China has been detaining citizens across the mainland who express solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. Since September 22, police have held more than 30 people, including several artists, and have questioned many more.
In Beijing, police detained about 11 artists, poets, and journalists from Songzhuang Artist Village who were planning a pro-democracy poetry reading that would also showcase posters expressing sympathy for the Hong Kong demonstrators. Among them were artists Zhu Yanguang, Fei Xiaosheng, Ren Zhongyuan, and Cui Guangxia, as well as the event’s organizer, Ding Ting. According to Shanghaiist, Ting’s wife Chen Cheng told Apple Daily that several police officers tried to pressure the artist into making a confession; they also questioned her as to whether she had attended any of the Hong Kong sit-ins with Beijing artists.
The poet Wang Zang was also detained and his computers and umbrellas confiscated. Zang had been scheduled to speak at the poetry reading and had posted an online picture of himself holding an umbrella and giving the finger. When Zang’s wife, Wang Li, went to the police station to inquire about her husband, police held her and her 1-year-old daughter for nine hours without food and water. “[The police] said Wang Zang was under criminal detention for picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” Li told RFA. According to Amnesty International, the charge can be punished with up to five years in prison, though organizers and repeat offenders can receive up to 10.
Amnesty also alleges that police have arrested citizens for shaving their heads in support of Occupy Central or for making travel plans to join the protests. Altogether, 13 people have been accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
The detentions are the latest realization of China’s attempts to control and silence conversation on the mainland about what some have called the Umbrella Movement. Authorities have already shut down websites and apps like Instagram in an attempt, as Amnesty writes, “to remove all positive mentions of the pro-democracy protests online, while forcing newspapers and TV stations to only use the state-sponsored narrative of the protests.” According to Al Jazeera, it was only “with protesters already dispersed, while only quoting critics of the demonstrators” that media outlets were allowed to cover the events.
An account by Beijing-based artist Kuang Laowu underscores the point. Though he was not arrested, he told RFA that he had received a threatening visit from the police. “[Two of them] came yesterday afternoon, the state security police, and told me not to give any interviews,” he said.
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