A well-known figure in the Chinese democracy community, and a scholar of the Chinese Communist Party’s security apparatus, has been charged with sedition after spending a month in custody.
Lü Gengsong, who was detained on July 7 and placed in the Hangzhou City Detention Center, in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, was formally arrested on Aug. 13 on charges of “subversion of state power.” Lü, a veteran activist and writer, has been in and out of custody this year—the authorities took him from his home three times in January and February, searching his house and confiscating his computer.
The details of Lü’s alleged crimes this time were not made clear by the Chinese authorities, but may be related to his efforts at protesting the People’s Republic of China’s re-admission to the Human Rights Council, which took place late last year.
In October 2013 Lü and others used the time leading up to China’s Universal Period Review, which is supposed to evaluate China’s human rights record, to organize an open letter and petition against the PRC’s presence on the Human Rights Council, part of the United Nations.
Lü is additionally an open member of the China Democracy Party, a banned and persecuted political organization. For his efforts at promoting democracy he was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in 2008, and spent three years of a four year sentence in prison.
The current charge, of “subverting” state power, rather than merely inciting subversion, carries a far harsher penalty in China—up to 10 years in prison.
After being released in 2011, China’s political police have kept Lü and his family under stringent surveillance, occasionally supplemented by afternoon raids on his house, in which they take away he and his family’s personal belongings for no apparent reason.
Last October Lü’s wife, Wang Xue’e, remarked to the activist network Chinese Human Rights Defenders: “This year up to now, they have taken away six computers, including our daughter’s PC and some borrowed from friends. All of our family members have lived terribly in recent years. Not only is the family monitored, but our personal freedom is often restricted. The house has been ransacked multiple times. My daughter and I feel like we’re going crazy.”
Earlier in the year his wife was dragged from their home by the police, who didn’t explain their actions.
The attention paid to Lü by the Chinese Communist Party is returned by him in full measure: he is the author of books on the Party and lengthy essays discussing the operations of its secretive security services.
In 2000 he published in Hong Kong a book titled “The Dirty History of Corruption in the Chinese Communist Party,” which discusses and analyzes major cases of corruption from 1978 to 2000. For Beijing Spring, an overseas democracy magazine, he wrote the article “China’s Biggest Spy Organization: The Political and Legal Affairs Commission,” reviewing the history and unchecked powers of the Communist Party’s security apparatus.
Lü had put himself on the authorities’ radar by the early 1990s, when he taught at a training school for public security officers. He was dismissed in 1993 for his views and actions in support of democracy in China.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Lü studied hard to become a lawyer, taking multiple bar examinations—but for some reason always missing out by a few points. He provided a detailed explanation of his test results and the unusual rejections by the bar, which is controlled by the authorities, in an open letter to judicial authorities, published on the Chinese website Boxun.
In 2002, four years after first taking the test, he concluded that his test papers were being manipulated and deliberately rejected, to prevent people like him becoming lawyers. “From that point on I lost complete hope in becoming a lawyer, and never took the judicial examination again.”