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News Update

July 19, 2001


The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign, aimed at achieving accountability for the Beijing Massacre of June 1989, issued a statement offering condolences to victims of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC. “This horrible attack touches every single person on earth as it cast a pall of death over the world. As the mothers and the wives of victims of violent atrocities 12 years ago, we strongly condemn such acts of international terrorists against the free and civilized world,” said Ding Zilin, spokesperson for the campaign. The group hopes that this “tragedy will also present an opportunity for all people and governments to advance civilization and freedom throughout the world.” (HRIC)


In the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States, the Chinese government expressed rhetorical support for the US fight against terrorism. More recently, Beijing has sought to link its suppression of dissent in Xinjiang to the anti-terror campaign, even calling for international support for its crackdown on domestic “terrorism.” Human rights groups are concerned that the Chinese authorities do no distinguish between peaceful expression of dissent and violent acts, that torture of suspects is routine and that many people have been executed following summary trials. “The Chinese authorities do not distinguish between ‘terrorism’ and ‘separatism’,” AI said in a statement. “Separatism in fact covers a broad range of activities most of which amount to no more than peaceful opposition or dissent. Preaching or teaching Islam outside government controls is also considered subversive.” (AI, NYT)


Four Chinese scholars were released under pressure from the United States, but others who had no US ties remain incarcerated, with no indication that they will receive similarly lenient treatment. Meanwhile, the Chinese government’s previously invisible campaign to pressure China-born academics now resident overseas into censoring themselves continues, with some scholars asserting that the use of intimidatory tactics has increased in recent years.

  • Li Shaomin, Gao Zhan and Qin Guangguang were all convicted of spying and expelled from China in July. The “espionage” in which the three and Qu Wei, a mainlander who is now serving a 13-year sentence in the same case, allegedly engaged involved collecting “intelligence” about PRC policies on Taiwan and the positions expressed by various leaders on these issues, as well as contacts with the Taiwan-based Three People’s Principles China Unification Alliance. There is no indication that this “intelligence” included any documents formally classified as “secret,” but some of the materials were reportedly “internal circulation” (neibu).

    Li, detained in Shenzhen on February 25, 2001, was convicted of spying, but was not sentenced because he is a US citizen. Li, who teaches marketing at City University in Hong Kong, was expelled to the United States. After a short stay, he returned to Hong Kong with his family to resume teaching.

    Gao, a sociologist at American University in Washington, DC, was detained on February 11, 2001, together with her husband, Xue Donghua, and son Andrew, an American citizen, at Beijing airport as they were about to return to the United States after a three-week vacation in China. Xue and Andrew were released and returned to the United States 26 days after being detained. Gao was held and interrogated until her trial in late July. She was convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Gao was released on medical parole and returned to the United States on July 26.

    Qin, a US permanent resident and vice president of Chinese-American pharmaceutical company UMIC, was convicted on the same charge as Gao and given the same sentence. Qin was expelled from China and returned to the United States.

  • Wu Jianmin, 46, a US citizen, was released on September 28 after being held incommunicado for almost six months. Detained in April, Wu was formally arrested on May 26 on charges of “collecting information and endangering state security” in the southern city of Guangzhou. Wu returned to the United States after his release. A former journalist, he wrote a book about the events of 1989.

  • The status of Hong Kong resident Xu Zerong, 45, is still unclear after more than a year in detention. Xu was detained on June 24, 2000, in Guangzhou. He is a professor at Zhongshan University, and specializes in CCP history, military history and China’s relations with Southeast Asia. Chinese officials say Xu was involved in “the illegal publication of books and periodicals and the sale of book authorization numbers since 1993.” (SCMP, NYT, HRIC)

  • An article by Kang Zhengguo in the New York Review of Books in August described being detained and interrogated for three days during a visit home to China from the United States last year. Kang estimates that the State Security authorities subject thousands of people from China who reside abroad to such “interviews,” sometimes threatening them with retaliation if they express critical opinions about their homeland overseas.


On July 13, the International Olympic Committeezs (IOC) decided Beijing would host the 2008 Games. Reactions around the world were mixed. Rights groups called upon the international community and the IOC to establish monitoring mechanisms to ensure that China complies with its international human rights obligations in its preparations for the Games. But in a visit to Beijing in late August, IOC President Jacques Rogge said, “It is not the task of the IOC to get involved in monitoring, or in lobbying or in policing” the human rights situation in China.

HRIC urged the Chinese government to release all prisoners of conscience as a goodwill gesture, and to permit open access over the next seven years and during the Games themselves. HRIC has asked the IOC to ensure that Beijing does not use the notorious “Custody and Repatriation” system to “clean up” people it does not want in the city prior to the Games.

Sonam Wangdu, chairman of the US Tibet Committee said the IOC’s decision “really sends the wrong message and is not going to prompt the Chinese government to make changes.” In its final appeal to the IOC before the vote, Paris-based press watchdog Reporters Sans Fronti□es issued posters that read “The Olympics in Beijing? China, Gold Medal for Human Rights Violations.” (HRIC, NYT, AFP)


Yan Peng and Mu Chuanheng, two veteran democracy activists from Qingdao, Shandong Province, were formally charged with “incitement to subvert state power” on August 28. Yan was detained on July 11 on charges of attempting to cross China’s borders illegally. After Mu and 13 other activists from Shandong Province issued an open letter to the NPC demanding Yan’s immediate release, he was himself detained on August 13.

Yan and Mu were both members of the Qingdao-based New Culture group that also included fellow activists Mu Xiaobai and Xin Dakun. The group advocated cooperation with the CCP as well as setting up “unauthorized” organizations to promote social and political change. Chinese authorities shut down the group in August 2000. (HRIC, AFP)


He Qinglian, the author of China’s Pitfall, a scathing report on the social consequences of China’s policy of pursuing market reforms without political liberalization, fled to the United States fearing that she was about to be arrested in the recent crackdown on dissidents and scholars with foreign contacts. He’s research reveals a pessimistic picture of corruption in China’s economic and political system. She was already planning to leave China for a year as a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago, but left prematurely after Chinese authorities broke into her apartment in Shenzhen and seized documents and other personal belongings. Security agents also shadowed He in recent years after she was dismissed from her post as a writer for the Shenzhen Daily. (NYT)


The trial of Huang Qi, a Chinese webmaster accused of “inciting subversion of state power,” resumed in August, after being adjourned in February when Huang fainted in the Chengdu courtroom. His family was barred from attending. No verdict was announced.

Huang was detained over a year ago, and is accused of using his Web site to promote pro-democracy causes. Originally a location for seeking missing persons, Huang’s site gradually became a discussion forum for human rights issues. On the eve of the 11th Anniversary of the Beijing Massacre, users posted critical messages about the use of violence against the demonstrators. That evening, Huang and his wife, Zeng Li, were detained by police. (WP, HRW)

  • Li Wangyang, a veteran labor rights activist from Hunan Province, was convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” in the Shaoyang Intermediate People’s Court on September 6. Li was a founder of the Shaoyang Autonomous Workers Union in 1989 during the democracy demonstrations, and served 11 years of a 13-year sentence for “counterrevolutionary crimes” as a result. In February this year, he launched a hunger strike to protest against the government’s refusal to pay for the treatment of numerous health problems he developed during his incarceration. (HRIC)

  • Yang Zili, Xu Wei, Jin Haike and Zhang Honghai, four friends who founded the New Youth Society in Jin’s dormitory room in the Beijing Geological Survey Institute in early May 2000, were tried on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” in late September. The New Youth Society drew up a constitution that sought to “actively seek ways to change society.” The Beijing Procuratorate’s indictment accuses the four men of setting up Web sites and publishing articles over the Internet to promote reform of the Chinese political system. The group’s articles reportedly criticized the Chinese government for not practicing true democracy, and also criticized the crackdown on Falungong and China’s policies towards Taiwan. (HRIC)

  • Veteran journalist Jiang Weiping was tried for “leaking state secrets” in Dalian on September 5, but no verdict was announced. Jiang has been detained since late June, and is held in the Dalian Development District Detention Center. Jiang frequently reported on corruption, and in 1999, penned two articles for Hong Kong-based Frontline magazine exposing a corruption scandal surrounding the powerful governor of Liaoning Province, Bo Xilai. Jiang was the supervisor for the Dalian branch of Wen Wei Po, a pro-CCP Hong Kong newspaper. He had worked for the state controlled Xinhua News Agency over 10 years ago. (AP)


  • Han Lifa, 39, a founding member of the outlawed CDP, was released from a labor camp in July after completing his RTL term. Han’s RTL sentence, imposed for his involvement in the CDP, was extended from nine months to two years after he refused to join anti-US protests following the 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Han plans to bring legal action against the labor camp for mistreatment and extending his sentence. Han spent three years in a labor camp for participating in the 1989 democracy demonstrations. (AFP)

  • Ma Zhe (also known as Xue Deyun), a renowned dissident poet, was released on July 25 after his five-year prison sentence was reduced to three and a half years. The Guizhou Provincial Higher People’s Court made the decision to reduce his prison sentence after considering his appeal. In 1998, Ma had been convicted of “subversion” with three other poets for preparing to launch the publication, China Cultural Renaissance, intended to promote literary freedom in China. Ma and fellow poets reportedly met to discuss freeing Chinese poetry from the constraints of Party ideology. (Reuters, SCMP)

  • Yang Qinheng, 47, a Shanghai-based dissident, was released from a labor camp in early September after serving three years for “disturbing public order.” He was detained after he wrote an open letter to Chinese leaders demanding better rights protections for Chinese workers. Chinese authorities have apparently arranged for Yang to leave China for the United States before the APEC summit in Shanghai. (SCMP)

  • Monsignor Joseph Zhang Weizhu, 45, a bishop who was arrested in January 2000 and was held without charge for 18 months, was freed in July, the Vatican news agency reported. The bishop is a member of the “underground” Catholic church loyal to Rome. This was not his first period in detention. (AFP)


Earlier this year, the central leadership explicitly sanctioned the use of physical violence to break the will of Falungong members in the ongoing campaign against the meditation group, official sources told the WP. Systematic torture was one element of a three-pronged attack on the group that also included an intensive propaganda effort focusing on the self-immolations of Falungong members and forcing all known practitioners to attend “reeducation” sessions aimed at getting them to renounce the organization. The anti-Falungong campaign is coordinated by a specialized interagency task force, the 610 Office.

This January, the 610 Office ordered all neighborhood committees, government institutions and companies to begin sending all Falungong members to reeducationsessions, while the most active members were to go directly to RTL camps. A government advisor said that the use of violence in these sessions had been authorized because it had been impossible to force members to renounce the group without beatings and other physical pressure.

The impact of this policy is apparent in the rapid rise in the number of deaths in custody reported by the Falungong organization. By October 2001, the group had documented 297 such deaths, with half occurring in the last six months. Fatalities were almost equally divided between men and women, with 69 percent being of people aged 20 to 49. Shandong Province had the highest number of deaths documented, but there were substantial numbers in the northeastern provinces, the home base of Falungong founder Li Hongzhi. (WP, FDIC)


In early August, a court sentenced two policemen to suspended prison terms for torturing Du Peiwu, 33, a former officer accused of murder, to obtain a conviction that nearly led to Du’s execution. Du was detained in April 1998, and charged in August of the same year with the murder of his wife and her lover on April 4, 1998. In February 1999, a Kunming court sentenced Du to death, but following his appeal, a higher court suspended his execution for two years citing questions about the police evidence. But Du was only released after members of a gang, arrested in June 2000 for a string of offenses, confessed that they had committed the murders.

Du said he had confessed to the crimes only after being tortured by fellow officers for 21 days. “I was tortured until my body and soul could bear it no longer… I did not want to live anymore and decided to die as soon as possible. To achieve this, I admitted my guilt and cooked up a story of how I committed the murder.” Despite the severity of the torture — it appears Du suffered permanent brain damage — the two officers responsible received only suspended prison sentences. (SCMP)


In the first press conference given by a top official on the subject, Deputy Health Minister Yin Dakui finally acknowledged in August that China is facing an epidemic of HIV-AIDS and that the government had not acted effectively against the spread of the disease. Yin stated that reported new infections rose 67.4 percent in the first half of 2001 compared with the same period in 2000. This new candor followed a week after Yin visited AIDS sufferers in Wenlou Village, Henan Province, where a high proportion of the population has been infected with HIV through blood selling, and many have already died of AIDS. Yin announced that the government would spend $12 million on AIDS prevention and control, and $117 million on improving the safety of the blood supply. (NYT)

However, the nationwide HIV-AIDS prevention and control plan announced a week before Yin’s announcement virtually ignored a key population at risk from the disease—the gay community. Surveys of gay men conducted since 1998 have found an HIV infection rate of around five percent, a dangerous level, according to Dr. Zhang Baichuan of Qingdao Medical College. (SCMP)


In late July, more than 450 police clashed with up to 1,000 farmers during a protest against corruption in Xihai village in Shunde, Guangdong Province. The protesters were angry that officials were gambling away money raised by public land sales and rentals in the city in Macau casinos. The farmers blocked a highway and paralyzed traffic until police were dispatched to disperse them. Demonstrations over corruption involving rural residents are becoming increasingly common. Local officials often extort high taxes and fees from farmers. (AFP)


On July 31 and August 1, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) reviewed the PRC’s implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Geneva. HRIC was one of a number of NGOs that prepared a “shadow report” on the subject to assist in CERD’s assessment of China’s record. While CERD welcomed the PRC’s “efforts.... to promote economic and social development in economically backward regions inhabited largely by minority populations,” it said the government had failed to incorporate the Convention’s broad definition of racial discrimination into domestic law, pointed out that “economic development in ethnic minority regions does not ipso facto entail the equal enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights” and expressed concern about discrimination in education. On the latter issue, CERD recommended that the PRC “urgently ensure that children in all minority areas have the right to develop knowledge about their own language and culture... and that they are guaranteed equal opportunities.” (HRIC).


In early July, efforts to muzzle China’s boldest newspaper, Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumo), intensified, in what some commentators called a “death sentence” for the paper. Based in Guangzhou, the newspaper is being overhauled through a series of personnel changes at the top level, disciplinary actions and new editorial polices, a source at the newspaper said. The move by Chinese authorities is reportedly a warning to other publications. The CCP Propaganda Department of the Communist Party shunted aside Jiang Yiping, one of the founders of the newspaper, and also forced the replacement of Qian Gang, the deputy news editor, and Chang Ping, the front-page news editor. “These are key moves that will kill the spirit of the paper,” a staff member said. (SCMP)

  • The CCP ordered the closure of leftist monthly Zhenli de Zhuiqiu (Seeking Truth) after the magazine published criticisms of President Jiang Zemin’s decision to permit private business people to join the Party. Some of the leftists associated with the magazine had argued that Jiang’s decision, announced in a speech commemorating the 80th anniversary of the CCP’s founding, had not been made in accordance with procedures for changing the Party’s constitution. Jiang has reportedly ordered mandatory study sessions of his speech in response to the criticism. (SCMP)

  • The Hong Kong Journalists Association issued a report in early July documenting the erosion of press freedom

    in Hong Kong under Chinese rule. The publication of the report coincided with the fourth anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty in July 1997. The report cited the government’s crackdown on Falungong, saying “the shrill rhetoric from officials threatens debate by encouraging self censorship.” The report also claimed increasing numbers of journalists are practicing self censorship because many publications are owned by business people with close ties to Beijing, or are part of larger enterprises with economic interests in the mainland.

    A spokesman for the Hong Kong government called the allegations “groundless,” and insisted that press freedom is still strong in the territory. (DPA, SCMP)


Two disasters at mines in July highlighted the terrible state of safety in the industry. One miner reportedly dies every hour in the PRC—the highest death rate in mining in the world, accounting for two-thirds of the global total of such fatalities. While accidents in the manufacturing industry are not at such an extreme level, it is clear that conditions are extremely poor. In some recent incidents, child workers have been among the victims.

  • On July 22, ninety-two miners were killed in an explosion in a coal pit in Ganzi, 400 miles northwest of Shanghai, when gas in a poorly ventilated shaft ignited. A number of women and a 16-year-old boy were among those killed. (WP)

  • When a tin mine in Nandan, Guangxi, jointly owned by the local government and an entrepreneur flooded on July 17, trapping as many as 300 miners underground, officials tried to suppress the news of the disaster. Attempts were made to pay off victims’ families, the work roster containing the list of miners on that shift mysteriously disappeared and journalists who came to try to find out about what had happened were threatened by thugs, who, it later transpired, had been working for the mine owners. Chinese journalists persisted and managed to expose the tragedy. The final death toll is unknown. (SCMP)

  • Children may have been among those who lost their lives when the Huangtian No. 2 Electroplating Plant — a collectively owned factory located precariously on a riverbank in Wenzhou City — collapsed into the river on August 7. An unknown number of workers were killed. Girls as young as 13 were allegedly employed at the factory, and the top floors of the building were reportedly used as dormitories. Huangtian officials denied that child labor was used at the plant. (SCMP)

  • A 17-year-old worker named Liu collapsed after working 16 hours in a poorly ventilated sweatshop making garments and died several hours later in a Wuhan hospital from heatstroke. In the room where Liu worked with other girls, there was only one fan and temperatures reached up to 35 degrees. Reports on the case in the domestic media prompted raids on a number of sweatshops in the Hanyang District, and many children were found living and working in terrible conditions. (SCMP)


AFP - Agence France Presse

AI - Amnesty International

AP - Associated Press

CCP - Chinese Communist Party

CDP - China Democracy Party

CPJ - Committee to Protect Journalists

DPA - Deutsche Presse Agentur

FDIC - Falun Dafa Information Center

HRIC - Human Rights in China

HRW - Human Rights Watch

ICHRD - Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy

NPC - National People’s Congress

NYT - New York Times

RTL - Reeducation Through Labor

SCMP - South China Morning Post

WP - Washington Post

Compiled by Joseph Chaney

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Error | Human Rights in China 中国人权 | HRIC


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