China Human Rights Briefing April 1 – 30, 2007

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China Human Rights Briefing

Human rights news update for the month of April 2007

China has explicitly vowed to take measures to control incidents of social unrest and crime in the run-up to the 17th Communist Party Congress in the fall and the Summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing. At a national security meeting in Xi’an on April 18, Luo Gan, Minister of Public Security, urged local authorities to use mediation and negotiation to resolve social unrest before incidents get out of control. At the same meeting, Luo announced a “strike hard” campaign against crime in the run-up to the Olympics. The government has said that maintaining social order before the Games would be the priority of the police.

“Incidents of social unrest” are bound to increase as forced eviction and demolitions are heightening tensions as Beijing steps up preparations for the 2008 Olympics.

A Beijing family who has refused to move out of their home following a 2002 eviction order had their house forcibly demolished by a group of young men in military uniforms who forced their way inside without identifying themselves or showing a demolition order. The elderly couple, Li Xiuyun and Liu Fengshi, and their mentally-retarded son have continued to occupy the remaining rooms in the house without access to electricity, water or a phone line. The large courtyard home had been in the owner’s family for generations and a previous ruling by a Beijing court had deemed the demolition order illegal. The neighborhood is slated to become a luxury residential block.

Also in Beijing, on April 10, police in riot gear evicted protesters who had refused to leave their homes to make way for the new CCTV headquarters. Residents had staged a protest against their eviction for over a year.

Known as the “Olympic prisoner,Ye Guozhu (叶国柱), 50, who went to jail for resisting eviction order and pressing for compensation, as well as assisting other housing activists and petitioners from the provinces for lodging grievances with the central government, is reported put into the “strict regime” unit – known as the “prison inside prison” since February this year. On August 27, 2004, Mr. Ye was detained by police from the Beijing PSB’s Eastern District Branch on charges of “disruption of public order.” On September 15 of the same year, the Eastern District Procuratorate authorized his formal arrest. On February 2, 2005, Ye was convicted of the crime of “creating trouble” (寻衅滋事罪) and sentenced to four years in prison by the Eastern District Court. The Beijing Municipal No. 2 Intermediate Court upheld the verdict upon appeal. Mr. Ye is presently serving sentence at Qingyuan Prison in the Chading District of Tianjin. He suffers poor health and has allegedly been ill-treated. Only recently have authorities allowed him to see his family. Requests for visits or even for any information about Ye had previously denied despite appeals from relatives and supporters. A single letter was permitted in late December of 2005, in which Ye asked family to visit him in Chading’s Chaobai Prison. Mr. Ye reportedly underwent serious abuses during the period of interrogation and investigation at the detention center and then, after sentencing, at the prison. He was frequently put into the “strict regime” unit as retribution for his refusal to admit wrong doing, where he was fettered and shackled, forced to sit upright for days on benches. Chronic confinement to bed by handcuffs led to deformation of his feet and swelling of his legs. Prior to transferring from the detention center into prison, he was also tied by his hands to the ceiling as police beat his legs and lower torso with batons. To revenge him for his brother’s rejection to rude treatment by prison guards during a visit at the prison during the Chinese New Year festival, in February 2007, Mr. Ye was put under the “strict regime” again. Prison guards told him he would be kept there till this October.

Outside the Capital, in Fuyang, Anhui Province, thousands of textile workers staged a demonstration on April 16 against the withholding of their wages. The Huayuan Textile Factory is a state-owned factory which has been beset by financial difficulties in recent years. In response, the owners have reduced workers’ wages to about 500 yuan per month for the most senior and experienced workers. Hundreds of workers lay down across the railroad tracks in protest. On April 17, hundreds of police were sent in to quell the protest. The factory later offered to give the workers a pay raise of 10%, but the workers did not accept the offer.

On April 11, about 350 AIDS patients were blocked by police while trying to enter Zhengzhou, Henan Province, to protest the medical treatment provided by the government. Two activists, Zhu Ruiyi and Li Xia, were detained for leading the protest. The protesters had acquired HIV/AIDS after donating blood in government-backed blood drives. The government has agreed to provide medical treatment for those infected in the tainted blood drives, but the protesters say that the drugs are ineffective and no alternative drugs have been provided.

Harassment of lawyers who tried to provide legal assistance continued in April.

In Guangzhou, a lawyer who has defended residents of Guangzhou Island in their lawsuits against the government over forced evictions from their land has gone missing. Li Shuangling, a lawyer at Beijing An Yuan law firm, went missing from his hotel on March 25, before the hearing over the illegal requisition of land by the government to build a biomedical industries park. Authorities are required to notify his family within three days if he has been detained, yet neither Li’s family nor colleagues have received any information about his whereabouts.

On the evening of April 9, rights defense lawyer Yang Zaixin was beaten by a group of thugs after getting into an altercation with security guards who tried to stop him from leaving his home in Guangxi. Yang’s head, chest and leg were injured in the attack. Yang has been active in a number of rights defense cases in Guangdong and Shandong Provinces, and in response local judicial authorities terminated his license to practice law.

Lawyer Gao Zhisheng made a recorded statement in which he said that he made a confession only after being mistreated by authorities in detention. Gao was convicted in December 2006 on charges of subversion and sentenced to three years in prison, but was given a suspended sentence and allowed to return home. In the statement, he said he had been forced to sit motionless in an iron chair surrounded by bright light for hours at a time. Authorities had also threatened his wife and children.

In April, rights activists continued to face persecution and retaliation for disclosing abuses or assisting efforts to seek justice.

Wuhan-based rights defense activist Wang Guoqiang was refused the right to represent plaintiffs in a legal case after he was declared a “psychiatric patient” by authorities. Wang has participated in a number of cases brought against government agencies who acted illegally. As a result, Wuhan authorities ordered doctors to diagnose him with a “psychiatric disorder,” and thereby refused to allow him to participate in any lawsuits. For more background, see:

After returning from her trip to the U.S. on April 14, AIDS activist and Doctor Gao Yaojie has been under constant surveillance, her phone has been tapped and guests to her house are required to register.

On April 12, activist Zhang Jianping was brought in for questioning after PSB agents detained him from his home in Jiangsu Province and accused him of “using the Internet to attempt to subvert state power.” He was kept overnight and allowed to return home the next morning. Zhang, 41, was paralyzed 11 years ago when he was struck by a vehicle. In recent years, Zhang has used the Internet to write about the difficulties faced by himself and other petitioners. On April 17, authorities in Changzhou tried to force Zhang to sign a confession that he had “attempted to subvert the government.” Zhang refused. Later, authorities penalized him by cutting off his Internet access for six months.

A number of trials and sentences were carried out against protesters and activists in April.

On April 13, Zhejiang artist Yan Zhengxue was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “subversion.” His lawyer, Li Jianqiang was not notified by the court until the day of the trial and so was unable to travel to Taizhou to attend the hearing. For more background on this case, see:

Environmental activist Wu Lihong was detained on April 13 from his home in Yixing City, Jiangsu Province and his computer and documents were confiscated. The next day authorities acknowledged they had arrested Wu on suspicion of “extortion.” On April 27, his lawyer Su Xiaoyan tried to visit Wu but was refused access by authorities. For several years, Wu had been exposing pollution in Tai Lake, and has been harassed by local authorities after reporting problems in Yixing, which was recently named “model city for environmental protection,” to the national environmental bureau.

Two Uighur activists were sentenced to lengthy terms this month. Canadian citizen Husein Dzhelil (also spelled Huseyin Celil) was given a life sentence by the Intermediate People’s Court of Urumqi on April 19 on charges of “terrorist activities” and “plotting to split the motherland.” Dzhelil, who had been living in Toronto after serving a prison term in China for political activity, was forcibly repatriated to China during a visit to Uzbekistan. Dzhelil has claimed that he was tortured in detention, including being starved and deprived of sleep. He also said that he signed a confession only after authorities threatened to “disappear” him or “bury him alive.” Dzhelil obtained refugee status after fleeing China in the mid-1990s, and was later granted Canadian citizenship. He was arrested in Uzbekistan while visiting relatives in March 2006 and extradited to China in June of that year, where he has been held incommunicado. Court documents accused Dzhelil of being a member of the East Turkistan Liberation Organisation, which China considers a terrorist organization, but authorities have not publicly presented evidence proving the claims.

On April 17, Ablikim Abdiriyim, son of exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, was sentenced to nine years’ in prison, and three years deprivation of political rights, on charges of “instigation and engaging in secessionist activities”. According to the official media, Ablikim Abdiriyim confessed in court that he had, “spread secessionist articles over the Internet, turned the public against the Chinese government and written articles which distorted China’s human rights and ethnic policies.” Ablikim Abdiriyim’s family has said that he was denied legal representation at the trial. His family was not notified of the trial, which was reportedly held on January 22, according to Amnesty International.

In Guangdong Province, seven villagers from Sanshan Village, Nanhai, were sentenced to between six months to four years in prison for protesting the illegal confiscation of their farmland by the local government. The villagers were arrested in June 2006 on charges of “extortion” after their attempts to use the law to seek compensation failed and they staged protests. For more background see: /Article/ShowClass.asp?ClassID=67

Shanghai activist/petitioner Mao Hengfeng had her sentence of two and a half years upheld by the Shanghai Municipal No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court on April 16. The decision was announced after a ten minute court session during which Mao was not allowed to make any argument. On January 12, 2007, Shanghai authorities arrested Mao Hengfeng, female, for “damaging hotel property” and sentenced her to two-and-half years in jail. She was detained in Beijing when she went there to petition the central government on January 24, 2006. She was released on Feb. 8 and detained again on Feb. 13 for 45 days. In mid-May, police detained her and then filed charges against her for “damaging hotel property” in the guest house used by police to detain her in Feb. 2006 after she broke two desk lamps.

Two activists who had been imprisoned for their work were released from prison this month. Yang Jianli, a U.S. citizen who has lived in America since 1986, was released on April 26 after serving his five-year term on charges of espionage and entering China illegally. Yang was a founder of the Foundation for China in the 21st Century, which advocates political change in China. Yang was arrested in 2002 after entering China with a friend’s identification card and meeting with activists.

Tan Kai ( 谭凯), an environmental rights activist, based in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, was released from prison in late April after serving out his full term of one and a half years. On October 13, 2004, Tan a staff member at a computer repair company, was assigned to bring in a computer with a malfunctioning screen for repairs. The computer belonged to an official at the Zhejiang’s Propaganda Department and Tan was instructed not to “touch” the machine’s stored files. In the process of restoring the device, Tan perused its contents and moved a copy to his personal laptop. He did not delete the original files. Tan Kai was arrested on October 19, 2005, together with five other members of the now-banned environmental protection group, Green Watch, which he had helped form. The five others, Lai Jinbiao, Gao Haibing, Yang Jianming, Wu Yuanming and Qi Huiming were immediately released. Tan was sentenced by a Hangzhou local court on August 11, 2006 on charges of “illegally obtaining state secrets.” The trial was closed.

There has been an ongoing crackdown on free expression.

The Communist Party called for construction of a “healthy Internet culture,” which promotes a “harmonious society” and is in line with former President Jiang Zemin’s theory of the Three Represents. Earlier, the government launched a campaign to clean up “indecent” content online, which includes plans to establish “virtual police” and “virtual police stations” to monitor websites, chat rooms and weblogs.

Meanwhile, writer Zhang Yihe, whose books were banned under an order from the General Administration of Press and Publications in January, filed a motion this month in the Beijing Number Two Intermediate People’s Court to have the ban overturned. Zhang Yihe has issued public statements protesting the ban and has gained the support of numerous writers and intellectuals in China. On April 24, Xinhua announced that Long Xinmin, head of GAPP when the ban was issued, had been removed from his post and assigned the position of deputy director at the Communist Party’s Central Party History Research Center. No reason for the shift was given.

Several new ordinances and laws that went into effect are worth noting.

Premier Wen Jiabao signed a new ordinance governing government transparency, which will become effective May 1, 2008. The new rules are aimed at reducing government secrecy and allowing greater public access to official information on a range of topics including emergency response, government spending, environmental and public health emergencies, and food and medical safety. However, a key drafter of the ordinance told journalists that the right to access official information may not apply to the media, thereby bringing into question the effectiveness of the new rules.

New regulations banning the trade of human organs went into effect on May 1. The new regulations, the first of their kind, set penalties for doctors or government officials found to be involved in the organ trade, including the revocation of practitioners’ licenses and hefty fines.

The one-birth per couple remains a national policy, but that policy should never have permitted violent measures. Many Chinese have challenged such measures.

A legal case marked progress in the fight against abuses of the one-child policy. A court in Changli county, Hebei Province heard a landmark case filed by a couple demanding compensation for a forced abortion carried out in the ninth month of pregnancy. Yang Zhongchen and Jin Yan filed the claim after the birth control bureau ordered doctors to illegally carry out the abortion on their first child in order to meet local family planning quotas six years ago. Being granted a hearing is itself remarkable because Chinese courts are notorious for rejecting cases considered politically “sensitive” by refusing to grant a hearing.

Please contact us for any questions. We welcome your suggestions for improving this news update.

Su Hui, Zhong Yan

Editors of China Human Rights Briefing

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