05/16/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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China, earthquake isn't halting arrests and controls

The monthly report of the Chinese Human Rights Defenders emphasises the violations and abuses against troublesome journalists, dissidents, and ordinary faithful during the month of May, while the country is mourning the victims of the quake in Sichuan. For the Olympics, the government is paying attention only to social stability. Tibet is still in the grip of repression: anti-Chinese demonstrators are dying from torture in prison.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - While the death toll continues to rise from the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan, the Chinese government is not stopping its campaign of repression against troublesome journalists, dissidents, and ordinary faithful.  A few months from the beginning of the Olympics, in fact, Beijing wants to guarantee the greatest "social stability" possible, and to do this, it is using summary arrests, arbitrary detentions, and threats against the population. 

This is the claim of the monthly report of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which says that the corruption of local officials and the rising levels of pollution are among the main causes of popular dissatisfaction.  But outweighing all of this are the upcoming Olympics, which have increased the risks for those who denounce the government's wrongdoing.

Pollution, the text states, continues to prompt spontaneous demonstrations all over the country.  On May 4, the police in the eastern province of Zhejiang severely beat seven demonstrators who were trying to shut down a highly polluting factory, and four activists were arrested for having "incited" a protest against industrial waste. 

In the meantime, while the number of victims of the earthquake in Sichuan continues to rise, the local population accuses the government over the poor quality of the materials used to construct buildings that collapsed.  The day after the quake, on May 13, the authorities of Shandong sentenced a well-known anti-corruption journalist to four years in prison. He had exposed the deception of officials in awarding public contracts.

The same fate was reserved for the well-known writer and activist Zhou Yuanzhi, arrested on May 3 for "endangering state security" and "communicating state secrets abroad".  In reality, Zhou was punished for his articles, which denounced the violations of human rights committed in the central province of Hubei.

The situation in Tibet also remains tense.  According to local sources, some of the anti-Chinese demonstrators arrested after the clashes in March have died in prison after being tortured.  Moreover, the families of those arrested have been forced to pay enormous sums of money to bail out their loved ones.  Outside the temple of Ramoche in Lhasa (one of the most important in the region), plainclothes police officers are permanently stationed to monitor those who enter and leave. 

The aspect of the Olympics is not lacking from all of this.  On May 6, the police in Beijing arrested the well-known activist Wang Guilian, "guilty" of presenting a petition of protest to the central government.  His detention, according to some sources, will be prolonged until the end of the games.  Together with him, hundreds of other citizens have sought in vain to make their voices heard against the appropriation of land and abuses on the part of the local governments.

Finally, there is no lack of religious persecution.  On May 11, the Beijing police forcibly entered the Christian church of Shouwang, and interrupted the service being held inside.  The participants were forced to show their documents and were registered by the police.

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