04/20/2023, 14.41
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Beijing: humanitarian activists arrested for meeting with EU diplomats

Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan detained before the meeting. Two of them, Wang Quanzhang, Wang Yu and Bao Longjun, managed to turn up for the meeting at the EU embassy. The European authorities demand their immediate release and deplore the acts of repression. A few days ago, two other well-known human rights lawyers were sentenced.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Police in the capital have arrested a number of humanitarian activists who were due to meet or met with European diplomats on 13 September. The incident emerged yesterday after a complaint by the European Commission and the appearance of some posts on the social profiles of those concerned.

The police stopped Yu Wensheng and his wife Xu Yan on their way to the EU embassy in Beijing for a meeting with the team of Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy. The Spanish politician was also supposed to attend, but had to cancel his visit to China after testing positive for Covid.

The couple was formally arrested the next day on charges of 'creating arguments and fomenting unrest'. A lawyer, Yu finished serving a four-year prison sentence last year for publishing a letter calling for political reforms in China. In a closed trial, the judges found him guilty of 'inciting subversion'.

Yu defended several colleagues who fought for human rights, among them activist Wang Quanzhang, who was released in 2020 after years of imprisonment. Wang is one of the prominent figures arrested by the authorities in a security operation dubbed '709' (as it started on 9 July 2015), which targeted 300 other lawyers - including some Protestant and Catholic Christians.

Many of them were tried and later convicted; several 'confessed' their guilt on video; others came out of prison very physically and psychologically exhausted, due to the torture they suffered.

Wang is one of the other activists put under house arrest on 15 April for the meeting with the European envoys. It is not yet clear who among him, Wang Yu and Bao Longjun managed to turn up for the meeting, Reuters reports.

The European authorities demanded the immediate release of the five activists, denouncing the Chinese government's crackdown on human rights campaigners in China. The latest detentions come after a court in Shandong sentenced the well-known democracy activists Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi 10 days ago: the former received a 14-year sentence, the latter a 12-year sentence; both served three years in prison without a sentence.

Accused of 'subversion', the two colleagues were among the initiators of the New Citizens' Movement, strongly critical of the Chinese Communist Party. For the regime, they wanted to organise 'coloured revolutions' to overthrow state power, modelled on those that broke out in the early 2000s in some former Soviet republics, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

Several times, family members and friends of Xu and Ding reported abuses against them while in detention.

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