End Violence against Human Rights Defenders

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End Violence against Human Rights Defenders – CRD Urges Investigation of Detention and Beating of Activist in Guangzhou

CRD protests the detention and beating of a human rights defender Yang Maodong (pen name Guo Feixiong) in Guangzhou on February 3-4. This is the latest offence in a string of violent attacks against human rights defenders, in violation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Chinese authorities must demonstrate its sincere commitments to international convention by taking effective steps to immediately end the unfolding pattern of using extra-judicial violence to silence and intimidate human rights activists.

In the morning of February 3, Yang Maodong was taken into the Linhe police station in Guangzhou City after he protested aggressive surveillance by unidentified men, who had followed him ostentatiously for several days. These men apparently work with local police, as Yang himself was told when he reported the aggressive following to the local police station.

Prior to the incident, Yang and his family (including two children) were harassed and aggressively photographed by these men despite the family’s strong protests. Yang decided to film these men to document their illegal activities. The men tried to grab his camera and he refused. Police arrived at the scene, took them to the local police station. Yang was forced to stay there because he refused to hand over the film which had the photos he took of those who harassed him. The stand-off lasted for 12 hours. The lawyer Tang Jingling received text messages from Yang at about 4pm on 3 February and went to the station to try to obtain his release without success. He returned home and publicized news of the detention on the Internet.

Eventually, Yang signed a paper stating “failure of peaceful resolution” and was let go at 12:30am, February 4. However, before he even exited the police station, he was dragged out of the building by a group of unidentified men. They violently beat him and the beating went on in front of uniformed policemen at the station, who did nothing to stop it while he screamed from the pain.

Yang spoke to Tang Jingling by phone shortly after the beating. He described the beating as “very professional.” They twisted his arms behind him, pushed him on the ground, and kicked his lower back repeatedly. They took the film, put the camera back on his neck, helped him stand up, and walked away.

On February 1, the lawyer Tang Jingling himself was harassed and beaten by unidentified men who had followed him. Mr. Tang was returning home after he visited Yang Maodong. The five men, after following Tang for several hours, started beating him. They kicked him, stepped on him, and beat him on the back of his head. Tang eventually got away because this took place in busy streets. He reported the beating to a police station nearby. After a friend arrived at the police station to pick him up, they were followed all the way home by two taxis. Tang Jingling was laid-off by his law firm in November 2005, because he represented Taishi villagers who bought a case against local officials suspected of corruption. Taishi villagers’ demand to hold re-election was rejected though they had gathered enough signatures to support their motion.

CRD expresses deep concerns over the new pattern of using hired men or plain-clothes police to silence and intimidate human rights defenders especially in Guangdong, China’s most developed southern coastal province. We urge the provincial procuratorate to conduct a full, independent and impartial investigation into reports about the extra-judicial violence against Yang Maodong and other activists. We urge Chinese authorities to ensure that those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice in accordance with international standards and Chinese law. We urge the authorities to ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their legitimate activities without fear of arbitrary detention, torture or ill-treatment, or other kind of violence and human rights violation.

Background

CRD featured Yang Maodong (杨茂东)(pen name Guo Feixiong郭飞熊)in its 2005 report on the situation of human rights defenders, “Hazardous Times for Human Rights Defenders,” as one of the defenders under risk. Yang, 39, is a writer and scholar, independent publisher. He disappeared on September 12, 2005, and was later confirmed to be in police custody.

Yang Maodong graduated from Huadong Teachers’ College with a philosophy major in 1988 and was assigned a job in a medical school in Wuhan. He resigned in 1991 and went to Guangdong. Between 1993 and 2001, he ran a small independent publishing house. Since then, he became a freelance writer. His writings can be found at http://www.yannan.cn/homepage/guofeixiong.htm

Yang went to Guangzhou and assisted villagers involved in land disputes with local officials in Nanhai, Guangdong Province in June 2005. He sent daily briefings reporting developments and the villagers’ demands on the Internet. He was detained while working with villagers at Taishi, Guangdong Province, where he had been advising villagers in their legal campaign to impeach an elected village committee chief who the villagers suspected of embezzling funds from selling collectively-owned farm land. The campaign in Taishi began in July 2005. In mid-August, Yang was invited by local activists to provide legal counsel. After the villagers’ requests to follow legal procedures to implement their motion was repeatedly rejected or ignored by government, villagers staged sit-ins and hunger strikes. Since mid-September local officials have allegedly taken coercive measures to block the process. All seven elected members of the re-election oversight committee resigned, some citing official pressure or threats, following clashes with police. Dozens of villagers have reportedly been detained. There have also been reports of harassment and violent attacks on journalists and lawyers.

Yan Maodong was detained at an Internet café in Guangzhou on September 13 but was confirmed to be in police custody 11 days later. His lawyers were not able to meet with him due to the harassment and threats the lawyers faced. Yang was detained at the Panyu Detention Center on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb social order.” While in detention, he went on hunger strike for 59 days and doctors at the detention center force-fed him to keep him alive.

On December 27, 2005, Yang Maodong was released by Panyu District Public Security Bureau. On the same day, other detained Taishi villagers were also freed. According to Yang, on September 25, security personnel from the Guangdong provincial Public Security Bureau tortured him in an attempt to extract information. They abused him verbally. After he reported the abuses to the procuratorate’s office and protested openly, however, the interrogators refrained from using torture as an interrogation tactic.

February 5, 2006

For more information, contact:

Zhong Yan zhongyancrd@gmail.com Renee Xia admin@chinese-rights-defenders.net

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