China Human Rights Briefing March 1 – 31, 2007Comments Off on China Human Rights Briefing March 1 – 31, 2007
China Human Rights Briefing
A Monthly News Update
Crackdowns related to the annual NPC session continued well into March. The annual meeting of the National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference brought tightened security and restriction on movement and speech for many citizens. In preparation for the “two sessions,” Beijing mobilized 500,000 security personnel to prevent petitioners from gathering and protesting at the conference site, according to a report in the China Police Daily. In addition, several well-known dissidents were asked to leave the city during the two week period that the meetings were held. Activist Hu Jia and his wife Zeng Jinyan, who had been under residential surveillance for several months, were suddenly allowed to go on a tourist trip to Hong Kong. They arrived in Hong Kong on February 26. Other dissidents were warned that if they did not leave Beijing, they would be put under surveillance. They returned on March 30 to find no policemen placed outside their housing compound.
On March 12, a petitioner from Inner Mongolia was beaten by police assigned to intersect people who traveled to Beijing to file complaints with the government. This took place in a street in Beijing’s Fengtai District while Beijing police looked on. Only when a reporter approached the scene did police help send the petitioner to the hospital.
Three petitioners from Heilongjiang Province attempted to commit suicide in front of the Letters and Petitions Office in Beijing, according to witnesses who spoke with Radio Free Asia.
Fu Xiancai, a rights activist who has advocated on behalf of residents forced to relocate to make way for the Three Gorges Dam, appealed to the NPC for redress after he was left paralyzed following a beaten after meeting with police in Zigui County, Hubei Province in June 2006. The beating followed an interview Fu gave to a German broadcaster in which he criticized the terms of the resettlement process. A police investigation into the beating said that Fu had inflicted the injuries on himself.
The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of family members of those killed and injured in the June 4, 1989 massacre in Beijing, issued a public letter to the NPC, asking for an open debate over the events of 1989 and for the government to “reveal the truth” about the protests and subsequent military crackdown. Their letter can be read here (in Chinese): /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3520
Trials and sentencing of a number of Internet writers and activists took place this month by courts around the country. On March 16, Hebei Provincial High Court issued a ruling to uphold the original verdict in the conviction of writer Guo Qizhen. Guo was sentenced to four years in prison on subversion charges in October 2006 for essays he had posted online.
On March 19, writer Zhang Jianhong was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of “inciting subversion” by a court in Ningbo, Zhenjiang Province. Zhang, who goes by the penname Li Hong, was an editor of the Internet literary community Aegean Sea (www.aiqinhai.org), which was closed down in September 2006 for allegedly posting news in violation of Internet regulations. Zhang was also a poet and had written articles for several Chinese language websites on a variety of topics, including the arrest of activists, the illegal organ trade, and the closure of Aegean Sea. In a report about the conviction, Xinhua News Agency said: “The court found that Zhang … had published over 110 articles under the pseudonym ‘Li Hong’ on overseas websites from May to September 2006… In more than 60 articles, Zhang had slandered the government and China‘s social system to vent his discontent with the government.”
CRD urges the NPC to authorize a constitutional review of the crime “inciting subversion” which has been used to punish many independent writers like Zhang Jianhong: /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3744
On March 23, three rights defenders, Hong Yongzhou, Tan Guotai and Zhou Zhirong were tried in the Chibi county court, Hubei province. The three defendants have lost weight and said they had been beaten while in detention. They were detained in September after being sent back to their hometowns when they went to Beijing to petition against the inadequate compensation provided to migrants who were relocated due to the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.
Prison condition was reportedly tolerable when lawyers visited Chen Guangcheng, the imprisoned human rights defender. The meeting took place at the Linyi Prison in Shandong Province on March 20. Three prison police officers were present during the meeting. On the same day, the lawyers re-submitted a “request for legal permission for Chen Guangcheng to serve his sentence temporarily outside prison” to the prison management officials. The request had been mailed to Linyi Intermediate Court and the provincial judicial authorities in January, but the lawyers had received no response long after the legal period of time (seven days) for responses to such requests had expired. According to the PRC Criminal Procedural Law, Article 214, prisoners who cannot take care of themselves and would not constitute a danger to society can be granted “temporary serving of sentence outside jail.” During the meeting, Chen Guangcheng told his lawyer that he is not badly treated. But he also said he would continue seeking justice even though he has lost freedom. On March 14, Chen was honored as one of five “defenders of free expression” in the world by the Index on Censorship in London. For more information on Mr. Chen, see CRD update at /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3757
Detention and disappearance
Zong Fengming, 87, who recently published “Zhao Ziyang: Captive Conversations” has been missing since February 24, when he was transferred to a military hospital from another Beijing hospital where he had been treated for a minor heart problem. The book is a recounting of a series of lengthy conversations held surreptitiously between Zong and Zhao while Zhao Ziyang was under house arrest in Beijing before his death in January 2005. The book is published in Hong Kong, yet banned on the Mainland.
On March 25, 2007, police in Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, took into custody Cai Aiming, male, a local activist who ran for election for a seat in the local People’s Congress last year and repeatedly petitioned the government for grievances against officials. By 6pm on Sunday, after being questioned by police, he was sent to a Re-education Through Labor camp. Zhengzhou police called Cai’s wife around 6pm to tell her that the local RTL Administration, a government agency, decided to jail Cai for one year in the local RTL camp for “the crime of joining illegal organization.” Mr. Cai is active in the Henan chapter of the online virtual group Fan Lan (a group of self-proclaimed followers of the Nationalist Party in Taiwan ). Police questioned another member, Li Tianxiang, accusing him of joining “illegal organization,” in Wuhan, Hubei Province, on March 26 and threatened Li with arrest unless he left the group. CRD issued a statement protesting Cai’s detention on March 27: /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3771. Four days later, Cai was released.
Hubei rights defense activist Liu Feiyue was restrained in his home for ten days from March 12. Following online protest over his situation both domestically and abroad, Liu was allowed out of his home but his movement is closed monitored by police. Mr. Liu investigates rights violation cases, provides legal aid, and publicizes information through the platform of his website “People’s Livelihood Watch” (Min sheng guancha: http://www.msguancha.com/).
House church leaders also continued to be targeted by authorities. According to the China Aid Association, on March 19, Ms. Li Huage, the wife of a senior House Church leader, was sentenced to ten days detention in Henan for allegedly “disturbing public order”. On March 6, her cell phone, computer and bibles were illegally confiscated from her home, after authorities raided a Bible study session at their home. Ms. Li was in the Wancheng District Public Security Bureau seeking the return of her possessions when she was arrested. She is now being held in Ying An Lu Detention Center, Wancheng district, Nanyang city, Henan province.
Her husband, Dong Quanyu, is the Vice-President of the Chinese House Church Alliance. He was also held for ten days for participating in an “illegal religious gathering,” after he and his wife held the Bible study session with other House Church leaders and three South Korean pastors. Ms. Li was beaten by security guards when she went to meet her husband upon his release on March 16.
Protests and police violence continue in various parts of the country. On March 12, a protest over a rise in bus fares turned into a violent riot in Yongzhou, Hunan Province. About 20,000 villagers gathered around a government office to protest the doubling of bus fare over the Spring Festival holiday. When protesters attacked the car of the businessman who had taken over the bus route, the government sent in 1500 paramilitary and riot police who began beating the protesters, according to news reports. One boy was reportedly killed in the ensuing melee. A local official told a journalist that the villagers were also angry over local corruption.
On March 21, about 200 protesters blocked railway lines in Jiangxi Province in protest over zoning changes in Guixi which could threaten their incomes and benefits. The protest lasted about four hours until it was broken up by police, according to a BBC report.
On March 27, in Guangzhou, the local government in Conghua raided an orchard in Shabei Village and began to chop down the trees. In protest, dozens of villagers came to block the action and some villagers brought a gas tank intending to self-immolate in protest. The police detained 17 people. A journalist reporting on the protest was injured in the scuffle. Shabei villagers have repeatedly protested to the local government since 1993, when authorities expropriated 3000 mu of farmland and provided insufficient compensation.
The adoption of the Law on Property Rights by the NPC this month is likely to encourage more assertive actions in defense of appropriated land/housing property.
Two home owners in Chongqing, Wu Ping and Yang Wu, staged a public protest when they refused to leave their home to make way for the construction of a luxury residential and retail space. Wu and Yang have been fighting an eviction order since 2004, when the government condemned their house and offered them compensation for their home. On April 2, the home was finally razed after Wu and Yang accepted a government offer of an apartment elsewhere in Chongqing. In recent weeks, their protest became a cause celebre in China and around the world, largely because of the timing, following the NPC’s passage of a landmark law protecting private property. Millions of Chinese citizens have been forcibly evicted from their homes or farmland in recent years to make way for development projects, and they are often provided with inadequate compensation.
Retaliation against lawyers is evident in the case of the human rights lawyers Zhang Jiankang in Xi’an. On March 28, 2007, Zhang found that he was denied membership with the local Lawyers’ Association and he is now at risk of losing his license to practice law. The reason given by his law firm, the Shanxi Diyi Law Firm, which decided not to pay for Mr. Zhang’s annual membership fee, is that authorities pressured the firm to do so and disobeying may mean closure for the firm. Mr. Zhang is being penalized for taking on a well-known case in which he represented detained farmers who had tried to seek compensation for lost land in 2006. Zhang Jiankang once had his license suspended because he represented Guangdong Nanhai farmers. He got his license back after hard negotiation. He was warned that he would not be so lucky again if he continued to be involved in similar cases, give interviews to the media, or write articles that criticize the government. Zhang refused to heed these warnings. For further information, see CRD press release: “Lawyer at Risk of Losing License, Facing Punishment for Defending Farmers” at /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3799
Freedom of expression and press is under the spotlight when, on March 19, the Beijing Number 2 Intermediate People’s Court rejected a suit from former Xinhua correspondent Dai Huang who sought to overturn a General Administration of Press and Publications ban on the reprint of his memoir, A Narrow Escape from Death. The court said the case did not fall within the scope of its work. Dai’s lawyers, Pu Zhiqiang and Zhang Sizhi, have said he will appeal. For more information on this lawsuit, see CRD press release “China’s Press Czar vs. Authors of Censored Books” at /Article/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=3743.
The Foreign Affairs Department in Nanjing confiscated the journalists’ permit of a Boxun News reporter and warned him against continuing his reporting work. Boxun is an overseas website that posts news content that is generally censored in China.
A lawsuit against Yahoo! gathered some impetus. The foreign Internet company has been widely criticized for its role in aiding Internet censorship and the arrests of online writers including Shi Tao, a journalist/writer who is serving 10-years in jail after Yahoo turned in personal email information to Chinese authorities. A Chinese citizen now hopes to hold Yahoo legally accountable. Yu Ling, the wife of imprisoned writer Wang Xiaoning, arrived in the U.S. and announced plans to sue Internet giant Yahoo! for allegedly providing the Chinese government with information which led to her husband’s arrest. In 2002, Wang Xiaoning was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of “inciting subversion” for his Internet writings, in which he advocated for democracy. Court documents cited information provided by Yahoo! as evidence in convicting Wang. Wang had used his Yahoo! email account to distribute his essays online.
Equal rights and residential discrimination are at stake in talks of a timetable in sight for abolishing the Hukou, a rural-urban residential and citizen-status segregation system. At a national meeting on March 29, the Ministry of Public Security discussed reforming the national household registration (“hukou”) system to unify city and rural registration systems, according to a report in China Daily.
Twelve regions, including Hebei, Liaoning, Shandong provinces, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Chongqing Municipality, have launched pilot programs to test a system that narrows legal differences between rural and urban residents. Currently, rural residents are denied legal status when they move to a city to work as their hukou is attached to the place where they were born. The public supports reform of the hukou system: Sina.com conducted an online poll which found that 91.7 percent of respondents said the current system needs to be reformed.
The right to privacy may see some protection if the newly adopted regulations in
Guangzhou will be implemented effectively. The regulations impose a penalty of up to ten days detention for carrying out secret surveillance or recording of hotel rooms, restrooms, private rooms in restaurants, or student or worker dormitories. The rules would impose a fine of at least 500 RMB or detention of between five and ten days for violation.
That’s all for the month of March! We look forward to hearing from our readers for any feedbacks. For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the desk of CHRB editors:
Su Hui, Zhong Yan
April 4, 2007
CRD is a non-political, non-government network of grassroots and international activists working to advance human rights protection in the PRC. Its objective is to build NGO capacity, to monitor government adherence to its international and constitutional obligations and to aid victims of rights abuses and assist them in seeking redress. CRD encourages efforts to achieve these objectives through democratization and rule of law reform. CRD activities include consultation, dissemination of information, building international solidarity, supporting a program of small grants to those working in China, research assistance, and other services.