China’s ambassador to London Liu Xiaoming recently said in a BBC interview that the country doesn’t have any political prisoners.
Meanwhile, political prisoner Lu Yuyu sent out a distress message from a prison in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province, pleading for help as his health is deteriorating.
When Hardtalk host Stephen Sackur asked how many political prisoners were detained in China, Liu said: “There is no political prisoner in China.”
After Sackur expressed disbelief, Liu said: “People are put behind bars because they have violated the law in China.”
Sackur said: “But your [China’s] laws preclude genuine political opposition … If people are dissenting from the party line, they will very quickly find themselves contravening your laws.”
Liu then denied all these facts.
When Sackur brought up the issue of the Chinese regime creating a surveillance society in mainland China, “where every thought and every move made by your population is surveilled,” Liu skirted around the topic and claimed that all Chinese people are happy, and China has democracy with “Chinese characteristics.”
Liu then denied the existence of recently leaked documents about CCP’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, calling them “fake news.” When Sackur responded: “Just because you call them fake news doesn’t mean they are fake,” Liu said that Sackur hadn’t been in Xinjiang before and didn’t know the situation.
The U.S. government and rights groups estimate that more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims are detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. The regime labels these facilities “vocational training centers,” and have used the pretext of combating “extremism” to justify its crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region.
Liu even criticized U.S. Vice President Mike Pence for speaking up for the detained Uyghurs who “endure around the clock brainwashing.”
“I do not believe in Michael Pence. He’s a China basher. You call him Vice President, but I think he’s a Cold War warrior against China,” Liu said.
Under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, the government has detained waves of political prisoners. The most prominent cases in recent years arose from the “709 Incident.”
On July 9, 2015, Chinese authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists, known colloquially as the “709 Incident,” in which hundreds were rounded up and detained, including prominent lawyers such as Wang Quanzhang, Wang Yu, Xie Yanyi and Li Heping.
Wang Quanzhang and several others are still detained in prison.
Prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng was detained and tortured by the Chinese regime since 2006 as a result of his work defended dissidents and persecuted groups suppressed by the government. Gao was released from prison in 2014 and was put under house arrest until August 2017, when he disappeared again. His family believes that he has secretly been detained by the regime.
Lu Yuyu, founder of a self-media outlet “Not A News,” called his friend recently from Dali prison and told him he suffered from depression, but prison authorities wouldn’t grant him a doctor’s visit nor allow him to do any physical activity which might ease his symptoms.
Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, a rights group that focuses on Chinese dissidents, released the news about Lu on Nov. 28.
The report said Lu hoped a lawyer could help him obtain treatment. One of Lu’s friends said he must be in bad shape, otherwise he wouldn’t ask for help.
Lu, 42, is from Zunyi City of Guizhou Province.
As a citizen journalist, Lu was detained in Oct. 2011 after he reported on blind human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng. Since then, Lu started to report on human rights related events in China and was detained twice in 2012.
In 2013, Lu and his girlfriend Li Tingyu founded “Not A News.” At the time, Li was a 22-year-old student who was forced to drop out from Sun Yat-sen University after getting in trouble for posting political articles. Lu and Li collected information about protests that erupted around China and posted them on Twitter and a Google blog called “Wickeddonnaa” since they did not have their own website.
To evade monitoring by Chinese authorities, Lu and Li moved from Shanghai to Fuzhou, Guangzhou, and finally the southwestern Chinese city of Dali. They recorded 28,950 protests in 2015.
Lu and Li were detained in June 2016 and charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” Lu was sentenced to four years in prison. Li was then released on April 2017 and has refused to talk to the media since.