02/19/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on dissent now a daily occurrence

More than 60 evangelical leaders are detained for meeting without authorisation. A Beijing law firm is shut for providing legal counsel to pro-rights activists. Anyone mentioning Charter 08 is persecuted. Ruling clique is steadfast in trying to impose its will, with violence if necessary.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Violence by Chinese authorities against people demanding religious freedom or opposed to the actions of the Communist government has become a daily occurrence. Examples abound. On 11 February police raided a private evangelical seminar in Nanyang’s Wolong district (central China) and detained more than 60 home Church leaders. In Beijing a law firm was shut down for providing legal counsel to human rights activists. Anyone stepping out of the official party line, getting together to pray or demanding Chinese law be enforced are feeling the authorities’ wrath.

Evangelical leaders who got together for a seminar after travelling far and wide to hear two South Korean pastors, were rounded them up, the China Aid Association reported. They were booked by police, forced to pay a fine and eventually released. The two Koreans were instead accused of “engaging in illegal religious activities” and expelled on 14 February, “banned from re-entering China for five years.”

Under the current system of government, Christians can only take part in activities organised Communist Party-run official groups. Even meeting to pray in private requires an authorisation and is banned.

In Beijing the Yitong Law Firm also felt the sting of the Haidian District Bureau of Justice when it was ordered closed for six months for “re-organisation.”

According to the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Yitong lawyers made the mistake of calling for direct elections to the Beijing Bar Association top leadership positions which are currently filled by appointees named by Communist Party bosses. What is more Yitong was providing legal counsel to well-known rights activists like Hu Jia and Chen Guangcheng and was employing as a legal aid worker Li Subin, a lawyer whose licence has been suspended for filing a suit against the Henan Bureau of Justice over abuses in the collection of lawyers' registration fees.  

The crackdown is also online where web encyclopaedia Weiku was blocked on 4 February for publishing articles and information about Charter 08. Only after the “offending” material was removed was it able to be back online.

Similarly, the authorities are not letting up in their threats and intimidations against people daring to speak about Charter 08, a document that calls on the Chinese government to better respect human rights and implement more democracy

According to CHRD figures at least 143 people have been interrogated so far by police with regard to Charter 08, but the number is likely higher.

And one signatory, Liu Xiaobo, has been in detention since 8 December 2008 for penning his name to the charter. His family has not yet been informed of the charges pending against him and his wife has been able to see only once since his arrest.

Even petitioners are not been spared; violence against them has become systematic. On 6 February Cao Shunli, Zhang Ming and other activists tried to present a petition to the State Council Information Office in Beijing. Not only was their submission refused but Cao and Zhang were detained by police till late that evening.

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