Guangzhou police deny visit to mother of detained anti-lockdown protester


Police are holding Yang Zijing on public order charges after she went to a ‘white paper’ rally in Haizhu Square

Guangzhou police deny visit to mother of detained anti-lockdown protester

Social media users have posted their concerns about Yang Zijing, who uses the social media handle “Dim Sum.” She was taken away on Dec. 4, 2022, by plainclothes police from her home in Guangzhou, according to the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website.

Police in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou are denying the mother of a rights activist detained after an anti-lockdown protest permission to meet with her daughter.

Yang Zijing, who uses the social media handle “Dim Sum,” was taken away on Dec. 4 by plainclothes police from her home in Guangzhou on suspicion of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” a charge frequently used to target critics of the government, the Hubei-based Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website reported on Dec. 14.

Yang was detained after getting home from a Dec. 4 protest on Guangzhou’s Haizhu Square, and her friends warned not to post details of the arrest to social media, the website said.

The Beijing Road police station confirmed on Dec. 7 she was being held under criminal detention, despite the fact that she had neither held up a sheet of paper, nor made any kind of public speech in Haizhu Square.

Yang’s mother Gao Xiusheng flew to Guangzhou as soon as she heard the news, she told Radio Free Asia in a recent interview.

“When I arrived in Guangzhou at 10.00 p.m. that evening, I went straight to the police station, who told me the officer in charge of the case wasn’t there,” Gao said. “They told me she was in criminal detention but didn’t tell me why.”

“I asked them to explain why they had brought Dim Sum in, but they said I wasn’t allowed to have that information, just to know that she had been detained,” she said.

“I went back to the police station with my lawyer the next day, but they told me that they couldn’t let me meet with her, and the lawyer couldn’t either,” Gao said.

Makes no sense

She said it made no sense that people who protested for an end to the zero-COVID policy should be locked up now that it had been lifted.

“Dim Sum was just going along with everyone else,” Gao said. “Maybe the means weren’t right, but her intentions were good.”

“Now, everyone else is allowed to move around freely, but Dim Sum is still locked up,” she said.

Uncertainties remain over Yang’s exact location.

While a police detention notice claimed she was being held in the Yuexiu District Detention Center, the civil rights website said she was still in Beijing Road police station as of Dec. 12.

Gao said she is concerned for Yang’s well-being in police detention.

“I’m most worried about her health, because of the [current COVID-19] outbreak,” she said. “I tried to deliver some clothes, but the police officer told me they can’t take them, because prisoners aren’t allowed to wear their own clothes.”

‘White paper’ protests

Gao’s lawyer recently tested positive for COVID-19, and is currently in self-isolation, making it impossible to proceed any further with their attempts to get a meeting with Yang, she said.

“She is a good kid who has always been obedient and never did anything illegal,” Gao said. “I had no idea it was so serious at first; I just thought it would be a question of bringing her back home.”

“I’ve been here more than 10 days, and I’m not even allowed to see her … I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” she said. “All I want is for her to get out as soon as possible, even if we’re told we can’t talk to anyone about it, and go back home.”

Three other Guangzhou-based protesters were detained around the same time for their role in “white paper” demonstrations, in which protesters held up blank sheets of paper in a mute protest at the lack of freedom of speech around ruling Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy.

The authorities relaxed most restrictions under the policy within days of the protests, which were sparked by public anger over a fatal lockdown fire in Xinjiang’s regional capital Urumqi, and included calls for Xi to step down and call elections.

Chinese human rights lawyers have been scrambling to assist the friends and families of people arrested during a wave of anti-lockdown protests at the end of November, many of whom have little experience being treated as dissidents by Chinese authorities. 

While the legal volunteers have reported large numbers of enquiries in the aftermath of the protests, lawyer Wang Shengsheng said the authorities have been contacting the dozens of attorneys who signed up and putting pressure on them to withdraw their services.

The Communist Party, faced with the biggest challenge to its rule in decades, views the “white paper” protests as the work of “foreign forces” infiltrating China, a notion that has been met with widespread derision among protesters and social media users.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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