10/12/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing: police beat underground Christian

Police and private security guards knock Hua Huiqi around whilst in police custody. Human Rights Watch slams “worst crackdown in five years” against dissidents, Christians and rights activists; tens of well-known figures are arrested or disappear. Police enforces a cordon sanitaire around the capital to keep out would-be petitioners.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hua Huiqi, a Christian, was beaten up yesterday during a melee involving tens of police officers and private security guards. He was knocked unconscious and taken to Tiantan Hospital where he is being treated. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch is reporting an upsurge in repression and arrests against dissidents ahead of the 17th Communist Party Congress that is scheduled to open on October 15 in Beijing.

Hua Huiqi, a human rights activist and leader of a house church, has helped petitioners from the provinces who travelled to Beijing seeking justice. For this he has spent time in prison and was released from jail in July after serving six months for "obstructing justice".

Under heavy police guard, Mr Hua moved out of his Chongwen district home on Monday and was taken to Fengtai district, in the southwest of the city. But Fengtai police did not want him in their jurisdiction, and yesterday he returned to Chongwen with a dozen Fengtai policemen.

According to eyewitness accounts, Chongwen policemen and the security guards for the New World China Land Company met him and his escort on their back, equally intent on not letting him return to his home; hence the melee.

In the meantime as the Communist Party Congress approaches Human Rights Watch reports that Chinese authorities are engaged in their “worst crackdown in five years,” targeting dissidents, Christians and rights activists. Tens of arrests, detentions, beatings and abductions have taken place since August, peaking during the week-long holiday following National Day on October 1.

Hu Jia, under house arrest with his eight-month pregnant wife Zeng Jinyan, said that the authorities were rushing to get rid of people they consider trouble-makers before the world focuses on the Olympics in China next year. “They are doing 80 per cent of the work [to control and deter dissidents] now in order to only have to do 20 per cent next year.”

Those who have disappeared include Huang Yan, 36, reportedly abducted on September 22. Mr Hu said that he received a panicked phone call from her during which she said she fled police custody after three days. However, she has not been heard of since.

Similarly, Zheng Dajing, an activist defending petitioners, disappeared at the end of August and has also not been heard of since.

Pastor Liu Fenggang, his wife and their eight-year-old son are under house arrest.

Another activist, Zhang Wenhe, was last seen on September 29. His family believes he is being held in a psychiatric hospital.

In August freelance writer Lu Gengsong was detained and subsequently formally charged with “inciting subversion of state power” for reporting human rights abuses and corruption.

The sister of land activist Yang Chunlin, who collected signatures for a petition calling for "Human rights, not Olympics,” said he had been tortured in jail in Heilongjiang province.

In the last few weeks police in Beijing has arrested hundreds of people from the provinces who had come to the capital to petition the authorities, holding them for days before shipping them back.

In September a tent city, housing some 4,000 people from around the country who also had come to the capital to present their petition, was torn down.

Police around the country have also been patrolling transportation hubs to prevent people from leaving for the capital to demand justice.

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