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Yesterday, China jailed its third activist in just over three weeks, and all of them got very hefty sentences.

On top of that, a fourth man, Zhu Yufu, was charged with inciting subversion and Hu Jia, an environmental, AIDS and democracy activist, was questioned for a full day at his local police station. We have had other reports from activists in our circle of contacts who have also recently been detained.

So we were curious to know whether the flurry of activity from China’s state security apparatus was the start of a new campaign, an intensification of an existing campaign, or merely business as usual.

We spoke to several activists and lawyers, but not all their responses could fit into the eventual article. So here are some of the more interesting statements in full:

Pu Zhiqiang, executive partner Beijing Huayi Law Firm.

Currently, life has been getting a bit better. The security officers only monitor my calls. I am not under house arrest and I have not been followed. Both the activists and the security officers have calmed down ahead of Chinese New Year.

This year is the power succession, so the authorities are mainly focused on preventing unrest and on any internal power struggles. Unless we see any major social incident, like the credit crisis in Wenzhou or the high speed train crash, the year should be peaceful.

We hope that after Xi Jinping comes into power, the situation will improve. Although his main job will be maintaining stability, we do not know what tack he will take. But we hope it will not be like the last two years when Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao used more hardcore tactics.

My worry is that there is very little time for us left now to change China for the better. Everyone now, even businessmen and government officials, feels uncomfortable. They all worry that injustice could strike them at any time, sooner or later, because society is not just.

But aside from major incidents, we should have a relatively safe year. Except of course that the powers that maintain stability always require new enemies in order to keep growing their budgets.


Chang Kun, AIDS activist. Based in Zhengzhou, Henan

The National protection people are in constant contact - that’s their job. They didn’t say explicitly this year is more sensitive, but they did imply that we should not try to go to Beijing in March for the Two Meetings and they did imply the power succession would have an impact.

On the AIDS front I think we will have more space this year. On Dec 1 2011, Wen Jiabao spoke to an AIDs petitioner for the first time and the government promised to look through the current laws and regulations. That was a really good sign.

We are actually quite optimistic that we can make headway and that there will be better treatment this year. Li Keqiang, the new premier, is from Henan, it was during his time here that the blood crisis emerged. So he also showed his concerns. We see an opportunity for the new government to make changes.

The national protection people don’t interfere with our work, they merely suggest that we change the time and place of our meetings sometimes. But there has been no major crackdown for the past year or so.


Liu Xiaoyuan, Ai Weiwei’s lawyer

My personal lawyer’s license was renewed this year, happily, because the government official in charge happened to be on holiday at the time and the lower officials did not know who I was so they just renewed it.

But my law firm’s license failed to pass the annual check. My partner is pretty angry. So without the license we cannot issue any invoices, so I have not been able to charge for any cases in the last seven months. If by the end of this year, my law firm cannot pass its annual check, my partner will pull out. I think I am the target, mostly because of Ai Weiwei.

I have been warned not to say anything about his case in public any more and not to go to any court trials or hearings. I am also not allowed to represent Wang Lihong.

The current crackdown is not unusual. There have been so many cases. Usually they arrest and detain and then wait for the right time to issue a sentence. The situation has been more serious since the Jasmine protests last February, but then the international attention that the Ai Weiwei case brought helped to calm things down again.

All of the issues, although they are not directly related, stem from the Jasmine incidents. Local governments have been told by central governments they can lock up anyone who seems like they might be a troublemaker or who does not listen to the government.

Then usually, when they arrest someone, they go back two or three years and trawl for anything that might implicate them.

The new crackdown is more to do with international affairs than internal Chinese problems. It will also be more serious this year with the political succession.

For the intellectuals and human rights defenders, there are likely to be more warnings, and a few being made into examples.

In general, especially the second half, I don’t think there will be more crackdowns on dissidents. They will try to finish this in the first half of this year. They won’t have any trials until the succession is over. But there will be a strict crackdown on internet censorship.

As for Yu Jie, they let him out because they do not care anymore. They are more interested in maintaining stability and less interested in ideology. And they need all the resources they can get to maintain stability. They may have thought that since Yu Jie was going to write these things anyway, they could save money by letting him go abroad. Because if he was here, they would definitely need to crack down on him.

Hu Jia

There is progress! Previously, I used to be detained by plain clothed policemen with no official documents. This time there were uniforms, badges, a summons, a confiscation warrant. At least they are following the book now.

One of my friends was told when he was invited for a cup of tea with the national protection people that this year, starting in February and all the way to November, every day is a sensitive day because of the power succession and the fact that the top leaders are making their decision on the future direction of China.

They are panicking and will strike like a thunderbolt to snuff out any problems. They are in control of all levels of society and on full alert for any mass incidents.

As for the sentences at Christmas, they issued them because it was a Western holiday and the media would not pay as much attention.

Beijing has already begun to tense for this year’s political events, there are more security and some dissidents have been forbidden to leave the city. Hopefully it will ease a bit over Chinese New Year, since we are all with our families at this time.

But in March there will be the usual house arrests and the authorities are still nervous about the Arab Spring. I heard they had banned the sale of jasmine in some markets, and anyone who asked for a large quantity would be interrogated.

Yu Jie has always wanted to leave, but was stopped until now. His daughter was born in the United States and Yu was worried about her growing up and wanted a more secure environment for her. He might not come back. He was assaulted quite badly during the Jasmine incidents and he does have fears, which is totally understandable.

I choose to stay. Like Aung San Suu Kyi said, our very presence is the best protest. It is a difficult time, but it is also the best time. After all these years, I am positive that in ten years we will see some more light.
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Last time when Hu followed Jiang, there were all these commentaries suggesting a chance for positive change. Maybe this time the world will see them for what they are. Doesn't matter what names they are called. I have never understood all those countless commentators getting excited about who succeeds whom. It certainly doesn't get better.
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