Authorities in the Chinese capital have prevented a top human rights attorney from boarding a plane to the United States on “national security” grounds, RFA has learned.
Ding Jiaxi, who has previously served jail time for calling on top officials of the ruling Chinese Communist Party to reveal details of their wealth, was stopped by police at Beijing International Airport on Thursday as he tried to board a plane to visit his wife and daughter in the U.S.
Ding said he was at the departure gate on Thursday, preparing to board the aircraft, when he was approached by two unidentified officers.
“Two of them came over and announced to me that they had a notification from the Beijing police department that I was a threat to national security, and I was to be prevented from leaving the country,” Ding told RFA.
“At no point during this process did they tell me their names, nor did they show me any official ID,” he said. “They also refused to give me the notification in writing.”
Ding said he didn’t know the reason for the travel ban, as he had been able to visit his wife Luo Shengchun and the couple’s daughter in the U.S. last year.
“I have hired a lawyer to file an administrative appeal for me, so that I will be able to leave the country freely and travel overseas,” Ding said. “That is the basic right of a citizen … The relevant departments have no legal basis whatsoever for stopping me from leaving the country.”
“It’s wrong, at the most basic level, and an abuse of official power,” he said.
An official who answered the phone at the Beijing police department declined to comment.
“All I can do is give you the contact number for the local branch; we don’t really know the details of operations, here,” the official said.
Calls to the entry and exit bureau at Beijing airport rang unanswered during office hours on Friday.
Beijing-based rights activist Zhang Baocheng told RFA that he had been slapped with a travel ban by the authorities last year, and had never been given a reason.
He said such bans on leaving China are a sign that the environment for rights activists and lawyers is getting more and more hostile under the administration of President Xi Jinping.
“You can tell things are getting stricter; the authorities are over-sensitive now, reacting to the tiniest thing, and totally paranoid,” Zhang said. “The threshold for arresting dissidents is also getting lower and lower.”
“You can be arrested just for sending out a photo, or something containing a single sensitive word to your friends on social media now,” he said. “They just make up any old excuse or justification, and take you away, and you have no way to protect yourself, because there is no rule of law here.”
Ding recently gave an interview to RFA on Apr. 30 about the continued incommunicado detention of fellow rights attorney Wang Quanzhang, who has been held by authorities in the northern city of Tianjin since July 2015.
Ding and Wang are among more than 300 rights attorneys, law firm staff and associated activists detained, questioned, and subjected to surveillance and travel bans amid a nationwide crackdown since 2015.
Ding was detained in April 2013 and handed a three-and-a-half year jail term a year later by Beijing’s Haidian District People’s Court for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order,” after he called publicly on Chinese officials to reveal details of their wealth, as part of the New Citizens’ Movement.
Movement leader Xu Zhiyong, one of China’s most prominent dissidents, was sentenced to four years in prison on identical public order charges in January 2014.
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