China - Police detain labour rights activists

On 20 March 2019 Wei Zhili, the editor of a China labour rights website,, was detained by authorities in Guangzhou. Police told his parents that their son was “brainwashed” into helping workers and that they were taking him away to “educate” him.  The police searched Wei’s parents’ house, where he was staying, and confiscated his laptop and cell phone. Wei’s colleague, Ke Chengbing, was also taken into police custody. Yang Zhengjun, editor-in-chief of the iLabour news site, had been in police detention since January.

The journalists had been following the struggle of silicosis workers from Hunan Province suffering from pneumoconiosis, the most serious and common occupational disease in China, attentively. Each time the silicosis workers came to protest in Shenzhen, they would

spread the news through their magazine. The Chinese government considers such support as “anti-communist party, anti-revolutionary”.

A week later, on 27 March, with the two still in detention, a group of about 100 workers from Hunan suffering from pneumoconiosis were stopped by local authorities at the local train station in Sangzhi from travelling to Shenzhen to show their solidarity for Wei Zhili. On 21 April some 100 workers suffering from the work-related disease signed a petition demanding the release of three prominent activists, which they published online.

The two activists were moved on 20 April to «residential surveillance at a designated location» (RSDL), a form of detention that allows authorities to hold people for serious crimes, such as endangering national security. Wei’s wife Zheng Churan, a prominent feminist activist, expressed concern that they were no longer in police custody and their whereabouts were unknown. “Anything can happen to them".

In late August, police gave all three families written notices that the three had been formally arrested on “picking quarrels” charges. 

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