Police in China have sent two activists to labor camps and charged a veteran dissident with subversion over calls for public rallies echoing those in the Arab world, a rights group said yesterday.
Hua Chunhui (華春輝) and Wei Qiang (魏強) have been sentenced without trial to “re-education through labor,” marking the first formal punishments meted out in a major government crackdown on dissent, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders said.
Sentences to Chinese labor camps rarely exceed three years.
Authorities have rounded up activists since calls in February for “Jasmine” rallies in China similar to those in the Arab world, which have swept leaders out of power in Tunisia and Egypt, and sparked a bloody conflict in Libya.
Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫), 59, was formally charged with inciting subversion of state power in China’s Zhejiang Province on Tuesday, the Hong Kong-based rights group said in a statement.
Zhu is the fifth person to be formally arrested since the crackdown began, while nearly 40 other activists have been criminally detained and at least 18 — including artist Ai Weiwei (艾未未) — have “disappeared” into police custody, it said.
Police in Hangzhou told Zhu’s ex-wife, Jiang Hangli (蔣杭莉) on Tuesday that prosecutors had approved his arrest for “inciting subversion of state power,” Jiang said by telephone.
“Before he was detained on March 5, he’d been followed everywhere he went, 24 hours a day for 20 days by the security people, so he never had any chance to participate in any political activities,” said Jiang, who still shares an apartment with Zhu.
The subversion charge is a broad accusation often used to punish denunciations of the Chinese Communist Party and calls for democratic reform.
“We don’t know the specific reasons, but our guess is that it may be related to a poem he wrote that suggested people go out to stroll on the square and on the streets,” said Zhu Zhengming (祝政明), a pro-democracy advocate and friend of Zhu Yufu in Hangzhou.
“But he didn’t say any time or place or suggest that people wave any banners or shout any slogans. He just called for a stroll,” he said.
Group “strolls” have become one way for Chinese people to show, in an oblique way, discontent with the government.
Human rights groups said Zhu may have been detained for spreading messages online about the rally calls.