Human Rights in China has learned that Chinese authorities have placed seven activists under criminal detention on charges of “illegal assembly.” These individuals, including long-time activist Zhao Changqing (赵常青) and Beijing lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), have called for public disclosure of government officials' assets.
Sources say that Beijing police came to Zhao Changqing's home in the evening of April 17, took him into custody, and confiscated his computer, hard drive, notebooks, cell phone, books, and other items. At noon on April 18, Zhao's family received a notice of criminal detention, which indicates that Zhao is being detained on suspicion of “illegal assembly” and held in the Beijing No. 3 Detention Center. On the same day, Ding Jiaxi was also “summoned” by the police on the same charge, and his family has received the official criminal detention notice. At present, Sun Hanhui (孙含会) and Wang Yonghong (王永红), two other asset disclosure advocates, are also under criminal detention on suspicion of “illegal assembly.”
On March 31, four Beijing residents, Yuan Dong (袁冬), Zhang Baocheng (张宝成), Hou Xin (侯欣), and Ma Xinli (马新立), were detained after they unfurled banners in Xidan District demanding that government officials publicly disclose their assets. One of them, Hou Xin, has been released on bail pending investigation. To date, at least seven Chinese citizens are in criminal detention for participating in similar activities.
Observers tell HRIC that they believe the detention of Zhao, Ding, and others represents a new round of suppression of citizens' street actions and is aimed at containing the development of civil society.
In late 2012, Sun Hanhui, Ding Jiaxi, and others launched a campaign to demand that 205 government officials at the ministerial level or higher to lead the way in publicly disclosing their assets. The campaign collected 7,000 signatures from Chinese citizens and submitted a joint proposal to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress during the convening of the Two Congresses in March this year.
A signatory of Charter 08, Zhao Changqing had spent six months in prison for participating in the 1989 Democracy Movement and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for “inciting subversion” in 2002. He was put in solitary confinement four times while in prison, once for as long as ten months. After his release from prison in 2007, he continued his rights defense work and engaged in citizen activism, including promoting citizens’ dinner gatherings, equal rights education, and official asset disclosure. In 2011, after the authorities cracked down on the Jasmine assemblies, he and others planned and organized “eat and drink in the same town” to exchange information and promote citizen activism.
On April 18, Xu Zhiyong (许志永), a civic action organizer and law professor, lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪), and eight other individuals issued an open letter, strongly demanding the authorities to immediately release citizens who are vocal advocates of public disclosure of government officials’ assets. The Alliance of Chinese Citizens for Rights Defense (中国公民维权联盟) also issued a statement condemning the authorities' illegal deprivation of citizens' freedom of expression and demanding the unconditional release of Zhao Changqing, Ding Jiaxi and others.