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Suspicious Deaths and More Arrests

Persecution of rights activists in China has persisted throughout the third quarter of 2019, with two passing away while in police custody. On 10 July, ‘barefoot lawyer’ Ji Sizun died of unknown causes two months after leaving prison. He had finished serving his most recent sentence of four and a half years. Activist Wang Meiyu, detained in July after publicly calling for Xi Jinping’s resignation and universal suffrage, passed away on 23 September. On 4 July, Zhang Baocheng, an activist who has repeatedly urged officials to disclose their wealth, was arrested for ‘promoting terrorism’. Likewise, Cheng Yuan, Liu Yongze, and Xiao Wu, three employees of the anti-discrimination NGO Changsha Funeng, have been held incommunicado since 22 July on charges of subversion, supposedly due to their organisation’s links with Hong Kong. On 28 July, 22-year-old Zhang Dongning was arrested for publishing an online series of satirical cartoons depicting Chinese with pig’s heads. On 29 July, China’s ‘first cyber-dissident’ Huang Qi received a 12-year jail sentence for ‘leaking state secrets’. On 6 August, a provincial regulatory panel stripped rights lawyer Li Jinxing of his licence to practice due to alleged ‘improper comments’ on social media. Labour activist Meng Han, who only recently emerged from a 21-month stint in jail, was detained again in August. He returned home on 7 October, after spending 38 days in detention in Guangzhou on suspicion of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’. There are new developments in the case of Yang Hengjun, a Chinese-born Australian political commentator who has been detained in China since January under the charge of espionage. There are now fears over his health amid reports that he is being bound and shackled during interrogations. This persecution has also extended to Yang’s wife, a permanent resident of Australia, who has been banned from leaving China. TS

(Sources: The Australian; BBC News; Radio Free Asia 1; South China Morning Post 1; South China Morning Post 2; South China Morning Post 3; The Guardian 1; The Guardian 2; The Guardian 3; The Guardian 4)

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