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Timeline: Human Rights Defenders

June 4, 2009

April 2, 2009–May 6, 2009

April 2, 2009 Activist and China Democracy Party member Gao Hongming (高洪明) was summoned to the local police station. The police then ransacked his home, confiscating several documents, books, and a computer. The officers did not tell Gao the reason for the summons, only that he had violated regulations related to the deprivation of political rights. Gao was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in 1999 and released in 2007, with an additional two years’ deprivation of political rights.1
April 2, 2009

Beijing Institute of Technology professor and blogger Hu Xingdou (胡星斗) filed a lawsuit again Beijing Xin Net Technology Corporation and the Suzhou, Jiangsu internet policing agency after the company shut down his websites,,, and, on March 25 over “illicit postings.” The company cited three of Hu’s articles, including a five-year-old post on the need for the abolition of the Reeducation-Through-Labor system. According to Hu, the company told him that the order to shut down his website came from the internet policing agency in Suzhou, which prompted Hu to sue the agency as well.2

April 2, 2009 The family of He Hongchun (何洪春), a relative of a child lost in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, was informed that He’s April 3 trial was postponed after the Beichuan County People’s Court decided to not go ahead with the trial. The given reason was that the prosecutor’s father was ill. He was arrested in September 2008 for “inciting a mob” after he joined in protests against China Life with other relatives of lost children. The relatives were all involved in life insurance policy disputes, wherein several families were paid less than others under the same policy.3
April 4, 2009 Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang (孙文广), 75, was beaten by five unidentified men as he returned from paying respects during the Qingming Festival to the late Zhao Ziyang, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China who visited students in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 democracy movement, and Zhang Zhixing, a dissident killed during the Cultural Revolution. Sun was beaten for over ten minutes by the men. He broke three ribs and required hospitalization. Sun, who is involved in a lawsuit with Shandong University over a deduction from his pension, was detained and imprisoned multiple times between 1966 and 1981 for expressing views on political issues.4
April 4–5, 2009 Around 300 Shanghainese petitioners travelled separately to Beijing’s Monument to the People’s Heroes in Tiananmen Square, Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, and Yang Jia’s grave to pay their respects, but were “retrieved” by Beijing and Shanghai interceptors and returned to Shanghai. Some petitioners, including Yao Yiping (姚一平), Yao Yuping (姚玉平), Wang Shengfang (王生芳), and Li Yufang (李玉芳), were beaten by the intercepting officers. Others, including petitioner Cui Fufang (崔福芳), were read notices upon returning to Shanghai stating that, regardless of their reason for going to Tiananmen Square, they would always be considered to be travelling there to create a disturbance, and would immediately be detained.5
April 8, 2009 Police officers surrounded the Peking University campus area and detained petitioners as they arrived to protest. Reportedly at least 500 petitioners were detained and later released. At least two petitioners, Wu Xiuling (吴秀玲) and Li Li (李莉), were beaten before being forced into waiting vehicles.6 Reports from official media, quoting university officials, stated that at least 200 people had been protesting, and that at least 50 were “removed” by police.7 Petitioners from around China had for several days been protesting the comments made by Peking University law professor Sun Dongdong (孙东东), who said that “99 percent of petitioners are mentally ill” in an article from the March 23 edition of China Newsweek.8 Sun published an apology on April 69 and told reporters from Radio Free Asia that he accepts responsibility for his statement, but that he had been misquoted.10
April 10, 2009 Guangxi-based rights defense lawyer Yang Zaixin (杨在新) was beaten by unidentified men when responding to a call from an unknown person requesting legal assistance. When he arrived at the location where he was to meet the person, a person began to strike him, and others surrounded him, beating him. Yang believed that the beating could be related to a land dispute case he is handling.11
April 12, 2009 Beijing rights defense lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) was attacked by four or five men from a local general management office in Chengdu while on his way to meet with the mother of his client, Tao Yuan (陶渊). Tao is a practitioner of Falun Gong and was imprisoned for “publicizing an evil cult” in March 2009; he is applying for release on medical parole.12
April 12, 2009 Heilongjiang petitioner Liu Jie (刘杰) was released after serving 18 months of Reeducation-Through-Labor (RTL), her full sentence. Liu said that the cruel treatment and torture that she experienced in the RTL center has strengthened her view that the RTL system must be abolished. Liu was sentenced to RTL in November 2007 after organizing a public letter calling for political reform and improvement to the petitioner system, which received over 12,000 signatures.13
April 12, 2009 Beijing petitioner Cao Shunli (曹顺利) went to the Andingmenwai police substation to complain regarding the 36-hour illegal detention to which she had been subjected after she protested against Sun Dongdong’s comments about petitioners outside Peking University in early April 2009 (see April 8 entry above). She did not return home from the police substation. Her family later learned that Cao was placed in administrative detention for one week, and that she was then ordered to serve one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor on charges of “disturbing the office of a public organ.”14
April 13, 2009 The Information Council of the State Council published the National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009–2010). China promised the plan at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of China in February 2009.15
April 13, 2009 More than one thousand petitioners gathered to protest in Beijing’s “sensitive areas,” including Peking University, Tiananmen Square, and Zhongnanhai. Police surrounded them and detained several hundred, while others escaped; the detained petitioners were brought to the Majialou petitioner holding center in the outskirts of Beijing.16
April 14, 2009 Prominent Shanghainese rights defense lawyer Yan Yiming (严义明) was attacked by three unidentified men with northeastern accents, one of whom had a steel bar, at his office in Xuhui District, Shanghai. Yan’s right shoulder blade was broken, and he was badly bruised on his arms, hands, and back. He was unable to speak for three days following the attack. The men, who had asked to meet with Yan the day before regarding legal issues, did not reveal why they were attacking him, but Yan believed that it could be related to shareholding disputes he has handled and for which he has received several threats this year.17
April 15, 2009 Zheng Enchong (郑恩宠), a Shanghai-based rights defense lawyer, was detained by police for ten hours on April 15, 2009, the fifth time that he had been summoned by police in one week. His home was also searched and ransacked by the police. Zheng believed that he was summoned due to an interview with Voice of America. In the interview, Zheng commented on an anti-corruption action by the Shanghai government requiring high-level officials to account for their housing purchases, saying that if the investigation were truly serious, then “70 percent of bureau-level officials and 50 percent of department-level officials would be sent to jail and sacked.”18
April 15, 2009 Beijing-based activist Qi Zhiyong (齐志勇) was detained on the 20th anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s death. Qi took part in events related to the 1989 Democracy Movement protests in Tiananmen Square and lost a leg in the crackdown. Hu Yaobang, the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, who was forced to resign in 1987 due to a perceived laxness toward liberal intellectuals, had a heart attack and died on April 15, 1989. After his death the public called for official recognition of Hu, and public mourning for him escalated into the protests that ended with the June Fourth crackdown.19
April 16, 2009 Shenzhen rights defense lawyer Liu Yao (刘尧) was released after a fourth trial in which he challenged his conviction of “intentional destruction of properties.” The Heyuan Municipal Intermediate People’s Court reduced Liu’s sentence to 18 months with a two-year suspension, meaning that Liu would not have to serve time in prison. Liu had previously been sentenced to a four-year prison term for inciting protests against a developer and was granted a retrial. Liu represented villagers in Dongyuan County, Guangdong, who sought redress for land requisitioned by local authorities. Liu’s case was closely followed; 36 lawyers from ten provinces jointly petitioned for a retrial on August 4, 2008, and 511 lawyers from Shenzhen jointly petitioned in challenge to the sentence of two years ruled at the retrial.20
April 16, 2009 Liu Xia (刘霞) made a public appeal for the release of her husband, detained Beijing intellectual Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), calling on U.S. President Obama to intervene on Liu Xiaobo’s behalf to the Chinese government. Liu’s appeal revealed that her husband, whom she has been allowed to visit only twice, is being detained in solitary confinement in a small room with but a single light bulb.21
April 16, 2009 Shanghainese petitioner and Chinese League of Victims member Cui Fufang (崔福芳) and her 78-year-old mother Liu Shuzhen (刘淑珍) were detained by police on suspicion of “disturbing social order.” Cui and Liu were separately taken from their home by state security officers from the Zhoujiadu police substation in Pudong New District, Shanghai. Both Cui and Liu were forcibly relocated from their homes, which were on the planned site of the 2010 World Expo. The two had been planning to travel via Hong Kong to Europe to ask representatives from the World Expo to urge the Chinese government to abide by promises made at the time of its bid. Another Chinese League of Victims member who was also making her way to Europe, He Maozhen (何茂珍), was prevented from leaving China; exit-entry officials in Zhuhai, Guangdong, confiscated her Exit-Entry Permit for Travelling to and from Hong Kong and Macao with the explanation that the Shanghai police did not want her to leave.22
April 19, 2009 Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), wife of imprisoned blind activist and barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚), was stopped and beaten by nine men who were standing guard over her home as she attempted to go to her sister’s home, having just been notified that her sister’s husband had died in an automobile accident. Authorities have been harassing Yuan since her husband’s detention in 2006, and she lives under strict surveillance. Chen is serving a sentence of four years and three months for “intentional damage of property” and “organizing people to block traffic.”23
April 22, 2009 Over one hundred people whose relocation compensation had been embezzled blocked traffic on a highway bridge for several hours. Several hundred police were dispatched to break up the protest; in the process, they injured several people and detained three. The protestors, former residents of Houba Township, Kai County, Chongqing, were a part of the migration for the Three Gorges Dam, the construction of which resulted in the resettlement of over 100,000 people in surrounding areas.24
April 23, 2009 Geng He (耿和), wife of prominent rights defense lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), issued an open letter to members of the U.S. Congress requesting that the U.S. pressure China to disclose Gao’s whereabouts. Gao, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government and self-trained lawyer who represented victims of forced evictions, Falun Gong practitioners, and house church activists, has been missing since February 2009, when he was reportedly forcibly taken away by over ten security police from his family home in Shaanxi. Gao received a suspended sentence of five years for “inciting subversion” in 2006. In 2007, he was detained for several weeks after issuing an open letter to the U.S. Congress denouncing the human rights situation in China.25
April 27, 2009 Yao Jing (姚晶), a petitioner from Linyi, Shandong, was beaten and severely injured by Linyi authorities who retrieved her from the Majialou petitioner holding center in Beijing. Yao, who was in Beijing to petition the Ministry of Health, was sent to Beijing Tongren Hospital for treatment, and doctors expected her to remain hospitalized for several weeks.26
April 27, 2009 Hundreds of laid-off workers protesting for back pay and benefits blocked traffic on a national highway in Anyang, Henan. The workers, who included former soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army, were drafted to work at a factory of Henan Ancai Hi-Tech Co. as temporary workers in 1996, at a greatly reduced rate, and became permanent employees in 2006. The workers petitioned for back pay from the factory for their first ten years of employment.27
April 28, 2009 Shaoguan, Guangdong democracy activist Luo Yongquan (罗勇泉) was required to speak with Shaoguan state security officers at the Public Security Bureau in Nanxiong. This is the seventh time in two months that it was demanded Luo have a talk with officers. Luo, who signed Charter 08, was questioned on two poems he wrote that aired on New Tang Dynasty TV. He previously was questioned about his signing of Charter 08 and visits from former democracy party members.28
April 28, 2009 Independent intellectual and Independent Chinese PEN Center president Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) was awarded the 2009 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. Liu has been detained since he was subpoenaed by the Beijing police on December 8, 2008, in connection with his signing of Charter 08.29
April 30, 2009 Rights defender Li Jinping (李金平) was taken away by Beijing police officers after he went to Tiananmen Square with a placard demanding the rehabilitation of the late Zhao Ziyang. Li, a former police officer, has been harassed by the Beijing police since January 2005, when he dedicated a room in his family’s home to Zhao Ziyang’s memory.30
May 1, 2009 On Labor Day, activists and petitioners across China gathered for various demonstrations. In Beijing, around 50 petitioners gathered in Tiananmen Square to demonstrate; they were taken away by the police. Around 100 petitioners travelling to Beijing to demonstrate in Tiananmen Square on Labor Day were captured by “retrievers” upon their arrival at Beijing Railway Station the day before and returned home. In Jinan, Shandong, over 100 petitioners assembled to protest in Quancheng Square, requesting that the government hear and resolve their issues; although plainclothes and uniformed officers were observing the protest, no one was detained or arrested.31
May 5, 2009 One man was killed and six people hospitalized from injuries received in a clash between Liling, Hunan villagers and construction workers during a land dispute. The deceased, Zhong Peihua (钟培华), was killed in the initial clash with the workers, during which the villagers and workers fought with bricks, clubs, and hard hats. After his death, the protests escalated, with villagers bringing Zhong’s corpse to the local government building and approximately 1,000 villagers protesting.32
May 6, 2009 Shanghainese housing petitioner Feng Yuzhen (冯玉珍) was detained for five days by the Shanghai police. Feng, who is 61, had been retrieved from Beijing, where she had travelled to petition. Police asked her to sign a statement that they had written for her, but Feng refused; she was detained that same night.33


1. Yan Xiu [严修], “Beijing yiyi renshi Gao Hongming bei chuanhuan chaojia” [北京异议人士高洪明被传唤抄家], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 2, 2009, ^

2. Raymond Li, “Professor Sues Firm over Closure of His Website,” South China Morning Post, April 7, 2009; Jiang Xun [江迅], “ Hu Xingdou wangzhan bei guan qisu wangjian” [胡星斗網站被關起訴網監], Yazhou zhoukan [亚洲周刊], ^

3.“Beichuan yunan xuesheng jiazhang daibiao He Hongchun an beiyanqi” [北川遇難學生家長代表何洪春案被延期], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 2, 2009,^

4. Human Rights in China, “Retired Professor Attacked after Honoring Memory of Late Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang,” April 6, 2009, ^

5. Fang Yuan [方媛], “Fangmin jin Jing saomu cao Shanghai jingfang duda; Yang Jia mu bei anzhuang shexiang jianshi tou” [访民进京扫墓遭上海警方毒打杨佳墓被安装摄像监视头], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 6, 2009, ^

6. Ding Xiao [丁小], “Jingfang zhuabu Bei-Da kangyi fangmin Sun Dongdong shijian rongren qi yiguo?” [警方抓捕北大抗议访民孙东东事件容忍期已过?], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 8, 2009, ^

7. “College protest against professor’s ‘insane’ words,” Xinhua News Agency, April 10, 2009, ^

8. Ding Xiao [丁小], “Jingfang zhuabu Bei-Da kangyi fangmin Sun Dongdong shijian rongren qi yiguo?” [警方抓捕北大抗议访民孙东东事件容忍期已过?], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 8, 2009, ^

9. “Bei-Da jiaoshou Sun Dongdong jiu ‘jingshenbing’ youguan biaoshu budang zhiqian” [北大教师孙东东就“精神病”有关表述不当致歉], China News [中国新闻网], April 6, 2009, ^

10. Ji Lisi [姬励思], “Sun Dongdong: fangmin jingshenbing de yanlun bei chuanmei duanzhangquyi” [孙东东:访民精神病的言论被传媒断章取义], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 10, 2009, ^

11. He Ping [何平], “Weiquan lüshi Cheng Hai, Yang Zaixin zao weigong yinfa yulun guanzhu” [维权律师程海、杨在新遭围攻引发舆论关注], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 13, 2009, ^

12. He Ping [何平], “Weiquan lüshi Cheng Hai, Yang Zaixin zao weigong yinfa yulun guanzhu” [维权律师程海、杨在新遭围攻引发舆论关注], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 13, 2009,; Chinese Human Rights Defenders, “Beijing Lawyer Cheng Hai Assaulted by Officials for Representing Falun Going Practitioner,” April 14, 2009, ^

13. Ding Xiao [丁小], “Wan min shangshu shiqi da faqiren Liu Jie huoshi yi lao-jiao jingli xianshen shuofa” [万民上书十七大发起人刘杰获释以劳教经历现身说法], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 13, 2009, ^

14. Ji Lisi [姬励思], “Beijing fangming Cao Shunli bei pan lao-jiao” [北京访民曹顺利被判劳教], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], May 1, 2009,; additional information obtained by Human Rights in China. ^

15. Yuan Ye, “China Publishes National Human Rights Action Plan,” Xinhua News Agency, April 13, 2009, ^

16. Qiao Long [乔龙], “Bei-Da Zhongnanhai Tiananmen kangyi shang qian fangmin ban beizhua” [北大中南海天安门抗议上千访民半被抓], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 13, 2009, ^

17. Lilian Zhang, “Rights Lawyer Beaten by Thugs with Steel Bar,” South China Morning Post, April 18, 2009. ^

18. Human Rights in China, “Shanghai Rights Defender Harassed on Heels of National Human Rights Action Plan Release,” April 15, 2009, ^

19. “China Dissident Detained on Sensitive Anniversary,” Agence-France Presse, April 15, 2009, ^

20. Human Rights in China, “Pursuant to New Court Ruling, Shenzhen Rights Defense Lawyer Liu Yao Released after More than 400 Days in Detention,” April 17, 2009, ^

21. Liu Xia, “An Appeal for a Chinese Dissident,” Washington Post, April 16, 2009, ^

22. Ji Lisi [姬励思], “Shanghai liang ming Yuanmin Datongmeng chengyuan bei juliu” [上海两名冤民大同盟成员被拘留], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 16, 2009, ^

23. Amnesty International, “China: Wife of Human Rights Activist Beaten,” April 20, 2009,; Bi Zimo [毕子默], “Yuan Weijing you zao kanshouren weigong ouda” [袁伟静又遭看守人围攻殴打], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 20, 2009, ^

24. Yan Xiu [严修], “Banqian buchang kuan bei kekou shubai yimin du lu kangyi” [搬迁补偿款被克扣数百移民堵路抗议], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 22, 2009, ^

25. Human Rights in China, “Wife of Abducted Rights Defense Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Requests Urgent Help from U.S. Congress in Open Letter,” April 23, 2009, ^

26. Xin Yu [心语], “Shandong fangmin dao Jing zao ouda zhu yuan; waidi fangmin jixu fangying yijian” [山东访民到京遭殴打住院外地访民继续反映意见], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], April 30, 2009,; Xin Yu [心语], “Fangmin Xue Jianhui tiaolou chuandan wang dangju guanzhu; zeng baodao shoushang nü fangmin Yao Jing bei yaoqiu chu yuan” [访民薛建辉跳楼传单望当局关注; 曾报导受伤女访民姚晶被要求出院], RadioFree Asia [自由亚洲电台], May 7, 2009, ^

27. “Henan Workers Block Major Highway,” Radio Free Asia, April 30, 2009, ^

28. Chinese Human Rights Defenders [维权网], “Luo Yongquan liang ge yue nei bei yuetang qi ci” [罗勇泉两个月内被约谈七次], April 28, 2009, ^

29. Jane Macartney, “Arrested Chinese Dissident Liu Xiaobo to Receive Prestigious Award,” The Times, April 28, 2009,; Human Rights in China, “Independent Scholars Detained: Start of 2009 Crackdown?,” December 9, 2008, ^

30. Zhang Liming [张丽明], “Jinan yi bai duo fangmin wu-yi jie jihui” [济南一百多访民五一节集会], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], May 1, 2009,; Human Rights in China, “Li Jinping Harassed and Detained ahead of Anniversary of Zhao Ziyang’s Death,” January 15, 2008, ^

31. Zhang Liming [张丽明], “Jinan yi bai duo fangmin wu-yi jie jihui” [济南一百多访民五一节集会], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], May 1, 2009, ^

32. Ding Xiao [丁小], “Hunan zhengdi baoli cunmin si shang shu bai qunzhong chenhu zhengfu kangyi” [湖南征地暴力村民死伤数百群众陈尸政府抗议], Radio Free Asia [自由亚洲电台], May 6, 2009,; “Villagers in Central China clash with Police,” Associated Press, May 7, 2009, ^

33. Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch [民生观察], “Shanghai fangmin Feng Yuzhen bei juliu Wuhan canjiren Wang Yang yaoqiu zhufang quan” [上海访民冯玉珍被拘留武汉残疾人汪洋要求住房权], May 7, 2009, ^