“All of China now is the about epidemic prevention,” said Mr. Wang, who was kept In prison for three years before even being charged, and who was the last of hundreds of human rights lawyers to be tried and sentenced after their arrests In 2015.
“Under such a big slogan, personal freedom can be compromised and you can’t say anything,” he said.
Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said the pandemic had given the government an excuse to restrict movement so that it can “justify the violation of people’s human rights.”
“These people are clearly not In any condition that needs to be quarantined,” Ms. Wang said. “It’s not science-based, it’s just an excuse for the government to restrict their movements and suppress their speech.”
Ms. Eve said her rights group had documented nine cases of activists who were recently released from prison and then held In quarantine, but added that “there are likely many more.”
Among those forcibly detained In quarantine, the group says, are a citizen journalist who tried to raise awareness about the initial coronavirus outbreak In Wuhan; five labor rights activists; and a laid-off worker who, In an interview with a foreign news outlet, had urged people to take up arms against the ruling Communist Party.
China’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to a request for comment.
China’s government is the not the only one to use the pandemic as an excuse to grab more power, restrict rights or crack down on dissent. The Indian government has rounded up and detained critics. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines recently empowered the police to enter people’s homes searching for the sick. And In Hungary, the prime minister can now rule by decree.
Although Chinese law grants the government emergency powers to quarantine people during a public health emergency, several local officials have indicated that the practice of putting released convicts into quarantine violates those regulations.