Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have hauled in a rights activist for questioning after he started a signature campaign in support of mass popular protests against the military coup in Myanmar.
State security police in Guangdong’s Huizhou city summoned activist Xiao Yuhui for repeated interrogations starting Feb. 18 and continuing into this week, RFA has learned.
The summons came after Xiao posted to a number of groups on the social media app WeChat condemning the Myanmar military coup.
“Xiao Yuhui was summoned to the police station … he was there about half an hour [that time],” a person familiar with the matter who declined to be named told RFA.
“He’s back home now, but the state security police have him in their sights, and they call him in at random,” the person said.
Xiao, who was interrogated by police from the Luoxi district police station in Guangzhou, Hengli district police station in Dongguan, and Huizhou municipal police department, is now being pressured to remain in or near his home.
While in Huizhou city, some 30 kilometers away from his home in Hengli district, on Monday night, Xiao received repeated phone calls from officers at his local Yuantongqiao police station asking him to report to them.
Xiao made the trip home, eventually arriving in the early hours of Tuesday, where he was forced to write the guarantee before being released.
Dissident Wang Aizhong, who is based in Guangdong’s provincial capital, Guangzhou, said she had heard similar news of Xiao.
“It was about supporting the people of Myanmar [against the coup],” Wang said. “I didn’t see it personally.”
She said Xiao has been targeted by state security police before.
“He was detained and held under criminal detention for several months at one point, so he’s no stranger to being asked to ‘drink tea’,” she said, in a slang reference to being summoned by state security police.
Xiao, who was called back in by police on Tuesday morning, declined to comment when contacted by RFA following his release.
“Sorry, it’s not convenient right now,” he said, using a phrase often used by activists to indicate pressure from the authorities.
Rights activists said a number of WeChat users across China, including Qingyuan, Shenzhen, Jieyang, and other Guangdong cities, have been treated similarly since Feb. 18, for adding their names to Xiao’s signature campaign.
A friend of Xiao’s who asked to remain anonymous said the authorities had responded very quickly to Xiao’s posts.
“He posted to the group calling for solidarity with Myanmar and the protests against the military coup,” the friend said. “He got the call [from police] … within hours [of posting].”
Xiao’s earlier detention was linked to his online support for the Hong Kong protest movement.
He was detained by Guangdong police alongside an unnamed woman after he retweeted a WeChat on May 27, 2020 referring to an online letter-writing campaign by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper the Apple Daily, in opposition to the national security law.
The draconian law was imposed on the city on July 1, 2020, and outlaws sedition, subversion, foreign interference, and activities supporting independence for Hong Kong.
It is currently being enforced by a newly established state security branch of the Hong Kong police, alongside a branch of China’s feared state security police.
The woman was subsequently released on bail pending trial, but Xiao was held under criminal detention at the Huicheng district police station in Huizhou.
A veteran activist, Xiao has also previously helped vulnerable groups to defend their rights, as well as families targeted by family planning officials under the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s “one-child” policy.
Reported by Qiao Long and Chan Chun-ho for RFA’s Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.