Beijing Critic’s Bank Accounts Frozen as China Raises Pressure

A vocal advocate of Chinese government reform living in the U.S. said that several banks have frozen his accounts back home, in another sign that Beijing is stepping up pressure on overseas dissidents.

Deng Yuwen, a former editor at the Communist Party-run Study Times journal, said Thursday that four bank accounts held by him and his wife have been blocked since Sept. 2. The action has kept Deng from accessing about 300,000 yuan ($46,000), a sum he described as his life savings.

Deng only learned of the freeze weeks later after discovering his money with the banks -- Bank of China Ltd., China Citic Bank Corp. and China Construction Bank Corp. -- was unavailable, he said. He was told the suspension had been ordered by municipal police in Beijing due to national security concerns, although he said the agency denied making any such request.

The Changping district public security bureau in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Representatives for Bank of China, China Citic Bank and China Construction Bank also didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The account freeze was reported earlier by the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong.

The move is the latest sign that China is ratcheting up pressure on overseas exiles. In August, Cai Xia, a former Central Party School professor who has denounced President Xi Jinping, had her pension payments stopped and bank accounts frozen.

Deng frequently publishes commentaries on Chinese politics and international relations in overseas media outlets, including the South China Morning Post and the Chinese editions of the Financial Times and New York Times. He said the account freeze showed growing intolerance for dissent by Beijing, since he had made a point of avoiding criticism of Xi.

‘Mild Criticism’

“I am generally viewed as one of the mild critics of the Chinese system, but I’m receiving even harsher punishment,” Deng said, noting that his wife was suffering financially even though she had no connection to his work. “This shows that Chinese leaders no longer tolerate even mild criticism.”

In September, China jailed outspoken property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang for 18 years on graft charges, months after he was linked to an article criticizing Xi’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, Chinese dissident overseas have increasingly complained of harassment and intimidation, even thousands of miles away from Beijing in Canada or the U.S.

China’s crackdown has drawn growing criticism of foreign governments led by the U.S., which has slapped several waves of sanctions on the country’s officials for their alleged role in stifling dissent. Last month, the U.S. charged eight people, including six Chinese nationals, with a three-year effort to intimidate a U.S. resident into returning to China to face charges as part of the “Operation Fox Hunt” anti-corruption campaign.

China so far appears undeterred. Earlier this week, a Beijing-backed newspaper in Hong Kong reported that China was preparing a global watch list of people who had advocated independence for Taiwan.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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