitive," he said.

Zhang said police had searched Lu's home and taken away computers, phones and other devices to look for evidence.

"I am guessing that they will be trying to get him to confess in the first 10 days or so," he said.

Lu's family haven't spoken to anyone about his detention since receiving formal notification from police on May 13.

"There wasn't any explicit threat, like, you'll lose your job if you talk about this," Zhang said. "But if they do things [the authorities] don't want them to do, such as give interviews to overseas media organizations, then it could make things worse for Lu Yang."

U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao said it is hard to say for sure why Lu Yang was detained.

"The way the Chinese Communist Party handles political cases is actually pretty arbitrary, and they don't apply the same criteria across the board," Teng said.

"Some people get arrested and sentenced for subversion of state power over something relatively small; an online post or something they did," he said. "Others don't get arrested or sentenced until [the authorities] have built up a portfolio of their posts and articles and protest activities."

He said nobody should be prosecuted for exercising their freedom of speech, however.

Lu Yang was among a group of rights activists who went to the Shandong Jianzhu University in January 2017 to support a former professor there, Deng Xiangchao, who was targeted by Maoist protesters after he retweeted a post satirizing late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

The Shandong authorities terminated Deng's teaching contract after the incident, while Maoist flash mobs attacked Deng's supporters at the scene, including Yang.

Reported by RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Residents of Uyghur-Majority County in Xinjiang Ordered to Report Others Fasting During Ramadan

Authorities equate the traditional observance of the Muslim holy month with ‘religious extremism.’

Residents of Uyghur-Majority County in Xinjiang Ordered to Report Others Fasting During Ramadan

Residents of the mostly Uyghur-populated Makit (in Chinese, Maigaiti) county in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) have been ordered to report anyone discovered to be fasting in observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to sources.

For years, Uyghurs in the XUAR have been prohibited from fully observing Ramadan due to religious persecution and restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, which has in many cases banned Uyghur civil servants, students and teachers from fasting during the holy month.

In certain areas of the region, access to mosques is more tightly controlled and restaurants are ordered to remain open, while Uyghur retirees are often forced to pledge ahead of Ramadan that they won’t fast or pray to set an example for the wider community and to assume responsibility for ensuring others also refrain.

While speaking with official sources in several different prefectures to learn more about what kinds of restrictions are in place during Ramadan, which is observed between April 23 and May 23 this year, RFA’s Uyghur Service learned that implementation varies widely—with clear regulations against fasting in some locales and few in others that have already had effective bans in place for several years.

In one example of an approach to stamping out observance of Ramadan, authorities have ramped up a propaganda campaign against fasting in Kashgar (Kashi) prefecture’s Makit—a county in which some 83 percent of the population is Uyghur—where residents have been informed that they are required to turn in any friends or relatives who take part.

RFA recently spoke with a Uyghur employee of the Makit county government who said that residents have been told that they could face punishment for fasting, including being sent to one of the XUAR’s vast network of internment camps, where authorities are believed to have held up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities since April 2017.

“Propaganda on Ramadan is prevalent in the counties, townships, and villages,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Taking part in Ramadan practices is propagated as a form of religious extremism.”

A Uyghur village leader in Makit, who also declined to be named, told RFA county-level authorities had issued a notice during a special meeting ahead of Ramadan which “said not to fast.”

Ordered to report

The reasoning behind the county campaign is to uphold “national security,” a Uyghur government employee of a township in Makit explained to RFA.

“If they fast, then they’ll gather to eat, and if they gather, then they’ll disturb the society—they’ll threaten national security,” she said. “That’s why we propagate against keeping Ramadan.”

But the employee said, “it’s already been two or three years that people haven’t been fasting” in her village and that “everyone knows [not to], so they just naturally don’t.”

When asked what residents should do if they discover someone fasting, the employee said they should report them to authorities.

“If we find people observing Ramadan, we’ll inform the responsible officials in the villages and townships,” she said.

“[We should tell] the county police, but since we haven’t found anyone fasting in our township, we haven’t reported anyone yet.”

RFA also spoke with an official in Kashgar’s Peyziwat (Jiashi) county who said his township had instituted mandatory attendance at a daily dawn flag raising ceremony as well as evening political studies, which he said was part of a bid to prevent residents from fasting because those are the only times of the day that they are allowed to eat, according to Muslim tradition.

“Since we started the flag raising ceremony, neighbors’ surveillance of one another has been strengthened, so nobody is able to make time to break the fast,” he said.

“The evening political studies start at 9:30 p.m. and end at 11:30 p.m., and they are held at the neighborhood committee.”

A Uyghur officer at the Beimen District Police Station in the XUAR capital Urumqi told RFA that while residents there have not been ordered residents to report one another for fasting, authorities are keeping a close eye on who is observing Ramadan and keeping a record of their activities.

“Yes, there are [special guidelines in place for Ramadan] … [but] our boss us instructed us not to talk about that over the phone,” he said.

When asked whether there is a register of people who are fasting and attending mosques during the holy month, the officer said, “yes, there is.”

“We have a special police unit assigned to keep track of that,” he added.

Fasting for empathy

Last month, to mark the start of Ramadan, Uyghur exile groups urged the international community to speak out on behalf of members of their ethnic group enduring persecution in the XUAR.

In particular, they called on Muslims around the world “to keep the Uyghur people in their thoughts and prayers during the holy month of Ramadan and to call on their respective governments to demand that China immediately ceases its religious persecution of Uyghurs.”

The Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) noted that Muslim-majority nations and leaders have been “shamefully silent” on the situation in Xinjiang, urging them “to reconnect with the beliefs and values they hold and to do what is right by demanding China stop its crimes against humanity against Uyghurs.”

Washington-based Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) pointed out that for Muslims, “fasting reminds us of the suffering, struggle, and pain of others—we put ourselves in the shoes of those less fortunate.”

“Therefore, we ask you to do the same. Remember the Uyghurs who are ripped away from their families, those who are persecuted for their peaceful religion, and those who continue to be prisoners with no crime.”

Mass incarcerations in the XUAR, as well as other policies seen to violate the rights of Uyghurs and other Muslims, have led to increasing calls by the international community to hold Beijing accountable for its actions in the region, which also include the use of advanced technology and information to control and suppress its citizens.

Last year, at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington in July, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the internment camps in the XUAR “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and “truly the stain of the century.”

Reported by Shohret Hoshur for RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Elise Anderson and Alim Seytoff. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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