Prominent Chinese rights activist Ou Biaofeng, is currently under criminal detention and being investigated for “subversion” by authorities in the central province of Hunan for supporting the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, RFA has learned.
Several fellow activists and associates of Ou are also being questioned by Hunan police about his activities during a trip to Hong Kong as early as 2014, a person familiar with the case told RFA on Friday.
“The state security police are claiming that he went to Hong Kong to ‘study,’ which likely refers to [alleged]training by hostile foreign forces,” the person said, adding that they had also questioned people about whether Ou had received money from anyone while he was in the city.
“Going to collect money also points [in their minds]to collusion with hostile foreign forces,” the person said. “There’s not much a rights activist can do when they decide they are going to charge you with that kind of thing.”
Ou Biaofeng was taken away from his home in Hunan’s Zhuzhou city by officers of the Lusong district police department on Dec. 3, who held him under administrative detention for 15 days for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.”
However, he wasn’t released at the end of the 15 days, prompting concerns that the authorities were planning to pursue criminal charges.
The person familiar with the case said the charge of “subversion of state power” had been recently added by state security police, who now seem to be trying to find evidence to support it.
Ou’s account on the messaging app Telegram recently showed him online, suggesting that police, who confiscated his devices, have been accessing his account.
“He was shown as online, then went offline again after a few minutes,” the person said. “I thought that was strange, because how could he get online if he doesn’t have his phone?”
The person said the police had likely forced Ou to hand over the passcodes to his devices.
“He had two phones — both iPhones, which can’t be accessed without a password — so I don’t know what has transpired [in the detention centre],” he said.
“The state security police typically like to copy all of the data on [suspects’] devices and then go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”
Prior to his detention, Ou had been a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, starting from the 2014 Occupy Central campaign for universal suffrage, which later broadened into the Umbrella Movement.
He continued with his support for the 2019 anti-extradition movement, which broadened to include demands for full democracy and accountability for police violence against largely peaceful protesters.
In August 2020, after national security police raided the headquarters of the pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper and its parent company Next Digital, Ou posted a photo of himself to social media holding a copy of the Apple Daily.
Ou also called on his friends to mail copies of the Apple Daily to Hunan to show support for the paper, as Hongkongers lined up to buy copies in solidarity following the raid.
Ou’s wife Wei Huanhuan told RFA she was recently suspended from her teaching job, with her employer citing the coronavirus pandemic.
“They started out saying there had been a directive from higher up because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Wei told RFA. “They said that’s why the school was putting me on furlough.”
Wei, who has been the sole breadwinner for the household for some time, said she is now seeking legal advice. (Source: RFA)