In 2022, Apple was a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She was involved in a protest at Trafalgar Square during the White Paper Protests, when huge numbers of Chinese citizens took to the streets in China and abroad to protest against Xi Jinping’s lockdown policies and, in some cases, CCP rule in China. Apple took on a prominent role at the protest in Trafalgar Square, using a megaphone, but disguised in make-up.

The protest continued with a march to the Chinese embassy. After leaving this, Apple and a friend were followed by two men for twenty minutes. Eventually, they took shelter in a private hospital. The two men stood outside of the hospital waiting for them for twenty minutes.

The White Paper Protests in London were criticised by some Chinese students in London, including in public social media posts and WeChat groups. They were a matter of debate and, in some cases, acrimony in this community, and this debate mirrored unrest in China.

In November 2022, Apple set up a group called China Deviants, the aim of which was to support worldwide commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, to express solidarity with people facing CCP aggression in Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere, and generally to foster a space amongst young Chinese people outside of China for the discussion of human rights and democracy in China.

Apple continued her activism with China Deviants (CD) through 2023, organising workshops and other events. In the winter of 2023/24, CD organised a tour of Europe, with workshops and art exhibitions involving Chinese students at various locations on the continent.

During this period, several members of CD other than Apple began to be harassed by the Chinese authorities. Their families received visits from Chinese police, with threats and incentives to share information on the CD network and attempts to coerce an end to their involvement with it.

In autumn 2023, Apple began a Masters course in International Relations at the London School of Economics.

Around this time, Apple, whose family had not received such messages, was called by 02072994049, the number of the Chinese embassy in London. She was asked if her health was okay.

In January 2024, Apple went public with her identity, in an article about Chinese diasporan politics published by Taiwan Radio International, which is Taiwan’s national broadcaster.

Following this, Apple received a call from +86 96110, a number associated with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s (公安部) anti-fraud efforts. The caller accused Apple of using a Chinese phone number to spread false information about Xinjiang.

In April 2024, Apple received a call from another UK number, 07786671212. The caller impersonated the City of London police and told Apple that they (‘the police’) had been informed by Chinese customs authorities that Apple had sent marijuana to China in a package. They addressed Apple using her legal name, Peiqing Ni, and stated her London address, telling her to await further information and to contact the City of London police if she had questions.

After the call, Apple telephoned the City of London police, who stated that they had nothing to do with the call and suggested it was a scam. The same day, Apple received another call from the same number, and was able to record part of this. UKCT has published (below) a recording of the call.

Since then, Apple has received no further calls. At the time, no information about the phone number was available online. Since then, however, it has appeared on sites used to register phone scams, with other netizens reporting that it is associated with a “police scam”. It remains unclear how the callers, who impersonated the UK police but also directed Apple to contact real UK police, intended to profit from their deception.

Apple has now begun work to set up a new organisation, China Dissent Network, which aims to create a safe space for Chinese dissidents who emerged before and after the White Paper Protests.

Part of China Dissent Network’s goal is to raise awareness of the surveillance and political oppression of Chinese students that takes place in the UK, and to start conversations between Chinese students on campus.

Apple believes she is a target for surveillance by China’s security services, and that her story illustrates the threats to Chinese students and other citizens in the UK.

Apple says, “It is more urgent than ever that we pay attention to transnational repression from China. It not only poses threats to Chinese citizens overseas but also to civil society in democratic countries.”

This account has been published as part of UKCT’s public information campaign about CCP interference on campus and the threats facing Chinese students & academics. Click here to learn more.