Beijing (AsiaNews/CHRD) – Human rights activist Liu Jie has been in prison since 11 October on forced labour duty—since 15 August she has been subjected to a form of torture known as the “Tiger Bench”. Her case however is but one among many similar cases recorded by the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), a group reporting on Olympic China’s “ordinary” human rights violations.
On the occasion of the 17th congress of the Communist party Ms Liu travelled to Beijing to submit a petition (signed by 12,150 people) against the confiscation of lands on which she had built her family-run dairy business in Beian City in Heilongjiang Province. But in the capital she was arrested.
In her home town the Procuratorate refused to prosecute her due to lack of evidence, but eventually she got 18 months of ‘Re-education through Labour’ for “instigating trouble and disturbing the social order”, an administrative order imposed without trial.
In the camp Ms Liu, who suffers from heart disease and cholecystitis and who has a severe eye illness, was forced to work over 14 hours between March and May.
On 15 August in an act of self-defence she pushed a guard who was beating her, and was charged with attacking camp staff. Since then she has been placed on the Tiger Bench, a form of torture in which “the victim is made to sit upright on a long bench, her hands tied behind her back. Her thighs are fastened with a rope to the bench while her feet are raised off the floor by bricks placed under her feet. This puts extreme strain on the knees,” the CHRD reported.
Thus in China’s Olympic month the authorities have not relented on violating human rights; indeed they have increased controls and incarceration in order to nip in the bud any possible protest. Here is a short list of cases as evidence of what is going on.
Talking to the foreign press
On 6 August, Zhang Wei and Ma Xiulan were detained on suspicion of “disturbing the social order” for telling foreign journalists two days earlier that they were seeking redress from higher authorities regarding the forcible demolition of their traditional Beijing homes in Qianmen district.
On 29 July, Wang Guilan was also detained on suspicion of “disturbing the social order”. His crime was talking on the phone to a foreign journalist.
Beijing city authorities said they received 77 applications for demonstrations in the three specially designated Olympic protest parks but none was cleared to take place.
According to police, 74 of the applications were withdrawn, two were turned down because application procedures were not respected and the remaining one protest application was vetoed.
Local sources report that some applicants (whose names were made public) were placed under house arrest or residential surveillance; others were sent back their place of residence.
Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, (see photo) face a year in a ‘Re-education through Labour’ camp after repeated attempts to hold a public protest.
Ms Wu and Ms Wang were forcibly evicted from their Beijing homes in 2001 and have been fighting for restitution ever since. They wanted to make their plight public. At present they are under house arrest but “can also be taken away at any time,” a relative said.
Wang Rongqing of the China Democracy Party was among the many activists arrested on 31 July for “inciting subversion of state power”.
Two days later Xie Changfa, also a member of the China Democracy Party was formally arrested and charged for the same “crime”.
On 6 August Zhang Mingxuan, pastor and head of China Federation of Christian House Churches, and his wife Xie Fenglan were taken into police custody.
Ren Shanyan, assistant director of the China Justice Advocacy website, has been in detention since 16 May for investigating accusations of nepotism made by a disabled resident of Shuangyashan against Wang Yijun, deputy chief of the Anti-Corruption Bureau in Shuangyashan City’s Lingdong District (Heilongjiang).
Huang Qi, director of Tianwang Human Rights Centre, has been in prison since June 10, without the benefit of legal counsel.
Ding Zilin, Jiang Peikun and Qi Zhiyong, who belong to the Tiananmen Mothers group, were pressured to get out of town before the start of the Olympics. Currently all three are somewhere outside of Beijing.
Other activists were luckier and only go house arrest. Writer Liu Xiaobo, scientist Jiang Qisheng, independent intellectual Zhang Zhuhua, house church member Yu Jie, independent scholar Liu Junning, housing rights activist Zhou Li who opposed forced Olympics-related evictions, Christian activist Xu Yonghai, as well as attorneys Li Fangping, Jiang Tianyong and Li Heping were placed under residential surveillance and monitoring.
By contrast Beijing Activist Zeng Jinyan disappeared on the eve of the Olympics. Up to then and for two years she had been under either house arrest or residential surveillance. Ms Zeng is married to jailed (since 27 December 2007) human rights activist Hu Jia.
Other activists are also under arrest or surveillance across the country like attorney Zheng Enchong of Shanghai, Yao Lifa in Hubei and Chen Xi of Guizhou.
Before the Games the authorities began enforcing zero tolerance in Beijing and other big cities to stop petitioners who wanted get justice to which they are entitled as citizens.
Hu Shuzhen, an anti-land seizure activist, was forcibly sent home to her village, Zhongwei in Ningxia province, and placed under residential surveillance.
Li Maofang, a petitioner against forcible demolition from Chaoyanger Village (Changsha City in Hunan) was also forcibly sent home and jailed.
Chen Xiujuan, a petitioner from Laodong Village in Heilongjiang’s Anda City was put under residential surveillance to prevent her from petitioning higher authorities over a land dispute for which he has already spent three years in the Qiqihar Re-education through Labour camp where she became disabled as a result of beatings and lack of medical care.
Yizhou Xinwen (News Week), an online publication that focuses on human rights protection, reported official attacks against its operations, paralysing its five computers and delaying the delivery of its electronic publications.
Even though some fire-walled sites were eventually unblocked like the BBC, many others were not, including the CHRD, Dajiyuan, 64tianwang, AsiaNews, etc.
Blog censorship has also increased and more messages have been blackened out because of the “delicate” nature of their content.