04/29/2010, 00.00
CHINA

Pre-Expo “cleansing”, dissidents arrested, sent to camps

The People’s Republic of China has begun cleansing Shanghai of its dissidents and human rights activists in preparation of the official opening of the Shanghai World Expo, scheduled for 1 May. Some undesirables are arrested; others are sent to láojiào (re-education-through-labour) camps; those from neighbouring provinces are “invited” not to come for the Expo.
Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Like an old worn-out script, the Chinese government before any major event on its territory launches a campaign of arrests and expulsions directed at dissidents and human rights activists. This time the major event is the official opening of the Shanghai World Expo, next Saturday. The authorities have warned dissidents elsewhere in the country not to travel to the coastal city, where some 100 million visitors are expected.

In order to prepare the world fair, the authorities have seized buildings and land, removed “undesirables” who lost their job, and imposed new and tighter censorship rules on media. As usual, those in power are afraid that the presence of world leaders at the inauguration ceremony might give dissidents an opportunity to denounce the country’s many human rights violations.

Chinese Human Rights Defender has for example reported the arrest of Feng Zhenghu, a veteran Shanghai activist who for years has sought to draw attention to the failures of the Shanghai judicial system, and who had planned to set up a “Shanghai Expo of Unjust Court Cases” during the Expo.

Around midnight on 19 April, Shanghai police raided his home, confiscated his computer equipment and took him away for a four-hour interrogation. Police threatened that if he spoke out during the Expo they would “make him disappear like Gao Zhisheng,” a Christian human rights activist who disappeared last year only to reappear later after he was sentenced to prison.

At least six other activists have been sent to láojiào or re-education-through-labour (RTL) camps to keep them out of the way during the Shanghai Expo. Another four were arrested for the same reason. One of them is Tong Guojing who was sentenced to 18 months of RTL after he turned activist following the forcible demolition of his home.

Similarly, Chinese security officials “invited” activists in provinces bordering Shanghai to stay home; otherwise, they would be arrested.

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