03/29/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Ran Yunfei, arrested for applauding jasmine revolution

The writer spoke to the Chinese people about the protests in the Middle East. Journalist Xiao Shu on forced “sick leave”. Experts warn expression of opinion is a crime in China of today. UN calls for release of Gao Zhisheng, who has disappeared in police custody.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Chinese authorities have arrested the well-known writer and blogger Ran Yunfei and are hunting columnist and editor of two publications, Xiao Shu. Beijing is implementing zero tolerance towards anyone who criticizes the communist state. But now the United Nations has stepped in, calling for the liberation of the lawyer Gao Zhisheng.

Ran Yunfei (pictured), a signatory of Charter 08, was taken away by police on February 20th from his home in Chengdu (Sichuan), once on his website he had mentioned the protests in the Middle East and called on the Chinese to start their own Jasmine revolution. Since February 24, he has been held in custody, but only yesterday was his wife Wang Wei told of his arrest for "inciting subversion of state power."

Previously Ran on his blog very well known, had accused corrupt officials of the bad construction of many schools that collapsed over the students in the Sichuan earthquake of 2008.

"In striking against those who criticise the government with subversion ... they think that would block people's determination to fight for freedom, but that's just underestimating people's resolve to protect their own rights," Ran wrote in 2009.  .

Nicholas Bequelin, an official of the group Human Rights Watch, says that the charge of inciting subversion to overthrow the socialist system is now considered to consist of "any criticism of the position of the Communist Party."

For fear of protests along the lines of the Jasmine Revolt, the authorities in February and March arrested dozens of Democrats, many of whom are under house arrest, while several others have "disappeared".

In recent days, Xiao Shu, an expert journalist with the Southern Weekly has been forced to take 2 years sabbatical. His director has ordered him not to write. Xiao (whose name is Chen Min) wrote on his blog: "The sadness is inevitable, but .... I have no regrets for having been [in my writing] independent, fair and rational. "

A journalist for Guangzhou’s Time Weekly, Peng Xiaoyun, has also been censured and charged He wrote a report on "100 most influential people for the progress of China" and has included Zhao Lianhai in prison for demanding justice for the children affected by melamine-tainted milk.

Wang Songlian from the NGO Human Rights Defenders says that these events "show a general deterioration of the situation of human rights in China", it is now "also a crime to express an opinion."

Meanwhile yesterday, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has asked Beijing for the immediate release of Gao Zhisheng, a persecuted Christian lawyer who defended the followers of the Falun Gong spiritual group, banned in China. Gao was "kidnapped" by authorities from his home in Shaanxi province in February 2009 and has since disappeared. The United Nations accuses Beijing of detention without trial and said China will also have to compensate him for torture suffered in prison.

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