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China’s strike against NGOs: “into the pan and deep-fry”

Radio Free Asia speaks to Chinese activist, Hu Jia, following the release of an open letter sent by former Transition Institute members to the authority charged with deciding whether or not to prosecute two of its ex-staffers. According to Hu Jia, by bringing a charge of “illegal business activity” against Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun, the Beijing authorities are attempting to “strike at the mountain to frighten the tiger,” sending a warning to other non-profit organizations, domestic and foreign foundations, and foreign embassies in China.

“By striking NGOs very hard, the authorities are sending a clear message: if foreign anti-China forces get involved with Chinese civil organizations to engage in peaceful evolution activities, the authorities will take those people supported by foreign anti-China forces, put them into the pan and deep-fry them.” ~ Hu Jia

The following is an abridged version of an article that was published by Radio Free Asia on April 27, 2015 that can be found here.

On the evening of Monday April 27, 2015, a Radio Free Asia reporter tried to contact Pan Haixia, Guo Yushan’s wife, and Chen Min, one of the signatories to the open letter sent to the [First Branch of Beijing Municipal People’s Procuratorate] by former members of the Transition Institute, but in both cases, nobody answered the phone. The reporter successfully reached Huang Kaiping, another signatory to the open letter and the second director of TI, but he said that it was not convenient for him to be interviewed by telephone because he was out on bail. “This is China. If you call my cellphone, they (the security police) know, so I cannot say anything,” said Huang Kaiping.

On the same night, Hu Jia, rights activist and friend of Guo Yushan, gave an interview by telephone to RFA. Hu Jia said that the case of Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun is very similar to that of Guo Feixiong, a Guangzhou-based rights activist, in which Chinese authorities used the pretext of economic and financial issues to suppress human rights activists.

“Guo Feixiong was treated and interrogated as a political prisoner during his detention, but he was convicted of illegal business operations – a common economic crime. Now Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun are in the same situation. In fact, though, TI is undertaking public welfare work as an enterprise legal person. Guo Yushan was among the first group of friends who visited me after I was released from prison, and he gave me a book, The Butterfly of Thought, written and compiled by TI. A butterfly’s wings can trigger a storm, you know. Guo Yushan and his brothers are a group of people who have professional competence, motivated by deep compassion and a strong sense of social responsibility,” Hu Jia told the RFA reporter by telephone.

Hu Jia said he carefully read the “Recommendation” in which the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau accuse Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun of “illegal business activity.” In his opinion, the Recommendation constitutes a three-part intimidation of individuals, organizations and society by the Chinese authorities.

“The first intended target of intimidation is the individual, and in this case, of course, the key target is Guo Yushan, especially because he played a leading role in rescuing Chen Guangcheng [the blind lawyer], which caused a major loss of face for the CCP. The second intended target of intimidation is organizations. The CCP cannot permit a well-resourced organization with professional competence [like the Transition Institute] to exist, and is compelled to bring about the collapse of such an organization – this is the government’s revenge on civil society. The third target of intimidation is society at large. By disclosing the views of the state security apparatus through the Recommendation, which they knew would be made public, Chinese authorities are intending to intimidate society at large,” Hu Jia said.

According to Hu Jia, by bringing a charge of “illegal business activity” against Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun, the Beijing authorities are attempting to “strike at the mountain to frighten the tiger,” sending a warning to other non-profit organizations, domestic and foreign foundations, and foreign embassies in China.

“By striking NGOs very hard, the authorities are sending a clear message: if foreign anti-China forces get involved with Chinese civil organizations to engage in peaceful evolution activities, the authorities will take those people supported by foreign anti-China forces, put them into the pan and deep-fry them,” Hu Jia said.

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