Political and civil rights activism is all too rare in China – a nation internationally known for its human rights violations, especially the suppression of any free-speech. In yet another example of the cruel actions the Chinese government takes against any who speak out against them, they carried out a midnight arrest of a prominent outspoken civil rights lawyer.
Ge Yongxi, who is well-known for defending political and social activists as well as underground church leaders, was “seized” by five plainclothes officers who barged into his Foshan home around midnight Thursday.
Ge’s family was informed of his detainment in the early hours of Friday morning.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of Chinese and international human rights nonprofits, has claimed that Ge’s arrest was in connection to social media posts about “state leaders”. The CHRD also said that the policemen who captured Ge interrogated him about his possible role in spreading information online about China’s involvement in the Panama Papers.
The world was shocked by the Panama Papers – which has been dubbed the “biggest leak in history” – earlier this month in which over 11 million documents revealed that many world-leaders were linked to shady offshore accounts. Implicated in the massive leak were several close relatives of China’s Politburo Standing Committee – the ruling council of the Chinese Communist Party, including brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping.
Ge’s lawyer, Chen Jinxue, told The Guardian, “According to his [Ge’s] relatives, he posted something about the top leaders on his WeChat account.”
The CCP has been on overdrive this month to quash any social media attention or mention of the Panama Papers since the revelation. Even the Guardian’s website was partially blocked in the mainland.
President Xi’s rise to power has coincided with the most severe period of heightened political pulling of the reins on media censorship and activism since the days following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, observers say.
According to The Guardian, Ge Yongxi is a distinguished member of a once lively community of civil rights attorneys in China. However, the group has fallen under extreme pressure when a major government offensive against their trade began last July.
“In an interview with US government-funded Voice of America last year, Ge criticised the clampdown, which activists believe is part of Xi’s attempt to silence dissent as China braces itself for a potentially damaging economic slowdown,” The Guardian reports.
“I speak with my true consciousness,” he said in the interview. “Even if that invites trouble, I have no plan of avoiding it.”
Despite the increasing danger of speaking out against the Chinese government, Ge Yongxi has made it clear that there is no stopping him from publicly calling out the CCP on its constant abuse of human rights.