Activist Promoting Grassroots Democracy Disappears, Feared Detained by Police

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, June 26, 2008) – Yao Lifa (姚立法), an activist promoting local democratic elections in Hubei Province, disappeared on the afternoon of June 26. It is feared that Yao has been detained by Hubei police.

At noon on June 26, Yao was at a demonstration against police brutality outside of the Qingjiang City government building in Hubei Province. The demonstrators were angry that relatives of a murdered student were beaten for seeking an explanation for the killing, which took place at the gate of the school the student attended.

According to Yao’s family, while at the demonstration, Yao was first surrounded by the school’s cadres and those who had been monitoring him. Later, around 2 p.m., local police and National Security police from the Qingjiang Public Security Bureau (PSB) arrived. At 7 p.m., Yao called his family and told them that he had been abducted and brought to Gaoshibei Township, 50 kilometers from Qingjiang City. At 11 p.m., Yao called again and said he was at Zhongxiang Township, about 100 km from Qingjiang City. It is unclear why Yao was taken to those destinations and where he is currently being held.

Yao, 49, from Qingjiang City in Hubei Province, is a primary school teacher by profession. He started running for elections in 1987 and was an elected representative to the People’s Congress of Qingjiang City from 1999 to 2004. In 2006, he published a book, I Accuse: the Road to Politics by a Member of the People’s Congress, exposing the persecution of many independent candidates running for election to local People’s Congresses. The book was banned. Yao has been intimidated, harassed and summoned by the police for again running as an independent candidate in 2006. Most recently, in September 2007, Yao lead a large number of teachers in demanding the administrative removal (行政罢免) of Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), a member of the CCP Politburo and the Party Secretary of Hubei Province. Because of his leadership, Yao was secretly detained for a month at Qianjiang City Xiongkou Farmers Liaison Office in October 2007.

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