Radio Free Asia: Police Detain Dissident in China’s Hunan on ‘Orders From Higher Up’

Radio Free Asia

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Hunan have detained a dissident writer who posted an online essay critical of President Xi Jinping, RFA has learned.

Peng Peiyu was taken from his home in Hunan’s Shaodong county last Wednesday, his ex-wife and lawyer said.

Peng’s ex-wife Yang Xia told RFA that Peng could face a two-week administrative detention, which can be handed down by police to perceived “troublemakers” without the need for a trial.

“Some people came to his home that day and took him away,” Yang said in an interview on Tuesday. “He hasn’t been let out, and it’s been days now; it’s very hard on the kids.”

Yang said she had asked the head of the village where Peng lives.

Chinese dissident writer Peng Peiyu (2nd from L), activist
Zhu Chengzhi (R), and two friends visit a grave in
Dashanling Cemetery in Shaoyang in southwestern China’s
Huanan province, Dec. 26, 2016.
Photo courtesy of a friend of Peng Peiyu

“He told me that there were orders from higher up to detain him, and they never told the village committee about it,” she said. “He got a phone call from someone higher up only later, telling him that [Peng] would be detained for two weeks.”

Yang said the couple’s eldest child just graduated high school, while the youngest is just 14.

Peng’s friend Xie Zhou said he is a prolific writer, who frequently pens scathingly critical articles and comments and posts them online.

“It’s not entirely clear what the exact reason [for Peng’s detention] is … but his friends in Shaoyang city said it was to do with a social media post he made,” Xie said. “He has been detained many times before.”

“I read his essay titled ‘On Xi: A Call to Arms,’ and he is pretty direct, and makes some trenchant analysis; I am guessing it was too close to the bone for someone.”

Rights lawyer Chen Jinhua, who has been able to act formally on Peng’s behalf because the local justice department has refused to renew his legal business license in recent years, agreed that he is a prolific dissident commentator.

“His wife told me that it’s Peng’s fault for constantly posting comments and opinions, and that he has brought a lot of trouble down on the family,” Chen said. “That’s why she eventually divorced him.”

Targeted by authorities

But Hunan-based rights activist Ou Biaofeng said Peng had been targeted by the authorities after he reported a number of government departments, using his real name, in recent years.

“There’s a quarry near his home, and there were some issues with noise, dust, and pollution that were adversely affecting the local residents,” Ou said. “I remember he had a few dealings with the relevant departments about this, and he even took the complaint to Beijing because they were so lackadaisical about it.”

Ou said Peng isn’t the kind of person to care much what others think, and went ahead with his activism regardless.

“If you’re going to do online activism and take part in whatever movement, then you need to be prepared for various outcomes,” he said. “You need some kind of channel for the information to get out, if you are taken away by police.”

“Peng was taken away on Jun. 27, and we had no news of him until July 2. … There [are] certain aspects of being an activist and a dissident that he isn’t very good at,” Ou said.

Repeated calls to the Shaodong county police department rang unanswered during office hours on Tuesday.

Peng was among dozens of activists who tried to attend the funeral of late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo in the northeastern province of Liaoning in July 2017.

Liu’s funeral in the wake of his death from liver cancer last week took the form of a sea burial of his ashes, attended by his wife Liu Xia. Well-wishers and supporters were unable to attend.

Rights activists around the world are continuing to call for Liu Xia, who has been under constant surveillance and house arrest since her husband’s Nobel Peace Prize was announced in October 2010, to be allowed to seek medical treatment overseas for her own physical and mental health problems.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA’s Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Wong Lok-to for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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