China uses quarantines as cover to detain dissidents: Activists

NEW YORK: On the day of his release from prison, Wang Quanzhang, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, thought he was finally free. After being held for nearly five years on charges of subversion of state power, Wang was escorted by the police to an apartment building in the city of Jinan. There, he was given a room with iron bars on the windows. Twenty police officers stood guard outside. His mobile phone was confiscated, and his use of it was later restricted and monitored. Wang was effectively under temporary house arrest, but the authorities had another name for it: quarantine.
Rights activists say the coronavirus has given the authorities a new pretext for detaining dissidents. Summary quarantines — often imposed just after detainees, like Wang, had cleared a previous one — are the latest way to silence dissent, part of a broader campaign under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, to stamp out activism. “Activists in quarantine are often detained without their families’ knowledgeand not given the option to self-isolate at home,” said Frances Eve, deputy director of research at Chinese Human Rights Defenders.
Among those forcibly detained in quarantine, the activists say, are a citizen journalist who tried to raise awareness about the initial virus outbreak in Wuhan; five labour rights activists; and a laid-off worker who had urged people to take up arms against the ruling party. China’s ministry of public security did not comment.
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