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China: Police Detain Would-Be Olympic Protesters

August 14, 2008

Increasing Repression of Activists, Media Sources; No Protests Approved Yet

For Immediate Release
Human Rights Watch
August 13, 2008

New York, Aug. 13 -- The Chinese government is detaining a rights
activist who applied to demonstrate legally in designated "protest
zones" established for the Beijing Olympics, Human Rights Watch said today.

Ji Sizun, 58, a self-described grassroots legal activist from Fujian
province, was arrested on August 11, 2008. On August 8, Ji had
applied to the Deshengmenwai police station in Beijing's Xicheng
District for a permit to hold a protest in one of the city's three
designated "protest zones." In his application, Ji stated that the
protest would call for greater participation of Chinese citizens in
political processes, and denounce rampant official corruption and
abuses of power. He was arrested after checking back at the police
station on the status of his application, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.

"The Chinese government should immediately release Ji Sizun and
anyone else detained by police while trying to exercise their basic
rights," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human
Rights Watch. "The protest application process clearly isn't about
giving people greater freedom of expression, but making it easier for
the police to suppress it."

Eyewitnesses said Ji entered the police station at around 10:45 a.m.
on August 11. At 12:15 p.m., he was escorted out of the building and
put into a dark-colored, unmarked Buick by several men who appeared
to be plainclothes policemen. Ji managed to make a short call to his
family to notify them he had "problems," but has since disappeared
and remains unreachable on his mobile phone.

Public demonstrations critical of the Chinese government routinely
reap swift and harsh retribution from state security forces. On July
23, however, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games
(BOCOG) security director, Liu Shaowu, announced the creation of
three protest zones in Beijing parks. He told reporters that: "People
or protesters who want to express their personal opinions can go to
do so" in line with "common practice in other countries."

The process, however, is more restrictive than in many countries that
use pre-designated protest areas. Applicants must give formal
notification at least five days in advance, subject to police
approval, which could be withdrawn at any time. Other conditions
imposed by the government on the protest zones disqualify the
majority of Chinese citizens from even applying for the right to use
the areas. Non-Beijing residents are prohibited from protesting.
Protests which might harm "national unity" and "national, social or
collective interests" are also legally forbidden without any
clarification of what might constitute a violation of these broad terms.

The three protest zones have so far remained empty of demonstrators.

"Nobody should confuse the lack of protesters with a lack of
complaints," said Richardson. "The detention and harassment of those
who tried to take the government at its word shows the lengths to
which the authorities will go to keep people from peacefully
expressing their views."

Other Chinese citizens have attempted to apply for permission and
instead been harassed or detained in recent days. They include the following:

* Dr. Ge Yifei, a 48-year-old doctor from Suzhou, was detained in
Beijing by Suzhou government officials who had followed her to the
capital, where she was attempting to apply for permission to protest
about a property dispute in her home town. The officials held Ge for
several hours and then forcibly escorted her back to Suzhou.

* Police at Beijing's Haidian district police station refused to
accept an application by Zhang Wei in late July to protest over the
demolition of her home for Olympics-related development. On August
12, Zhang's son Mi Yu told the Associated Press that the district
court had sentenced Zhang to a month in prison for "disturbing social
order" in connection with a small protest Zhang took part in last
week in Beijing's Qianmen district with around 20 of her former neighbors.

* Representatives of parents wanting to protest in Beijing about the
deaths of their children in the May 12 Sichuan earthquake were
intercepted at Chengdu airport by police who "tore up their (airline)
tickets," the Washington Post reported on August 6
(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/05/AR2008080503197.html).


* Beijing police arrested Tang Xuecheng in early August when he
applied for permission to protest local corruption in his native
Hunan province, The Australian newspaper reported on August 12
(http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/beijing_olympics/story/0,27313,24166771-5014104,00.html).

Human Rights Watch said these incidents are occurring against a
backdrop of intensifying official reprisals against Chinese citizens
who are critical of the government in interviews with foreign
journalists, and of strict police surveillance of prominent
dissidents and activists in Beijing.

On August 10, underground Christian activist Hua Huiqi and his
brother Hua Huilin were intercepted and detained by state security
agents. The two men were cycling to Beijing's Kuan Jie Protestant
Church, where US President George W. Bush was scheduled to attend a
Sunday church service. Hua Huilin was released several hours later
and Hua Huiqi reportedly escaped police custody after his police
captors fell asleep. Hua Huilin has told foreign journalists that
Beijing Public Security Bureau officials have confirmed to him in at
least two phone calls that Hua Huiqi has escaped and remains at
large. According to information received by Human Rights in China, an
overseas monitoring group, Hua Huiqi is currently in hiding and fears
police reprisals if he returns home. Hua Huiqi is a veteran
underground church activist who was first arrested in June 1994 for
worshipping in churches not sanctioned by the state.

On August 7, Zeng Jinyan, the wife of a high-profile human rights
activist, ceased to communicate with friends and relatives. Her
husband, Hu Jia, was jailed for three and a half years on April 3 on
charges of "inciting subversion against the state"
(http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/02/26/china18152.htm). Zeng had
not indicated any intention to suspend communications, but had
earlier told friends that police had told her to leave Beijing ahead
of the Olympic Games inauguration on August 8. Those individuals
believe she has been detained by police for the duration of the games.

Human Rights Watch has compiled a list of more than 30 dissidents who
are currently subject to a variety of restrictions imposed by the
police, including permanent police surveillance, restrictions on
communications and movements, house arrest, and in certain cases
detention. The list includes lawyers such as Teng Biao, Li Fangping
and Zhang Xingshui; independent intellectuals, such as Liu Xiaobo and
Liu Junning; house church activists, such as Zhang Mingxuan; housing
rights activists, such as Ye Guozhu; rights activists, such as Li
Baiguang and Qi Zhiyong; and relatives of political prisoners,
including Yuan Weijing, the wife of blind legal activist Chen
Guangcheng, and Jia Jianying, the wife of democracy activist He Depu.
All have been warned explicitly by police or state security agents
against talking to foreign journalists.

"The International Olympic Committee and world leaders who honored
Beijing by attending the opening ceremonies shouldn't play deaf,
dumb, and blind while people are hauled off for peaceful criticism,"
said Richardson. "China is suppressing free expression, despite its
Olympic pledge not to do so, and the question is whether the rest of
the world silently accepts that."

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on the human rights situation
in China during the Beijing Olympics, please visit:
http://china.hrw.org/

For more information, please contact:
In Hong Kong, Phelim Kine (English, Mandarin): +852-6604-9792 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin):
+852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +852-6497-1016 (mobile)
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In London, Brad Adams (English): +44-20-7713-2767; or +44-790-872-8333 (mobile)

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