07/18/2009, 00.00
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Centre for human rights shut down: Beijing aims to silences dissent

Police have closed the offices and seized documents of a well known centre for human rights. Meanwhile, an environmental activist has been sentenced to hard labour. Experts: in the lead up to the anniversary of the founding of the CCP, authorities target all dissent.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The police yesterday closed the office of the Open Constitution Initiative (or Gongmeng), a well known group for the protection of human rights. The authorities say they must pay a penalty for tax evasion, but the group Human Rights in China speaks of yet another persecution of rights activists.

Xu Zhiyong, a lawyer and professor of law, co-founder of the group, says that the police took "computer, documents, records and statements of witnesses," all material devoid of real economic value, without explanation. They also closed the offices down saying that they did not conform with laws governing  commercial companies. Only this week the group was penalized 1.4 million Yuan (about 140mila Euros) for tax evasion charges relating to the Gongmeng website. The group registered as a company, even if it does not carry out commercial activities, because the authorities  will not register it as non-governmental organization.

The group, with which well-known lawyers collaborate, has for years followed issues of public interest, such as the melamine milk scandal - which caused the deaths of at least 5 babies, leaving 3 thousand more seriously ill across the nation - offering advice and free legal assistance to the parents of sick children.

It also published a report that criticizes the government reaction to public protests in Tibet in March 2008.

Analysts comment that with the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party approaching, authorities are  repressing any dissenting voice. In recent days, Sun Xiaodi, an environmental activist who reported the facts of nuclear contamination in Gansu, was sentenced to two years of re-education-through-labour, in reality forced labour, on charges of having disclosed information relating to mining. Sun Dunbai’s daughter, who gave the news to foreign organizations, has been sentenced to one and a half years of forced labour.

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