Fri, Oct 03, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Chinese activists on hunger strike

SOCIAL UNREST Some of the 85 people arrested for protesting against a land clearance project in Shanghai have begun a hunger strike to highlight their plight

AFP , SHANGHAI

A group of Chinese protesters recently detained over their involvement in an ongoing property row have gone on a hunger strike to protest their arrest, a human rights group and Shanghai residents said yesterday.

Some 85 people were detained by police on Sept. 30 in Beijing ahead of China's October 1 National Day when they intended to petition authorities over massive urban redevelopment projects.

A number of Shanghai residents among the arrested have gone on a hunger strike to protest their detention and abusive police treatment, city locals and the Human Rights in China (HRIC) organization said.

"I heard from one of the detainees that they were planning on going on a hunger strike," Wang Wenzhen, a Shanghai dweller involved in the real estate dispute, said.

"They are being held in Mengzi Road and another place in Qingpu district," Wang said. "None has been released yet."

Police were unavailable for comment, but they reportedly told the detainees they would remain in custody for 15 days, during which they would be subjected to "training sessions to correct their thinking."

The police action specifically targeted Hong Kong resident Shen Ting (Shum Ting), who has been assisting her parents in their property-related claims against the government, the report said.

However, Shen's father said she had not been picked up and had safely returned to Hong Kong from Beijing.

Authorities were also reportedly grilling them on their contacts with international media and also trying to force detainees to make statements that could be used to expedite the criminal prosecution of Zheng Enchong, a disbarred activist Shanghai lawyer.

Zheng, 53, was put on trial on Aug. 28 for revealing state secrets as a result of the legal assistance he provided to residents in disputes over urban redevelopment projects.

The accusation of "illegally providing state secrets to entities outside of China" is a catch-all charge commonly used by Chinese authorities against those perceived to be enemies of the state.

A verdict on the case is pending.

The human rights group also said that about 200 relatives of the detainees staged a protest in front of the Shanghai municipal government offices on Wednesday morning.

A number of those protesters were arrested but later released.

Both incidents are the latest in a series of demonstrations over the past several months in which hundreds of people have been apprehended in the increasingly acrimonious dispute between the government, real estate developers and residents in China's cities.

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