02/25/2011, 00.00
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Worst crackdown in years underway in China

Pretexts, searches and beatings are used against rights and pro-democracy activists who are arrested and sentenced to many years of prison. Many have disappeared. Chinese police and authorities accumulate a long list of abuses in just a few days. CHRD appeals to the world: the suppression of free expression “is unacceptable, whether people are gathering in the Middle East or in China.”
 Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – One of harshest crackdowns is underway in China at present in response to an anonymous online call for a ‘jasmine uprising’, this according to China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). The rights organisation reports arrests, searches and beatings against well-known dissidents and ordinary citizens. At least five activists have been jailed for “subversion of state power”.

Police invited writer and blogger Ran Yunfei of Chengdu (Sichuan) for tea last Sunday. Since then, he has been held in prison on “subversion” charges. His twitter account has more than 44,000 followers.

Hua Chunhui of Wuxi (Jiangsu) has been behind bars since Monday for “endangering state security” because he tweeted messages about the “Jasmine Revolution”.

Liang Haiyi, a Harbin resident, was held on Saturday by police, also for subversion because he posted information from foreign websites about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ on domestic websites.

Police seized Ding Mao at home on Saturday in Mianyang (Sichuan) for “inciting subversion of state power”. He has already spent more than ten years in prison as a founder of the Chinese Social-Democratic Party.

Chen Wei, a rights activist in Suining (Sichuan), was taken into custody on Sunday for “subversion”. He too spent years in prison for defending human rights.

Reports are also coming in about beatings by police, of hundreds of people detained, interrogated and threatened as well as dissidents who disappeared.

All it takes is for police to suspect someone for that person to be arrested and jailed. In fact, activists are not the only ones caught up in the crackdown. Ordinary citizens who simply consulted or passed on information about protests or other sensitive issues have been affected.

Yuan Feng, a young migrant worker from Henan Province living in Shantou City (Guangdong), was given ten days of administrative detention for posting information about the ‘Jasmine Revolution’.

A number of people have also disappeared, including high profile rights defenders like lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Teng Biao, and activist Gu Chuan. Police has refused to disclose their whereabouts, but many fear they might be charged with subversion.

Others have been brutally beaten; people like Liu Shihui, a lawyer in Guangzhou, who was seriously injured on Sunday.

In a statement, the CHRD voiced concern that “While the attention of the world is fixed upon the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the Chinese government may believe it has been presented a golden opportunity to strike hard at Chinese pro-democracy and human rights activists.”

For this reason, it appeals to democratic government and international organisations to send the Chinese government a strong and clear message, namely that the “suppression of free expression and peaceful protests is unacceptable, whether people are gathering in the Middle East or in China.”

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