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Crackdown on Dissidents Accompanies Release of Xu Wenli

January 2, 2003

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned from reliable sources that Chinese dissident Zhao Changqing, secretly detained two months ago, has now been officially arrested, and that several other participants in an open letter to China’s 16th Party Congress have been secretly detained.

Xi’an-based Zhao Changqing is believed to have been detained on November 4 just before the issuing of an open letter to China’s 16th Party Congress signed by 192 opposition activists calling for political reform. His whereabouts were not disclosed until December 27, when Xi’an Public Security officials delivered an official notice of arrest to his elder brother, Zhao Changhai. Zhao Changqing is charged with “incitement to subvert state power,” for which he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

Sources told HRIC that Zhao Chanqing was already suffering from tuberculosis at the time of his secret detention, and his condition has deteriorated to the point where Public Security officials found it necessary to transfer him to a prison infirmary. Zhao’s family members have hired legal counsel to defend him in his upcoming trial.

The open letter drafted by Zhao and signed by 192 dissidents made six political demands, including reassessment of the 1989 democracy movement; allowing political exiles to return to China; restoring Zhao Ziyang’s political rights and releasing him from house arrest; releasing all prisoners of conscience; pushing the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and bringing domestic law into conformity with international treaties; and expanding democratic elections from the villages and municipalities to national elections.

Following publication of the open letter the Chinese government initiated a crackdown against the signatories, and many are believed to have been secretly detained. According to HRIC’s information, the following dissidents are currently in custody: Ouyang Yi in Sichuan; Dai Xuezhong in Shanghai; and He Depu in Beijing. Chinese officials have declined to notify the dissidents’ families of the reasons for their arrests, the locations where they are being held, or any other circumstances of their detention.

Sources say another signatory, Jiang Lijun, based in Tieling, Liaoning Province, was also secretly detained on November 6, and that Public Security officials forced his wife to surrender the key to his office for a search. Tieling Public Security officials told Jiang’s wife that the provincial Public Security Bureau had arrested Jiang because of his participation in the open letter. Jiang was subsequently transferred to the custody of the Public Security Bureau in Beijing, where officials informed Jiang’s wife that he was being held in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison. However, up to the present officials have not issued a formal warrant or any other documentation regarding Jiang’s arrest.

Zhao Changqing, aged 35, was a history student at Shaanxi Normal University when he was arrested in June 1989 and detained in Beijing’s Qincheng Prison for more than half a year for taking part in the democracy demonstrations that year in Beijing. Following his release, Zhao gathered enough signatures to stand for election as a local representative to the National People’s Congress in 1997, but soon afterward was arrested for endangering state security and sentenced to three years in prison. Since his release in March 2001 Zhao has continued his political activism in spite of considerable hardship.

Ouyang Yi, Dai Xuezhong, Jiang Lijun and He Depu are also long-time activists for human rights and democratic reform, and like Zhao have been subjected to repeated harassment and detention. Dai Xuezhong in particular was sentenced to “reform through labor” on several occasions since his participation in the Democracy Wall movement.

HRIC President Liu Qing notes, “The issuing of a formal arrest warrant against Zhao Changqing shows that Chinese officials are determined to suppress political expression among Chinese citizens, even such a reasonable and courteously phrased expression of political aspirations as the open letter. The fact that the Chinese government can take this kind of action at the same time as it releases other dissidents such as Xu Wenli, and agrees to grant access to United Nations monitors on torture and other issues, shows how opportunistic China’s human rights policy is. Zhao’s case emphasizes the importance of continuing international pressure on the Chinese government regarding human rights.”

HRIC calls on the Chinese government to demonstrate its respect for human rights and rule of law by immediately releasing Zhao Changqing, Ouyang Yi, Dai Xuezhong, Jiang Lijun and He Depu.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Mosher (English) 212-268-9074
Liu Qing (Chinese) 212-239-4495

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