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Chinese Police Tear Families Apart Over Letter That Demanded President’s Resignation

Germany-based Chinese writer Chang Ping's siblings were detained by police on March 27. (Image: Twitter )
Germany-based Chinese writer Chang Ping's siblings were detained by police on March 27. (Image: Twitter )

An open letter urging China President Xi Jinping to resign has triggered a rash of political persecution against the family members of Chinese dissidents living abroad.

Germany-based writer and Deutsche Welle reporter Chang Ping reported on March 27 that police in China burst into his father’s birthday celebration and detained three of his younger siblings, alleging a connection between Chang’s work and the letter.

Police also demanded that Chang delete a Tweet he posted about their abduction and stop publishing articles about the activities of the Chinese government. The detentions and threats follow the arrests of the parents and brother of US-based Chinese activist Wen Yunchao on March 22.

Mysteriously published on the Communist party-affiliated news site Watching, and allegedly signed by “loyal Communist Party members,” the letter criticizes Xi’s political, diplomatic, economic and cultural policies, charging Xi with the “abandonment of the democratic system of collective leadership” and arguing that his policies have led to an “excessive” concentration of power.

Chang Ping is a renowned Chinese writer based in Germany. He was sacked as deputy chief editor in Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine after commenting on the 2008 riots in Lhasa, Tibet and asking the government to give more freedom to the press on news related to Tibet.

In 2012, after Chang Ping failed to renew his working visa in Hong Kong, he relocated to Germany and started writing for German daily Deutsche Welle.

But leaving China has not freed Chang from Chinese authorities’ political harassment.

After his former colleague Jia Jia disappeared after attempting to fly from Beijing to Hong Kong on March 15, Chang wrote in his column on Deutsche Welle, “Jia Jia Was Disappeared for the Crime of Seeing.” The article criticized the Chinese government for persecuting people who are not blind and therefore “see” the existence of the secret open letter.

What he did not anticipate is that the Chinese police would actually go after the “blind”— in this case, the relatives of those who saw the letter.

On March 27, Chang Ping wrote on Twitter that his sister and two brothers were kidnapped by the Chinese police at his father’s birthday banquet. The police threatened that they would be punished if Chang Ping did not stop making comments about the Chinese government. They also demanded that the Deutsche Welle article on Jia Jia be removed.

In response to the political persecution by association, Chang made a public statement denying his involvement in the open letter and urging international communities to condemn the barbaric acts of the Chinese police (translated by China Change):

As the Chinese police continued to press Chang Ping’s brother, Zhang Wei, to urge him to stop writing, Chang had no choice but to block his brother’s email and cut off all communication with his family. In a second statement, Chang compared the situation of his family with Hong Kong bookseller Lee Bo, who was also forced to publicly cut ties with his family (translated by China Change):

In pre-modern China, authorities practiced punishment by association, which exploited the Confucian value of filial piety, under which the individual is expected to sacrifice for the well-being of family. In the interview with RFI, Chang Ping condemned the barbaric act:

This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices

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