Wednesday, July 20, 2022

“All People Act Together” Supporters Imprisoned, Part II: Public Disruption, Limited Reach

A logo used by the APAT. Image credit: 時事能見度 YouTube page 

The “All People Act Together” (APAT), or quanmin gongzhen (全民共振) social media campaign was launched in early 2018 by Chinese dissidents overseas. The campaign encourages rights defenders to engage in collective action and protests on days of importance to China and the Chinese Communist Party.  

Part I of this article focused on how the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is used against APAT supporters. In such cases, supporters were imprisoned for their behavior on social media, including deleted private conversations. Part II looks at cases where supporters were charged with disrupting public services and preparing for a terrorist activity. 

Disrupting Public Services 

Dui Hua’s research into court judgments revealed that Li Yunzhu (李韫竹) was found guilty of injuring stability maintenance officers and sentenced to eight months in prison in Yinchuan, Ningxia, in August 2019. On February 24, 2019, the officers were sent by guobao, China’s domestic security police, to Li’s home to give her “thought reform” after she circulated footage with an APAT thumbnail tag of “Down with the CCP.” The video allegedly incited the Chinese people to defend their rights and take to the streets every day at 3 PM during the “Two Sessions,” China’s biggest annual gathering of its rubber stamp parliament and political advisory body which discuss plans for national priorities. 

It is unclear what prompted Li to circulate the video or why she was drawn to APAT. The judgment only stated that Li was planning to lodge an appeal in Beijing in December 2018 over a consumer lawsuit but was persuaded by police to stay in her home province Ningxia. The police arranged for her appellate trial to begin the following March. Li refused the arrangement. She expressed concerns about being unable to travel to Beijing during the Two Sessions, despite knowing full well that transport disruptions are commonplace in order to allow for senior government and party leaders to travel to Beijing during the Two Sessions.  

Li was angry upon discovering that the appellate trial date was decided without her consent. She allegedly insulted the stability maintenance officers and asked them to leave her home. She ended up throwing a kitchen knife which left one of them injured. Li completed her eight-month prison sentence for disrupting public services on October 25, 2019. 

Preparing for a Terrorist Activity  

Ethnic Korean Jin Bo (金波) was released from a Heilongjiang prison on April 26, 2022 for plotting what prosecutors called a “violent APAT activity” on May 1, 2018. He was found guilty of preparing for a terrorist activity, one of the terrorism/extremism offenses added to the Criminal Law in 2015. The charge stemmed from him possessing explosive devices and Molotov cocktails which prosecutors believed Jin would use on the Labor Day holiday in connection with APAT. 

Jin admitted to making the explosives primarily to seek revenge for his 444-day wrongful imprisonment. In August 2014, Jin was taken into custody on suspicion of extortion. He was later acquitted and given state compensation. Jin’s father and father-in-law passed away while he was incarcerated. Jin felt guilty for not being able to arrange for their funerals and blamed his business partners for framing him. He also expressed disillusionment with petition bureau officials who repeatedly ignored his complaints. Jin scaled China’s Great Firewall to learn about APAT and took part in online discussions after his unsuccessful attempts to seek redress.  

Jin’s case indicates that some people who lose trust in China’s justice system find APAT appealing. A substantial portion of the prosecutor’s arguments focused on the “reactionary,” “anti-party,” and “anti-China” comments Jin made online. In April 2018, he wrote “What is APAT for? For revolution! What is Revolution? As the name suggests, it aims to overthrow the old and establish the new.” Days before he was criminally detained on April 27, 2018, he claimed to have lost confidence in China and expressed desires to begin retaliation. He ordered materials to make explosives via WeChat, claiming that he might set himself ablaze and throw bombs at his business partners. Although Jin confessed to posting radical comments online, he stated in his defense that he did not personally know any “overseas pro-democracy activists” nor did he join any overseas terrorist organizations. 

In this case, prosecutors characterized the whole APAT campaign as a “violent political activity” organized by overseas forces because of Jin’s way of expressing grievances. However, there is insufficient evidence that other APAT supporters in China or overseas call for violent political resistance. 

Members of San Francisco’s Chinese community participating in the "May 1st National Resonance" event in front of the Chinese Consulate. Image credit: CK via RFA 

APAT fell flat. Fewer netizens in China have answered the APAT appeal than during 2011 “Jasmine Revolution.” Overseas APAT supporters in the United States, Canada, and Australia reportedly organized small rallies outside of the Chinese consulates in 2018-2019, but these had  limited reach in China due in part to pervasive internet censorship and surveillance. Additionally, APAT was hotly disputed even within Chinese dissident circles, with some saying that it was an entrapment attempt devised by the Ministry of State Security to round up political dissenters in one fell swoop. Regardless of the controversy, Dui Hua believes that the four people discussed in this post represent a small portion of criminal cases and more people could have been sentenced for espousing support for APAT. More research is needed to uncover the fate and the acts of other APAT supporters, as well as their motivations for sympathizing with the campaign.