Police in China's Shandong Detain Outspoken Poet For 'Subversion'

Updated: 2020-05-14 18:30:09

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong have detained an outspoken poet on suspicion of subversion, RFA has learned.

Zhang Guiqi, 49, who is widely known by his penname Lu Yang, is being held under criminal detention by police in Shandong's Liaocheng city on charges of "subversion of state power," according to Independent Chinese PEN's freelance coordinator Zhang Yu.

Zhang said the reasons for his detention at this time aren't immediately apparent, but could be related to a video Lu uploaded to social media.

"We are just guessing for now," Zhang said. "That video was of him at home displaying two banners; he didn't say very much."

"But it was on quite a sensitive topic ... because it was critical of [President] Xi Jinping," he said. "He was greatly affected by the epidemic, and maybe he thought that the authorities should take responsibility."

"It's probably that that video was just too [politically] sensitive," he said.

Zhang said police had searched Lu's home and taken away computers, phones and other devices to look for evidence.

"I am guessing that they will be trying to get him to confess in the first 10 days or so," he said.

Lu's family haven't spoken to anyone about his detention since receiving formal notification from police on May 13.

"There wasn't any explicit threat, like, you'll lose your job if you talk about this," Zhang said. "But if they do things [the authorities] don't want them to do, such as give interviews to overseas media organizations, then it could make things worse for Lu Yang."

U.S.-based legal scholar Teng Biao said it is hard to say for sure why Lu Yang was detained.

"The way the Chinese Communist Party handles political cases is actually pretty arbitrary, and they don't apply the same criteria across the board," Teng said.

"Some people get arrested and sentenced for subversion of state power over something relatively small; an online post or something they did," he said. "Others don't get arrested or sentenced until [the authorities] have built up a portfolio of their posts and articles and protest activities."

He said nobody should be prosecuted for exercising their freedom of speech, however.

Lu Yang was among a group of rights activists who went to the Shandong Jianzhu University in January 2017 to support a former professor there, Deng Xiangchao, who was targeted by Maoist protesters after he retweeted a post satirizing late supreme leader Mao Zedong.

The Shandong authorities terminated Deng's teaching contract after the incident, while Maoist flash mobs attacked Deng's supporters at the scene, including Yang.

Reported by RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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