Locking down dissidents ahead of China’s parliamentary sessions

Police across China are placing prominent dissidents under house arrest or taking them out of town on enforced “vacations” ahead of next week’s annual National People’s Congress in Beijing, activists said in interviews and via social media.

“With the parliamentary sessions approaching, Beijing is really unbearable,” veteran political journalist Gao Yu said via her X account. “State security police are being dispatched to guard people across all districts of Beijing, calling people and coming to their homes.”

“If this is what things are like before the parliamentary sessions have even started, how can people in Beijing go about their lives in a normal manner?”

As delegates get ready to attend the annual sessions of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference advisory body, which opens on March 4, and the National People’s Congress, the national lawmaking body which opens the following day, reports are emerging that police are stepping up security measures in Beijing.

State security police are also placing dissidents under surveillance or other forms of restriction across the country, including Hebei, Jiangsu and Guizhou provinces, and in the central city of Wuhan, as well as in the Chinese capital.

Beijing-based veteran dissident Ji Feng said he has been warned by state security police that they will be taking him out of town on an enforced “vacation” on Thursday.

“The relevant department visited my home to inform me that they’ll be taking me out of town … during the parliamentary sessions in Beijing,” Ji said. 

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Dissident Ji Feng, shown in this undated photo, says state security police will be taking him on an enforced “vacation” this week. (Ji Feng)

“Two of them will be driving me around Guizhou province in their car, taking me to various places like Liupanshui,” Ji said in a reference to a popular scenic area. “They said I didn’t need to know how long this would go on for.”

Ji said via his X account that he would also be “saying a temporary goodbye” to the platform. “I have to go out of Beijing on a trip,” he wrote. “I’ll meet up with friends again after I get back.”

Under surveillance

A Beijing-based lawyer who gave only the surname Zhang said he got a call from the Chaoyang district police department on Tuesday.

“I’m in Zhengzhou, and am going back to Beijing in the next few days,” Zhang said. “Yesterday, the Chaoyang state security police called me and asked me to let them know when I’m coming back to Beijing.”

“They’ll be sending a car to Beijing Station to pick me up and place me under surveillance,” he said.

A Beijing resident who gave only the surname Guo said the authorities are conducting sweeps of areas that are typically home to migrants from elsewhere in China, and forcing them to leave.

“They’re clearing the migrant population out of urban areas inside the Second Ring Road, like Dongcheng and Xicheng districts,” Guo said. “They say that 600,000 – 700,000 will be forced to leave.”

“I also heard that people and vehicles wanting to enter Beijing will have to apply for an entry permit, and that people entering Beijing have to register and are being interrogated.

‘I can’t go anywhere’

A scholar from the northern city of Shijiazhuang who gave only the surname Chen said he got a visit from police after speaking to a friend who lives there on the phone.

“They asked me why I was going to Beijing, and who I would be meeting,” Guo said. “I can’t go anywhere now — there are cameras everywhere.”

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Police raid a gathering of Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chengdu, China, Aug. 14, 2022. (Citizen journalist)

A petitioner from the central city of Wuhan who gave only the surname Wang for fear of reprisals said she had planned to travel to Beijing to petition during the parliamentary sessions, but had been intercepted by state security police.

“I can’t go anywhere now,” Wang said. “All I can do is wait for the two sessions to be over.”

A Jiangsu-based rights activist who asked to be identified by his surname Qin said his local police have been active in recent days, too.

“They’ve been standing guard outside the door again since [Lantern Festival],” Qin said. “They are up to their old tricks, restricting the freedom of ordinary people and of rights activists.”

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

A member of the banned Guizhou Human Rights Forum who declined to give their name for fear of reprisals said they have been taking on an out-of-town “vacation” by police.

“There are restrictions on everything,” the person said. “A lot of people are stuck at home, and have to be accompanied by state security if they go out,” he said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Early Rain Covenant Church in the southwestern city of Chengdu said a number of church members have also been warned not to leave home during the parliamentary sessions.

And a pastor in the eastern city of Qingdao told RFA he had been told not to “talk nonsense” during the parliamentary sessions, a likely reference to making critical social media posts or speaking with foreign journalists.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

Radio Free Asia

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