Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that members of a group planning a human rights seminar in December in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, have been threatened by the police. Members of the group vow that they will not back down.
Led by Chen Xi (陈西), Shen Youlian (申有连), and Liao Xuangyuan (廖双元), the Guizhou group has scheduled the seminar for December 10, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Local police summoned them for extended questioning in recent days, ordered them to cancel all activities because those activities would be illegal, and threatened imprisonment. But Chen Xi and others in the group said that they would never retreat under this kind of threat, because the planned activities are totally within the law.
“As the international community prepares to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Chinese authorities are depriving their own citizens the right to join in the celebration,” said Sharon Hom, executive director of HRIC. “This kind of behavior completely undermines the recent claims about China’s commitment to human rights made by Chinese representatives to the UN Committee Against Torture.”
HRIC calls on the local authorities to stop harassing and threatening the Guizhou organizers and respect human rights guaranteed by Chinese and international law.
The following is an account of recent events that a member of that group sent to HRIC, which details the threats to the organizers and their firm stance.
Rights Defenders Respond: We Will Not Back Down
In mid-October, Chen Xi and other Guiyang rights defenders arrived at the Guiyang City Public Security Bureau to provide the Domestic Security Protection Unit (DSPU) there with information on the activities planned for December 10. Those activities were to surround the Fourth Annual Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The rights defenders hoped to communicate with and obtain the support of and cooperation from the authorities. Yet, the head of the DSPU did not even look at the material, but instead tore to pieces the documents that contained the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.
In the ensuing days, Guiyang rights defenders were closely watched and threatened by the DSPU because of this. In recent days, this type of intimidation escalated sharply. Around 10:00am on November 10, one of the rights defenders, Shen Youlian, was “invited” to appear before the DSPU. According to Shen Youlian, the DSPU threatened him in a menacing way, saying that the Fourth Annual Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium was illegal, and must be stopped immediately. The DSPU even “requested” Shen Youlian to publish a public statement online to say that he would withdraw from the activities. Shen Youlian said that the “illegal interrogation” lasted eight hours before it finally ended at 6:00pm. “However, this did not cause me to consider backing down,” Shen Youlian said. He very clearly stated to the DSPU officers who were threatening him, “Our human rights defense activities are not only a response to the United Nations’ appeal but are also the right and duty conferred on us by the Chinese Constitution. We are organizing and participating in these activities not only to fight for the human rights that have been abridged by you, but also to fight for the human rights of all Chinese, including you. That is why I am determined to participate in all of these activities.”
Another rights defender, Chen Xi, and his wife received several calls of a more threatening nature from the DSPU on November 10. Chen Xi said that morning, the DSPU called to tell them to go to the unit to “communicate” regarding the Fourth Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium. Chen Xi said that his mother was severely ill and confined to her bed so he was unable to go. The DSPU threatened that if Chen Xi did not go, he would be taken there by force. That afternoon, Chen Xi’s wife received a call from the DSPU asking whether Chen Xi’s mother was really sick. His wife replied that indeed she was. On November 11, Chen Xi was again asked to meet with the DSPU and again restated his reason for being unable to go. The caller was so furious that he said, “You say your activities are legal. We say they are not. Are you calling the shots or are we? You had the audacity to not come when we asked you to? Don’t you see that it’s the CPC that rules! Are you not going to stop until we lock you up? You will not be able to pull it off [the Fourth Annual Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium]. We will absolutely stop you, just like last year.”
Chen Xi said that on December 10 last year, the prologue of the Third Annual Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium was just beginning in a park when the Guiyang police dispatched more than 100 policemen to watch, surround, and even kidnap them. “We had absolutely followed domestic laws and regulations as well as UN procedures to organize this symposium,” said Chen Xi. He said that they were not the ones violating the law—just the opposite. It was the DSPU who were trampling on the Constitution, and trampling on UN treaties under the banner of enforcing the law. “We will not stop our human rights defense activities because of this kind of illegal intimidation. Furthermore, we will not give up our beliefs. The Fourth Annual Guizhou Citizen’s Human Rights Symposium will go on as planned,” Chen Xi said, expressing his intentions on the phone. Sources said that another Guiyang rights defender, Liao Shuangyuan, has also experienced similar threats.