Olympic security net closes around rights activistsJuly 22nd, 2008 - 10:15 am ICT by IANS
Beijing, July 22 (DPA) Dozens of rights activists and dissidents have been detained in the last few months in China as the government intensified its efforts to pre-empt chances of protests during next month’s Olympics, human rights groups said. Among those was Huang Qi, the operator of a popular website on missing people and injustice, who was formally charged with “illegal possession of state secrets” July 18 in the southwestern city of Chengdu. Huang was released from prison in June 2005 after serving more than two years of a five-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power,” China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) reported.
He resumed his work since leaving prison and the new charges were apparently linked to him giving information to foreign journalists about protests by families of children who died in the Sichuan earthquake in May.
The US-based Dui Hua Foundation said the arrest of prominent dissident Hu Jia, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for subversion in April, “cannot escape being connected to the Olympics”.
Two more activists, Yuan Xianchen and Liu Jiangjun, were detained in July on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” CHRD said.
Yuan’s arrest was thought to be linked to his helping the already jailed Yang Chunlin to collect signatures for an the open letter saying, “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”
“Less than a month before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government is taking security measures against activists and potential protesters on a scale unseen since the period immediately after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989,” CHRD said.
US-based Human Rights in China also said Chinese authorities had “significantly escalated and broadened their systematic crackdown on rights defence activities, religious and cultural expression, and critical voices.”
“The efforts of the authorities to maintain control now include targeting health care activists, religious practitioners, and parents grieving for their dead children (after the Sichuan earthquake),” the group said.
“The month of June in particular saw an upswing in the instance and severity of crackdowns,” it said.
“We are witnessing the proliferation of serious human rights abuses committed under the banner of the official ‘Olympics stability drive,’” said Human Rights in China’s executive director Sharon Hom.
The pre-Olympic surveillance and control are also used to keep activists from other areas away from Beijing.
“I’m sure they will interfere if I try to come (to Beijing),” Yao Lifa, a well-known legal activist said by telephone from the central province of Hubei. Yao said extra security officers were posted near his apartment and usually followed home whenever he went out.
“Their surveillance is very open,” he said, adding that he believed the extra control was mainly because of the Olympics.
Beijing-based dissident writer Liu Xiaobo was among several activists who were harassed in early June because they tried to organize a public mourning of the victims of the military crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy protesters.
“Previously, I thought the human rights situation would improve as they promised,” Liu said when asked about the potential impact of the Olympics.
“But now it seems not,” Liu told DPA.
The neighbourhood committees are the eyes and ears of the police and the ruling Communist Party in residential communities. These committees have stepped up their monitoring role for the Olympics, joining at least 100,000 police, 200,000 security guards and hundreds of thousands of “social volunteers”.
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