01/26/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing’s relentless repression of internet users, activists and petitioners

The central government pursues its crusade against corruption, but local leaders continue forced expropriations and abuses against residents. Information media are increasingly censored. Social stability remains Beijing’s main concern.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The clash between Beijing and Washington over Google’s public remonstrations over censorship has highlighted once more the issue of censorship by the Chinese government and the violence that local authorities inflict upon activists and peaceful demonstrators in China. With social unrest hanging over their heads, Communist leaders are scared about popular protest and are prepared to go at any lengths to suppress it.

Every year, police and citizens clash in tens of thousands of incident as the latter demand justice against forced expropriations, corruption, the lack of religious freedom and media censorship.

The central government under President Hu Jintao has repeatedly stressed the need to improve governance at the local level, the only path to hold back the populace, but local Communist officials are still not being stopped from trying to take advantage of China’s economic boom anyway they can.

Increasingly, Beijing is taking emergency measures to stop the problem. Just yesterday for example, the central government closed down 5,000 liaison offices of county-level governments in Beijing because they are hotbeds of corruption.

At the same time though, China’s official news agency Xinhua quoted top Communist officials saying that those who come to the capital to petition should be “pacified”. Increasingly, police is arresting or removing them.

In any cases, the measures taken so far by the government have proven inadequate. In January alone, tens of cases of violence and abuses against people demanding justice have been recorded, this according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Hackers attacked a number of Chinese human rights websites last Sunday and Monday, including Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Independent Chinese Pen, New Century News and Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch.

For experts for one of the affected organisations, the attack was much greater than usual and its source could not be found.

On December 28, 2009, five petitioners from Liuzhou, Guangxi—Min Jihui, Zhong Ruihua, Zeng Zhaokuang, Li Chunfen, and Huang Huiyue—were sentenced to one year of ‘re-education through labour’ for “abnormal petitioning.”

Zhong Ruihua’s family said the five petitioners visited Beijing several times to voice their complaints about unfair compensation for expropriated land and the forced demolition of their homes

On Sunday, another group of petitioners gathered in front of the Zhangbou Hotel in Xi’an, Shaanxi, hoping to present their petitions to the members of the Shaanxi provincial People’s Consultative Conference who were meeting there.

Plainclothes police surrounded them, seized veteran petitioner Zhang Dalian, and roughly forced her into a waiting vehicle. Her whereabouts are still unknown.

On the evening of 22 January, demolition and eviction office employees violently beat and injured three residents of a housing complex in Jinjiang District, Chengdu, Sichuan.

According to residents of the complex, the demolition workers have been harassing and threatening them since the beginning of October 2009; last Friday, residents called the police on three occasions, but no officers were present when a group of close to 20 thugs pulled one resident out of his home and violently beat him in the street. Two neighbours who attempted to come to his aid were also violently beaten.

In the morning of 18 January, residents in a village in Pingle Country (Guangxi) resisted police attempts to remove them from their land. Eyewitness accounts say that more than 20 were treated for injuries, with four or five still hospitalised. Another 30 were detained.

In order to prevent the news of the incident from spreading, police blocked roads leading to the village and broke the camera of one of the residents who was taking pictures of the violent struggle.

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