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Case of Chinese Rights Activist Delayed, Fears of Isolated Imprisonment Arise

Darren Maung
Darren is an aspiring writer who wishes to share or create stories to the world and bring humanity together as one. A massive Star Wars nerd and history buff, he finds enjoyable, heart-warming or interesting subjects in any written media.
Published: July 19, 2023
A general view shows Shek Pik Prison in Hong Kong on Jan. 19, 2022. Zhang Hai, a vocal opponent of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is being detained without legal counsel and it’s feared he is being held in one of China’s notorious residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) prisons. (Image: BERTHA WANG/AFP via Getty Images)

There has been a delay in the case of detained rights activist Zhang Hai after his case was sent back to authorities “for further investigation.” Fears have also arisen that the Shenzhen resident is being placed in incommunicado detention, or solitary confinement. 

A supporter of the “silver protests” in Wuhan in February this year, Zhang — a profound critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — was arrested in April and charged with “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.”

Now, there are fears that Zhang has been placed in solitary confinement, in a “residential surveillance at a designated location” (RSDL) holding facility — a repressive system that can prevent a detainee from having access to a lawyer for six months and puts captives in dire danger of being tortured, a human rights group said.

“It’s not out of the question that he was placed under ‘residential surveillance at a designated location’ prior to being locked up in the detention center in Hanyang,” Lin Shengliang, a dissident based in the Netherlands, told Radio Free Asia (RFA).  Lin is currently in contact with Zhang’s family.

Zhang is now being held in the Whan No. 2 Detention Center, where he is left without a lawyer, nor can his family find one for him. A government lawyer would be appointed in his stead, Lin said.

“His family haven’t been given any kind of documentation [relating to his case],” he added. “They’ve appointed a government lawyer for him, but they haven’t allowed the lawyer to meet with him yet.”

Lin also said that the municipal state prosecutor’s office moved the case back to the police, which could mean Zhang could be sent for a harsher criminal charge. If given enough attention by officials, the case could become a priority one.

Authorities are also suspected of targeting Zhang’s wife, coercing her to consider divorcing her husband for the safety of their child.

“As far as I know, she started out speaking up for Zhang Hai’s rights, but now she is thinking about divorce so as not to impact the kid,” Lin said.


The ‘silver protests’

According to Wuhan-based activist Gao Fei, Zhang has likely been put in the crosshairs for speaking out over his father’s death at the hands of harsh COVID-19 measures, which saw massive lockdowns in Wuhan and across the country.

A prominent critic of the CCP’s draconian rule, Zhang has also voiced his support for the “silver protests,” which were a series of protests, largely conducted by the country’s elderly, that took place in the cities of Wuhan and Dalian in February this year over massive cuts to medical benefits.

“I think the most important factor is that he has stood firm,” Gao said. “If you confront them head-on, they will do the same to you, as a form of retaliation.”

“They are always looking for people to help them meet their targets,” he added.

The CCP claimed that the “silver protests” were due to “rumor-mongering,” and authorities deployed police and officials to spread their “ideological work” against those who took part in the protests.