been forgotten, or abandoned?
September 20, 2009 (CSN) – A coalition co-founded by the China Support Network held a New York City news conference on Friday (September 18, 2009) to highlight the case of political prisoner Zhou Yongjun, who is a prominent figure from China’s Tiananmen Square pro-democracy uprising of 20 years ago. Zhou was the first elected president of the Autonomous Students Federation of Beijing Universities, the force which occupied Tiananmen Square during the run up to the infamous massacre of June 4, 1989. In that occasion of mass murder on global television, the Chinese Communist Party used its army and live ammunition to clear Tiananmen Square, killing about 3,000 unarmed protestors on the way in.
Zhou was captured and jailed from 1989-1991. International pressure led to his release, after which he emigrated to the United States. In the U.S., he obtained legal permanent residency, and became the father of two children who are U.S. citizens. In 1998 he attempted a return to China, and was captured and sentenced to three years in a labor camp. He was released somewhat early in 2001 because the Chinese government was bidding for Beijing to win host city status for the 2008 Olympics. His early release was a token gesture to display human rights improvement for the benefit of the International Olympic Committee.
In 2002 he returned to the United States and settled in California. Almost one year ago, in September 2008, he again attempted to return to China, out of concern for the declining health of his aging parents and the effects in his hometown of the Sichuan earthquake, which ravaged that area early in 2008.
Using a false Malaysian passport that Zhou purchased from an immigration company, Zhou went to Macao and tried to enter Hong Kong. At that point, Hong Kong police questioned him about an allegedly fraudulent letter that was written to Hang Seng bank by a person named Wang Xingxiang, which happens to be the name on the false passport that Zhou presented.
Zhou has made it clear that he did not author the letter in question. The bank had declined to transfer money in reply to the letter, because it had discerned that the signature did not match its records. After questioning, Hong Kong police concluded that Zhou was not the man in whom they were interested.
Zhou was then notified that immigration still needed to verify his identity, and that he was not allowed to enter Hong Kong, nor return to Macao nor the US. HK immigration authorities held him at the border for 48 hours, from September 28-30, 2008. In the words of Zhou, “Later they said ‘sorry’ to me that they misidentified me and turned me back over to immigration.”
Hong Kong immigration authorities experienced some mercurial lark and turned Zhou over to authorities of Mainland China. This was arbitrary arrest, not supported by any provocation, nor legal basis, nor any shred of due process of law. With no proceedings, no official decision, no chance for review, hearing, representation, or appeal, Zhou found himself moved to “a small hotel in Shenzhen.” What Zhou experienced may accurately be called an extrajudicial kidnapping.
The story inside China proceeds as we have seen in the world news. On May 13, 2009, Western news wires reported the formal arrest of Zhou, based on an arrest warrant dated May 8, 2009 citing suspected fraud. His detention was kept secret by the Chinese government for more than seven months prior to mid-May, 2009. The China Support Network scooped the news wires by writing about this case a month earlier, in mid-April, 2009. On Sept. 4, 2009, Radio Free Asia reported that Zhou will soon go on trial for the trumped up charge of attempted financial fraud stemming from the Wang Xingxiang letter.
At this point, it is observable that absurd and ridiculous (arbitrary) actions have and continue to occur in Mainland China. However, we must not lose sight of the point that absurd and ridiculous (arbitrary) actions occurred on the part of Hong Kong immigration authorities in September, 2008. If the present story were a movie, it would be a double feature, with two examples of script writing that should be denounced for barely plausible story lines.
The coalition formed by CSN, called RAZY (Rescue Alliance for Zhou Yongjun), held a news conference in New York City on September 18, 2009. Two Chinese dissident attorneys spoke about the two sides of this “double feature” human rights abuse case.
Attorney Li Jinjin spoke about the fact that Mainland Chinese authorities have no jurisdiction over this case – even if we suppose (for the sake of argument) the allegations were true. (Any attempted fraud on a Hong Kong bank is in the jurisdiction of Hong Kong authorities to prosecute. Because Zhou had not yet set foot on Chinese soil, he cannot have committed any crime in Mainland China.)
Attorney Ye Ning spoke about the ominous and precedent-setting violations by Hong Kong authorities. Such treatment is a new experience for Chinese dissidents. The case report notes, "Normally a non-HK resident refused entry to Hong Kong would be sent back to his place of origin, i.e. the place from which he travelled to Hong Kong."
In recent memory this has happened to other Chinese dissidents -- Wuer Kaixi and Yang Jianli have attempted to enter Hong Kong, and they have been put onto planes that returned them to Taiwan.
Also at the press conference, John Kusumi for the China Support Network and Yuewei Zhang for the families of Zhou Yongjun denounced and decried the whole double feature atrocity.
Back up materials released at the newser included a case report and copies of China’s arrest warrant for Zhou, its indictment of Zhou, an interview with Zhou, an opinion from the attorneys at Beijing's Mo Shaoping law firm, and an open letter to Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Also within the materials was a family impact statement from Yuewei Zhang, the fiance of Zhou Yongjun and mother of his daughter Fiona.
The actual news in the news conference may be the formation of the Alliance and the fact that it is submitting all of the above materials to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The Alliance happens to feel that it is a slam-dunk case and hence that we can anticipate a U.N. determination of arbitrary detention.
The other actual news from the news conference is the open letter to Donald Tsang, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is supposed to exist with administrative and judicial independence from China’s central government, under the principle of ‘one country, two systems.’ Hong Kong has no legal basis to perform a secret rendition of a Chinese dissident to Mainland China.
Of course, the geopolitical climate in today’s world may have been tipped to favor secret renditions, due to the bad example and precedent set by the administration of a leading global superpower, which will remain nameless. (Perhaps the nation with the bad example should be called the Republic of Balagua. Thereby, the name is changed to protect the guilty superpower.) Bad example notwithstanding, the practice remains gangsterism without a legal leg to stand on – and, it is a challenge to the fundamental freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.
An ominous bad precedent has been set in Hong Kong’s handling of this case, and the open letter to Donald Tsang notes that it assists human rights abuse in China; forfeits Hong Kong’s administrative and judicial independence through “indecent and disgraceful” police cooperation with Mainland China; is a violation of all well recognized international protocols; and is a disgraceful betrayal. The signers call upon Hong Kong for self-restraint and remedy; calls for the international community to launch an investigation of this “serious development”; and calls upon Hong Kong people to stand up and speak out for the administrative and judicial independence of Hong Kong.
All presenters at this news conference became signatories to the open letter for Hong Kong’s chief executive Donald Tsang.
Prepared remarks for 9/18 news conference
Zhou Yongjun's Case Report, by attorney Li Jinjin
Zhou Yongjun's Arrest Warrant (English translation)
Zhou Yongjun's Indictment (English translation)
Zhou Yongjun's Jailhouse Interview (English translation)
Zhou Yongjun's Defense Attorney's Memo (English translation)
Zhou Yongjun's Family Impact Statement
Hong Kong Chief Executive Scolded in Open Letter
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