CHRD’s Alternative Guide to the Beijing Olympics

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, August 6, 2008) – As the Olympic Games open in Beijing on August 8, China stands on high national security alert. The government has turned Beijing into a fortress – with air, navy and ground forces on stand-by – and more than 30,000 surveillance cameras installed throughout the city. The level of military and police presence exceeds even that of the 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square. While the government should prepare for possible security threats to the Games, CHRD finds that civil liberties have been infringed by invasive security measures.

If you are going to Beijing for the Olympics, you are likely to find an impressively modern, orderly and service-oriented city, and you will be spared the unpleasant sight of human rights violations against dissidents, human rights activists, outspoken intellectuals and petitioners in the name of “security”. CHRD’s Alternative Guide to the Olympics provides you with a view that the meticulous planning of the authorities has attempted to hide, in the hope that while you are in the city, you will keep this other side of the Olympics in mind and take the opportunity of being in Beijing to pressure authorities to keep the promise the government made to improve human rights when it bid to host the Olympics in 2001.

Warning: If you attempt to meet or talk to Beijing activists, dissidents or any others perceived as “trouble makers” by the government, you may put them at risk. Police block the way to their homes. Some of them have been forcibly relocated prior to the Olympics. Your phone conversations and email correspondence with them will be monitored. Police will follow you and overhear any conversations you may have with them. Recently, many people whose interviews with foreign media met with official disapproval have, as a result, found themselves charged with “inciting subversion of state power” or “illegal possession of state secrets” or similar trumped-up charges.

Individuals whose rights have been abused in direct relation to the Olympics

Prominent members of the Tiananmen Mothers — relatives of those killed during the Tiananmen massacre– such as Ding Zilin (丁子霖) and Jiang Peikun (蒋培坤) have been pressured to leave Beijing. Qi Zhiyong (齐志勇), who was shot during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and left disabled, was threatened with arrest if he did not leave the city prior to the start of the Olympics. All three are now somewhere outside of Beijing but continue to speak out and give press interviews.

Several leading dissident intellectuals refused to leave Beijing, such as Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), an outspoken writer; Jiang Qisheng (江棋生), a former prisoner of conscience and scientist; and Zhang Zuhua (张祖桦), an independent intellectual. They are under tight residential surveillance, in spite of which they too continue to speak out and give press interviews.

Human rights lawyers Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), Teng Biao (滕彪)have been forced to remain silent. Other lawyers are under police surveillance. These include Li Fangping (李方平), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) and Li Heping (李和平). Li Heping was roughly handled on August 1 for refusing to travel in a police vehicle with policemen monitoring his residence.

Also under residential surveillance or police monitoring for several weeks now are Yu Jie (余杰), an independent writer and house church activist; Liu Junning (刘军宁), an independent scholar; Zhou Li (周莉), a housing rights activist vocal against forced evictions related to the Olympics; and Xu Yonghai (徐永海), the Christian activist. Many others have ceased giving interviews and expressing themselves on the internet due to intimidation. Police have threatened them with expulsion from Beijing to their provinces of residential registration and have told landlords to terminate rental agreements in order to force out tenants who authorities deem to be “trouble-makers.”

The “Olympics Prisoners” Yang Chunlin (杨春林), Hu Jia (胡佳) and Ye Guozhu (叶国柱) were imprisoned for speaking out against rights violations related to the Olympics (See “Free Olympics Prisoners!”). Their families and lawyers have been restricted from visiting them during the Games. Ye Guozhu was scheduled to be released on July 26 after four years in prison for attempting to organize a protest against forced evictions due to the Games. Days prior to his release, however, the authorities further detained him on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disturb the order of public places” even though he had been in prison and had therefore presumably had no opportunity to gather crowds. Yuan Xianchen (袁显臣), a legal activist from Heilongjiang Province who helped Yang Chunlin to collect signatures endorsing the open letter, “We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics” was arrested on May 28 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”.

While officials have selected “Olympics families” with whom visitors can stay, other Beijing families have been kept away from visitors. Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕), wife of “Olympics Prisoner” Hu Jia, has been warned by police against talking to journalists and supporters. Zeng was told that failure to heed the warning would result in being deprived of visits to her husband.

Yet other Beijing families simply have no homes in which to host foreign visitors. They include:

  • Dong Jiqin (董继) and his wife Ni Yulan (倪玉兰). Ni, a former human rights lawyer, was detained on April 15 for resisting forcible demolition of her home by the Beijing authorities. She is known for her work assisting many victims of forced eviction in the capital, many of whom were forced to move to make way for the Olympics facilities without fair compensation. (See “Beijing Activist Ni Yulan Arrested for Resisting Forced Demolition“)
  • Ye Guozhu (the “Olympics Prisoner”) and his brother Ye Guoqiang (叶国强). The two brothers’ home and restaurant in Beijing were demolished in 2001 to make way for Olympics facilities.
  • Liu Anjun (刘安军) and his family. Liu, whose Beijing home was demolished in 2003, is a vocal petitioner and housing rights activist who has been repeatedly persecuted for his activism. Liu has received multiple death threats by phone, telling him to shut up during the Olympics.

While the government has designated three official “protest zones”, there is little likelihood that any protests critical of the government will occur within them. However, you may encounter officially-organized protests there. In the months leading up to the Olympics, petitioners– individuals who come to Beijing from elsewhere in the country in order to seek redress from higher authorities–have been prevented from entering the capital.

In what used to be the “Petitioners’ Village”, an area near Beijing South Station where petitioners congregated before its demolition by authorities last year, police have conducted sweeps in search of petitioners. The “Olympics Security Defense Team”—citizens deputized to keep a look-out for any potential threats– has joined forces with police to patrol Beijing and surrounding villages to catch petitioners. All over China, interceptors are stationed at local transportation hubs to look out for these potential “trouble-makers”. When caught, petitioners are forcibly returned to their home areas and often incarcerated in “black jails”—secret and illegal detention facilities– or sent to Re-education through Labor camps.

As a result of the heightened crackdown, few petitioners have managed to stay in Beijing. For example, Wang Guilan (王桂兰), petitioner and rights activist, was intercepted by Beijing police on April 17 and has been detained ever since at a “black jail” in Enshi City, Hubei Province. Wang has been told that she is to be detained until after the Olympics. Similarly, Liu Zhengyou (刘正有), a petitioner from Zigong City, Sichuan Province, is under house arrest and has been ordered not go to Chengdu or Beijing during the Games. Once incarcerated, petitioners are likely to be tortured or mistreated. For example, Liu Jie (刘杰), a petitioner from Heilongjiang Province, has been tortured and denied access to medical treatment while detained in a Re-education through Labor camp (see “Incarcerated Human Rights Defender Liu Jie Tortured“).

Elsewhere in China, the situation is no more relaxed. Many individuals are under tightened residential surveillance (house arrest) or police monitoring all over the country because of the Games. These include Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), a former human rights lawyer in Shanghai; Yao Lifa (姚立法), a democracy activist from Hubei Province; Chen Xi (陈西), a human rights activist from Guizhou Province; Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), wife of imprisoned human rights defender, Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚); Zhou Wei (皱巍), a democracy activist in Zhejiang, and many more. In Shandong, Guizhou, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Guangdong Provinces, the local National Security police have undergone a systematic search for human rights defenders, dissidents and outspoken intellectuals, interrogated them, and warned them against speaking out during the Olympics.

The Chinese government has packed some of the most outspoken journalists, bloggers or members of banned political parties off to detention centers, Re-education through Labor Camps, and prisons, often for “inciting subversion of state power” and other trumped-up charges. They include:

  • Chen Daojun (陈道军), a cyber-activist from Chengdu, who was criminally detained on May 9 for “inciting secession”. Chen was incarcerated for posting articles online criticizing the construction of a chemical plant in Chengdu and for dissenting from the official line on the incidents in the Tibetan regions in mid-March.
  • Zeng Hongling (曾宏玲), a survivor of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, who was taken into police custody on June 9 and later charged with “illegally providing intelligence to the outside world”. Zeng is believed to be detained for critical comments in articles she posted online about the government’s response in the disaster.
  • Huang Qi (黄琦), director of Tianwang Human Rights Center (, who was detained on June 10 and later arrested for “illegal possession of state secrets” for reporting on and giving interviews to foreign journalists about protests staged by families of schoolchildren who died in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake. (See “Human Rights Defender Huang Qi Disappear, Feared Detained by Police” and “Human Rights Defender Huang Qi Formally Arrested“)
  • Liu Shaokun (刘绍坤), a teacher who volunteered in the Sichuan relief effort, who was detained on June 25 on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”. Liu was later sent to one year of Re-education through Labor for “inciting to cause trouble”. Liu is believed to be incarcerated for posting online pictures of the aftermath of the earthquake and expressing outrage at the alleged official corruption which led to the deaths of many students due to the collapse of poorly constructed school buildings.
  • Du Daobin (杜导斌), an outspoken writer on probation for “inciting subversion of state power”, who was taken away by police on July 21. According to his family, police said Du will have to serve the rest of his term in prison for violating the conditions of his probation. Du was convicted in 2004 and was immediately, upon sentencing, placed on probation.
  • Wang Rongqing (王荣清), a member of China Democracy Party Zhejiang Branch, who was formally arrested on July 31 for “inciting subversion of state power”.
  • Xie Changfa (谢长发), a member of China Democracy Party from Changsha City, Hunan Province, who was formally arrested on August 2 for “inciting subversion of state power”. Xie’s arrest is believed to be related to his activities associated with the China Democracy Party.

Internet censorship remains strictly enforced. Though the government has temporarily lifted the blockade of the websites of Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Asia (RFA), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and several other overseas media, many websites considered “politically sensitive” or “anti-China” continue to be firewalled, including those of CHRD, Dajiyuan and Boxun. If you cannot access these websites, ask your Chinese tour guides and government officials why not.

Chinese internet users are subjected to much stricter censorship. For example, Xinwang Hulian, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) recently released an “Urgent Notice Regarding the Safety of Information on Internet Sites”, which states, “To ensure the safety of information on the internet during the Beijing Olympics and in accordance with requests from higher authorities, Xinwang Hulian will conduct a safety inspection of its sites from July 16, 2008. This inspection includes review of the websites’ content…and expansion of the selection of keywords for censorship…we strongly suggest that you inspect the content of your websites and remove all illegal information”. Popular internet forums known for their political discussions, such as Tianyi, Tianya, China Reform Forum (zhongguo gaige luntan) and Ruisipinglun Xicihutong, have taken additional measures to restrict postings. Outspoken individuals who were active users of these forums are either barred from posting messages or have their messages blocked due to “sensitive” content.

What Can You Do about It

CHRD believes that each visitor to the Olympics, whether in a personal or official capacity, can make a difference to end human rights violations in China. CHRD suggests that visiting heads of states, spectators, journalists, and tourists use the opportunity of being at the Olympics to pressure the Chinese government to keep the promise it made to improve human rights when it bid to host the Olympics in 2001 as well as to fulfill its international commitments in the human rights conventions and covenants it has signed and ratified.

Concrete actions you might consider taking include:

  • Express your opinion publicly! Make your own banners, headbands and t-shirts that call for human rights improvements and wear them during the Games and when you travel elsewhere in China.
  • When you are staying with “Olympics families”, raise your concerns about China’s human rights with them.
  • When you meet government officials, ask them about the “Olympics Prisoners”. Some specific questions could be:
    • Are they treated humanely in prison?
    • Do they have access to appropriate and adequate medical treatment? (In the case of Hu Jia, for example, does he have access to medication for Hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis?)
    • Why is Ye Guozhu denied access to his lawyers?
    • Can you confirm reports that Yang Chunlin has been repeatedly tortured?
  • If you are a journalist, visit and report from the prisons where the “Olympics Prisoners” are held. Their addresses are:
Ye Guozhu and Hu Jia
Address: Chaobai Prison, P.O. Box 109, Chadianzhan, Jingshanxian, Tianjin, China
Phone: +86 (0)2267988456
Email: or

Yang Chunlin
Address: Heitong Detention Center, Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province, China

  • If you are a journalist, visit the Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) Law and Order Corps outside of Deshengmen, Beierhuan, where applications for demonstrations during the Olympics are to be submitted and approved. Ask if anyone has applied to demonstrate, how many have applied, and whether any application has been approved. If applications have been denied, ask the reasons for the denial and the treatment of those whose applications are unsuccessful.

Several dozen Chinese citizens signed the public letter, “One World, One Dream and Universal Human Rights” (同一个世界,同一个梦想,同样的人权), released in August 2007, one year before the Olympics. The open letter made concrete suggestions to improve China’s human rights. Yet despite the government’s pledge to improve human rights, none of the suggestions have been implemented. Based on “One World, One Dream and Universal Human Rights”, the following are key yardsticks for measuring whether or not the Chinese government is making substantive and concrete improvements, looking beyond the Olympics:

Political and Civil Rights

1. Ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and releasing all prisoners of conscience who have been arbitrarily detained for exercising their basic liberties

Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Media

2. Allow foreign journalists to conduct interviews and reporting without pre-approval beyond the Olympics, as well as granting Chinese journalists the same access and independence. Lift the Firewall on websites of independent media, human rights and democracy organizations, and peaceful religious groups, not only for international journalists, but also for all Chinese online users. End the use of “inciting subversion of the state” to persecute outspoken writers and journalists.

Right to Housing and Freedom of Association and Assembly

3. Providing fair compensation to the victims of forced evictions and land appropriations carried out in order to construct Olympic facilities, and releasing people who have been detained or imprisoned and often tortured for protesting or resisting such actions.

Abolition of Arbitrary Detention

4. Ending police operations intended to intercept, detain, or harass petitioners; abolishing illegal facilities – Re-education through Labor Camps and black jails — used to incarcerate, interrogate, and terrorize petitioners, activists, and dissidents

Freedom of Religion

5. Ending the outlawing and persecution of religious practitioners.

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