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Chinese police target prominent rights lawyers with harassment, travel bans

Police in China are keeping up their harassment of prominent rights lawyers, putting pressure on recently evicted Wang Quanzhang and his family, slapping a travel ban on Li Heping and his family, while denying rights attorney Xie Yang a phone call with his sick father.

A police officer from the Beijing suburb of Changping pushed his way into the Wang family home on Wednesday, refusing to show ID and demanding to read the couple’s lease agreement, according to a video clip posted by Wang’s wife Li Wenzu on Twitter.

“Comrade Policeman, please would you leave – this is our home,” Li tells the officer, who is identified as Wang Kaiguo in her tweet.

“You can’t just go into people’s residences,” Li tells the officer in a heated discussion. “You didn’t produce any identification.”

“I’m wearing a police uniform, so I can come in here,” he says.

Police were claiming to have received a tip-off that the home had been illegally rented, according to the couple.

‘Stability Maintenance’

The renewed harassment is the latest in a slew of “stability maintenance” actions by Beijing police and other Chinese officials, who have targeted the families of prominent rights attorneys and other activists who were previously jailed in a 2015 crackdown on rights lawyers and public interest law firms.

In a video of an earlier conversation on June 12, Wang calls on a police officer via an entryphone to show some evidence backing up the claim that his family is living in the apartment illegally. He later tweeted a photo of the lease agreement with the landlord.

Screen shot of the policeman identified as Wang Kaiguo by Wang’s wife Li Wenzu. Tweeter/ @709liwenzu

“Police and corporate security personnel in Shunyi tracked us down to our new residence and reported us to the local police station,” Wang said. “They continued to follow us as we were apartment-hunting, and they accused us of ‘trespassing.’”

“It’s not just us — a lot of Christian families across the country have been evicted and persecuted,” he said. “It’s very hard to live a stable life.”

Wang’s family was forced to leave their last apartment in Beijing’s Shunyi district after the authorities cut off their utilities.

“The content of the contract is true, legal, and valid, and should be protected by law,” Wang said via Twitter. “I hereby declare that I will not unilaterally terminate this contract within its validity period.”

“We moved into this rented accommodation legally, yet police said they had been told that we moved in illegally,” Li Wenzu also tweeted on Tuesday.

Can’t leave country

Meanwhile, the family of Li Heping is now banned from leaving China, after their landlord smashed a window at their rented apartment in a bid to get them to leave last month, Radio Free Asia has learned.

Police at Chengdu’s international airport prevented the family from boarding a flight to Thailand last week, as Li and his wife Wang Qiaoling are considered to be “a danger to national security,” Wang Qiaoling said.

“He told us, ‘You aren’t allowed to leave the country … I’m going to read this notice out to you — Li Heping and Wang Qiaoling aren’t allowed to leave the country due to factors endangering national security.’” she said.


And a court in the central city of Changsha recently denied detained rights lawyer Xie Yang a video meeting with his ailing 90-year-old father, who is terminally ill with COVID-19.

“The lawyer asked angrily whether the judges of the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court were raised by their parents,” the China Rights Lawyers Twitter account said of the June 7 hearing.

Xie’s U.S.-based ex-wife Chen Guiqiu told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview that her father-in-law Xie Huicheng had been in hospital with a high fever for days at the time of the request.

“Xie Yang is a very filial son, and the old man really wanted to see him before he dies,” Chen said. “The court just came up with various excuses to refuse.”

Xie is currently being held in the Changsha No. 1 Detention Center, awaiting trial for “incitement to subvert state power,” and recently told his visiting attorney that he has been tortured while in detention.

Chen said the court’s decision not to allow him to video call his dying father could be a form of retaliation, or a way to silence Xie.

U.S.-based rights lawyer Wu Shaoping said that while there was no good legal reason to deny such a request, the ruling Chinese Communist Party is the ultimate arbiter of its citizens’ rights, not the law.

“There was no reason to reject a humanitarian request of this kind,” Wu said. “They use [such requests] as a way of controlling suspects [to elicit a ‘confession’].”

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.