Olympics Crackdown Continues as Another Activist Is Sent to Labor Camp

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, August 30, 2008) – On August 28, Wang Guilan (王桂兰), a petitioner and human rights activist from Enshi City, Hubei Province, was sent to fifteen months of Re-education through Labor (RTL) for “disturbing social order”. According to the authorities, Wang is being punished for accepting a phone interview by foreign journalist during the Olympics.

“Ms. Wang’s story shows how aggressively China goes after activists and suppresses freedom of the press. Restrictions on foreign journalists interviewing Chinese without prior approval during the Games were lifted, but those who gave interviews, like Wang, still stood the risk of ending up in jail. In being sent to a Re-education Through Labor camp without a trial or even having seen a judge, Ms. Wang has paid dearly with her freedom for the ‘superbly organized’ Olympics,” said Wang Songlian (no relation), Research Coordinator of Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

On July 29, Wang Guilan was criminally detained on suspicion of “disturbing social order”. It is suspected that the impetus for the criminal detention was that she answered a phone call from a foreign journalist on July 27. However, Wang’s family contended that the call was from a fellow petitioner and that the two did not speak about “sensitive” issues on the phone.

At the time she took the call, Wang was already under detention in a “black jail”—an illegal and secret detention facility–, where she had been held since April 17, to prevent her from “making trouble” during the Olympics.

Wang is currently being held at Enshi City Detention Center. Her family has decided to hire a lawyer to appeal the decision to send her to RTL.

CHRD reiterates its call for Wang’s immediate and unconditional release. CHRD believes that Wang has been detained solely for peaceful expression of opinion and having organized fellow citizens to voice their concerns and defend their human rights.

Wang’s rights to freedom of expression and of association have been violated. These rights are guaranteed in, respectively, Articles 19 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which China has signed. They are also enshrined in Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution.

In addition, her rights to due process, free and fair trial and legal counsel have been violated because she has been sent to RTL without trial or access to lawyers. These rights are guaranteed under the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, as well as Article 9 of the ICCPR.


Wang is a veteran petitioner (one who seeks redress from higher authorities for injustice at lower levels of government). She began petitioning in 2001 when she had a legal dispute with a local mall where she had rented a stall since 1993. The court presiding over the case ordered the mall to compensate Wang. The mall failed to do so, and Wang exhausted all legal avenues to force the mall to comply with the court order. On November 22, 2001, Wang went to the Court to discuss the matter. Justice Chen, Head of the Enshi City Court Executive Tribunal, pushed Wang and ordered two court police officers to kick her and forcibly drag her out of the court down four flights of stairs. In anger and desperation, Wang set herself aflame with kerosene. Wang believed that the court had acted illegally in processing her case and started to petition.

For her petitioning, Wang has been repeatedly detained and beaten. Wang also became vocal about the violations of other petitioners’ rights, for which she has suffered additional persecution. On October 14, 2007, Wang was detained on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power” for organizing a public letter signed by 12, 150 petitioners. Wang was released on October 22. On December 18, 2007, Wang was detained again for having exposed the “sale” of petitioners by police from Fuyoujie Police Station under Beijing Municipal PSB for 500 RMB per petitioner to authorities from the petitioners’ hometowns. Wang was released on January 18, 2008. Wang was again taken into police custody on February 28, 2008 immediately after the release of an open letter signed by 12,709 petitioners calling on the Chinese government to improve the human rights situation, which Wang had helped to organize. Wang was released in March.

On April 17, 2008, Beijing police picked Wang up off the street. They handed her to interceptors from Enshi City. Wang was escorted back to Enshi, where she was held at an isolated “black jail”. On May 6, Wang was told by the Secretary of the Enshi City Political and Legal Affairs Committee that she was to be detained until after the Olympics.

About Re-education through Labor

RTL is an administrative detention measure, according to which, without any proper legal procedures or trial, individuals can be sent to detention facilities for forced labor for a maximum of four years. Although detainees have the right to appeal by requesting an administrative review, they can only do so after the decision has been made to send them to an RTL camp. Rarely does an administrative review result in the overturning of the decision to send an individual to RTL.

For more information, please see:
China Breaks Promises of Freedoms of Association and the Press during Olympics (August 16)
Silencing Complaints: Human Rights Abuses Against Petitioners in China (March 14)
Open Letter Organizer Seized by Police for Demanding Rights as Olympics Approach (February 28)
“Black Jails” in the Host City of the “Open Olympics” (September 21, 2007)

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