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China Summons Citizens Celebrating Taiwan President’s Inauguration, Detains Rights Advocate

Chinese authorities summoned over 20 citizens in Chongqing, a city in southwestern China, who gathered at a restaurant adjacent to a petition office on May 20 to celebrate the inauguration of Taiwan’s 16th democratically elected president, Lai Ching-te. The police subsequently interrogated all attendees, and one rights advocate was detained on criminal charges, according to their family.

According to one of the petitioners present, Mr. Xin (pseudonym), who spoke to the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times, “Police summoned more than 20 petitioners who attended the banquet for questioning. I was also interrogated outside the restaurant.”

Rights advocate Li Xuezhi was allegedly detained, according to his family. Mr. Li’s sister shared a message via the Chinese social media platform WeChat on the evening of May 27 that said, “Around 12:30 a.m. on May 26, a person claiming to be a police officer took away Li Xuezhi. Around 8:30 p.m. on the 27th, we brought food to him at the Longxing Police Station. The police informed us that he had been criminally detained that afternoon. We are unaware of the specific charges against Li Xuezhi.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Ms. Li, who confirmed her brother’s detention, “On the 27th, when I realized Li Xuezhi was missing. I instinctively went to the Longxing Police Station to search for him … When I asked about the reason for his detention, the officer on duty told me he didn’t know the details as it was not his case.”

Ms. Li added that the family has yet to receive an official detention notice from the police.

Attempts by The Epoch Times to contact the Longxing Police Station in Yubei District were unsuccessful, as none of the station’s phone numbers could be reached.

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Mr. Li, 53, a farmer from Longxing Town, had also previously been detained by local authorities. His troubles began in 2013 when his complaints were not addressed following the alleged forced occupation of his farmland and demolishment of his home.

Following multiple unsuccessful complaints, he turned to defending his rights and petitioned the Beijing authorities. Through this process, he came to appreciate the significance of collective advocacy and joined fellow victims of human rights abuses in Chongqing. Consequently, Chongqing authorities identified him as a target in order to “maintain social stability.”

According to a report by overseas Chinese-language media, in April 2021, Mr. Li and others traveled to Beijing to petition issues such as local government-led forced demolitions of private homes, illegal violent land acquisitions, shareholder disputes, and negligence by local police. In China, petitioning is an administrative procedure for individuals to voice their complaints and grievances.

On May 12, 2021, Mr. Li and 15 fellow petitioners from Chongqing returned to Beijing to voice their grievances. They were subsequently detained that evening in the Jiujingzhuang black jail in Beijing’s Fengtai District.

Black jails are secret and illegal facilities set up by state agents who systematically violate detainees’ rights with impunity. These facilities are typically housed in state-owned hotels, nursing homes, and psychiatric hospitals, according to Human Rights Watch.

On Feb. 17, 2022, Mr. Li posted a video on Weibo, a China-based microblogging site. The video allegedly showed petitioners questioning a local disciplinary committee secretary: “Do you only care about your political power? Don’t you care about the lives of ordinary people?”

The committee secretary candidly responded to the petitioners, stating, “We simply do not care about the lives of ordinary people. What can you do about it?”

Around 6 a.m. on Feb. 23, 2022, dozens of police officers, government stability personnel, and local security guards raided Mr. Li’s residence in Yubei District while he slept. They hooded him, handcuffed him, and took him into custody. On March 29, he was formally arrested on suspicion of intentional injury, read the report.

Li Xi contributed to this report.

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