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Updated Briefing on 1226 Crackdown (as of 18 February 2020)

At the end of 2019, the Chinese authorities seemed to have targeted citizen activists and human rights lawyers who attended a private gathering in Xiamen in early December, and started a large-scale crackdown in multiple provinces. The participants discussed current affairs and the future of China, in addition to sharing their experiences in helping build the Chinese civil society - yet they have been accused of subverting state power.


This crackdown has been led by the Shandong Province police department, which set up a “13 December Special Task Force” for this purpose. After Christmas, more than 20 citizen activists and human rights lawyers have been arrested, summoned, and went incommunicado.


Since then, more have been arrested, such as legal scholar Xu Zhiyong; and some have been released on bail, such as Lawyer Chang Weiping.


1. Lawyer Ding Jiaxi was taken away by the Shandong police on 26th December. He is accused of inciting subversion of state power, and is still currently under Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL).


2. Citizen Zhang Zhongshun was taken away by the Shandong police on 26th December. He is accused of inciting subversion of state power, and is still under RSDL. The police allegedly found 245 bullets in an apartment that Zhang Zhongshun has leased, while Zhang’s family said that Zhang was being framed by the police.


3. Citizen Dai Zhenya was taken away by the Shandong police on 26th December. He is accused of inciting subversion of state power, and is currently under RSDL.


4. Citizen Li Yingjun was taken away by the Shandong police on 26th December, and his whereabouts are not confirmed. Li’s family was allegedly threatened by the authorities and hence refused any further external communication with NGOs and activists.


5. Lawyer Tang Jingling and Lawyer Wen Donghai are currently still on the run. The wife of Lawyer Wen took their two children and left the country, seeking refuge in a third country.


6. Legal scholar Xu Zhiyong:

After fleeing and hiding within the country for the past two months, founder of the New Citizens Movement Dr. Xu Zhiyong was captured in Guangzhou at around 18:00 on 15 February 2020 by the police in Guangzhou apparently in a joint operation with their counterparts from Beijing. Dr. Xu has called for the resignation of President Xi Jinping earlier this month, criticising Xi’s handling of the Hong Kong situation and the current coronavirus crisis. Xu’s girlfriend, Li Qiaochu (李翘楚) sent out a message at around 00:26 on 16 February noting “Someone’s knocking at the door”. She became incommunicado thereafter and has not been in contact for over 72 hours. It is suspected that she, too, is under police control.


Those detained have been refused access to lawyers and communication with their families. RSDL is also a form of incommunicado detention which, given precedent cases, puts them under high risk of torture and other ill-treatment by the authorities.


In addition to the 1226 Crackdown, two citizen journalists in Wuhan have also gone missing in the past two weeks, and more than 350 people have been punished for “spreading rumours” about the coronavirus.


Evidently, the efforts to curb the coronavirus crisis did not, in any way, deter the Chinese government from its continuous crackdown on the Chinese civil society.


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