Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that several activists protesting resettlement terms from the Three Gorges Dam project were prevented from petitioning the central government in Beijing, and that one activist has been seriously harassed since being interviewed by an American journalist in May.
Sources in China told HRIC that the petitioners represent more than 500 residents of Yangguidian Village, Hubei Province, who moved to the village in 1993 to make way for the Three Gorges Dam project. Sources say local factories owned by Zigui County Sibao Paper Company Ltd. and Huafamei Pharmaceuticals Ltd. have seriously polluted the Maoping River, which is the major water source for the village’s residents. Residents have complained of skin allergies after wearing clothes washed in the river water and foul-smelling air caused by factory exhaust. The number of villagers dying from kidney disease is also reported to have risen dramatically in recent years.
Local activists had collected detailed information on the village’s pollution problem, and having failed to engage the interest of local officials, they planned to send the materials to the international community in hopes of publicizing their concerns to the outside world. However, sources say that when the activists went to Yichang City to send the information, they were followed by police officers, who instructed post offices and Internet cafés not to allow the villagers to disseminate the materials.
Sources say that early in the afternoon of August 6, activists Fu Xiancai, Wang Kaifen, Chen Yichun, Yan Kehua and Gong Wanjun prepared to take a train to Beijing to petition the central authorities over the village’s situation and find a post office and Internet café where they could send their materials to the international community. However, after the activists set off by bus for the Yichang train station, they were intercepted by more than 40 police officers led by local officials and the head of the Zigui County Public Security Bureau. Sources say police forced Fu Xiancai and the other activists to leave the bus, after which they were taken to nearby Jiuli Village. There the county deputy Party secretary, Luo Quanfeng, instructed the activists not to attempt to petition Beijing, and promised a response to complaints over the village’s pollution problem before August 20.
Sources say Fu Xiancai has been subjected to constant harassment and intimidation by the head of Maoping Township’s Public Security Bureau, Wang Xiankui, ever since he was interviewed by an American journalist on May 14. Sources say Wang Xiankui has come to Fu Xiancai’s home several times and said he must be punished for granting the interview. In addition, PSB officers have set up round-the-clock surveillance outside Fu’s home, and follow him wherever he goes, and Fu has received many harassing phone calls. On May 20, another activist, Tan Bixuan, reportedly received an anonymous phone call telling him to instruct Fu Xiancai to prepare a payment of 10,000 yuan, or else something would happen to Fu’s son. Fu Xiancai telephoned the Yichang City police to report this serious threat, but the police said they could do nothing without evidence. When Fu threatened to take his complaint to a higher level, the Yichang PSB sent police from Zigui County to Fu’s home to look around, but their investigation reached no conclusion.
HRIC strongly condemns official actions impeding the Yangguidian Village activists in their attempts to peacefully exercise their legal right to petition. Concern over serious environmental pollution has become a growing source of unrest in China’s countryside, as China’s strict environmental laws are routinely undermined by bribery and negligence. Chinese authorities should carry out a thorough investigation into conditions at Yangguidian Village, and also ensure that Fu Xiancai and other local activists are subjected to no further harassment.