As Obama Arrives in China, Police “Tuck away” Activists for Fear of Contact

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As Obama Arrives in China, Police “Tuck away” Activists for Fear of Contact

(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, November 16, 2009) Police across the country have clamped down on activists, veteran petitioners, and dissidents as US President Obama arrives in China to begin a four-day visit, placing individuals under “soft detention,”[1] taking them into custody, or forcing them to leave their homes for an extended period of time. The authorities appear concerned that these vocal critics will attempt to meet with President Obama, visiting US officials, or foreign journalists covering the visit while the President is in Shanghai and Beijing. Those not detained by police have been strictly warned against traveling to these two cities until Obama leaves China. These actions by officials follow a troubling pattern of arbitrary detention, intimidation, and repression of free speech seen during times in which global attention is focused on China. CHRD calls on President Obama to raise concerns about this practice during his upcoming meetings with Chinese leaders, and demand the immediate release of those detained in connection with his visit.

“While the government touts its ‘future leaders’ in letting President Obama meet with a select few students in Shanghai, it is silencing those true leaders who speak out for justice, human rights, and the rule of law,” said Jiang Yingying, a researcher for CHRD.

Below is information we have obtained about these incidents of detention and intimidation, though the actual number of such incidents is believed to be much higher:

In Beijing:

  • Hu Shigen (胡石根), a Beijing democracy activist recently released from prison following a 1992 conviction for organizing the China Freedom and Democratic Party, has been subjected to soft detention at home since November 12. On that day, policemen from the National Security Unit under Beijing PSB warned Hu against ‘making trouble’ during Obama’s visit.
  • Wang Debang (王德邦), a human rights activist from Guilin City, Guangxi Province, was forced to leave his home in Beijing and taken to Qingdao City, Shandong Province by policemen from Beijing Public Security Bureau (PSB) as well as those from the National Security Unit under Guilin PSB. The policemen told Wang that he will be returned home after Obama’s visit.
  • Li Hai (李海), student activist during the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and former political prisoner based in Beijing, disappeared on November 12. Li is routinely subjected to disappearances and soft detentions during visits of foreign dignitaries and “sensitive” occasions. Li was secretly detained for 25 days during the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.
  • CHRD learned on November 14 that activist Liu Di (刘荻, who writes under the name “stainless steel mouse”, 不锈钢老鼠) has been taken away from her home in Beijing and forced to go on a ‘vacation’ at Jiuhua Resort and Convention Center in the suburbs of the capital.
  • Zhang Hui (张辉), the director of the Mr. Democracy Research Institute (德先生研究所) in Beijing, has been subjected to ‘soft detention’ since November 14. Zhang was told by the police that such measures are necessary to “ensure the success of Obama’s visit”.

In Shanghai:

  • Since November 12, Jin Yuehua (金月花), a victim of forced eviction and petitioner in Shanghai, has been detained in Haofeng Hostel, a black jail, and guarded by six individuals.
  • Other vocal petitioners in Shanghai have either been subjected to soft detention at home or detained in hostels, they include:
  • Zhu Donghui (朱东辉) is guarded by about sixteen policeman and hired guards at his home since November 13
  • Cui Fufang (崔福芳) has been detained in a hostel since November 13
  • Wang Liqing (王丽卿) has been guarded by two plainclothes policemen at her home since November 14
  • Shen Peilan (沈佩兰)
  • Li Guotao (李国涛)
  • Debarred Shanghai lawyer Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), who has been under house arrest since his release in 2006 after serving jail time for defending victims of forced evictions and housing activists, is subjected to tightened house arrest. Zheng is guarded by more than two dozens of policemen and guards, instead of just a dozen who normally guard his apartment building.

Elsewhere in the country:

  • CHRD learned on November 14 that Zhang Lin (张林), an internet writer from Huaiyuan County, Anhui Province recently release from prison following a 2005 conviction for “inciting subversion of state power”, was warned against leaving for Beijing to seek medical treatment. Zhang postponed his trip to the capital after he was threatened with detention by the police.
  • On the morning of November 14, Yao Lifa (姚立法), a democracy activist from Qianjiang City, Hubei Province was seized while taking a walk with his child in Qianjiang. Yao is believed to be kidnapped by members of the National Security Unit under Qianjiang City PSB as well as Qianjiang City Experimental Primary School, his work unit, according to eyewitnesses. Nobody has been able to contact Yao since and it is believed that he has been detained.
  • On November 12, Xie Changzhen (谢长祯), a Hunan-based dissident, was summoned by the head of the National Security Unit under Changsha PSB for publishing online a letter addressing President Obama, drawing Obama’s attention to the imprisonment of his brother, dissident Xie Changfa (谢长发).
  • Zhang Jiankang (张鉴康), a Xian-based activist and former lawyer whose license was revoked several years ago, was warned on November 12 by the National Security police against leaving Xian between November 12 and 20 during Obama’s visit. During former President Clinton’s visit to China in June 1998, Zhang was kidnapped on the streets of Xian when journalists accompanying Clinton requested to meet him.
  • On November 12, Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫), a human rights activist and member of the China Democracy Party from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, was warned against leaving his home during Obama’s visit.
  • On November 12, Wen Kejian (温克坚), a Hangzhou-based rights activist, was visited and warned by Hangzhou police against “acting rashly” in the coming week, and he was especially warned against going to Beijing. Police are monitoring him outside his apartment building.

Prior to President Obama’s visit, police also criminally detained Liu Zhengyou (刘正有) , a Sichuan land rights activist, on November 11 and Zhao Lianhai (赵连海), a Beijing activist concerned about victims of the tainted milk scandal, on November 14. CHRD believes that their detentions are related to President Obama’s visit, to prevent them from voicing their criticisms of the Chinese government during this period.

CHRD sent a letter to President Obama prior to his departure for Asia. We take this opportunity to reiterate our request that Mr. Obama urge the Chinese leaders to:

  • Immediately release those environmentalists and activists, some gravely ill, who have been incarcerated or made to “disappear” for exercising their freedoms of expression and political participation;
  • Stop punishing individuals for exercising their freedom of expression using Article 105 of the Criminal Code;
  • Provide a specific timetable for the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1998;
  • Amend the Criminal Procedure Law so that it protects the rights of the lawyers as stipulated in the newly-revised Lawyers Law;
  • And take concrete steps towards the abolition of the Re-education through Labor (RTL) system, which has been used to incarcerate activists, dissidents and religious adherents. The government has repeatedly promised to do so at the UN Human Rights Council and during human rights dialogues with the US and the EU.

For more information, please contact:

Renee Xia, International Director (English and Mandarin): +852 8191 6937

Jiang Yingying, Researcher (English and Mandarin): +852 8170 0237

[1] Individuals subjected to “soft detention” (软禁) are guarded by police stationed at their homes. Though individuals may be allowed to leave their homes during soft detention, they are closely followed and monitored by police or asked to travel in police vehicles, and often barred from meeting other “sensitive” individuals.

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