China Bars Activist from Visiting Burma

By Patrick Boehler 6 February 2013

HONG KONG — A young Chinese activist who hoped to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon was barred from leaving China on Wednesday.

Wang Zhongxia was stopped before boarding his flight to Rangoon and questioned for one hour at Guangzhou Airport this morning. He was told that he was not allowed to leave the country and was referred to the Public Security Department in Beijing, where he is a resident.

“We chose to travel to Burma because we wanted to see Aung San Suu Kyi,” Wang told The Irrawaddy. “We thought that after she had been elected as a member of Parliament, meeting her would not give us any problems.”

“I was told that because of an order by the Beijing Public Security Department, I am not allowed to leave the country,” he said. “They refused to show me anything in writing.”

Wang, 28, planned to stay in Burma for nine days and spend the Chinese New Year in the country. He had already bought a return ticket to the country.

Last year, 70,800 Chinese citizens visited Burma, according to figures released by the Burmese Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. The actual number is estimated be much higher, as Ruili, China’s largest border-post with Burma, alone recorded 12 million crossings last year, according to figures published by the local border guard force.

“A new leadership, a new climate,” Ai Weiwei, a leading Chinese artist and friend of Wang’s, commented sarcastically in a tweet. He referred to China’s ongoing decennial leadership transition scheduled to conclude with a plenum of the People’s Congress in March.

Five years ago, Wang was a signatory of the Charter ’08, a manifesto initiated by Nobel Peace Price laureate Liu Xiaobo and signed by hundreds of intellectuals, which called for democracy, constitutional rule and the respect for human rights in China.

Wang produced t-shirts promoting the Charter in Beijing. The economics graduate was placed under house arrest during Liu’s trial, according to reports at the time.

In 2010, Wang caused a stir when he threw 60 half-yuan banknotes at a Yunnan provincial propaganda official during a public talk in Beijing. The half-yuan notes are a reference to Internet commentators in China who post comments favorable to the government online and get paid half a yuan (US $0.08) for each post by propaganda organs.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Wang said. “Chinese can travel to the United States, but (I) can’t travel to Burma.”