DURING 2013–2014, the authorities increasingly used the criminal charge of ‘picking quarrels and provoking troubles’ 寻衅滋事 to detain activists, writers and dissidents, including all those listed below. Another criminal charge authorities have used against political dissidents or critics is that of ‘gathering a crowd to disrupt public order’ 聚众扰乱公共场所秩序罪, for which the noted lawyer Xu Zhiyong is currently serving a four-year prison sentence.
Forum: The Rights and Wrongs of the Law
XU ZHIYONG WAS until recently a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications and is among China’s best-known human rights lawyers. He was awarded a PhD in law in 2002 from Peking University under the supervision of the famous legal scholar Zhu Suli 朱苏力. In the aftermath of the Sun Zhigang 孙志刚 incident (in which Sun, a young man, was beaten to death while in police custody in Guangzhou) in 2003 he was one of the three legal scholars who wrote to the National People’s Congress advocating the abolition of the system of Custody and Repatriation 收容遣送.
IN THE VIEW OF the party-state’s continuing sensitivity to social unrest, collective public protests remain a perceived threat to political stability. In May 2014, fearing that a proposed waste incinerator plant for Hangzhou’s Yahang district would contaminate their water supply, over 20,000 residents took part in a public protest, blocking a major highway. The following day, the local police, the procuratorate, courts and justice bureau jointly issued an ‘Important Notice’ accusing ‘criminals’ 犯罪者 and public order ‘offenders’ 违法者 of inciting others to beat up police, damage property and disturb the public order.
AT AROUND 9:00PM, on 28 May 2014, five people attacked and killed a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan 招远, Shandong province. A bystander filmed the murder on a mobile phone and the footage spread rapidly on the Internet. Within days, the police announced that the suspected killers were all members of the Church of Almighty God (also known as Eastern Lightning 东方闪电 or The Real God 实际神), an organisation founded in 1990 by a physics teacher named Zhao Weishan 赵维山 and banned as a cult in 1995.
The last year has seen an unprecedented number of violent attacks in or linked to Xinjiang. These include attacks on civilians in railway stations and markets that were recorded on mobile phones and have been recognised by the international community (or at least US Secretary of State John Kerry) as terrorist attacks. The Chinese government sees these attacks as linked both to the Xinjiang independence and global jihadist movements. Below is a timeline of attacks and government responses.