On the day of his release from prison, one of China’s foremost human rights lawyers, Wang Quanhang, thought he was finally free.
After allegations of sabotage in state power for nearly five years, Mr. Wang was escorted by police to an apartment building in the eastern city of Jinan. There, he was given a room with iron bars on the windows. Twenty police officers guarded outside. Her mobile phone was confiscated, and her use was later banned and kept under surveillance.
Mr. Wang was effectively subject to temporary arrest, but the officers had another name: quarantine.
Rights activists say that the coronovirus has given Chinese authorities a new excuse to stop dissidents. Summary Quarantine – often imposed after detainees, such as Mr. Wang, had cleaned up the previous one – is part of a wider campaign under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the latest to seal arrest, detention and activism against The way Harsher controls Internet, activists say.
Prior to the epidemic, China had already put a deep crack on human rights, which many activists have described as the most aggressive since the Tianmen Square protest in 1989.
Activists in quarantine are often detained without the knowledge of their families. Frances Eve, deputy director of research on Chinese human rights defenders, a rights watchdog, said, “Usually they are not allowed to communicate with the outside world, are held in a secret location and have not given the option of self-isolation at home goes.”
“This treatment has really disappeared,” she said.
Although two-week quarantines are common in Asia for returning travelers, and prisons have been identified as hot spots for coronavirus transmission, details of Mr. Wang’s case suggest that they are purportedly for public health reasons Was not taken into custody.
When they were forced into a two-week quarantine in April, the outbreak had already spread to Jinan, and people were free to move about the city and return to work. Mr. Wang said he had tested negative for the virus five times in prison and had completed 14 days of quarantine before his release.
“All of China is now about epidemic prevention,” said Mr. Wang, who was jailed for three years before being charged, and who was arrested in 2015 after hundreds of human rights lawyers were tried Was and was to be sentenced. .
“Under such a big slogan, personal freedom can be compromised and you can’t say anything,” he said.
Researcher Yakiu Wang of China’s Human Rights Watch said the epidemic has given the government an excuse to restrict the movement so that it “justifies human rights violations.”
Ms. Wang said, “These people are clearly not in any condition that needs to be separated.” “It is not science based, it is just an excuse for the government to ban their movements and suppress their speech.”
Ms Eve said her rights group had recently documented nine cases of activists released from prison and then held in quarantine, but said “there are many more possibilities.”
Among those forcibly detained in the group, the group says, are a civilian journalist who has tried to raise awareness about the initial coronovirus outbreak in Wuhan; Five labor rights activists; And a worker activist who, in an interview with a foreign news outlet, urged people to take up arms against the ruling Communist Party.
China’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a request for comment.
China’s government is not the only one to use it as an epidemic to grab more power, restrict rights or reduce dissent. The Indian government has rounded up and detained critics. President Rodrigo Duterte Philippines Recently the police have given the right to enter the homes of people in search of sick people. And in Hungary, the Prime Minister can now rule by decree.
Although Chinese law grants government emergency powers to release people during a public health emergency, several local authorities have indicated that the practice of quarantining released convicts violates those rules.
According to the state-controlled news website Shanghai Observer, in Hubei’s central province, police said that inmates who fulfill their prison terms need to be released within 24 hours.
The paper, a news site run by Shanghai’s government, cited police officials in Sichuan province as saying that the inmates were to be released “by law” after undergoing 14-day quarantine inside the prison, which included A nucleic acid test for coronavirus, blood test, and a CT scan are included.
Jiang Jiawen, 65 – an activist referred to by Chinese human rights defenders, who called for the Communist Party to protest – completed a one-and-a-half-year sentence in March for “fights” and causing trouble. In July, he was en route to meet a friend at Beijing railway station when he was refused by state security officials.
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Updated July 27, 2020
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They took him to a detention center and questioned him, Mr. Jiang said. They then told him that he had to stay apart, and they brought him to a hotel room in the northern city of Dandong, more than 500 miles away. The room had iron bars on the doors and windows. Two police officers and two government officials were outside watchdogs.
No one took their temperature during the 14-day quarantine, Mr. Jiang said. Authorities initially asked her to pay $ 17 a day for quarantine, she said, but she refused.
“They just want to find a reason to take us into custody,” Mr. Jiang said. “The epidemic has given him a good reason.”
Ding Yajun, a 51-year-old woman who protested the forcible demolition of her home, was released from prison on May 11 after a three-year sentence in the northern city of Harbin, also choosing “fights” and causing trouble to do. “While she was in jail, authorities strangled her, tested blood and subjected her to quarantine.
Nevertheless, upon her release, Ms. Ding was again placed in quarantine. For more than a month, he was kept in a window room that was kept locked with iron poles, he said. He was finally released on 16 June.
Liu Jianbin, who spent 10 years in prison for writing critical articles from the Chinese government, was released on June 27 and asked to complete a 14-day quarantine. But he was allowed to do so in the southwestern province of Sichuan, according to his wife, Chen Mingxian.
Ms. Chen said, “This is national policy and these are special circumstances.” “So we support and understand this.”
Mr. Wang, a human rights lawyer, is now in Beijing with his family. He states that he is occasionally chased but does not believe he is under surveillance around the clock, as most dissidents are after being freed from prison.
Recalling his time in quarantine after his release, Mr. Wang said police officers frequently checked on him, even though he was supposed to be in isolation.
“It was absurd,” he said. “The real purpose was to silence me and tell me not to contact my friends.”
Liu Yi contributed to the research.