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Dissident Petitioner Detained

November 26, 2002

For Immediate Release

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned of the arrest of prominent dissident Zhao Changqing, who earlier this month distributed an open letter to China’s 16th Party Congress signed by nearly 200 opposition activists calling for political reform.

Zhao’s younger sister, having heard nothing from him for several days, went to Zhao’s home on November 22 and learned from Zhao’s landlord that Xi’an Public Security police had conducted a search there about ten days before. Sources say Zhao is currently being detained in an undisclosed location.

Anticipating trouble around the time of the 16th Party Congress, Zhao had left Xi’an on November 6 to stay with friends, but it appears that police were able to track him down and arrest him nonetheless.

Zhao wrote the rough draft of the open letter to the 16th Party Congress, and also helped distribute it to the 192 dissidents in 17 provinces and cities who eventually signed it. The open letter, which drew widespread international attention, made six political demands including a call for national elections and reassessment of the 1989 democracy movement. It was the most significant political action by Chinese dissidents in recent years. Informed sources say Zhao was arrested in order to prevent him speaking out further, and also as a punishment for his part in the open letter.

Zhao, aged 34, was a history student at Shaanxi Normal University when he took part in the 1989 democracy demonstrations in Beijing. He was arrested after June 4th and detained in Qincheng Prison for more than half a year. In 1997 Zhao gathered enough signatures to stand for election as a local representative to the National People’s Congress, but the local government openly violated the election laws regarding the selection of candidates. Soon after in 1998, Zhao was arrested for endangering state security and was sentenced for three years in prison.

After his release in March 2001, Zhao lost his job as a middle school teacher and has scraped by since then on a series of odd jobs. In spite of these hardships, Zhao has continued his political activism, and earlier this year gathered 170 signatures for a petition demanding the release of dissident Yang Jianli.

HRIC points out that Zhao’s open letter to the 16th Party Congress was entirely reasonable, rational and legal. Other dissidents, including Fang Jue, He Depu, Xu Wanping and He Guanchang, were also arrested around the time of the 16th Party Congress, and Fang and He Depu remain in detention. Up to now the families of Zhao, Fang and He have still not received formal notification of their arrest and detention.

These arrests, conducted without reason or legal due process, constitute arbitrary detention in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China’s own laws. HRIC expresses deep concern over these arrests, and calls for the immediate release of Zhao, Fang, and He.

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

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