In October 2015 when Theresa May was still the Home Secretary, the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK. During his visit, at least three individuals in London were arrested for protesting peacefully. They were held for almost 24 hours, their homes searched, their property seized and, when released on bail, strict conditions were ordered to ensure they could not fulfill their rights to further protest the Chinese President while he remained in the UK.
My name is Shao Jiang, a former prisoner of conscience and survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, and I was one of the three protesters arrested last October. The nature of my detention was illegal under UK and international law and, in December 2015, I filed an IPCC complaint against my treatment and the unlawful policing of protests surrounding President Xi's visit; the investigation by the IPCC continues.
The UK's effort in accommodating the Chinese state visit last October is now being rewarded by a reciprocal suppression on dissenting voices in China. As Theresa May the Prime Minister prepares her trip to Hangzhou to attend the G20 Summit, local residents are being harassed: a great number of individuals have been forced to leave the city ahead of G20; businesses, especially those run by Uyghurs, have to close; gatherings have been banned; dissidents around the country have been detained, placed under house arrest or barred from travelling.
Hangzhou, the city that will host the G20 Summit, witnessed the founding of the China Democracy Party (CDP) in 1998, an oppositional party aiming to challenge the Chinese Communist Party's monopolistic one-party rule. Although its registration was declined from the start and the organization has always been banned, the CDP has gathered around its banner members ranging from veteran activists of the 1978 Democracy Wall movement to organizers of 1989 pro-democracy movement. When Xi Jinping occupied the top provincial office in Zhejiang (2002-2007), dozens of CDP members were sentenced to lengthy jail terms. In past June, another two veteran democracy activists in Hangzhou were sentenced to 11 and 10.5 years' imprisonment. At least two dozens of CDP members remain in jail to this day.
Xi Jinping's presidency has seen the worst human rights violations in the country since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Over 2,500 human rights defenders have been subjected to forced disappearance and arbitrary detention in China. Torture and ill-treatment are widely practiced across the country. In a nationwide clampdown last July, over 300 human rights lawyers and activists were detained or summoned for interrogation. Some have been charged with "subversion of state power" or "inciting subversion of state power".
The Chinese Communist Party's war on "extremists", "separatists" and "terrorists" in Tibet, East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and throughout China has led to thousands of government-sponsored acts of torture and hundreds of extrajudicial killings. In September 2014, Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment for advocating equal rights for the Uyghur people. In Tibet, the repression by the authorities has been so severe that over 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest. In July 2015, revered Tibetan monk and political prisoner Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died in prison.
Hong Kong has not escaped from Xi's harsh approach. After Beijing rejected proposals of democratic reform in 2014, the people of Hong Kong rose up in the largest street protest the city has ever seen. However, Xi's government was unmoved by such defiance; and instead authorised the suppression of peaceful protests with a mix of police brutality, hired goons and court actions. Those injured by the police have not seen any redress and the political prosecution of protesters is still ongoing.
Since 1990s, the British government has engaged in the so-called human rights dialogues with the Chinese government. However, the civil society has not been allowed to participate in this process. The bilateral dialogues remain at rhetoric level, as the British government has long been following whatever the Chinese regime instructs. Following my unlawful arrest last October, I sent a few freedom of information requests to the Home Office, regarding the policing policy during Xi Jinping's UK visit. For four months the Home Office skirted my requests using language similar to that of Beijing authorities stating "public interest" and "national security". Additionally the Home Office claimed that the disclosure of information "could potentially damage the bilateral relationship between the UK and the People's Republic of China".
What is the "public interest" of the British people? Will the British government's endorsement by silence of China's suppression of its own dissidents benefit the British people? It might appear that the sacrifice of the Chinese workers' rights to strike and to form independent trade unions has indeed benefited the consumers in the UK who can afford cheap products made in China, but will that create more jobs for the British workers? In August, thousands of residents in Lianyungang, a habour city in the neighbouring Jiangsu province, protested against building a nuclear waste plant there by the China National Nuclear Corporation, in cooperation with a French company. Following the anti-nuclear protest, demonstrators and journalists were beaten and arrested. Does this not alert the British people who are still waiting for their government's final decision on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station? While so many young people in the UK cannot afford to buy their own homes, the Chinese newspapers have started advising their readers to take advantage of a weakened pound in the post-Brexit UK by investing in the British property market. One thing I can be sure of is that it is not those homeless Chinese petitioners who can afford to buy a house in the UK.
Talking about interests of the people, do the Chinese people not deserve the basic civil and political rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly without being charged with "subversion"? Unfortunately, the sacrifice of the Chinese people will not increase the welfare of the British people. On the contrary, it can only lead to the erosion of those parallel rights on the British soil. The arrest of myself and the two Tibetan protesters has made clear this tragic trend.