03/06/2009, 00.00
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The "usual" Chinese policy: dissidents arrested ahead of National People's Congress

They are authors of petitions, pro-democracy activists, defenders of human rights: they will be released after the conclusion of the NPC. Yuan Xianchen has been sentenced to 4 years in prison for defending the rights of miners, and calling for more democracy.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The police have arrested or placed under surveillance dissidents and human rights activists, ahead of the National People's Congress (NPC), which began yesterday in Beijing. Meanwhile, on March 4 the court of Jixi (Heilongjiang) sentenced the activist Yuan Xianchen to 4 years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power."

Yuan, who was arrested on May 24, 2008, helped the miners of Didao (Jixi) to ask the mining company for the money they were owed. His "crimes" include distributing a request for greater democracy, outside the building of the NPC in 2005. He is also guilty of granting interviews to the foreign media, and of helping Yang Chunlin to collect thousands of signatures in Heilongjiang for the petition: "We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics." Yang has already been sentenced to 5 years in prison.

René Xia of Chinese Human Rights Defenders claims that the sentence is based on confessions that were extracted from Yuan using torture, and that the court did not carry out any investigations into this as requested by the defense.

Meanwhile, Human Rights in China is denouncing numerous arrests made just before the NPC. These include Feng Jusheng and Chen Heying from the village of Wuma, near Changzhi (Shanxi), who led protests against the local authorities, accused of illegally selling land belonging to the farmers. The two prepared an "open letter" signed by the farmers, and sent to delegates of the NPC. On the morning of March 3, the police took them away, and soon afterward they were sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention each, a penalty that can be applied without a normal trial. They will be released after the conclusion of the congress.

On March 2 in Beijing, the police put 64-year-old Wang Xiuzhen under house arrest, and beat him. Since 1998, Wang has presented petitions to obtain serious investigations into a fraudulent investment in which many workers lost tens of millions of dollars. Wang, who has been hospitalized for his injuries, will be allowed to leave after the conclusion of the congress, on March 18.

Also placed under strict surveillance are the dissident Jiang Qisheng, member of domestic churches Hua Huiqi (in the photo), and Xu Yonghai, the founder of the Chinese democratic party Zha Jianguo.

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