12/12/2008, 00.00
CHINA

Arrests continue for signers of Charter 08

More signers of the document calling for respect for human rights are in jail, or under house arrest. But President Hu says that China will promote human rights only according to "the basic situation of the country."

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Arrests continue for signers of "Charter 08," the document calling upon the government for greater democracy and respect for human rights, including religious freedom. Since yesterday, Zheng Enchong, a lawyer from Shanghai known for his help for citizens against abusive expropriation by the authorities, has been under house arrest.

One of his relatives tells the newspaper South China Morning Post that on December 10, Zheng was summoned by the police, interrogated for more than four hours, and then sent home, where he will not be permitted to go out or use the telephone.

Also on the night of the 10th, the police in Guangzhou searched the home of Professor Ai Xiaoming (in the photo) and took her away. Xiaoming teaches Chinese studies at Sun Yat-sen University, and makes documentaries about the plight of the poor and disadvantaged groups.

Before this, on the night of December 8, dozens of police officials searched the homes of Liu Xiaobo and Zhang Zuhua, confiscating documents and information on the 303 signers of Charter 08, the document sent to the authorities on December 10, for the 60th anniversary of the declaration of human rights. Liu, who participated in the protests in Tianenmen Square in 1989 and spent three years in prison for criticizing the Chinese communist party, was taken away, and has not been heard from since. His wife says that she is waiting for communication from him, and the police are replying that they "have no news."

Wang Juntao, also arrested for the protests in 1989, now in exile and a professor at Columbia University (United States), comments that "corruption, social unrest and other injustices on the mainland have been aggravated by the lack of checks and balances because of the halt to political reform after the bloody suppression of the 1989 democracy protests." For this reason, he expects public protests to become more widespread and more severe.

Meanwhile, yesterday President Hu Jintao affirmed the country's desire to work with the international community for the promotion of human rights. But he clarified that China must "base its human rights development on the basic situation of the country." He also reiterated that the priority is to raise the standard of living.

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