Detained human rights lawyer resurfaces but keeps mum of ordeal in jail


Chinese rights attorney Wen Donghai who was detained by the police in December last year has resurfaced, but is reluctant to speak about his time in prison.

“There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic right now, so this may have had something to do with the fact that I couldn’t come home for such a long period of time,” Wen told RFA.

“They told me not to post anything online, or to speak out, including giving media interviews,” Wen said.

“They sought out all of my family members including my brother, sister, nephew, niece, everyone,” he said. “They also paid a visit to my wife, her parents, and her brother, as well as some of my friends.”

Wen said the whole of China is in a phase of unpredictability amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t know what will happen in future; maybe times will get even harder,” he said. “Especially for people like us, dissidents.”

On Dec. 26, police from Shandong coordinated with other police nationwide to arrest human rights activists and participants who gathered in Xiamen, Fujian, in early December to organize civil society and plan nonviolent social movements in the country.

People who attended were detained on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power” and “subversion of state power.” The latter charge carries a minimum 10-year prison sentence.

Wen was called in by state security police in Hunan’s provincial capital, Changsha, on his return from the meeting in Xiamen, after which a number of prominent dissidents were also detained.

“They just wanted to know what was going on and to take a statement from me,” Wen said. “But I refused, and they didn’t insist any further after that.”

While their families waited to learn their whereabouts, other rights activists who had gone to the Xiamen event, and even those indirectly connected to them, fled the country or went on the run.

Among them was New Citizens’ Movement founder Xu Zhiyong, who was eventually detained in Guangdong province on subversion charges.

Several others involved in the meeting, including human rights lawyers, were held for several days in police custody in various jurisdictions for questioning and investigation, according to recent U.S. State Department report.

Three United Nations human rights experts have since expressed “grave concern” over the fate of three human rights lawyers forcibly disappeared by the Chinese authorities in the same operation.

Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Zhongshun, and Dai Zhenya are currently being held without access to family visits or lawyers under a form of detention known as Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL), which is used to “disappear” people accused of crimes relating to national security.

RSDL is not compatible with international human rights law, because it enables the authorities to circumvent judicial processes and detain people incommunicado for up to six months, putting them at greater risk of torture. (Source: RFA)