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Rights Crackdown Intensifies a Month before the Games

July 8, 2008

Only one month before the Beijing Games open, the Chinese authorities have significantly escalated and broadened their systematic crackdown on rights defense activities, religious and cultural expression, and critical voices. The efforts of the authorities to maintain control now include targeting health care activists, religious practitioners, and parents grieving for their dead children. The month of June in particular saw an upswing in the instance and severity of crackdowns.

With thirty days to go before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, we are witnessing the proliferation of serious human rights abuses committed under the banner of the official 'Olympics Stability Drive.'
— Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC

"With thirty days to go before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, we are witnessing the proliferation of serious human rights abuses committed under the banner of the official 'Olympics Stability Drive,'" said Human Rights in China Executive Director Sharon Hom.

In recent weeks, reported incidents and ongoing crackdowns included:

  • The ongoing severe restriction of rights defense lawyers, including delaying their renewal of licenses, limiting their ability to meet with detained clients, and preventing a group of prominent rights defense lawyers from having dinner in June with two visiting U.S. Congressmen. Lawyers harassed by the authorities include Cheng Hai (程海), Guo Yan (郭艳), Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Mo Hongluo (莫宏洛), Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Teng Biao (滕彪), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), and Zhang Jiankang (张鉴康).[1]
  • The blocking of access in China to “In the Hepatitis B Camp” (肝胆相照论坛) (http://bbs.hbvhbv.com), the world’s largest Chinese-language online forum offering counseling and support to Hepatitis B sufferers, with over 300,000 registered users in China. Public health activist Lu Jun (陆军), the moderator of “In the Hepatitis B Camp,” was harassed and questioned by police as he returned home to China on July 3 from a trip to Hong Kong and the United States.
  • The suppression of demonstrations by the grieving parents of children who died when their schools collapsed in the Sichuan earthquake. Moreover, media coverage has also been controlled, and people trying to investigate official corruption relating to the collapsed schools have been harassed and detained, including rights activist Huang Qi (黄琦), who ran the Tianwang Human Rights Center (http://www.64tianwang.com). Huang had visited the disaster zone and published news about the plight of parents who lost children in the disaster.[2]
  • The detention of retired university staff Zeng Hongling (曾宏玲) on June 9 on suspicion of subversion after she published essays on overseas Chinese websites linking the collapse of school buildings with corruption. Grieving parents in Mianyang (绵阳) raised protests similarly blaming government corruption and neglect for the deaths of their children in collapsed school buildings.
  • The detention of Liu Shaokun (刘绍坤), a teacher of Guanghan Middle School, Deyang City, Sichuan Province (四川省德阳市广汉中学), on June 25. The school’s principal was informed that Liu was detained for disseminating rumors and destroying social order. Liu’s family was later told that he was being investigated on suspicion of the crime of inciting subversion. Liu had travelled to the Shifang (什邡) area, taken photos of collapsed school buildings, and put them online. He had also expressed his anger at “the shoddy tofu buildings” in a media interview.
  • The harassment and monitoring of those seeking to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 1989 June 4 Crackdown. On June 3 and 4, activists, lawyers, and other mourners were detained, escorted home, and closely monitored, impeding their ability to publicly mourn those killed and wounded on June 4, 1989. Those harassed include Chen Defu (陈德富), Chen Xi (陈西), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), and Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强). In late May, the newly-launched website of the Tiananmen Mothers had been blocked, already signaling an intolerance for any efforts to disseminate information about the 1989 crackdown, including the number of victims.[3]
  • The beating of leading Shenzhen consumer rights activist Chen Shuwei (陈书伟) on June 9. Chen was reportedly beaten by seven or eight unidentified men for “asking too many questions.”
  • Zhang Qing (张青), the wife of the imprisoned rights defender Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), disclosed in an open letter that their children were refused admission to school. In an open letter to Premier Wen Jiabao on June 29, she appealed for help and urged that her children not be punished or discriminated against.[4]
  • The harassment of Beijing-based house church pastor Hua Huiqi (华惠棋) on July 1, 2008. Police from the Chongwen District Branch Office of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the State Security Bureau in Beijing, accompanied by more than 30 other people, forced open the door to Hua’s home, threatening him and beating his family members.[5]
  • The ongoing repression in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and surrounding areas following the violent crackdown in protests in March. Reports suggest more than 1,000 monks are still held in detention centers, and nuns have been expelled from their nunnery for refusing to participate in “patriotic education” campaigns.

Human Rights in China is gravely concerned by the severity of repression by authorities in the months and weeks leading up to the Beijing Games, and will continue to monitor and report on the ongoing Olympics-related crackdown, as well as the human rights situation post-Olympics.

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NOTES

[1] “HRIC Statement: Chinese Authorities Abuse Licensing System to Harass Rights Defenders,” June 2, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/55445; "HRIC Statement: Chinese Authorities Target Lawyers Offering Legal Assistance to Tibetans," April 9, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/48541; “HRIC Statement: Rights Lawyers Prevented from Meeting U.S. Congressmen,” July 1, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/62562. See also: “HRIC Press Release: Revised 'Lawyers Law' Fails to Protect Lawyers,” June 19, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/56883; "HRIC Issue Brief: Olympics and the Rule of Law," February 2008, http://ir2008.org/02/issue.php; "Spotlight: Selected Case Profiles of Harassed Defense Lawyers in China," February 2008, http://www.ir2008.org/02/spotlight.php.

[2] “HRIC Press Release: Rights Activist Huang Qi Detained on Suspicion of Holding State Secrets,” June 16, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/56586.

[3] “HRIC Press Advisory: June Fourth Memorial Activities Closely Monitored in China,” June 5, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/55854; “HRIC Press Statement: ‘Tiananmen Mothers’ Website Blocked in China,” May 28, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/55084.

[4] See “HRIC Statement, Children of Rights Defender Guo Feixiong Barred from School Enrollment,” June 30, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/62475.

[5] “HRIC Case Update: Activist Hua Huiqi and Family Beaten,” July 1, 2008, http://hrichina.org/public/contents/62549.


For a more detailed summary of incidents reported in the month of June:

For more information about lawyers in China:

For HRIC monitoring of Olympics-related issues:

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