Forced labour for defending rights and praising Jasmine Revolution
Activist Wei Qiang sentenced to two years re-education-through-labour. Continuing arrests and detentions. Tomorrow's protest march in Hong Kong.

Beijing (AsiaNews / CHRD) - China continues its wave of arrests and sentencing to forced labour of human rights activists and dissidents, but responds to criticism that it is a State of law where human rights are respected. The country is witnessing the harshest crackdown since 1998 for fear that the Jasmine Revolution that is transforming North Africa and the Middle East will spread even here.

Yesterday, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders group condemned the sentencing in Beijing of the activist Wei Qiang to two years of re-education-through-labour, in other words forced labour, which can be emitted with a simple administrative decision, without trial and without having a lawyer . Wei was arrested Feb. 25 for taking part in an "illegal protest": the peaceful gatherings convened by strangers over the Internet to protest corruption and demand democratic reforms.

The fate of Ni Yulan (pictured) and her husband, Dong Jiqin, is still unknown.  Both were arrested in a hotel where they have been living after the illegal demolition of their home in Beijing. The hotel has become a meeting place for activists and lawyers who defend human and civil rights and  the police had long been pressuring the owner to cut off the couples power supplies, water and internet connection, to force them to move out.

Also in Beijing however, Li Yongsheng and Li Hai were released on bail, pending trial. Both were arrested March 6 and Feb. 26, on suspicion that they were "causing trouble" by publicizing the Jasmine Revolution and peaceful protests.

Meanwhile, the fate of Ai Weiwei is still unknown, a famous artist taken by police on April 3 and who has since disappeared. Police yesterday raided his studio for a second time, ransacking it and taking away boxes of material. His arrest has provoked international protests and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after days of awkward silence, on April 7 said that he was "under investigation for economic crimes," without further explanation. "China - insisted the spokesman for the ministry – is a country under the rule of law ... other countries have no right to interfere."

Experts point out that Beijing has made frequent use of allegations of economic crimes to target activists and dissidents.

Meanwhile, human rights activists, political and religious groups have called for a march tomorrow in Hong Kong, which will arrive outside the offices of the central government, to protest against the persecution currently underway. A collection of signatures was also announced to demand the release of the arrested activists and others.

The authorities fear that protests could break out in the country similar to those of the Jasmine Revolution and are arresting all dissidents and anyone who even attempts to praise these protests. At the National People’s Congress, held in March, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party had announced their intention to crush any "social disorder" and to reaffirm the central and essential role of the CCP.

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