China Human Rights Briefing March 1-15, 2008Comments Off on China Human Rights Briefing March 1-15, 2008
China Human Rights Briefing
Reporting human rights development from the grassroots
March 1-15, 2008
Despite being closely-watched by international monitoring bodies and advocacy groups, Beijing is becoming increasingly emboldened and assertive in its “security measures” which include a harsh crackdown on human rights activists in preparation for the Olympics in August. On March 6, the Beijing Public Security Bureau’s (PSB) National Security Unit kidnapped Beijing-based human rights lawyer, Teng Biao (滕 彪). Within 12 hours of Teng’s abduction, Li Heping, another human rights lawyer, was rear-ended by police in an act of alleged intimidation. While Teng was released two days later, none of Teng’s kidnappers have been held accountable for their illegal act. One of the most prominent rights activists, Hu Jia, has had the date of his trial for “inciting subversion of state power” set for March 18. Meanwhile, Heilongjiang authorities have rejected the request of Liu Jie, petitioner and activist, for a hearing on her incarceration in a Re-education Through Labor (RTL) camp without due process.
Petitioners and activists living in, or planning to visit, Beijing have been subjected to tightened monitoring and control as the capital hosts the annual sessions of the “Two Meetings”—the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). HIV/AIDS activist, Li Xige, was warned against attending a meeting in Beijing during the Two Meetings. Beijing dissident, Li Jinping, was taken into custody while searching for NPC representatives to speak with in Tiananmen Square. Consumer rights advocate, Chen Shuwei, who is suing China Mobile, the government-controlled cellphone giant, for monopoly, was seized by police while sleeping. He was in Beijing to petition.
Human rights conditions have worsened because of the Olympics. While there are various ways and means to discourage the crackdown or at least register disapproval, international commercial and diplomatic priorities concerning trade or soliciting China’s cooperation in the “war on terror”, or concern for hurting “nationalistic sentiments” by speaking up for human rights, seem to have largely prevailed over upholding universal standards of basic rights.
Editor: Wang Songlian
On March 2, the mother of Yang Chunlin (杨春林) was warned by police from the National Security Unit under Jiamusi PSB against communicating with the outside world about Yang’s situation. The police said, “[We] will punish whoever communicates with the outside world.” Reportedly, international media such as British Sky TV had earlier gone to Jiamusi City to report on Yang’s case, causing much nervousness amongst police. Yang is a human rights defender from Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province, detained since July 6, 2007 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. (CRLW)[i]
Around 3 p.m. on March 5, Wan Yanhai (万延海), head of Beijing Aizhixing Institute, an HIV/AIDS NGO, received an urgent notice from its internet server, www.net.cn, stating that the department responsible for internet monitoring in Beijing PSB had ordered Aizhixing to remove an “illegal” article from its website, or else face closure. The article concerned was a statement Aizhixing released two years ago about the disappearance of HIV/AIDS and human rights activist, Hu Jia (胡佳), who is now detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. That evening, Aizhixing’s website was forcibly closed briefly but it was reopened after the group threatened the internet server with legal action. (Aizhixing)[ii]
On March 11, Li Xige (李喜阁), the HIV/AIDS activist from Henan Province, was barred from attending a discussion forum in Beijing organized by the China Global Fund Programs. Li was warned against travelling to Beijing by government staff from Ningling County, Henan Province, who told her that that she is not allowed to go to Beijing for meetings or petitioning during the Two Meetings. (China HIV/AIDS Mailing Group)[iii]
On March 12 and 13, Guizhou police warned Chen Xi, a human rights activist from Guizhou Province, against attending celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights organized by Guizhou human rights activists. The Guizhou police visited Chen, summoned him to the PSB for meetings with its National Security Unit, and warned him against participating in meetings organized by “Guiyang Citizens’ Rights Plaza”. They threatened Chen, telling him that if he did not listen to the “advice”, then they would “handle him in the simplest manner.” (CHRD)[iv]
During the Two Meetings, former residents whose property were forcibly demolished to make way for the Olympics main venues at the Olympics Village Office (formerly known as Chaoyang District Wali Village) and their representatives have been closely watched by Beijing police. Since March 1, Ma Jingxue (马景雪) and Li Yukui (李玉奎) have been followed and monitored round the clock by two security guards dispatched by the Olympics Village police station. (CRLW)[v]
Petitioner Zhang Shufeng Sent to Re-education through Labor
At around 2:30 p.m. on March 11, Zhang Shufeng (张淑凤), a petitioner from Shunyi District, Beijing, was taken away from her home by Beijing police. According to the police, Zhang “spread false information on the internet,” saying that the Beijing Municipal RTL Management Committee had decided to send her to an RTL camp. Zhang will be released on October 18, 2008.
The RTL Management Committee decided to send her to RTL on October 29 for persistent petitioning, but Zhang was permitted to fulfill the sentence outside of the RTL camp. Since March 1, police and security guards dispatched by local police have been stationed at the entrance of Zhang’s home. Zhang and her husband have had conflicts with the guards, and Zhang’s husband was even beaten by the police. (CHRD)[vi]
Hu Jia, the prominent human rights defender detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” will be tried on March 18 by the Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court. On March 12, only six days before the trial, Hu’s lawyers, Li Jingsong (李劲松) and Li Fangping (李方平), were notified of the trial date. The processing of Hu’s case has been unusually speedy compared to normal practices in such high-profile cases. The snap announcement of the trial date, the lawyers observed, is an attempt by the authorities to catch them off-guard and unprepared for the trial since they simply do not have enough time to go through the huge stack of court files made available to them by the Court on March 11 and make adequate preparations for defending Hu in court. (CHRD)[vii]
On March 3, CHRD learned that Beijing dissident, Li Jinping (李金平), has been detained by Beijing police. Li is known for his public call for a re-evaluation of the late Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Secretary Zhao Ziyang’s legacy. Prior to his detention, Li had gone to Tiananmen Square searching for National People’s Congress representatives, who came to Beijing for the Two Meetings, to ask them to join his call. It is believed that he is currently incarcerated at Changying police station under Beijing PSB Chaoyang Sub-division. (CRLW)[viii]
On March 3, Yu Jianli (于建利), a housing rights activist from Qingdao City, Shandong Province accused of “slander”, was tried by the Qingdao City Northern District Court. Yu’s lawyers, Teng Biao (滕彪), Li Subin (李苏滨) and Wen Haibo (温海波) were present at the trial. The court is to announce the verdict at a later date.
Yu is a representative of residents in Cuobuling, Northern District, Qingdao, whose property has been forcibly demolished. He published on the internet information and photos concerning the demolition, drawing much attention to the issue, especially in the international media. Yu was petitioning about forced demolition in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, when he was criminally detained by the authorities on July 27, 2007. He was formally arrested on September 4, 2007. (CRLW)[ix]
Another “Black Jail” Discovered in Jiangsu Province
On March 5, CHRD discovered another black jail routinely used by Chongchuan District Office, Nantong City, Jiangsu Province, to detain petitioners. The black jail—Beige Inn, located opposite the District Office—has been used to prevent petitioners from petitioning in Beijing especially during the Two Meetings. The same black jail was used for detention during the 17th Party Congress in October 2007. (CHRD)[x]
Outspoken Lawyer Teng Biao Abducted for 41 Hours by Beijing Police
Between March 6 and 8, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪) was kidnapped by police from the National Security Unit of Beijing PSB. Teng’s kidnappers seized Teng near his home, forced him into an unlicensed car, hooded him, and drove him to an unknown location about 40 minutes away, where he was interrogated, verbally abused and repeatedly threatened. The police produced no legal warrant at any point during the abduction. Teng is barred from disclosing any details of the threats or the interrogation. (CHRD)[xi]
At around 3 a.m. on March 5, Chen Shuwei (陈书伟), one of China’s best-known consumer rights advocates, was seized while sleeping by a dozen Beijing police. Police, who stormed his hotel room in Hanting Kuaijie Hotel, No.3 Dacheng Road, Fengtai District, Beijing, produced no legal warrant at any point during the abduction. On March 3, Chen was detained for one day after he had an argument with the police while he and other consumer rights advocates were petitioning at the Ministry of Information Industry in Beijing.
Chen, from Chaozhou, Guangdong Province, has written Under the Skin of China Mobile, a book that exposes illegal operations in the telecommunications industry. He has organized other consumers to file, reportedly, thousands of lawsuits against telecommunications companies. (CHRD)[xii]
On March 3, Liu Jie (刘杰), a human rights defender sent to 18 months’ RTL, filed an Administrative Lawsuit with the Nangang District People’s Court, Heilongjiang Province, suing the local RTL authorities for their decision to send her to RTL. Liu had applied to the Heilongjiang Military Farm Bureau Intermediate People’s Court for an Administrative Review of the RTL authorities’ decision, but the Court refused to accept the lawsuit on March 4 without giving any reasons or a written reject letter.
Although detainees at Qiqihaer RTL camp, where Liu is incarcerated, are allowed to speak on the phone with their families, on March 13, RTL officials refused to ask Liu Jie to come to the phone or nobody answered the phone even though Liu’s family called all day. (CHRD)[xiii]
On March 12, CHRD learned that Li Guohong (李国宏), a laid-off workers’ representative sent to 18 months of RTL for “gathering crowds to create trouble” in November 2007, has been forced to work about 15 hours every day in the RTL camp. Li is also forced to work in an unsafe working environment. One of Li’s fellow detainees was severely injured when four of his fingers got caught in a machine he was using. The authorities did not send the detainee to the hospital, however, instead bandaging his hand at the Camp. (CRLW)[xiv]
On March 13, CHRD learned that Luo Shubo (罗淑波), a petitioner who became seriously ill during her two years in a RTL camp, was shackled and handcuffed while receiving treatment in the Qiqihaer Military Farm Bureau Hospital. Luo, of Renmin Township, Anda City, Heilongjiang Province, had been petitioning after winning a Court case but not having received the compensation to which she was entitled. On October 30, 2007, for her petitioning, Luo was sent to a RTL camp despite her many illnesses. (CHRD)[xv]
On March 3, CHRD learned that Zhang Hua (张华) and her 12-year-old son, residents of Nantong City, Jiangsu Province, were detained for five days by the Nantong government. Zhang was detained for petitioning in Nanjing (capital of Jiangsu Province) about the forcible demolition of her home by the local government. During the process of demolition, Zhang’s mother was beaten by people dispatched by the government and is now receiving treatment for broken ribs at a hospital. Zhang has been unable to visit her for fear of being seized and detained by Nantong government again. (CHRD)[xvi]
On March 1, Hangzhou freelance writer, Zan Aizong (昝爱宗), mailed the applications for establishing China Truth Newspaper and the Exposing Lies Publishing House to the Newspapers and Magazines Publishing Management Department under the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). Zan hopes that once GAPP receives his application, it will respond in accordance with Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees freedom of the press. If his application is approved, Zan says, he will start publishing after registering with the Hangzhou authorities. (CHRD)[xvii]
On March 12, Liu Jingmin (刘敬民), Executive Vice-President of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympics Games, said in a press conference that foreigners or Chinese who wish to organize protests during the Olympics “must follow relevant laws,” and they have to file applications for protests with the Beijing PSB. The PSB will then decide whether or not to allow the protests in accordance with the law. (China.com)[xviii]
On March 3, the State Administration on Radio, Film and Television issued a notice to film companies and government agencies involved in the film industry listing ten types of film contents that are banned and nine types that need to be “reduced and revised”. Examples of film contents prohibited are those that “endanger national unity”, “leak state secrets and harm state security” and “disturb and damage social order and stability.” Films with content that, for example, “maliciously damages the image of the People’s Liberation Army, the Military Police, the PSB and the judiciary” need to be reduced and revised. (Sina.com)[xix]
Members of the CPPCC, lawyers, Wu Deli (吴德立) and Xu Jian (徐建), proposed that meeting rooms designated for lawyers to meet their clients in detention centers should be “barrier free”. Since 2000, when the “Standards for Architectural Designs in Detention Centers” were implemented, lawyers and families could only meet detainees in meeting rooms with glass and metal barriers which separate the detainees and the visitors. The lawyers demanded to use meeting rooms without these barriers—like those used by staff from the Procuratorate, the PSB and the judiciary. The lawyers argued that the use of barriers, which necessitates the use of phones for communicating with the detainees, poses many practical challenges for lawyers and also increases the likelihood of the conversation being wire-tapped. (Legal Daily)[xx]
A Member of the CPPCC and chairman of the Clifford Group, a property firm, Peng Linji (彭磷基) criticized local governments for yielding to petitioners with “unreasonable” complaints. Some local governments, Peng argued, are so afraid these petitions will damage their image that they often request that the wealthier parties to the disputes forgo their legal rights and compensate the petitioners. As a result, there will be more and more petitions, as the “weak government” is “led by the nose” by petitioners and “eventually loses its control”. Peng urged the government to punish collective and repeated “unreasonable” petitioning according to the law. (Nanfang Daily) [xxi]
In an interview on March 7, Judge Huang Ermei (黄尔梅) of the Supreme People’s Court said that since 2007, 15% of those whose death penalties were reviewed had their sentences overturned. Reasons for reversal of decision included, for example, unclear facts, insufficient evidence and violation of judicial procedures. This is the first time the Supreme Court has released any statistics regarding death penalty reviews. In addition, Huang also said that China has not developed the necessary conditions for abolishing the death penalty. He stressed that the penalty is used only after careful consideration and only on criminals whose crimes are extremely serious. Huang said that in 2007, the number of criminals sentenced to life imprisonment was higher than the number sentenced to death. (Chinanews.com)[xxii]
According to an article dated March 11 in Chengshi Wanbao, a newspaper in Jilin Province, Jilin will gradually implement the use of filming in trials. According to Zhang Jinsuo (张金锁), head of Jilin Province People’s Procuratorate, eventually the whole trial process will be filmed and made available on the internet. The aim of filming the trial process, explained Zhang, is to increase transparency and prevent the use of torture during prosecution. (Chengshi Wangbao)[xxiii]
Notable CHRD Publications
On March 11, CHRD released the report, Silencing Complaints: Human Rights Abuses Against Petitioners in China. It uncovers a complex extra-legal system run by the Chinese government to intercept, confine, and punish petitioners in order to control and silence them, often employing brutal means. The interception of petitioners violates a number of basic human rights. The report identifies the main causes of the human rights abuses committed against the petitioners, traces the legal or official justifications for these practices in relevant laws and regulations, and proposes policy and legal reforms to eradicate these abuses. (CHRD)[xxiv]
[xi] CHRD, “Outspoken Lawyer Who Commented on Olympics Released from Abduction,” available here on CHRD website; CHRD, “On Eve of Five-Month Countdown to Olympics, Activists Abducted and Intimidated,” available here on CHRD website.
[xvii] CHRD, “Zan Aizong Applied to General Administration of Press and Publication for Establishing China Truth Newspaper and Exposing Lies Publishing House,” March 3, 2008, available here in Chinese on CHRD website.