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Roundup of Dissidents in Anti-Japanese Protests

May 2, 2005

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that a number of Chinese political dissidents have been detained for their participation in anti-Japanese protests.

Sources in China told HRIC that Xu Wanping, a key political activist based in Chongqing, was detained by Public Security Police who came to his home on April 30. According to HRIC’s sources, Chongqing PSB bureau chief Li Ming and another PSB officer arrived at Xu’s home around 7:00 in the morning and questioned Xu’s wife, Chen Xianying, regarding his recent activities. When Xu returned home around 9:00, he telephoned Li to ask the reason for his visit. Within ten minutes Li arrived at Xu’s home with about a dozen police officers, and without producing a warrant or other legal documentation, began interrogating Xu regarding his participation in a signature campaign related to a recent anti-Japanese protest. The police officers then reportedly carried out a search of Xu’s home and removed his computer, documents and other personal effects, as well as Chen Xianying’s personal bank book. The bank account contained about 2,000 yuan remaining from public assistance funds the couple collected after losing their jobs. The police then required Xu to accompany them back to the dispatch station. Sources say Xu’s current location is unknown, and his family has not been presented with any warrant to date. Chen Xianying says that her inquiries have been met with no explanation other than that “the matter is under investigation.”

Sources told HRIC that the Chinese government’s attitude toward anti-Japanese demonstrations in recent weeks has changed from silent acquiescence and tolerance to uneasiness and suppression. A number of Party-controlled publications have openly alleged that “black hands” have been taking advantage of anti-Japanese protests for ulterior purposes, and have called for harsh measures against the instigators. Some observers believe the government is using its crackdown on the protests as an opportunity to round up dissidents and make them scapegoats for the unrest.

According to HRIC’s sources, other dissidents detained in connection with the anti-Japanese protests and petitions include Li Guotao in Shanghai, Li Xiaolong and Xue Zhenbiao in Guangxi, Li Renke and Zeng Ning in Guizhou, and Leng Wanbao in Jilin. The Beijing-based AIDS activist, Hu Jia, was reportedly taken from his parents’ home four days ago, and no news has been heard of him since. Sources say Hu was also detained in connection with the anti-Japanese protests.

Xu Wanping was a participant in the 1989 democracy movement, for which he served eight years in prison. Since his release from prison, Xu has been a strong advocate for democracy and human rights and has participated in many nationwide campaigns for political reform. In 1998 he was sentenced to three years of Reeducation Through Labor because of his participation in the democratic movement. He has been detained many times since then, including last year on allegations of drug trafficking. More recently, sources say, Xu’s public assistance was cancelled because of his ownership of a computer and cell phone, leaving the couple in dire financial straits. Some observers believe that local police intend use to Xu’s participation in the anti-Japanese protests as a pretext to sentence him to a lengthy prison term.

“The Chinese authorities have been highly inconsistent in their handling of the anti-Japanese protests,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “While some protesters have reportedly engaged in unlawful and violent behavior, there is no indication that the dissidents who have been detained were involved in anything other than the peaceful expression of their political views. The Chinese government should consider the fact that people felt compelled to protest because there was no officially sanctioned outlet for their views on this emotive matter. The government should make an effort to constructively channel such views, as well as educating the public and encouraging the development of more mature dialogue on matters of public interest. In the meantime, the government should immediately release all of those who engaged in peaceful and lawful behavior.”