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China Detains Activist Billionaire Wang Gongquan Amid Crackdown on Dissent

Beijing police arrested and detained billionaire venture capitalist Wang Gongquan on September 13, 2013 on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order”, another disturbing move in the latest crackdown that targets opinion leaders, intellectuals and activists online and offline.

Wang Gongquan [zh] was once a Chinese Communist Party propaganda official in Jilin province. He left the office and decided to go south to Hainan province for trade in 1988. Arrested and detained for one year after the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown, he returned to the business sector and become the vice chairperson of Vantone corporation, a property development corporation, in 1993. He entered the venture business field in 2005 and become a billionaire because of a number of successful investments in early 2000.

Wang Gongquan is a legendary figure in China because of his wealth and choice. He was made a cover story of Nanfang People magazine in 2011 because of his story story.

Wang Gongquan is a legendary figure in China because of his wealth and choice. He was made a cover story of Nanfang People magazine in 2011.

Different from other business people, Wang has been an active member of civil society. In 2005 he joined Xu Zhiyong's Open Constitution Initiative, known as Gongmeng, and started advocating for citizens’ rights and promoting the development of mainland Chinese civil society through online signature campaigns and publications. In 2010, Wang Gongquan, together with a number of citizens’ rights activists issued a joint statement called “citizen engagement”, which sets the principles and parameters for citizen's social and political engagement as protected by their constitutional right. The action is consider a public launch of the New Citizens’ Movement.

In July 2013, Xu Zhiyong was arrested and detained on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order” because of the new movement. Wang was among a number of activists to plead for the release of Xu through a petition that gathered a few thousand signatures.

Now Wang himself was arrested, and a signature campaign has been launched by his friends urging for his release. The joint letter has been signed by more than 200 intellectuals as of September 14, 2013:

王功权先生是新公民运动的坚定支持者,但他支持新公民运动的全部初衷,无非是通过和平、合法之途,来争取宪法规定的公民权利,通过争取公民权利的进程带动公民社会的成长,最终推动中国的和平转型,让我们的社会更多人性,更多自由与公义,更多爱与温暖。
这是王功权先生的价值观所注定的。他是一个真诚的佛教徒,一个彻底的人道主义者与和平主义者。柔软,善良,悲悯与责任,是他与生俱来的气质。他对这个世界、对所有人充满了善意。

Wang Gongquan is a supporter of the new citizen movement. His mere intention is to advocate in a peaceful and lawful manner for citizens’ rights as written in the Constitution . By defending citizens’ rights, civil society will develop and eventually help China's peaceful transformation. The objective is to build a humane society with freedom and justice, love and grace.

His actions are based on his beliefs. He is a Buddhist, a humanist and pacifist. He is gentle, kind, compassionate and responsible. He is friendly to this world and everyone in it.

放了王功权,给善一条出路,给自由与公义一条出路,给和平转型一条出路。同胞们,覆巢之下无完卵,不要听任我们国家在与现代文明背道而驰的野蛮深渊中无限沉沦。用实际行动保卫公民社会,那其实是保卫我们每个人自己。

Let Wang Gongquan go, let compassion, freedom, justice and peaceful transformation go. Dear fellows, when the nest is upside-down, all the eggs will be broken. Don't let our country go against modern civilization and fall into the abyss of barbarianism. We have to defend civil society with action so as to protect everybody, including ourselves.

Many microbloggers spoke out in support of Wang. Even though popular microblogging site Sina Weibo turned his name into “sensitive” term for censorship on September 15, 2013, many supportive messages can still be found. “Southern weekend's investigative report” (@南周深度) praised Wang for the choice he made:

一个放弃几十亿资产的人,为弱者发声。宁愿当一个堂堂正正的普通公民,而不愿意当一个拥有百亿资产的奴才,带着微笑走进监狱。。这是他自己的选择,自由的选择。。虽然身体在监狱里,但心是自由的。。。。当更多的人选择做公民的时候,当更多的人选择坐牢也不当奴才的时候,,,中国改变了。。。祝福。

A person who gave up his billionaire business empire to speak for the minorities. He chose to be an ordinary but upright citizen rather than a servant with billionaire property. He walked to the prison with simile in his face. This is his choice, a choice of freedom. Although his body is in prison, his heart is free… When more and more people choose to become citizens, more and more people choose to go to prison rather than be a servant. China will then change. Bless you.

“Poet knife brother” reposted Wang's profile on his microblog:

诗人王功权,公民企业家。投资培育了360、汉庭、民生银行、俏江南等企业。可安享无尽荣华富贵,午饭却只是一个卤肉套餐。他站在弱者一边,他为弱者流泪,他为弱者呐喊,他为弱者奔走,他戴着风雪帽,和访民一起敲打“黑监狱”的大铁门,高喊着“开门放人”。他做了这么多,请我们做一点点,为他呐喊。

Wang Gongguan is a poet, citizen and entrepreneur. He has nurtured 360 [an IT software company], Hanting [a hotel business], Minsheng Bank, SouthBeauty [a restaurant business]. He could have enjoyed a luxurious life. But he ate minced pork rice for lunch. He stands by the side of the weak, sheds tears with them, speaks up for them and serves them. Once in a cold winter night, he went to a black jail [illegal jail for detaining petitioners without trial], hit the iron gate with other petitioners, called the guard to release the illegally detained people. He has done so much, please just do something to speak up for him.

Human right lawyer Tengbiao spoke out for Wang on Twitter:

Among the Chinese billionaires, less than a handful are not corrupt. I have known and worked with Wang for many years. I believe in him. Not only is he clean, he is very active in citizens’ rights activities. He advocates for equal education rights between rural and urban students, he is concerned about unjust legal cases, he promotes the rule of law. These are courageous choices.

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