Beijing lawyer Chen Qiushi recently traveled to Hong Kong to witness the ongoing protests and shared videos from the site of recent demonstrations on Chinese social media. Soon after, Chinese authorities contacted him and warned that he’ll face consequences.
Chen, 33, received his bachelor degree in law from Heilongjiang University and received his license to practice law in 2014.
That year, Chen also participated in a Chinese reality competition show, “I Am A Speaker,” whereby contestants vie for mentorship after making speeches. He won second place and became famous across the country.
Currently, Chen works for the Beijing-based Long’an Law Firm.
Forced To Leave Hong Kong
Chen visited Hong Kong as a tourist on Aug. 17 and planned to go back on Aug. 23. On Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like social media platform, he explained that he wished to see the situation in Hong Kong for himself, rather than relying on Chinese state-run media’s coverage.
For nearly three months, locals have staged mass protests in opposition to an extradition bill that would allow the Chinese regime to transfer individuals for trial in mainland China. Many fear that the bill would allow the Chinese regime, with a history of human rights violations and an opaque legal system, to punish its critics with impunity.
Chinese state propaganda have portrayed the protests as the work of violent rioters who are being directed by foreign governments.
“I’m by myself with my cellphone, selfie stick, mainland China ID, lawyer license, and Hong Kong and Macau travel pass. I hope to witness what’s happened here, and listen to local people’s voices,” Chen said in his first video shot in Hong Kong, which he then shared on Weibo, on Aug. 17.
Chen attended anti-extradition-bill rallies as well as demonstrations organized by pro-police groups. While the former have criticized local police for firing tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds, and other crowd control equipment to disperse protesters at recent events, the latter have supported the police actions.
On Aug. 18, Chen posted his video about the Aug. 17 pro-police rally, in which he said: “[Pro-Beijing] media said 470,000 people participated in the activity yesterday, but I didn’t see that there were that many people … most of the participants are middle-aged or seniors, many of them members of the local Wenzhou Association or Dongguan Association, and mainland Chinese tourists.”
The associations he mentioned are fraternity organizations founded by mainland Chinese who live in Hong Kong but keep close ties with their mainland hometowns. Wenzhou is located in the eastern province of Zhejiang and Dongguan in neighboring Guangdong Province. Many such fraternity associations are front groups for the Chinese government’s United Front Work Department, an agency tasked with persuading those inside and outside China to support Beijing’s agenda.
Chen then attended the mass rally at Victoria Park on Aug. 18. Chen said in his video: “From 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. when I left, protesters kept on entering and leaving [the park].”
Organizers said that 1.7 million Hongkongers attended the rally that day.
On Aug. 20 evening, Chen posted his ninth video from Hong Kong, in which he said: “I’m at the Hong Kong airport now and need to fly back to the mainland immediately… Because the [Beijing] police bureau, judicial bureau, bar association, and my law firm called me and told me: ‘Qiushi, you can’t stay in that sensitive place [Hong Kong]. Nobody can protect you if you don’t leave soon.”
Chen said his videos—which successfully evaded Chinese censors for several days before they were removed between Aug. 19 and 20—angered Beijing authorities. He added that he was worried his lawyer license could be revoked due to his frank comments on Hong Kong.
“Three days in Hong Kong may ruin my three years of hard work [to obtain the lawyer license],” Chen said in his last Hong Kong video.
All of Chen’s videos have since been deleted, but have been re-uploaded and retained by netizens who posted them on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Chen said in his first Hong Kong video that he wished to view the events without bias. “I want to put my prejudices down and treat everything I see with a neutral attitude as much as possible.”
Chen also remarked on how coverage of the ongoing protests diverged so sharply between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese media. It is “as different as heaven and earth,” he remarked.
He explained that local media have reported that the female volunteer medic was shot by a bean bag round—likely fired by police—during a recent protest, while Chinese state media claimed that she was shot by her “pig teammate.”
Meanwhile, locals suspect that a group of white-shirt mobs who attacked passengers inside the Yuen Long metro station are connected to local triads. Chinese state media has called them “patriotic youths,” Chen explained.
After posting his last video at the Hong Kong airport on Aug. 20, Chen could not be reached when several Chinese activists tried to contact him through phone and social media.
But on Aug. 21, several Hong Kong media reported that they were able to reach Chen and that he said he was safe.
Xu Xiaodong, a Beijing-based professional boxer, shared a photo he took with Chen on Twitter on the morning of Aug. 21, but did not disclose where they met. Since then, Xu did not give any updates about Chen.
Voice of America reported on Aug. 23 that it contacted the Beijing Bar Association and Chen’s employer, but both refused to provide information about Chen’s whereabouts.
The Epoch Times has tried reaching Chen via social media, but he has not responded by press time.
Amnesty International has raised concerns that Chen could be punished by Chinese authorities. “In the past there have been cases of mainlanders harassed or taken away by the authorities after attending protests in Hong Kong,” Doriane Lau, China researcher at Amnesty International Hong Kong, told South China Morning Post on Aug. 21.