Activist’s Mother Drops Defamation Lawsuit

Activist’s Mother Drops Defamation Lawsuit

Guangzhou-based labor organizer Zeng Feiyang was detained late last year along with several fellow activists amid a crackdown on labor groups in the region, and has reportedly been barred contact from legal counsel and family since. Shortly after the detention, Xinhua ran an article accusing Zeng of sexual misconduct and theft, which several workers denounced as false; state media has been known to launch smear campaigns against high-profile critics in and outside of China. Last month, Zeng’s mother Chen Wenying decided to sue Xinhua for defamation of her son’s character. At Quartz, Pablo Wang and Echo Hui report that Chen, who was well aware of the risk that came with her decision to sue, has now decided to drop the lawsuit after family members experienced repeated harassment and threats:

Zeng’s entire extended family has been under great pressure from the authorities since Chen presented the case against Xinhua, according to a family member who wish to remain anonymous. Last Sunday, Chen’s ID was taken by the police, who told her they were confiscating it to provide a “helpful service” and drop the case on her behalf.

Zeng’s wife, a school teacher, has been not only been visited regularly by police, but her job has been threatened by the management at the school where she works, which demanded she keep a low profile since Zeng’s detention if she wanted to remain employed.

Cousins and nephews of Zeng have received phone calls from blocked numbers telling them that “those who are inside cannot come out, and those outside will bear the consequences for generations to come,” one family member said, an apparent reference to Zeng, who is being detained “inside,” and his family on the “outside.”

[…] Chen’s lawyer Chang Weiping said in a telephone interview it was news to him that the family was dropping the case. “I cannot immediately confirm if they’ve finally succumbed and dropped out,” he said May 2. “I haven’t been informed, (but) she can drop the case without my intervention,” Chang added. [Source]

At Radio Free Asia, Pan Jiaqing and Xin Lin report further on the harassment of Zeng’s family, and also provide background on Zeng’s work and the state media smear campaign against him:

Chinese authorities stepped up the pressure on Zeng’s family soon after she filed the lawsuit, the report said.

“Even her grandsons had been targeted with threats their careers were at stake,” the paper reported.

“One grandson works as a surgeon at a hospital, and authorities had told his supervisor that his career would be in jeopardy if she pressed ahead with the lawsuit,” it said. [Source]

Zeng’s detention last December came amid a spike of labor unrest prompted by China’s continued economic slowdown, and as the Xi administration was cracking down on civil society organizations throughout the country. For more on Zeng, one of China’s best known labor activists, see’s translation of a 2012 profile, published just after his detention last year.


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