Catholic Writer, Activist Detained For 'Inciting Secession' in China's Hebei

Authorities in the northern Chinese province of Hebei have detained activist and writer Pang Jian on suspicion of “splitting the country.”

Pang, 30, who writes under the pen-name Gao Yang, was detained by police in Hebei’s Gaobeidian city in January at his home in Pangcheng village.

His detention came after he reported on forced demolitions and evictions in rural areas around Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, his father Pang Jingxian told RFA in a recent interview.

“They have been doing coronavirus testing around here lately, and he went to line up [to get tested],” Pang Jingxian said. “Somehow, I’m not sure exactly how, the police detained him while he was there.”

“Then the police came and searched our home, looking through Pang Jian’s stuff,” he said. “They took it all away, and we didn’t hear anything for a while.”

Later, police sent a notice of detention and a notice of formal arrest to Pang Jingxian, and were dated Jan. 15 and Jan. 28 respectively, Pang’s father said.

“After they notified me, I went to visit him a few times, but we haven’t heard anything since then,” he said.

According to the notice of detention, Pang Jian was criminally detained on suspicion of “inciting secession” at 11.00 a.m. on Jan. 15, 2021.

Both notices gave his place of detention as Gaobeidian Detention Center.

Documenting Catholic churches

But Pang’s family have not been able to contact him there, Pang Jingxian told RFA.

“We can’t get a hold of him now, and we haven’t found a lawyer,” he said.

Pang is also a Catholic church member, and had written about Hebei’s extensive Catholic church community and unique culture, according to his U.S.-based friend Ryan Shi.

“He took photos of almost all of the Catholic churches in Hebei, as well as local customs and architectural features,” Shi told RFA.

Pang had also featured in Hong Kong media talking about Hebei’s underground Catholic community.

His U.S.-based friend Cai Quan said she had believed he was either detained or in an accident after his phone went offline some time in March.

“Maybe he is in some kind of illegal detention,” Cai said.

An employee who answered the phone at the Gaobeidian Detention Center on July 3 said Pang is still being held there on suspicion of “inciting secession.”

Asked about Pang’s health and wellbeing, the employee said it was “very good,” with no mental health issues.

The employee said Pang isn’t allowed visits due to the coronavirus.

“They can’t visit right now,” the employee said. “One reason is that the case isn’t yet closed, and the other is the coronavirus situation, so no visits are allowed.”

Reported by Sun Cheng for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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