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News Update

January 16, 2001

SCHOLARS DETAINED, ONE CHARGED WITH SPYING



  • Sociologist Gao Zhan, who is based at American University in Washington, DC, was formally arrested on charges of accepting money from a foreign intelligence agency and participating in espionage activities in China in early April after close to two months in detention. On February 11, 2001, Gao, her husband Xue Donghua and their five-year-old son Andrew were detained by State Security agents at the airport in Beijing as they prepared to return to their home in the United States after visiting relatives in China.



    The three were detained and held separately for 26 days, after which Xue was reunited with his son and released. During their detention, Xue’s requests to see his son and that Andrew be permitted to stay with his grandparents were denied, and the five-year-old was held in what officials described to Xue as a “kindergarten.” Gao and Xue are permanent residents of the United States awaiting naturalization. Their son was born an American citizen. Chinese officials neglected to inform the American Embassy that they were holding an American citizen, as required by law, nor did they inform Gao and Xue’s families or employers of their whereabouts. On March 22, after Xue and Andrew had been released, the authorities announced that Gao had “confessed her crimes.” On April 3, two Jiangsu State Security officials delivered the official notice of Gao’s formal arrest on espionage charges to her parents at their home in Nanjing.



    Gao Zhan’s scholarship includes a chapter entitled “Women’s Political Participation in Taiwan’s Democratization Process” in a Chinese language publication on Taiwan. In an effort to gain Gao’s release, members of the US Congress have prepared a private bill to grant Gao citizenship. Her husband was sworn in as an American citizen on March 30, 2001. (HRIC)



  • Just two weeks after detaining Gao and her family, Chinese authorities also detained Li Shaomin, an American citizen and associate professor of business at Hong Kong’s City University. He was taken into police custody February 25, 2001, on unspecified charges after crossing the border from Hong Kong into Shenzhen. At the end of March, police informed the US Embassy in Beijing that Li had been formally arrested. Li has a PhD from Princeton University, and did post-doctoral work at Harvard. His father, Li Honglin, is known for his pro-reform writings, and was imprisoned for one year after the 1989 massacre for his sympathy with the student democracy movement. (SCMP, AFP)



  • After the news about the detentions of Gao and Li was reported, it emerged that a third academic, Hong Kong resident Xu Zerong, has been detained in China since mid-August 2001. Xu, who earned his PhD at Oxford, studies Sino-Southeast Asian Affairs and holds a research position at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou. (HRW)




DETENTIONS



  • Luo Gang and He Ping, leaders in an influential group in the Chinese house church movement, the China Gospel Fellowship, were arrested on March 12, 2001, in Honghu County, Hubei Province, when they were saying prayers at the home of a fellow church member. A large number of police officers arrived at the house, detained the two in a violent manner and then took them to the county PSB. (HRIC)



    Cao Maobing is being held in a mental institution against his will for seeking to defend the rights of fellow workers. Since December 15, 2000, he has been incarcerated at the Yancheng City No. 4 Psychiatric Hospital where he has been given electric shock treatment and forced to take sedatives. Cao was the spokesman for a group of workers at a silk factory in Funing, Jiangsu, who protested against lay-offs and corruption and tried to set up a union that would represent their interests. Cao was detained after he made their actions known to the international media. Police intimidation has stopped his wife providing information on Cao’s situation, and colleagues have also been harassed. (CLW, HRIC)



  • Two representatives of petitioners against official corruption in the Three Gorges area, He Kechang and Wen Dingchun, were reportedly detained by police in February as a result of their efforts to make the plight of farmers due to be resettled known to the international community. The two, from Gaoyang Township in Yunyang County, where 13,000 people are being displaced by the massive Three Gorges Dam, had been intending to take petition letters from local residents alleging misuse of resettlement funds to Beijing when they were taken from their homes by police. (SCMP)



  • Lu Xiaolan, one of the few CDP leaders who has not been sentenced to prison, was detained in March on unspecified charges, his family said. Lu, the vice chairman of the Hubei provincial CDP branch, was about to hold a meeting of party members in Wuhan. (AFP)




DISAPPEARANCE




Liang Hua, 44, a Hong Kong bookshop owner who has been involved in the past with efforts in the territory to support democracy activists in the mainland, and represented various Chinese pro-democracy exile groups in Hong Kong in the 1980s and early 1990s, disappeared after visiting the mainland to discuss a publishing deal in November, according to friends. More recently, Liang ran Park’s Books, which sold and published political books. Although his friends reported his disappearance to the Hong Kong police, there has been no word of his whereabouts.





SELF-IMMOLATIONS AMID INTENSE SUPPRESSION




Despite increased and unceasing persecution by the Chinese government, members of the Falungong continued to stage sometimes daily protests and demonstrations both inside and outside of China. The most dramatic of these since the 19-month-long crackdown began occurred on January 23, 2001 - the eve of the Chinese New Year - when five people, all from Kaifeng and including a 12 year-old girl, Liu Siying, set themselves alight in Tiananmen Square. One of the five, Liu’s mother Liu Chunling, 36, died at the scene. According to official Chinese media, Liu Siying died in Beijing’s Jishuitan Hospital on March 17. The families of the surviving three demonstrators are being prevented from visiting them in hospital where they are being treated for the burns they suffered.



According to Chinese state television, two men from Kaifeng, Liu Yun and Xue Hongjun, were arrested in late February for alleged involvement in the immolations of the five people, and for printing and distributing leaflets throughout China.



The number of Falungong members who have died in custody or immediately after their release now reportedly totals over 100. By the government’s own admission in a statement released to the international media on January 18, 2001, at least 470 Falungong practitioners are being held at just one of the over 300 RTL centers nationwide. A number of trials of Falungong members have been reported in recent months, in which people have been sentenced to terms of up to seven years for distributing the group’s publications, with 50 sentenced in March in Beijing and Tianjin alone.



Meanwhile, the Chinese government is using an array of measures to try to suppress the group, including sponsoring anti-Falungong “study sessions” in Tiananmen Square, rewarding those who persecute Falungong practitioners and subjecting practitioners to RTL and torture. On February 23, China issued awards to some 1,600 police and military officers who have participated in the crackdown. The central authorities have reportedly set up a special department, Bureau 610, to coordinate the campaign against Falungong. (AFP, Reuters, ICHRD)





SENTENCES



  • Veteran democracy activist Jiang Qisheng was given a four-year sentence on December 26, 2000, after being held in detention since May 18, 1999. He was detained one month after he and a group of activists issued an open letter calling upon the Chinese people to commemorate those killed in the 1989 massacre by lighting candles in their homes. His detention in 1999 came just one day after Jiang issued a one-man appeal on behalf of the editor of Dongfang magazine, Cao Jiahe, who was arbitrarily detained and tortured for collecting signatures to mark the anniversary. Two months passed before two Beijing police officers verbally informed Jiang’s wife, Zhang Hong, that Jiang had been formally arrested on the charge of “incitement to subvert state power.”



    Fellow activists protested against the conviction and sentencing of Jiang, and four people who were cited in the indictment against Jiang as having received an article from him denied having done so, stating that the prosecution had fabricated testimony it claimed was from them. (HRIC)



  • Stanford University missile expert Hua Di had his sentence reduced from 15 years to 10 following a retrial of his case by the Beijing No.1 Intermediate People’s Court on November 23, 2000. In 1999, after the Beijing courts repeatedly postponed the trial for lack of evidence, Hua was convicted of “leaking state secrets” for the first time on November 25, 1999.



    Hua, 64, suffers a rare form of male breast cancer. According to a relative, “The only time they allowed him to see a doctor was when he fainted in 1999. They won’t let him see a doctor otherwise.” Hua sought political asylum in the United States following the 1989 crackdown, and was arrested in January 1999 when he returned to China to attend a family funeral. (AFP)



  • High school computer teacher and Internet caf□owner Jiang Shihua was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in December 2000 for “incitement to subvert state power” after posting articles in the chat-room of a Nanchong City website. Using the pseudonym Shumin, or “common man,” Jiang began posting articles critical of corruption among Party officials on August 11, 2000. His articles made such assertions as: “We all think about one sentence that none of us wants to say: overthrow the Communist Party.” He was apprehended just five days after he posted his first article. (RFA, ICDHR, DFN)



  • Former mathematics professor and Democracy-Wall era activist Wang Tingjin was sentenced to three years in a RTL camp on March 13, 2000, in his home town of Bengbu, Anhui. He was accused of trying to cross China’s international border illegally. Wang was apprehended in Yunnan Province after police in Bengbu had ordered him to stay in the Anhui Province town. This is Wang’s third term of imprisonment. Wang was sentenced to two years imprisonment in 1979 for participating in the Democracy Wall Movement. In 1998 he was sentenced to two years RTL for meeting with exiled democracy activist Wang Bingzhang. (AFP, ICHRD)




TORTURE




In January, Amnesty International released a comprehensive report entitled, Torture: A Growing Scourge in China. Torture is widespread and systematic in China, the report said, citing an extensive range of types of cases occurring in various institutions and in different types of locations. The report highlighted the view of many scholars that the focus of police on cracking case combined with inadequate and unenforced legal safeguards allows torture to go unchecked. The following are two recent examples of egregious torture cases.


  • Starting on December 30, 2000, political reformer Fang Jue was put into a solitary confinement punishment cell for 25 days in Beijing’s Liangxiang Prison, although the legally-mandated limit for solitary confinement is 15 days. Held in sub-freezing temperatures in an unheated cell and deprived of adequate food and water, Fang suffered frostbite to his arms and legs, causing him to have trouble walking.



    A former vice director of the planning commission in Fuzhou, Fujian Province, Fang left government work in 1995 to set up his own trading company. He was the drafter of “China Needs a New Transformation: Program Proposals of the Democratic Faction,” representing the views of progressives in the CCP. This was published in the international media in November 1997.



    Fang disappeared on July 23, 1998. He was eventually tried in a brief four-hour hearing on April 26, 1999, and a four-year prison sentence for alleged “illegal business practices” was announced on June 10, 1999. Fang’s appeal was rejected on July 21 of the same year. (HRIC)



  • Li Kuisheng, a lawyer in Henan Province, was severely beaten by police while detained in Xingyang. Li, who was imprisoned for defending a client, Xue Wuchen, the head of the Xingyang Finance Bureau, against charges of corruption. Li accepted the case in April 1998, and was detained in December of that year. According to the Workers’ Daily, Xue later died in custody. Li described the torture inflicted by his captors: “Several policemen forced me to strip naked, cuffed and shackled me, and made me run through the snow with one pulling from in front and two pushing from behind.” He reported that he was then bound and beaten with the butt of a gun until he collapsed. Li launched a campaign, bombarding the central and provincial legal and judicial offices with letters of protest. Many legal professionals also raised his case and called for resolution. He was finally released after 26 months in detention. (Reuters)




TRIALS



  • Henan labor organizer Li Jiaqing was tried in a Zhengzhou municipal court on February 13, 2001, and at the beginning of April, was awaiting a verdict on charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt social order.” On the day of the trial approximately 200 workers protested outside the courthouse. Li began mobilizing his fellow workers on October 28, 1999, when he organized an independent workers congress at the state-owned Zhengzhou Paper Mill. He was elected as one of the worker representatives in an effort to nullify a proposed merger and protect their rights. In January 2000 the workers petitioned the Zhengzhou city government and the Bureau of Light Industry demanding that their interests be protected. After several months of protests beginning in June 2000, Li was taken from his home by police on August 7. (CLW, HRIC)



  • The trial of Huang Qi, 36, the Web master of the Internet site www.6-4tianwang.com opened on February 13, 2001, but was suspended after Huang Qi collapsed in the courtroom that afternoon. The Chengdu Web-entrepreneur was detained with his wife Zeng Li on the eve of the June Fourth anniversary after messages calling for the reversal of the verdict that the 1989 demonstrations were a “counterrevolutionary rebellion” were posted on his Web site. On June 6, his wife was released and informed that Huang was to be charged with subversion. Formal notification of his arrest was delivered to Huang’s family on July 14. Huang’s Web site, which originally served to reunite missing persons, uses a US-based server and is still being maintained by Chinese friends living in the United States. (HRW, CLW, AFP)




HARSH SENTENCES REDUCED



  • The sentences of five 1989 prisoners serving extremely long terms were reduced, and some were released. Yu Zhijian, a Hunan schoolteacher who was given a life sentence for throwing ink at Mao’s portrait over Tiananmen Square, was released in September 2000. Earlier reports had said he had suffered a mental breakdown in prison. Yu Dongyue, an art editor of a Hunan newspaper convicted of the same offense, had his 20-year sentence reduced by two years because according to government officials “he has repented his crimes.” Fujian schoolteacher, Sun Xiongying, 35, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for writing anti-communist slogans and defacing a local portrait of Mao. Officials reported that because of his repentant attitude his sentence has been reduced by two years and eight months. His release is now scheduled for 2005. (DF)



  • Zhang Jie, who was arrested for his involvement in the 1989 democracy movement, was released from Weifang Prison in Shandong on January 16, 2001. He was convicted in November 1989 for “counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement and disturbing the social order” after organizing a commemorative demonstration of several thousand mourners in Qingdao shortly after the 1989 massacre, and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment. He served nearly 12 years of his sentence. (ICHRD)




RELEASED




Zhang Kunlun, a Canadian professor of sculpture and Falungong member arrested on November 15, 2001, in Jinan, Shandong Province, was released in January after serving only two months of a RTL sentence. He had returned to China to teach at Shandong University. Between July and his November arrest Zhang had been detained twice. The authorities stated that Zhang had been reeducated and recanted his belief in Falungong. Zhang’s daughter, also a Canadian citizen, denies this.





COVENANT RATIFIED




On February 28, the NPC Standing Committee announced that it had approved ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, while reserving on Clause 1.A of Article 8 on the right to form and join trade unions of one’s choice. This means that the Chinese government does not accept this key element of the treaty. China will have to submit a report on implementation of the treaty within two years.





HUNGER STRIKE




Former political prisoner Li Wangyang, 48, went on hunger strike at the beginning of February in an attempt to force the authorities to provide him with medical treatment he needs for back, heart and lung problems he suffers as a result of maltreatment during 11 years in prison. During his incarceration, Li was repeatedly subjected to severe beatings, held in solitary for long periods and deprived of food.



Li, a founder of the Workers Autonomous Federation in Shaoyang, Hunan, during the 1989 protests, was released early from a 13-year sentence last year on medical grounds. He could no longer walk unaided, and was in danger of going blind. Admitted to hospital at the beginning of the year, from January 25 the facility refused to continue to treat him. Friends and family begged Li to stop his strike after 21 days, and he agreed. He had never received any response from the authorities to his demands. (HRIC)





JIANGXI SCHOOL EXPLOSION




On March 6, 2001, at least 42 children were killed in an explosion in an elementary school in the town of Fanglin, Jiangxi Province, in the heart of a desperately poor area known as the fireworks capital of the country. The children were reportedly assembling fireworks inside the school building on the orders of their teachers.



Immediately following the blast, the area around Fanglin was cordoned off from the press while the state-run media claimed that a “deranged and suicidal man” Li Chuichai was responsible for the blast. But parents of those killed believe that the explosion was caused by firecrackers which pupils had been forced to assemble during school hours, and which had been stored on the premises since 1999. Li was also killed in the explosion. Locals said he was mentally handicapped, not mentally ill, and was not inclined toward violence. Despite government efforts to control the public reaction to the blast, angry villagers ignored the omnipresent plainclothes police who demanded that they not speak with reporters.



Members of the NPC, in session at the time, put forward several motions to increase education spending and pass laws on school safety regulations, and to ensure that teachers in rural areas receive regular salaries. A Jiangxi delegate to the NPC asked that the government provide funding for schools and end the system in which schools run businesses to cover costs.



The day after the explosion, UNICEF issued a statement expressing “deep regret and outrage” over the deaths. UNICEF condemned exploitative child labor, saying it is “morally unacceptable and a violation of children’s rights and of international law. What is even more appalling is that the children killed in the village of Fanglin were engaged in particularly hazardous work in a place that ought to be a safe haven: their school.” In a rare public criticism of the Chinese government, UNICEF remarked on China’s failure to enforce laws banning child labor. It also pointed out that extreme funding shortages often mean that school systems in developing countries have to finance education through alternative means. “The explosion may have been unintended, but this was no accident,” UNICEF said. “The deaths were entirely preventable.” (Reuters, AFP, UNICEF)





CHILDREN MALNOURISHED IN TIBET




According to a study carried out jointly by doctors in Tibet and the United States, half of all children in Tibetan areas aged between two and seven were malnourished and suffered stunted growth, medical problems and the possibility of permanent intellectual impairment. Sixty percent of rural children and 30 percent of urban children suffered moderate to severe stunted growth, the report in the New England Journal of Medicine said. (The New York Times)





RTL REFORM




On February 26, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chinese government embarked on a program of technical cooperation with a workshop in Beijing on “punishment of minor crimes” attended by international experts, Chinese government officials and Chinese scholars. The central focus of the workshop was the form of administrative detention known as Reeducation Through Labor (RTL), which the authorities announced some time ago was on the agenda for reform. At the opening of the event, High Commissioner Mary Robinson unequivocally called for the abolition of RTL.





HOMOSEXUALITY DEPATHOLOGIZED


Activists made public the news that the Chinese Psychiatric Association (CPA) had decided to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in the third edition of its Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders to be issued in April. The CPA based its decision on studies of homosexual people it had undertaken and on similar decisions made by psychiatric associations in other countries. (LA Times)





TIANANMEN PAPERS




Following the January publication of The Tiananmen Papers, 111 June Fourth victims and family members issued a statement welcoming the compilation and reiterating their insistence that Li Peng be held legally responsible for the deaths that occurred in the 1989 massacre in Beijing. (HRIC)





OLYMPICS APPEALS



  • On the eve of the February site inspection visit of the International Olympic Committee to Beijing, Zhang Hong and Liu Jing, the wife and sister respectively of long-time activists Jiang Qisheng and Fang Jue, issued an open letter urging the IOC to put prisoners of conscience on its agenda for discussion with the government. Following the February 16 release of the letter, Liu Jing was taken in for questioning on two occasions, and warned to stop communicating with HRIC or visits to her brother would be stopped. Zhang Hong was followed and threatened. (HRIC)



  • At the end of January, 119 dissidents and family members of jailed activists across China issued an open letter to the Chinese leadership urging it to improve the country’s chances of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games by releasing all political prisoners. (HRIC)




ANSWER TO PROTESTS - MORE RIOT POLICE




As reports of unrest among laid-off and unpaid workers continued to emerge across the country, in January the Ministry of Public Security called for “intensive efforts” to boost the number of police in trained anti-riot units in cities across the country. Beijing and Shanghai were expected to build up forces of 300 or more, with provincial capitals having riot squads of at least 200. These are in addition to the million-strong People’s Armed Police. (The New York Times)





RIGHT TO SILENCE REJECTED




The widely-reported and much-praised experiment in Fushun, Liaoning, in which prosecutors allowed suspects to remain silent in response to questioning and banned the use of confessions in court in certain types of cases, has been abandoned after central government officials expressed opposition. Legal scholars were disappointed, but not surprised, when the experiment was discontinued, since the government has consistently refused to incorporate the right to silence into Chinese law. (LA Times)





ABBREVIATIONS




AFP - Agence France Presse

CCP - Chinese Communist Party

CLW - China Labor Watch

DF - Duihua Foundation

DFN - Digital Freedom Network

HRIC - Human Rights in China

ICHRD - Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy

NPC - National People’s Congress

PSB - Public Security Bureau

RFA - Radio Free Asia

RTL - Reeducation Through Labor

SCMP - South China Morning Post





Compiled by Johanna Ransmeier and Sophia woodman