Housing Rights Activist Ma Yalian Detained Incommunicado for 20 Days

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Shanghai activist Ma Yalian (F), 42, was detained from January 14 to February 2, 2006, the latest in a series of detentions without charge. Neighbors saw about 20 police surrounding her house on January 13, 2006. The next day she was taken by police to the Residents Committee of Huangpu District, Shanghai. Residents Committees are technically not government offices, but in practice they have broad powers to control people in their local area and often cooperate with the police. Ma’s mother was only able to meet her briefly before Ma Yalian was driven away in a police car on 14 January. Authorities refused to inform her parents, both in their 70s, of her whereabouts or the reason for her detention. At no point during her detention was any legal document authorizing it or giving a reason for it shown to her or her family. Her mobile phone has since been cut off. She was released in the evening of February 2.

Ma Yalian told CRD they took her away to prevent her from “interrupting” the meeting of the Shanghai government. “But this is just their assumption, I never had any intention of going to protest, I don’t even trust this government, why would I go to protest to them?” Ma said she had left her house to go to the library when she was detained.

In the police car both her hands were cuffed behind her back, and the police made her squat on the floor between two policemen, with her body squeezed into a tiny space for one hour. Police then took her to a place with her head covered as if she were a serious criminal prisoner. It was a hotel they took her to, after they drove her away from the Residents Committee office, she later found out. At the hotel, her hands and legs were tied up for a day and a night, and the police also used a hood to cover her face. On January 20, 2006, they transferred her to a hotel in the country side; there two policewomen and three policemen were assigned to guard her in one room. Even when she had to use the toilet, they insisted that she leave the toilet door open and allow them to watch her. She was also deprived of medical care during the detention, despite her pointing out that her guards could become infected by her liver problem unless she were able to see a doctor.

Police told her she was listed as a top-level “dangerous” person by the Shanghai government, all because she had used the Internet to send information to the international community.

“Now I really don’t know how to survive in China, they can do whatever they like to me without any legal procedure. They can enter my house anytime and take me out any time and torture me, beat me up any time. I have no place to live, no privacy, they are always in front of my door, I can’t even go home.” Ma told CRD in despair. She is now in hiding, afraid of returning home to face house arrest and more ill-treatment.

Since Ma Yalian completed a second term of “Re-education Through Labor” on August 19, 2005, she has continued to be harassed by authorities and put under house arrest for stretches of time ranging from a few hours to several days.

To prevent her from meeting the visiting UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in late November, Ma was reportedly guarded by 10 police at her home until the Special Rapporteur had finished his mission. Then on December 22, 2005, police entered Ma Yalian’s temporary residence without any notice, took her to a place in the countryside and kept her there until December 29. When she asked why they were detaining her, the police refused to reply. After her release Ma tried to find out what “special day” had caused her detention, she thought it might have been due to the anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth. During the detention she tried to run away from the motel, but was brought back by police and reportedly beaten up severely as a punishment.

Ma Yalian has a liver condition and suffers from a medium degree of disability in walking (she cannot walk without crutches) due to an accident when she fell down the stairs during a protest against forced eviction. She also suffers from severe back pain due to torture in “Re-education Through Labor” facilities, which caused her spine to be twisted. She is in need of medical care.

CRD protests the repeated illegal detention of Ma Yalian, and calls on the Shanghai Procuratorate to exercise its role in supervising the use of detention procedures in this case by conducting an investigation of all the instances mentioned above, as well as of Ma’s claims that she was tortured and ill-treated. The report of the investigation should be made public and charges brought against those responsible for what amounts to the kidnapping of Ma. In addition, we urge the authorities to bring those responsible for torture or ill-treatment to justice in accordance with their obligations under the Convention Against Torture (which China ratified in 1988), and to ensure that Ma Yalian and other activists can carry out their legitimate activities to defend their rights without fear of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, or other human rights violations.


CRD featured Ma Yalian as one of the community activists in its report “Hazardous Times for Human Rights Defenders.” Ma was formerly employed at the Shanghai Tools Company. On February 19, 2004, she was arrested for her active role in petitioning the government to address grievances involving forced evictions. On March 16, 2004, the Shanghai Reeducation Through Labor Management Committee decided to send her to a RETL camp for one year and six months for “disturbing social order and security.” She was detained at the Huangpu District Detention Center in Shanghai and was released on August 19, 2005, after serving her full term in the RETL camp.

Ma’s activism started after her family was evicted as a result of an urban redevelopment plan in Shanghai. She repeatedly complained about the treatment they received, and as a result, she was sentenced in August 2001 to one year in a RETL camp. She reported being beaten while serving her term.

Ma Yalian was punished for a second time apparently for posting articles on the Internet exposing failings in China’s administrative complaint and adjudication system. At about the same time the authorities tightened up censorship and surveillance on the Internet. Ma posted articles about harassment and abuses both on the legal professional website http://chineselawyer.com.cn and on the overseas website www.dajiyuan.com, which is run by Falun Gong activists. In these postings, for example, Ma disclosed that there were incidents of individuals committing suicide in front of government “letters and visits” offices which accept petitions from the public.

February 3, 2006

For more information, contact:

Zhong Yan zhongyancrd@gmail.com

Renee Xia admin@chinese-rights-defenders.net

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