Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau issued summonses to six members of an environmental civil society group, “Green Watch” (lüse guancha), on October 19. Sources in China say that one of the activists, Tan Kai, has been placed in criminal detention, while the others were released later that same day.
Sources told HRIC that Tan Kai, Lai Jinbiao, Gao Haibing, Wu Yuanming, Qi Huimin and Yang Jianming informally organized Green Watch after monitoring the situation in Huashui Town in Dongyang City, Zhejiang Province in April this year following complaints by local residents that a chemical factory was causing serious environmental pollution. According to news reports, the villagers reported severe water pollution that was destroying crops and causing birth defects. Protests by the villagers in late March and April culminated in a violent conflict with local police on April 10, in which more than 400 police officers were reportedly deployed and many people injured. One member of Green Watch, Lai Jinbiao, was placed under criminal detention from April 12 until May 11 on the charge of “illegally providing intelligence overseas.”
According to the Regulations for the Registration and Management of Social Organizations issued by China’s State Council, the founders of Green Watch were obliged to come up with 30,000 yuan in funding capital in order to operate lawfully as a local organization in China, among other requirements. The group opened a bank account at a branch of Bank of China in Hangzhou under Tan Hai’s name in mid-October in preparation for fund-raising efforts to meet the funding requirement. Soon after that, on the morning of October 19, the group’s members were summoned to the Hangzhou Public Security Bureau and to the Jianggan and Xihu PSB dispatch stations, according to their residential addresses.
HRIC is very concerned with the criminal detention of Tan Kai and calls for him to be afforded all protections to which he is entitled under China’s criminal procedures law. Instead of cracking down on environmental activists, Chinese authorities should be taking more effective measures to address China’s environmental crisis, which is widely acknowledged within China and in the international community. Earlier today news reports quoted Zhang Lijun, vice-minister of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, as saying that China’s air pollution could quadruple over the next 15 years if rapid increases in electricity consumption and automobile use continue unchecked, and the Xinhua News Agency quoted another environmental official, Wang Jinnan, as saying that more than 410,000 Chinese die as a result of pollution each year. Restrictions and clamp-downs on civil society undermine the essential role independent groups can play in assisting the government to monitor and address complex social problems.