As Annan arrives in China, families of detained activists ask him to hold China to its commitments to human rights

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CRD Release
May 20, 2006

As Annan arrives in China, families of detained activists ask him to hold China to its commitments to human rights

On the eve of the arrival of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in China, the families of three men who are in custody due to their efforts to defend human rights have written letters to him. In these letters, they detailed the persecution they have suffered and requested his assistance in raising these cases with the Chinese authorities. CRD has been asked by the families to release the following letters (translations of the full texts are appended to this statement) and to ensure they reach Mr. Annan:

—From Yuan Weijing, wife of Chen Guangcheng, the blind “barefoot lawyer” from Linyi, Shandong, who has been illegally detained incommunicado since March 11, without any information about his status or whereabouts being given to his family;

—From Xu Yongdao, father of Xu Zhengqing, an advocate for the rights of victims of forced evictions in Shanghai. Xu Zhengqing was sentenced to three years in prison for “picking quarrels and causing trouble” and has been denied any family visits since his initial detention 16 months ago; and

—From Shao Jinhua, mother of Chen Xiaoming, a Shanghai forced eviction victim who has become a housing rights activist, who “disappeared” in February and is presumed to be in police custody, likewise without any information about his status or whereabouts being given to his family.

As well as transmitting these communications to Mr. Annan, we will be submitting them to Special Representative of the Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders.

CRD is deeply concerned about the continuing persecution of these and other human rights defenders. The persecution violates Chinese law and international human rights standards, and reflects a much broader problem of impunity for abuses committed in suppressing individuals seen as “critics” of the government, however much they try to work within the law. These cases show how individuals exercising their constitutional right to complain [1] about official malfeasance and abuse of power in the implementation of government policies can be made to suffer as a result. Constitutional guarantees are meaningless when they do not apply to everyone who seeks to exercise such a right. With the Chinese government imposing severe legal, administrative and substantive restrictions on the rights to assembly, association and expression, the constitutional right to complain remains one of the only avenues open to Chinese citizens who have grievances about acts of the state or its agents.

The cases of these three men are indicative of a disturbing pattern of serious violations of human rights against human rights defenders, in particular the use of violence, disappearances and illegal detention. Such a pattern is confirmed by another letter to Mr. Annan appended to this statement and signed by 480 Shanghai residents pointing out the egregious abuses perpetrated by the city authorities on people who have sought to defend their rights to adequate consultation on relocation and proper compensation and resettlement arrangements in the context of urban redevelopment.

Having been elected as a member of the new UN Human Rights Council on May 9, the Chinese government should demonstrate its sincerity toward the commitments to human rights it made when proposing China as a candidate for membership. It should thus act quickly to resolve the abuses involved in the cases of Chen Guangcheng, Xu Zhengqing and Chen Xiaoming. In the light of China’s commitments, CRD also urges Mr. Annan to take up these matters with his hosts, to ensure that the reputation of the new Council is not sullied by the behavior of its members before it has even had a chance to begin its work.


Letter to Annan from Yuan Weijing, wife of detained Chen Guangcheng
Letter to Annan from Xu Yongdao, father of jailed Xu Zhengqing
Letter from Shao Jinhua, mother of detained Chen Xiaoming
Shanghai housing petitioners’ Dec 05 letter to Annan


[1] Article 41 of the PRC Constituttion:

“Citizens of the People’s Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions regarding any state organ or functionary. Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints or charges against, or exposures of, any state organ or functionary for violation of the law or dereliction of duty; but fabrication or distortion of facts for purposes of libel or false incrimination is prohibited.

The state organ concerned must deal with complaints, charges or exposures made by citizens in a responsible manner after ascertaining the facts. No one may suppress such complaints, charges and exposures or retaliate against the citizens making them.

Citizens who have suffered losses as a result of infringement of their civic rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the law.”

For more information about this release, please contact:

Zhong Yan, Renee Xia at

Appendix 1

Letter to Annan from Yuan Weijing, wife of detained Chen Guangcheng

May 12, 2006

Dear Mr. Annan,

Thank your for your efforts in promoting world peace and the progress of freedom and democracy. As a Chinese person, I am happy that China has been elected as a member of the UN Human Rights Council by the recently-concluded 60th UN General Assembly. I cherish the hope that the Chinese government will honor its promises to respect and protect human rights.

My husband Chen Guangcheng has been illegally deprived of his freedom by the local government since August 2005 because he revealed the campaign of forced abortions and sterilizations against women and the persecution of their relatives in Linyi City, Shandong Province. His personal safety has been threatened, and his relatives have been attacked, detained and even arrested. On March 11th 2006, Chen Guangcheng was once again taken away by Yinan County police and hasn’t been seen since. We have authorized a lawyer to follow up the arrest of both Chen Guangcheng and his family members. However, our lawyer was told by the Public Security Bureau of Yinan County that they had never arrested Chen Guangcheng, and our relative who had been detained with Chen was not allowed to meet with the lawyer either. As a blind man who has difficulties in dealing with daily life, Chen was kidnapped and put under house arrest; As a blind man who had been working hard for a better tomorrow for China, Chen has been accused of being a traitor by local government officials. I think those who are not being responsible for China’s future are the real traitors to the nation.

Mr. Annan, I sincerely hope that the UN Human Rights Council will be a real force in fighting for human rights for our world. It should not just listen to what its members announce or promise. It is more important to watch what the members do. At the same time, I hope you will continue your efforts in improving human rights conditions during your trip to China this time, and be concerned about the fate of Guangcheng and the many others who have had similar unfortunate experiences.

I wish you a successful visit and a pleasant trip.

Yuan Weijing, under house-arrest

(The letter was translated from the Chinese original by CRD)

Appendix 2

Letter to Annan from Xu Yongdao, father of jailed Xu Zhengqing

Respected Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan,

Greetings! It may seem strange for me to write to you, but it is not possible for the leaders of our country to receive a letter from a citizen, so I can only take this chance to request your help to pass this letter on to President Hu Jintao, in order to let him know about our suffering during the past eight years.

My name is Xu Yongdao, and I am 74 years old. We used to live at No. 214, Lane 1001, Xikanglu, Putuo district of Shanghai. In 1998 the Shanghai government and a building company forcibly evicted us from our house for city redevelopment. They expropriated the land to develop commercial housing. We requested to be resettled in the same district, but they asked us to pay a sum of money that they claimed was the difference between prices before and after the redevelopment of the area. They said we had to pay with a month, otherwise they would not allow us to resettle in the same district. We though didn’t argue and tried our best to pay, seven times the government gave us the wrong address to send the money, and thus we could not pay, then three days before the deadline our house was knocked down by force. Since December 3, 1998, we have no place to stay, we move from place to place renting accommodation. My son Xu Zhengqing filed an administrative action against the government’s malpractice and forced eviction. However, an independent judiciary does not exist in China. After eight years of lawsuits, we found that in the place where our house used to stand a similar house had been built, which was sold to the head of a hospital in Putuo District by the development company (Puquan Property and Housing Company).

Due to the connections between the developer, the court and the government, we had no hope that we could achieve justice through the legal system. We then started to exercise our constitutional right to petition through the State Letters and Visits system (shangfang). We asked the central government to help us seek redress, but each time we went to Beijing to petition, we were followed and intercepted by officials from Shanghai in all kinds of ways including being kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, put under residential surveillance, forcibly sent back and even subjected to violence.

The authorities take us so seriously because my son Xu Zhengqing not only represents our own family in seeking justice, he also volunteers to be a “Civil Representative” for other victims of forced eviction seeking justice from government through administrative action. His actions to defend rights have been extensively reported on Radio Free Asia and many other media outlet, and as a result he became a key enemy of some people in power. After every instance when there has been a lawsuit or an administrative hearing, he has always been chased and beaten by the authorities or their allies, we have a vivid recollection of all these tense moments.

On January 28, 2005, Xu Zhengqing went to Beijing try to attend the funeral of former Chinese Communist Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang, but he was forcibly sent back by Shanghai police who followed him to Beijing and used violence against him while they were escorting him back to the city under guard. After 11 months in detention he then was charged with “provoking social disorder” (Xun xin zi shi) under the category of “disrupting social order” and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Why should it be considered a crime to try to mourn a former leader he respected?

From January 29, 2005, to February 21, 2006, Xu Zhengqing was detained in Putuo District police detention centre, and we were not allowed to visit him. He was transferred to Shanghai Tilanqiao Prison on February 22, 2006; but again we were denied the right to visit him. I wrote three letters to him, but received no reply. We called the prison authority many times, they never give a specific reason why we are not allowed visit or tell us when we can meet our son. We went to Tilanqiao Prison to ask, and the prison management told us to go home and wait for a visit permit. Another month has gone by, but still no news. We have not seen our son for 16 months now! Why do they not allow us to see him? What has happened to him? Is my son still alive or is he dead? What right do they have to deny our family visit?

I have high blood pressure and my left hand was injured on March 8 this year when I was assaulted by officials sent to monitor me (to stop me from going to Beijing to protest about my son’s case to the central government). My wife has heart disease, and being denied the right to visit my son made our illnesses worse. In fact, he has not violated any law.

Mr. Annan, I really do not want to bother you, but I write this letter because I really have no other option. We wish you would help to pass this letter to President Hu Jintao and urge him to give some concern to us, the vulnerable people, recognizing the people’s pain and suffering, even if he is very busy.

My son is not guilty, we wish to see our son soon!

We write with high expectations!

We wish you and your family good health! We thank you!

From an ordinary Shanghai citizen, Xu Yongdao.

May 15, 2006.


Room 601, No. 77, Lane 275 Changshoulu, Shanghai

Post code: 200060

(This letter was translated from the Chinese original by CRD)

Appendix 3

Letter to Annan from Shao Jinhua, mother of detained Chen Xiaoming

Your Excellency,

My name is Shao Jinhua, I am a Shanghai resident, now aged 75. I am writing on behalf of my son, Chen Xiaoming, who was taken away by police without any legal procedure and to date I still have not had any news of him. As you visit China, I beg for your assistance in dealing with my grievance. I ask that you use your respected position to express your concern for us, the vulnerable people in Shanghai, who have lost their basic livelihoods and have been deprived of their fundamental human rights. Please help my son and others who are under arbitrary detention due their efforts to defend basic human rights. We express our full-hearted appreciation to you.

Since 1994, the Shanghai government has abused its power in the name of urban redevelopment to appropriate our home, which deprived us of our only property that we relied on for our livelihood without compensation …my son Chen Xiaoming tried all legal channels to seek redress, and as a result, he has suffered all kinds of persecution.

While he worked to defend his own rights, my son Chen Xiaoming also represented many other victims of forced eviction to defend their housing rights. He represented many people in court in lawsuits against the government’s appropriation of their property as well as in administrative actions challenging official malpractice. Due his representing Mao Hengfeng, a courageous woman who was thrown into Re-education Through Labor where she was subjected to torture and ill-treatment, my son Chen Xiaoming became a key target for the suppresion by the local authorities, who have tried all ways imaginable to persecute my son.

On 15 February 2006, my son was taken away by police in kidnap style, on his way home from work. They took away his key, and broke into his house, searched everything, confiscated two computers, a video camera, and the bank book for the life savings of myself and my husband, as well as the savings of Chen Xiaoming’s brother and sister, who are migrant workers in Japan, working very hard to save for the future.

My son has now disappeared for three months, since he was detained without any legal procedure. Officials have refused to give us information about his whereabouts, nor allowed family visits and no news of any kind about his circumstances….we don’t even know if he is still alive. We asked the authority why he is being detained, under what kind of regime he is held, but have been given no answer.

I am 75 now, I don’t know what to do except cry until I cannot see clearly. We have learned that Mao Hengfeng was beaten severely and assaulted during her recent arbitrary detention, which took place at a similar time as the disappearance of my son, so my husband and I are really worried that he is faces torture and ill-treatment in detention, too.

Our hearts are bleeding. As family of Chen Xiaoming, we beg for your help, we only have a small hope that through your expression of concern, we can get back our very basic rights—to have our son back with us!

Finally, we thank you, your Excellency, for your attention, concern, love and protection expressed to vulnerable people in the world in your position as Secretary General of the United Nations!

Yours faithfully,

With respectful salutations,

Shao Jinhua

8th May 2006.

Chen Xiaoming


Date of birth: 16 February 1953.

Working Unit: Shanghai Chemical Furniture Factory (former) Shanghai Family Service Company (Current)

Current situation: Long time sick leave.

(This letter was translated from the original by CRD)

Appendix 4

Shanghai housing petitioners’ Dec 05 letter to Annan

Respected Mr. Annan and UN officials:

We have the greatest respect for you and so we are writing you this letter. At the same time, we hope that we may enlist the help of yourself and your fellow UN officials.

We are a group of petitioners from Shanghai, we have all suffered from various types of harm at the hands of the Shanghai local government authorities, which is under corrupt and unaccountable leadership. Because of our petitions in defense of our legitimate civil rights to housing and property, and our efforts to protect state property, our personal dwellings have been expropriated and our personal property forcibly taken away, we have being kidnapped, experienced arbitrary detention, unfair trials and being thrown into jail, we have been sentenced to prison terms and sent to re-education through labor, and subjected to other inhuman ill-treatment.

We believe that the peace-loving people of the world would join with us in classifying such acts as terrible, gangster-like and violations of human rights. But acts of precisely this nature are being openly perpetrated in the social environment of Shanghai on a regular basis, and the Shanghai People’s Government uses its power to block the prosecution of such acts which would be abhorrent to decent people. We have spent years seeking redress from the central government of the People’s Republic of China and from state leaders, but have never received any compassionate, reasonable, lawful response. On the contrary, we consistently face all kinds of arbitrary detentions. At this moment, dozens of petitioners like us are in jail, re-education through labor and police detention. Most of us Shanghai petitioners now have no permanent homes, no security of livelihood and no access to medical treatment when we are sick.

We beg you to help us, and to use the opportunity of your meeting with PRC President Hu Jintao to tell him about the harms we have suffered and about our current situation. All we ask is that the current problems of Shanghai petitioners be resolved in accordance with the PRC Constitution and the law in an expeditious fashion. We thank you very much!

With our deep regards,

A group of Shanghai petitioners

December 2, 2005

Signed by 480 individuals, some of whom appended their ID numbers and contact information

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