China Focus: China apprehends suspected paid protest organizers

Jul.12,2015
BEIJING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese police have published details on a series of so-called "rights protection" incidents, in which the detainees are suspected of illegally organizing paid protests, hyping public sentiment and fabricating rumors on the Internet to sway court decisions.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Public Security published on Saturday, the suspects consists of lawyers as the core organizers and social media celebrities and petitioners, who are in charge of planning and implementation.

The statement accused the group, led by Fengrui Law Firm, of disrupting public order and seeking profits by illegally hiring protesters and swaying court decisions in the name of "defending justice and public interests."

Since July 2012, the group has organized more than 40 controversial incidents and severely disrupted public order, it added.

In one high-profile case, a lawful police shooting at a railway station in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province was flaunted as a murder conspiracy, it said.

First, it was the lawyers' job to hype up an incident, according to Zhai Yanmin, a major organizer of the group.

One instance came after police officer Li Lebin shot dead Xu Chunhe on May 2 at Qing'an County Railway Station. Xu attacked Li several times and was shot after multiple warnings. Lawyers spread rumors that "Li opened fire at Xu under the order of an official because Xu was a petitioner." They also raised placards at Qing'an Railway Station and kept pressuring local officials.

Then the job shifted to social media celebrities and petitioners. Wu Gan, known for "boldly" stirring controversial incidents, posted messages on his social media account, offering 100,000 yuan (16,106 U.S. dollars) for any video clips that have caught the "truth" of the incident.

Zhai then hired "petitioners" to shout slogans, sit quietly and raise defiant signs to support the lawyers. According to one suspect surnamed Li, she was paid 600 yuan for carrying a sign onsite.

There are others responsible for filming scenes of "mass incidents" and posting them on some overseas websites to manipulate public opinion.

"They have been following the protocol in hyping up such incidents since 2013, when I first entered the business," said Zhai, adding many of his peers were resentful of the Party and the government, taking pride in being detained by the police.

By turning common matters into hot issues and controversial incidents into political ones and rallying the public, the suspects have taken what they each needed.

According to the statement, Zhou Shifeng, director of Fengrui Law Firm, elevated the firm's popularity while the lawyers earned more commission fees. Internet celebrities such as Wu made more money. The petitioners got more attention from the government officials on their cases, sometimes securing better favorable public opinions.

The suspects, Zhai, Wu, Huang Liqun and Liu Xing have reflected on their alleged crimes and realized their harmful impact, said the statement.

According to the police, Zhou and his fellows at the firm Liu Sixin, Huang, Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang have been detained. Zhou is suspected of being involved with other felonies pending investigation. Enditem

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