Updated: April 23, 2014
Since March 2013, Chinese police have taken into custody dozens of activists, lawyers, and other citizens in a crackdown meant to suppress peaceful assembly, association, and expression around the country. The strident response by authorities has partially been triggered by advocacy campaigns waged against official corruption and other politically sensitive issues. As of April 23, 2014, 70 individuals who have allegedly engaged in such activism are known to have been criminally detained or disappeared in Beijing and the provinces of Jiangxi, Hubei, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Anhui, Hunan, Yunnan and Xinjiang. Among those detained on criminal charges, 44 are known to have been formally arrested, and 23 are known to have been indicted and/or tried (in grey below) while many are still under detention, have served brief administrative detentions, or have been released on “bail awaiting trial.” To date, 7 individuals have been issued prison sentences in retaliation for their activism. (See table below for details confirmed by CHRD and view a gallery of images and background information on several of the detainees. CHRD has also prepared more detailed case profiles for some individuals caught up in the crackdown.)
In Beijing, police have seized activists who organized a campaign demanding that more than 200 high-ranking Communist Party officials, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, publicly disclose their financial wealth. Activists in Xinyu City, Jiangxi joined the anti-corruption campaign while also calling for the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China signed in 1998.
The activists detained in Hubei had appealed for the release of those in the other locations and also promoted the ICCPR. The city where they were seized, Chibi, was the tenth stop on a nationwide “advocacy trip” that began on April 8. Activists on the trip had staged rallies, made public speeches, and met with fellow activists, with the stated goals of encouraging citizen activism and spreading ideas of democracy and rule of law. Those detained in Jiangsu Province were involved in locating a “black jail”–a temporary and illegal detention facility–in June 2013 and freeing several individuals being held there.
Many of the detainees, particularly in Beijing, are believed to be associated with (or inspired by) the “New Citizens’ Movement,” a loose network of activists who have peacefully promoted social justice and political and legal reforms since 2011. The movement has been spearheaded by the prominent legal advocate Xu Zhiyong (许志永), who founded the now-banned Open Constitution Initiative (公盟)–from which the New Citizens’ Movement emerged–and who was himself swept up in the crackdown.