12/19/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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The PRC’s long list of violence against house churches, activists and prisoners

Thirty years after the beginning of economic reforms, anyone challenging China’s unjust power structure is subject to the system’s systematic violence. Violent repression is visited upon house churches; zero tolerance is applied to anyone involved in petitions or trying to defend people’s economic rights; and torture is inflicted on those who are put in jail.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Yesterday the Chinese government celebrated 30 years of economic reform that transformed the old Communist backwater into an economic juggernaut. In terms of freedoms though, the People’s Republic of China is still a dwarf.

With Christmas approaching, the authorities are intensifying their crackdown against underground Christians, storming their prayer halls, beating and threatening them.

On Wednesday in Yancheng City’s Pinghu district some 200 thugs broke into a church during a meeting of underground Christians. Before they threw worshippers out, they beat at least ten of them and stole their money and other valuables. The church was then closed down and a demolition order placed on the building.

“They are developing this plot of land, and they [developers] wanted the land on which our church is built," said Father Ding, who is in charge of the Chengnan Church, which was built thanks to donations of more than a million yuan.

The authorities had offered money but when their offer was refused, attacks against parishioners began.

"No agreement had been reached, and they hadn't even carried out an evaluation of the property” when a “deputy secretary from the municipal government led the gang," Father Ding said.

The police was called but they did not bother to show up to let the faithful have their church back.

On Tuesday in the village of Taoling in Pushan (Nanyang in Henan) 40 Christians were arrested; 16 were sentenced to administrative detention  for 10 to 15 days and fined for taking part in unlawful religious meetings.

In Dazhu County (Sichuan), around 30 people were detained and then released, after authorities raided a wedding party at an unofficial Christian church. Their crime was “illegally spreading the gospel,” a participant told Radio Free Asia.

“They took away our banner with the words 'God loves humanity.' They checked our identification cards and threatened that we would be forced to attend only those churches with registration documents recognised by the government,” he said.

Anyone calling for freedom of speech is also running afoul of the government.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that a man, Ji Sizun, was still in detention for "forging an official seal”. Actually all he did was to ask for the right to demonstrate in Beijing’s ‘Protest Zones’ during the Olympic Games, a right the authorities thwarted using various formal pretexts.  

Zhou Yongjun, a former student protest leader in 1989, was arrested on 30 September when he returned to China to visit his family. He was initially detained on suspicion of “spying”, a charge later changed to “financial fraud”.

Now anyone exercising the right to petition the government is subject to zero tolerance.

Tang Zhufang, Tang Tiemiao and Chen Zhuyong were arrested on 1 December for walking around Tiananmen Square wearing t-shirts with detailed complaints about forced eviction in Tianxin District, Changsha City, Hunan Province.

Cheng Xue, Dai Youping and Hu Li from Wuhan had better luck. On 12 December they were detained for just a few hours and then shipped home. The same had happened to Zou Guilan seven days earlier.

Property rights are not protected either. On 10 December a bunch of thugs attacked 30 residents of Xinxin village (Qianjiang in Hubei) who had opposed the forced seizure of land by the government. At least seven of them ended up in hospital for injuries.

Last but not least prisoners are harassed and tortured in jail. Yang Chunlin has been held for months for signing a petition that said “We need human rights, not the Olympics.” Jailed in Xianglan’s prison (Jiamusi in Heilongjiang), he told his sister that he is forced to glue carton sheets from 5 am to 8 pm, i.e. 14 hours with a quick break for lunch.

Zhang Zilin, member of the pro-democracy Pan-Blue Alliance of Chinese Nationalists, sentenced on 22 February to two years for “fraud and extortion”, was beaten in Jishou Prison (Hunan) where he has been forced to work for up to 13 hours a day.

Liu Jie’s husband, who was sentenced to 18 months of re-education-through-labour, China’s version of forced labour, said that the authorities denied her medical treatment for her eye problems.

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