Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan have formally arrested a dissident poet who spoke out in support of the Hong Kong protest movement and his wife on “subversion” charges.
Police in Yunnan’s Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture have applied for indictments of poet Wang Zang and his wife Wang Li for “incitement to subvert state power,” with the charges citing his recent poetry, essays, interviews with foreign media, and performance art since his last release from prison in 2015.
Wang was taken away on May 30 by police from the Chuxiong Economic Development Zone police department.
According to the U.S.-based Human Rights in China (HRIC), lawyers Lu Siwei and Zhang Lei were able to meet with him on Sept. 17.
“They reported that though Wang was in relatively good condition and grateful for the solidarity expressed by his supporters, he was extremely concerned about his wife and the well-being of their four children,” the group said.
A person familiar with the matter told RFA on condition of anonymity that Wang Li’s younger sister Wang Xiaomin has also been detained and taken to the police station for questioning after speaking out about the authorities’ treatment of her family.
“[Wang Xiaomin] is in such a difficult situation, with eyes everywhere and surrounded by police officers, so the information she has given [me] has been very limited, but what she has sent has been very useful,” the source said.
“Maybe she is now in trouble because of this, because she is now incommunicado … this is the most worrying thing that has happened so far,” the source said. “If the authorities really want to silence her, she may never reappear.”
“They really don’t want anyone hearing about Wang Zang and his family,” they said.
Beijing-based rights activist Hu Jia said different regions of China are currently vying with each other to see who can crack down more heavily on dissent.
“They want to show that they each have their own way of protecting national security, and their own innovative methods,” Hu said. “They are showing that they will arrest anyone who speaks out of line, and even their relatives if they won’t keep quiet.”
Dozens of police and officials raided the family home on May 30, pinning Wang Li, the couple’s four young children, and Wang Zang’s elderly mother to the ground, HRIC said in a Sept. 21 statement on its website.
“[Police] then took the entire family to the police station. Wang Li was interrogated for more than ten hours before being allowed to return home,” it said. “Police agents stayed at Wang’s home for two days, ostensibly to ‘take care of the children’.”
The family has been under close surveillance since, with their bank cards frozen and parcels sent by well-wishers intercepted by police.
The charges against Wang Li appear to stem from her speaking out about her husband’s arrest via social media and interviews she gave to foreign journalists, HRIC said. She was redetained on June 27.
According to notifications of arrest received by the family in September, Wang Zang and Wang Li were formally arrested by the Chuxiong Prefecture Public Security Bureau on July 3 and July 24, respectively, for “incitement to subvert state power.”
Wang Li is being held in the Chuxiong Prefecture Detention Center, HRIC said.
Wang Zang was previously a resident of Beijing’s Songzhuang artists’ village, and has previously been targeted with repeated forced evictions and a jail term for showing online support for the 2014 Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong.
Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.