12/16/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Repression against 08 Charter signatories grows

Tens of supporters are interrogated, threatened, placed under surveillance or arrested as a result of orders “from higher up”. The document is censored on Internet.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The crackdown on Charter 08 signatories continues, widening its scope. The document calls on the government to provide greater democracy and respect for human rights, including religious freedom. Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) has documented the cases of at least 39 signatories who have been intimidated in several parts of the mainland, some distant from one another.

Since 9 December the Charter is online and police has interrogated supporters in Beijing, Shanghai, Liaoning, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan, Shaanxi, Hubei and Hunan.

Since 8 December nothing is known about one of the Charter's signatories, Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”.

Yesterday his wife Liu Xia was told that the decision to detain Liu was made at a “very high level”.

Former Communist leader Bao Tong (pictured), under house arrest for the past 20 years, signed Charter 08 as “a citizen”.

Told about the repression, in an essay not intended to be anti-state he stressed the importance of certain principles like human rights, freedom, equality, democracy that are recognised around the world. Never part of Imperial China, they are part of modern People’s Republic of China.

Even if police threats are local initiatives higher authorities ought to stop them, he said. But if “there is a problem at the highest level, then it's up to the people to do something about it. There should be a mechanism for correcting problems in a republic. A republic in which wrongs are just allowed to be wrong, and in which wrongs are piled upon wrongs is not worthy of being called a republic.”

“While I sit here quietly waiting for them to search my home, waiting to be detained and interrogated, I am also waiting quietly for a reply from the authorities” to the Charter and to criticism.

“I call on all those who have already signed the Charter, and all those who are about to sign, to stay cool-headed and logical, optimistic and resolute. I send my regards to Zhang Zuhua, who has already returned home, and his wife Tian Yuan. Also to Liu Xiaobo, who is still in detention, and to his wife, Liu Xia. I wish them all peace and good health,” he said.

In 1998 China signed the United Nations Convention on Civil Rights, which includes freedom of expression, a right also guaranteed under China’s constitution (article 35).

The list of the persecuted is long: Du Yilong, Zhang Jiangkang, Yang Hai and Zhao Changqing in Shaanxi; Liu Yiming in Hubei; Huang Dachuan in Liaoning; Zhang Zuhua, Pu Zhiqiang, Jiang Qisheng, Gao Yu, Liu Di and Teng Biao in Beijing; Zheng Enchong and Jiang Danwen in Shanghai; Qin Geng in Hainan and Fan Yanqiong in Fujian; Ye Du, Zhao Da gong, Guo Yongfeng, Tang Jinling, Ye Huo, Zhang Jinjun, Li Tie and Chen Shaoua in Guangdog; Wu Baojian, Zou Wei, Wang Xue’e, Gao Haibing, Zhuang Daohe, Mao Qingxiang, and Liu Jincheng in Zhejiang; and many more according to CHRD, which believes the list to be incomplete.

Many people are either under surveillance or house arrest.

There are fears that repression might get worse during the holidays when international observers and media are less present.

Despite the authorities’ online censorship the Charter continues to circulate around the net on blogs and websites.

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