Fears grow for ‘disappeared’ wife of detained Chinese activist

(From Radio Free Asia)

Fears are growing for Zhao Suli, the wife of detained opposition party member and rights activist Qin Yongmin,  Qin’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

Chinese democracy activist Qin Yongmin and wife Zhao Suli are shown in a photo from October 2013. Photo courtesy of rosechina.net

Chinese democracy activist Qin Yongmin and wife Zhao Suli are shown in a photo from October 2013. Photo courtesy of rosechina.net

Photo courtesy of rosechina.net

Zhao disappeared several weeks after the couple were detained in January 2015 and hasn’t been seen for months, the lawyer said.

Qin Yongmin, a founder member of the banned opposition China Democracy Party (CDP), is being held at a police-run detention center in the central city of Wuhan on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power,” defense lawyer Li Chunhua said after meeting with him on Monday for the first time since his detention 17 months ago.

“He was in pretty good health, and he’s getting five or six hours of exercise a day,” Li said of Qin.

But he raised concerns about the well-being of Qin’s wife Zhao, who was initially detained alongside her husband.

“I went to ask the Wuhan prosecutor’s office about Zhao Suli, but they said they haven’t got a case file with her name in it, which means that her case hasn’t got as far as prosecution,” Li said.

“Qin Yongmin was under the impression that Zhao Suli had returned home after they were split up on March 30, 2015, so he doesn’t know where she is,” he said.

‘Very worried’

Qin’s brother Qin Yongchang said he is very worried about his sister-in-law.

“For the first 70 days of their detention, my brother was held with Zhao Suli, but then they transferred her somewhere else,” Qin Yongchang said, adding that Qin Yongmin was sent to the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center, his current location, at the same time.

“He thought Zhao Suli had gone home, but actually she has disappeared,” he said.

Activist Xu Qin, who works for the China Human Rights Observer group founded by Qin Yongmin, said Zhao’s disappearance is very worrying.

“We have no evidence to show that Zhao Suli is even alive,” Xu said. “Her family are in a state of emotional collapse, because she has been gone for more than a year.”

“Of course they are suspicious,” he said.

Xu said that two officers from the Wuhan state security police and some local police had visited Zhao Suli’s sister on April 6 to tell her that Zhao Suli hadn’t come home.

“It is likely that something bad has happened to her, and they were trying to cover their backs.”

Push for information

The visit came after a concerted campaign by Zhao’s sister and lawyers to demand information on her whereabouts from the local authorities, Xu said.

“The authorities have all along denied that they know anything about Zhao Suli’s whereabouts, until eventually the stability maintenance team admitted that they had the couple in detention,” he said.

“They agreed to allow Zhao Suli’s sister to write her a note, but when she showed up at the stability maintenance office to ask for her sister’s reply, they told her that Zhao Suli didn’t want to write a message back.”

Calls to the Wuhan municipal police department rang unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, lawyer Li says the prosecution is dragging its feet on releasing Qin’s case files to his defense team.

“They haven’t let me read the case files yet … even though I call them on a daily basis,” Li said. “They just give me excuses, saying that the chief prosecutor isn’t in the office right now.”

‘Disappeared’ status

Amnesty International China researcher Patrick Poon called on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to make public Zhao’s whereabouts as soon as possible.

“She should be allowed to exercise her basic right to see a lawyer and to receive visits from family members,” Poon said.

“It seems as if her status is indeed ‘disappeared.'”

Qin and Zhao were initially reported missing on Jan. 19, 2015, amid unconfirmed reports that he had been tried in secret.

But Qin’s family and fellow activists have continued to hunt for him, and his lawyers last month tracked him down to an anonymous, numbered entry in a logbook at the Wuhan No. 2 Detention Center.

The family has received no official notification of Qin’s detention, and only discovered where he is being held because a lawyer they hired made a speculative application to meet with him at the detention center.

Jailed before

A contemporary of exiled dissident Wei Jingsheng, Qin was sentenced to eight years in prison for “counterrevolutionary propaganda and subversion” in the wake of China’s Democracy Wall movement in 1981.

He served a further two years’ “re-education through labor” in 1993 after he penned a controversial document titled the “Peace Charter.”

Qin then served a 12-year jail term for subversion after he helped found the CDP in 1998 in spite of a ban on opposition political parties.

According to the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch group, China detained or placed under surveillance more than 260 people last month under its ongoing “stability maintenance” regime that seeks to clamp down on activists before they act.

A draconian new National Security Law passed in July 2015 has allowed detainees to be held for up to six months at an unknown location with no contact with relatives or lawyers in cases involving subversion or spying.

But rights groups say the definitions of such crimes are broad enough to allow police to use them against political dissidents and peaceful rights activists, and to place detainees at risk of torture and ill-treatment.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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