China Human Rights Briefing February 15-29, 2008Comments Off on China Human Rights Briefing February 15-29, 2008
China Human Rights Briefing
Reporting human rights development from the grassroots
February 15-29, 2008
As Beijing gears up to host the annual sessions of the “Two Meetings”—the National People’s Congress and the National People’s Political Consultative Conference—in March, and with the Olympics only 5-month away, the government is showing increasingly less tolerance of dissent and human rights activism.
Especially targeted are activists who encourage others to speak up. Wang Guilan was seized by police hours after an open letter was released which questioned the government’s qualifications for hosting the Olympics due to its poor record on improving human rights. The letter was signed by 12,709 petitioners, and Wang was a lead organizer. Liu Jie was seized within days of the release of a similar letter and promptly sent to a Re-education through Labor camp. Liu is going blind, but the authorities refuse to consider a release on medical grounds. For collecting signatures for another open letter known as “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics”, the Heilongjiang activist, Yang Chunlin, stood trial, in shackles on February 19 for suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. Arrested Beijing activist, Hu Jia, charged with “inciting sedition against the state” for signing an open letter linking human rights to the Olympics, remains incarcerated and under investigation.
In another effort to ensure a “harmonious” and “secure” Olympics, the Beijing police are requiring all temporary residents in Beijing to acquire “temporary residency permits”. It is unclear what this will mean for the huge force of migrant workers present in the capital, many of whom have been involved in constructing Olympic sites.
Editor: Wang Songlian
Media Companies Sign Self-Regulation Convention to Strengthen Internet Censorship
On February 22, eight major Chinese internet media outlets participated in the signing ceremony of the “China Internet Audio-Visual Program Service Self-regulation Convention” in Beijing. The ceremony was attended by government officials involved in the publishing media and information industry and representatives from more than forty websites that host audio-visual programs. The Convention, which aims to create “an audio-visual service environment that is healthy and orderly”, requires its signatories to setup an “internet audio-visual program information storage system”. Through this system, internet companies can notify each other when certain audio-visual information violates Chinese laws and regulations, so that it can be promptly deleted. (Xinhua)1
Authorities Close China’s First HIV/AIDS Wikipedia
On February 20, China’s first HIV/AIDS Wikipedia, www.aidswiki.cn (or www.aidsmuseum.net), was forcibly closed down by the authorities. The government agency responsible for monitoring websites in Shaanxi Province, where the website was hosted, requested its service provider to close it. Reportedly, the website’s closure was related to an article on land issues posted by the founder of the website, Chang Kun (常坤). (Aizhixing, Beijing Yirenping Center)2
Persecution of human rights activists
Beijing Activists Under House Arrest and Detained as Beijing Prepares for Two Meetings
On February 25, Beijing human rights lawyer, Ni Yulan (倪玉兰), was surrounded at her home by over a dozen security guards and police from Xinjiekou Police Station under Beijing Public Security Bureau Xicheng Sub-division. The police broke into her home and beat her husband when he attempted to leave. Later that day, Li Jinping (李金平), a Beijing dissident, came to visit Ni and was promptly taken away by the police. Li was released the next day, February 26. According to Ni, her home is under police surveillance and some of her belongings were taken by the police. Reportedly, the harassment of Ni is related to the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference held in Beijing every March. (CRLW)3
Open Letter Organizer Seized by Police for Demanding Rights as Olympics Approach
In the early hours of February 28, immediately after the release of an open letter signed by 12,709 petitioners calling on the Chinese government to improve the human rights situation, at least one organizer of the letter, Wang Guilan (王桂兰), was seized by police. Ms. Wang was seized in Beijing by police from the Public Security Bureau of her home province, Hubei. Her whereabouts are currently unknown. Other organizers, afraid of meeting the same fate, cancelled a press conference scheduled for February 28. (CHRD)
“Olympics Detainee” Yang Chunlin Ill-treated during Trial
On February 19, Yang Chunlin (杨春林), a Heilongjiang farmers’ representative detained since July 6, 2007 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, was tried by the Jiamusi City Intermediate People’s Court in Heilongjiang Province. Yang was subjected to degrading and inhumane treatment during his trial. At the court, Yang, in handcuffs and heavy leg irons, was made to wear a black hood and walk up six flights of stairs to reach the courtroom. During the trial, Yang was released from the leg irons, but his legs were fastened to an iron seat, rendering him unable to stretch, move or stand up during the 5-hour trial. The court is to announce Yang’s sentence at a later date. (CHRD)4
Police Tell Family: Hu Jia Arrested for Signing “The Real China before the Olympics”
Hu Jia (胡佳), detained since December 27, 2007 for suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” remains detained and his case is undergoing police investigation.
In February, Hu’s parents, wife, and only one of his lawyers, Li Jingsong, have been allowed to visit him at the Beijing detention center. His other lawyer, Li Fangping, has as yet not been permitted to visit him.
According to family, Hu looked pale and weak but showed no visible sign of torture. He also “did not act like himself”: He talked very little, as if reciting a script, and family were surprised that he showed no emotions even when the conversation turned to his 2-month-old daughter. Police officers supervised all the meetings. Hu suffers from a liver disease and it is unclear whether he has been provided with the right medication since the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) refused the medication Hu’s family brought him.
Police suggested to the family that one of Hu’s “main criminal acts” was signing the open letter, “The Real China before the Olympics”. Police also told Hu’s family that he has violated Articles 105(2), 106 and 107 of the Chinese Criminal Law. Hu is apparently under pressure to admit “guilt” in exchange for “lenient punishment”. Li Jingsong is also under pressure to defend his client on the basis of Hu’s “guilt”; that is to say, to plead for clemency. (CHRD)
Imprisoned Writer Chen Shuqing Works Over Ten Hours Daily
In mid-February, CHRD learned that imprisoned writer, Chen Shuqing (陈树庆), has to work over ten hours every day. According to his wife, who met him in January, Chen has been made to pack boxes between 6 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m every day. The prison authorities at Qiaosi Prison, stating that Chen is under “tightened management”, have also prohibited his family (except his wife and daughter) from visiting him. Chen, dissident writer and leading member of the Chinese Democratic Party from Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on August 16, 2007. (CHRD)5
Reporter Qi Chonghuai Still Detained Without Prosecution Eight Months After Arrest
Qi Chonghuai (齐崇淮), detained Fazhi Morning Post reporter, is still being held without prosecution eight months after his arrest. Qi was detained on June 25, 2007 and arrested for “extortion and blackmail” by Tengzhou City Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Shandong Province. On November 2, his case was sent from the PSB to the Procuratorate for prosecution. On February 14, the Procuratorate returned the case to the PSB for further investigation, two months after the legal limit (a month and a half) allowed for the Procuratorate to either prosecute the individual or return the case to the PSB. (ICPC)6
Human Rights Defender Liu Jie’s Re-education through Labor Decision Upheld
On February 19, Heilongjiang Re-education through Labor (RTL) Management Committee rejected Liu Jie’s (刘杰) application for an administrative review of the decision to send her to RTL. To protest the decision to send her to RTL, Liu went on a hunger strike between February 26 and March 1. Liu also filed an administrative lawsuit to appeal the decision on March 3, but the Court decided on March 4 that it would not accept the appeal.
Meanwhile, the RTL authorities have continued to delay a decision over Liu’s application for release for medical treatment, claiming that they have not received the doctor’s report confirming her illness, even though it has already been two months after the doctor’s examination on December 20, 2007. Liu is a veteran rural campaigner and human rights defender currently serving 18 months of RTL in Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang province. (CHRD)7
Qi Zhiyong Returns Home After One Month Disappearance/Detention
On February 23, Qi Zhiyong (齐志勇), a Beijing human rights defender disappeared since January 6, returned home after a month’s detention by police from the National Security Unit of Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB).
On January 14, Qi was taken from his home by the police and detained in a Beijing suburb. From the questions the police asked of Qi, it is believed that his detention was directly related to the detention of human rights defender, Hu Jia (胡佳). After Hu’s detention on December 27, 2007, Qi kept the outside world informed of Hu’s situation. For this reason, Qi was warned by the National Security Unit to “shut up or suffer grave consequences.” Currently he is still under house arrest and cannot leave his home. (CHRD)8
Wife Continues to be Barred from Visiting Jailed Rights Defender Chen Guangcheng
On February 21, Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), was barred from visiting her husband, jailed human rights defender Chen Guangchen (陈光诚). Since August 2005, Yuan has been subjected to repeated police harassment, and for five months she has been barred from visiting Chen. Reportedly, the prison authorities at Linyi Prison, Shandong Province, where Chen is currently incarcerated, have also denied Chen access to books brought by his lawyer and his other family members. (CHRD)9
On February 22, Zhang Zilin (张子霖), a key member of the Union of Chinese Nationalists, was convicted of “fraud and extortion” and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by Xupu County Court in Hunan Province. Zhang has appealed. The trial was a closed trial, and Zhang pleaded innocent. The case concerns a money dispute between Zhang and a female friend. Zhang’s lawyer claimed that the dispute was resolved in September 2006, and the police station involved in the case had returned to Zhang a fine previously levied on him. However, nine months after the resolution of the dispute, the PSB arrested Zhang for “fraud and extortion”. (CHRD)10
“The People Who Build the Olympic City”—Report Released on Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing
On February 25, a report on the human rights situation of migrant workers at construction sites in Beijing was released. The report, written by a migrant workers’ rights advocate (who was also a former migrant worker) and facilitated by CHRD, is based on a survey of 500 migrant workers and in-depth interviews with 24 workers. The report argues that a number of factors, such as the lack of bargaining power and rights consciousness amongst workers, result in nine major problems frequently encountered by migrant workers. (CHRD)11
Beijing Police Tighten Control over Migrant Population
From February 22 to March 31, the Beijing police will widely inspect the identity documents of Beijing residents to ensure that all qualified temporary residents are issued with “temporary residency permits”. The police claim that the measure is to ensure Olympic security. All qualified temporary residents who are new to Beijing will have to apply for the permit. Those already in possession of the permit have to renew them before their expiry date. The police also say that they will crackdown on landlords who rent accommodation out to those without the permit. Those not in possession of the permit are usually denied rental accommodation, schooling and jobs, but it is unclear whether they will face new punishment under this scheme. It is also unclear whether the certificate will be required proof of residency for migrants in Beijing during the Olympics. (The Beijing News)12
Changes to Government Policies and Practices
Interrogations in Urumqi Now Filmed
According to an article in Legal Daily dated February 21, starting from this year, police in Urumqi, Xinjiang Autonomous Region, will gradually implement the use of filming in all of their interrogations. According to the Urumqi police, filming interrogations can prevent suspects from later retracting their confessions and safeguard the rights of those interrogated. The filming of police interrogations is not yet a widespread practice in China. (The Legal Daily)13
Chengdu Replaces Bullets with Lethal Injections for Executions
Starting from March 1, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, will replace bullets with lethal injections to carry out executions. As each injection costs about RMB 300 (US$42), the Supreme People’s Court will cover the significantly higher cost of these injections in order to make them affordable to local courts. According to the authorities, replacing bullets with injections to carry out death sentences is “an important indication that death penalties are becoming more civilized and inhumane”. (sina.com)14