Be Careful When It’s Raining You Could Get Arrested in China


The Guardian Reports

A Chinese poet is facing up to three years in prison after security forces raided his Beijing home and found him in possession of an umbrella.
Until last month, when major pro-democracy protests broke out in Hong Kong, the umbrella was generally viewed as a useful device to shield oneself from rain or sun.
However, the former British colony’s so-called Umbrella Revolution or Umbrella Movement – named after the object protesters have used to protect themselves from police tear gas – has transformed the humble brolly into a potentially subversive item in mainland China.
Wang Li, the wife of the Beijing-based poet Wang Zang, told The Telegraph her husband was taken into custody on October 1 after the 29-year-old expressed his support of the protests by posting a photograph of himself holding an umbrella on the Internet.
The following morning a group of around a dozen agents, including two wearing police uniforms, came to the couple’s home “demanding to come in for a conversation”.
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“They showed me a blank search warrant and rummaged through everything, searching every corner of the house,” she said.
As well as Mr Wang’s light blue umbrella, police confiscated a computer, a router and, for reasons that were not immediately clear, a pair of spectacles. The raid left the couple’s two children – aged 2 and 5 – terrified, Mrs Wang added.
“Judging by the items police took from our home, I figure Wang’s arrest is related to the pictures he posted on Twitter supporting the Umbrella Movement,” she said.
“Ever since his university days, my husband has been campaigning and defending the rights of the poor. I am right behind him. I believe what he has been doing is right and just. None of the things my husband has done over the years constitutes crime. What he has been doing is the good thing, the right thing, not a crime.” “I will always stand beside my husband. I am proud of him and what he does,” Mrs Wang added.
Sui Muqing, a well-known rights lawyer who has taken Mr Wang’s case, said the poet’s arrest was “definitely” the consequence of his support of the Umbrella Movement.
The arrest appeared to be part of a wider Communist Party crackdown on people with “different thoughts and opinions” and the items found in the search of Mr Wang’s house, including his umbrella, would almost certainly be used as evidence against him.
Mr Wang could face up to three years in jail if convicted of “provoking troubles”, Mr Sui added.
At least 25 activists in seven Chinese provinces have been placed under some form of police custody or detention since the Hong Kong protests started on September 26, said William Nee, Amnesty International’s China researcher.
Those cases include several activists in Guangdong province who were “basically abducted by police” after unfurling banners backing the Hong Kong protesters and another activist who was “forcibly travelled” from his home by security agents after shaving his head for the same reason.
It was not clear if police had seized umbrellas from activists other than Mr Wang, said Mr Nee, but Beijing would certainly want to prevent the item becoming an emblem of opposition to Communist Party rule in mainland China.
“Clearly they don’t want the umbrella as a symbol,” he said.
In recent days Chinese activists have poked fun at Xi Jinping, the president, by posting online photographs showing him holding umbrellas.
Even president Xi has now decided to support the protests against his own Communist Party, the activists joke.