By Tenzin Nyidon
DHARAMSHALA, Feb. 2: International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for the immediate release of many youths known popularly as the white paper protestors who are forcibly detained by the Chinese government. It is reported that only a “few” protestors were released on bail until now.
In late November, thousands of demonstrators across China called for an immediate end to the Chinese Communist Party’s draconian Zero-COVID policy and to be accountable for the innocent victims of the building fire in East Turkestan’s (Xinjiang) Urumqi city that killed many civilians. Protestors came onto the streets of Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Chengdu among other cities chanting slogans like, “End zero-Covid,” “We want human rights,” and “Down with the Communist Party!”
Chinese authorities have reportedly detained protestors Li Yi and Chen Jialin, who inspired the protest across cities. Since then, their whereabouts and legal status have remained unclear. Many journalists, filmmakers and activists have been charged with an offence of calling them “pocket crime”- frequently used by Chinese officials to criminalise any participants in a peaceful protest in China. Under China’s Criminal Law, the crime carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. It is also believed that more protestors have been detained or, possibly, forced to disappear while their families are threatened to keep silent, they said.
Meanwhile a 26-year old editor of a publishing house in Beijing, Cao Zhixin following her release from the detention is seen in a video where she recounted how the Chinese police had forcibly detained several of her friends. In the video, she can be seen demanding justice for her friends and how the Chinese police detained her after she participation in the commemoration event for the victims of the Urumqi fire.
Yaqui Wang, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said, “Young people in China are paying a heavy price for daring to speak out for freedom and human rights.” “Government and international institutions around the world should show support and call on the Chinese authorities to release them immediately. Attending a vigil and calling door authorities to respect human rights are not crimes. The crackdown on protesters only revealed Beijing’s deep fear of the power of the country’s young people.” he added.
Few days after the protests, all information related to the “white paper” protest were censored on the Chinese internet. At the same time, many accounts of WeChat and Weibo that showed solidarity or merely posted a picture of the blank sheet were permanently removed.