UK authorities arrested a peaceful demonstrator during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s London’s visit on charges of conspiracy to threaten. The arrested activist claims the British authorities acted beyond their mandate in arresting him, searching his residence and taking away his possessions.
British police arrested Shao Jhiang on Friday after he protested in front of Chinese president Xi Jinping for Beijing’s human rights violations record. Jhiang, himself a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was later dragged by several police officers away from the motorcade.
Jhiang, a 47-year-old blogger with Amnesty International, was charged with “conspiracy to commit threatening behavior” and was detained overnight as investigations continued.
Shao’s wife, Johanna Zhang, dismissed the idea that Jhiang was conspiring to threaten anyone.
She said, “That’s complete nonsense. He was on his own, doing nothing apart from holding two A4 (letter sized) sheets of paper, one saying ‘end autocracy’ and the other saying ‘democracy now’. He was standing there peacefully when the police attacked him.”
Zhang said she went to the police station on Wednesday to see Jhiang and when she returned home, she found a search warrant on her table. Two computers were missing, an iPad and USB stick.
She said, “It’s quite shocking. We went into exile in 1997, first to Sweden and then the UK, and life in exile has been quiet so far. I never imagined that what happened to us in China could happen here in the UK.”
Jhiang said the arrests reminded him of China. He said, “It feels like it was when I was in China. Then, every time I was arrested the Chinese police would search my rooms and take things. It reminded me of that.”
Amnesty International termed the arrests as a “high-handed response to a peaceful demonstration.”
Two other women, Sonan Choden, 31, and Jamphel Lhamo, 33, were arrested with Jhiang on Wednesday and their homes searched. The lawyer for the two women said he had never seen police arrest peaceful demonstrators since he began practicing 40 years ago. He said in no way did their behavior contravene Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
In a statement released afterwards, London’s Metropolitan Police said, “We facilitate peaceful protests ... but we will also investigate possible criminality that could put the safety of London at risk.”
The arrest of peaceful demonstrators by British officials demonstrates the authorities’ intolerance to opposing views and their disregard of human freedoms of expression and association.