6:39 am - Wednesday December 19, 2018

Chinese author held over Tiananmen Square event

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Chinese novelist Murong Xuecun was summoned by Beijing police on Tuesday after issuing a public statement of surrender over a private event marking the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was detained shortly after the commemoration in April and has since been formally arrested for “creating a disturbance” and “illegally obtaining personal information”. Others involved were held for weeks but have now been bailed.

Mr. Murong — whose real name is Hao Qun — said that although his friends should not have been detained it was wrong to treat him differently: he too had participated by providing a statement to be read out and would have attended had he not been abroad.

Speaking from Wanshousi police station in Haidian district late on Tuesday, he told the Guardian that he was somewhat concerned about what would happen to him.

“If it is certain that I will not be released and will be arrested, there is nothing to worry about. I am nervous about the uncertainty,” he said.

Police summoned him by telephone at around 2 p.m. in response to his statement, added the novelist, who is well known for his outspoken comments on modern Chinese society.

In a statement he posted online on Sunday, he wrote: “I in no way accept the arrest of these people, but also don’t feel that I should get some special treatment. I did the same thing that they did and cannot stay outside of the matter. I have already returned to Beijing and await arrest at any moment.

“For the next 24 hours after issuing this statement of surrender, I will be waiting in my home in Haidian district, and request that those who come bring the appropriate documents. After 24 hours, please telephone in advance to arrange a time.” The author had earlier pledged to turn himself in on his return from Australia.

“On the surface the government appears to be stronger than ever . . . yet it is actually so fragile that its leaders lose sleep when a few scholars meet and talk in a private home,” he wrote in the New York Times in May.

“If the situation in China continues to deteriorate, I cannot stand idly by. If I too am arrested, perhaps more Chinese people will awaken to the realities of their situation. My arrest will be my contribution to resisting government efforts to erase the nation’s memory.”

A police officer at Wanshousi station declined to comment and referred queries to a higher level office, where calls went unanswered.

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