Crackdown before 17th CCP Congress Raises Fear for Olympics

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Pre-Congress Crackdown Raises Fear for Olympics

The government must reverse its policy of intimidating and terrorizing dissent

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, October 15, 2007) – The 17th Communist Party Congress opens today in Beijing in the wake of a two-month crackdown. Since August, authorities have closed down websites, tightened surveillance of activists, put many under house arrest or criminal detention, disappeared others, and instigated physical attacks.

With the Chinese government focusing on preparations for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the crackdown sends a chill throughout the activist community. The resolute and harsh measures used in this campaign leave no doubt that the government has no intention to honor its promise to protect human rights made when it bid to host the Games. Instead, with the stated objectives of “maintaining order” and “building a harmonious society,” the government has demonstrated a determination to stamp out all signs of dissent and suppress any organized efforts to seek social justice . What, if anything, can stop Chinese authorities from deploying the same, likely even more repressive and abhorrent measures next summer during the Olympics, an event of great importance for the Chinese leaders who are counting on it to confer on them legitimacy and boost China’s image as a world power?

One Beijing-based activist said, “The current crackdown is overwhelmingly harsh and well-coordinated nationwide, which surprises no one. It is the security apparatus’ last dress rehearsal before the Olympics, which is only ten months away.”

Chinese Human Rights Defenders calls on the Chinese government to end the crackdown immediately and reverse its policy of intimidating and terrorizing dissent. The rapidly deteriorating human rights situation discredits the government. In breaking its promise to respect and improve human rights, China is losing any moral standing which hosting the Olympics might confer upon it, with its “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” and “the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” (Olympic Charter, Preamble)

CHRD has documented the following types of human rights abuses in the last two months:

Forced Disappearances

A number of activists were forcibly disappeared, including Yao Lifa (姚立法) and Gao Zhisheng (高智晟). Gao disappeared on September 22, days after he wrote to the U.S. Congress urging members to focus on human rights in China in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Arbitrary Detention and Arrest

On October 11, three days after the publication on October 8 of an open letter signed by12,150 petitioners from all over China urging leaders at the 17th Party Congress to enact political and legal reforms and end the persecution of petitioners, Beijing police seized Ms. Liu Jie (刘杰), the lead organizer of the petition. On October 14, police detained another organizer, Ms. Wang Guilan (王桂兰), a petitioner from Hubei, who had talked to the international press about Ms. Liu’s arrest.

Several activists have been formally detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Some of those detained were deprived of their rights to legal council and family visits. On September 30, Ye Guoqiang (叶国强) and Ye Mingjun ( 叶明君), brother and son of the “Olympics Prisoner” Ye Guozhu (叶国柱), were criminally detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. Ye Guoqiang was apprehended as he staged a protest in front of a Beijing government building on September 29. On October 7, CHRD received reports that Yang Chunlin (杨春林) was subjected to torture while under detention for “subversion of state power” because he collected signatures endorsing the open letter, “We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics”. On September 29, Lu Gengsong (吕耿松), detained writer and activist, was formally arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. Also in Zhejiang province, housing rights activist, Yang Yunbiao (杨云彪), was sentenced to two years for “impeding officials from carrying out their duties” on September 11. Dissident, Chen Shuqing(陈树庆), was sentenced on August 16 to four years on charges of “inciting subversion of state power”. In Jiangsu, environmentalist Wu Lihong (吴立红) was sentenced to three years in prison for “extortion” on August 10.

Many petitioners (people who travel to Beijing to file complaints with central government authorities) have been intercepted, usually by representatives of their municipal or provincial governments, on the streets of Beijing or at the Offices of Letters and Visits of the State Council and People’s Congress. They are incarcerated and held incommunicado for days or months at “black jails”, secret, illegal detention facilities run by the liaison offices of municipal and provincial governments. Petitioners are then often forcibly returned to their hometowns, where they have faced detention in illegal facilities, Re-Education Through Labor camp, and psychiatric institutions.

Harassment and Intimidation

Practically every activist, dissident writer and human rights lawyer in Beijing and across the country has been subjected to one or another form of harassment or intimidation, though many are unwilling to have their names disclosed. Some are put under police surveillance or house arrest, including, in Beijing, Hu Jia (胡佳) and Qi Zhiyong (齐志勇); in Shanghai, Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), the former lawyer; and in Shandong, Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), the wife of imprisoned activist Chen Guangcheng. Ms. Yuan was abducted in Beijing where she had traveled to meet with her husband’s lawyers and supporters, and thereafter put under police surveillance in her village. Many people were questioned or ordered to “talk” to the police, including Sun Xiaodi (孙小弟), an environmentalist who is seeking medical treatment in Beijing; Zhang Wenhe (张文和), a dissident who lives in the Beijing suburbs; and the Hubei-based activist, Yao Lifa, who was questioned by police in early September. Several Beijing-based intellectuals and activists were told to leave Beijing or warned to stay out of the city. Deng Yongliang (邓永亮), an activist and internet writer, was expelled on September 26 from Xian, where he and his family had been living, because he had earlier published an article about an independent candidate in a local election who was persecuted for his political participation. Mr. Deng was forcibly escorted to Sichuan, his home province, and warned to stay away from Xian. Yunnan-based Internet writer, Ouyang Xiaorong (欧阳小戎), was also taken away from home by local police, who told his family that he would return after the Party Congress.

Physical Attack and Torture

In Beijing, Li Heping (李和平), a human rights lawyer, was seriously beaten by unidentified men believed to be police from the National Security Protection Unit of the Beijing Public Security Bureau. As evidenced by what they said to him during the beating, they were attempting to intimidate him into leaving Beijing during the sensitive period leading up to the 17th Party Congress. Ms. Huang Yan (黄燕), a supporter and close friend of lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was also abducted in Beijing and reportedly tortured. She was then taken to Hubei, her home province, where she is still detained. On October 11, a Beijing-based housing rights activist, who is also active in the Christian family church, Hua Huiqi (华惠棋), was beaten so severely that he remained unconscious for two days. He and other activists had resisted forced relocation by police the day before he was beaten.

Internet Censorship

While the government reins in prominent human rights defenders, it has also been tightening control over the flow of information to the general populace through increased internet censorship. The Chinese government monitors the internet “by means of a skilful mix of filtering technologies, cyber-police surveillance and propaganda,” according to an October 10 report by CHRD and Reporters Without Borders (in English http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Voyage_au_coeur_de_la_censure_GB.pdf ) and encourages self-censorship by major internet providers through orders, warnings and punishment. The Ministry of the Information Industry recently ordered that all online message boards, forums and blogs be shut down before the Congress, saying they will be allowed to re-open after the end of the Congress. In September, a number of websites were closed down. One popular site, China Guoqing Web (中国国情网), was closed down on September 17 for twelve hours after it launched the “First Direct Internet Election of China’s Top Leader” in which people could vote for either President Hu Jintao or Premier Wen Jiabao.

Demolition of Accommodation

The “petitioners’ village”—an area where petitioners stay while in Beijing– was demolished on September 21, leaving petitioners homeless. Finding alternative accommodation is extremely difficult as landlords are heftily fined for renting to them.

Recommendations

The Chinese government’s crackdown on dissent has violated Article 9 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which the Chinese government is signatory, and Article 37 of its own Constitution, both of which prohibit arbitrary detention; Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantee freedom of expression; and Article 7 of the ICCPR prohibiting torture, as well as the UN Convention against Torture which China ratified in 1988.

To act as a bona fide host country of next summer’s Olympics with good standing in the international community, the Chinese government must live up to its obligations under Chinese and international law and keep its promise to improve human rights. Specifically, CHRD calls on the Chinese government to:

Immediately cease all forms of persecution of human rights defenders and political dissidents.
Immediately and unconditionally release all individuals detained and imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association and for defending human rights.
Immediately close all illegal and unconstitutional detention facilities including the “black jails,” the Reeducation-Through-Labor camps, and cells in psychiatric facilities.
Immediately lift internet and other media censorship and cease online surveillance.
Fulfill its obligations under the Convention against Torture to take effective measures to eliminate the use of torture in all its detention and prison facilities.
Hold accountable those officials responsible for violating the aforementioned human rights and constitutional rights.
Protect human rights defenders, as China promised to do when it endorsed the Declaration to Protect Human Rights Defenders at the UN General Assembly in 1999.
End police operations deployed to intercept, detain, or send home petitioners who try to travel to Beijing to complain about local officials’ misconduct; abolish illegal facilities used for incarcerating, interrogating, and terrorizing petitioners; end the “clean up” operations that demolish their temporary housing; and protect the legal, constitutional, and human rights of petitioners.

For more information about the cases documented in this statement, please see:

China Human Rights Briefing, Special Summer Edition, July and August 2007

China Human Rights Briefing, September Edition, 2007

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