Thu, Oct 27, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Hangzhou police arrest environmental activist


Chinese police have detained an activist who attempted to register an independent environmental monitoring group called "Green Watch," an overseas rights organization reported yesterday.

Tan Kai (譚凱) was taken into custody on Wednesday last week after he and five others answered a summons to appear at the Public Security Bureau in the eastern city of Hangzhou, Human Rights in China (HRIC) said.

It wasn't clear what Tan was accused of, although the New York-based group said he recently opened a bank account as part of efforts to register an environmental watchdog group. The other five, also Green Watch members, were questioned and released the same day, HRIC said in a statement.

HRIC said Tan helped organize the group informally this summer after he and others observed efforts by villagers in nearby Dongyang to shut down chemical plants spewing noxious waste that they blamed for crop failures and birth defects in children.

Lai Jinbiao (賴金彪), another of those questioned last week, had been detained from April 12 until May 11 for "illegally providing intelligence overseas" -- a common charge used against activists operating outside the government and the Communist Party on issues ranging from AIDS to housing reform.

China recently enacted rules to allow non-governmental organizations to register, yet officials are highly suspicious of independent activism that might challenge their grip on power.

Under the rules, Chinese groups must deposit at least 30,000 yuan (US$3,700) with the government in order to legalize their status -- an enormous sum for most Chinese. Foreign groups wishing to operate and raise funds locally must deposit US$1 million.

Tan's reported detention appears to point to extreme sensitivity over the protests in Dongyang, which led to clashes in April between villagers and hundreds of police that injured at least 30 people. Villagers had set up bamboo huts in an industrial complex, forcing the plants to shut down temporarily.

The incident was one of the largest in which increasingly desperate farmers have used force to protest pollution, corruption, land confiscation and other abuses of power. Deaths and bloodshed have been reported after local officials ordered police or armed gangs of hoodlums to attack protesters.

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