“Because I sent those e-mails, the police came this morning and took me away,” Dong Jiqin (董繼勤) said one afternoon in the middle of this month, shortly after his release from a few hours in police custody.
Police officers visited Dong’s home and demanded that he accompany them to a station in Beijing’s Xicheng District.
They freed him once the time had passed for his planned interview with foreign journalists, which Dong arranged by e-mail.
Such ploys have often been used by Chinese police to prevent foreign journalists from meeting rights activists and dissidents, especially before and during high-profile events such as the Olympics.
Three middle-aged women sporting the typical red armbands of neighborhood committee members blocked the path to Dong’s house, which was the subject of a legal wrangle with the local government and developers.
The neighborhood committees have for a long time been the eyes and ears of the police and the Chinese Communist Party in residential communities.
They 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.”
Dong wanted to raise the case of his wife, Ni Yulan (倪玉蘭), a lawyer and housing rights activist who was taken away from their home in mid-April and remains in police custody on charges of damaging public property.
Another lawyer made the only visit allowed to Ni during her three-month detention, telling Dong that his wife appeared in poor health and was beaten during police interviews.
“We still don’t know her situation,” Dong said in an interview.
Dozens of other rights activists and dissidents have been detained, sentenced to prison or kept under some form of house arrest in the last few months as the government intensified its efforts to minimize the chances of embarrassing protests or interviews with foreign media during next month’s games.
Among those was Huang Qi (黃琦), the operator of a popular Web site on missing people and injustice, who was formally charged with “illegal possession of state secrets” on July 18 in 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 (中美對話基金會) said the arrest of prominent dissident Hu Jia (胡佳), 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 (袁顯臣) and Liu Jianjun (劉建軍), were detained this month on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power,” CHRD said.
Yuan’s arrest was thought to be linked to him helping the already jailed Yang Chunlin (楊春林) to collect signatures for an the open letter that said: “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 defense 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,’” Human Rights in China executive director Sharon Hom (譚竟嫦) said.
The pre-Olympic surveillance and control activities are also used to keep activists from other areas out of Beijing.
“I’m sure they will interfere if I try to come [to Beijing],” Yao Lifa (姚立法), 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 him home whenever he went out.
“Their surveillance is very open,” he said, adding that he felt the extra control was because of the Games.
Beijing-based dissident writer Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) was among several activists who were harassed early last month 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. “But now it seems not,” Liu said.
HOUSES FLOODED: The ground shook in Tonga as explosions were heard, followed by gushing water and pelting rocks, sending people running to higher ground A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off yesterday. The eruption on Saturday was so powerful that it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the US. Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding that there had been no reports of injury or death, but a full assessment was not possible with communication lines down. “The tsunami has
Two years ago, Qi Jiayao visited his mother’s hometown of Shaoxing in eastern China. When he tried to speak to his cousin’s children in the local dialect, Qi was surprised. “None of them was able to,” said the 38-year-old linguist, who teaches Mandarin in Mexico. The decline in local dialects among the younger generation has become more apparent in recent years as Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has sought to bolster a uniform Chinese identity. Mandarin is now spoken by more than 80 percent of China’s population, up from 70 percent a decade ago. Last month, China’s State Council promised to
DEMOGRAPHIC CRISIS: Beijing is attempting to address its population decline, including considering raising the retirement age and allowing more than two children China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths last year despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis. Across China, 10.62 million babies were born last year, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics said yesterday. In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per 1,000 people. The growth rate is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of May last year’s once-per-decade census, which found
‘PRECAUTIONARY MEASURE’: Authorities asked anyone who bought a hamster after Dec. 22 to hand it over after hamsters at a shop tested positive for the Delta variant Hong Kong’s government yesterday faced outrage over its decision to cull hundreds of small animals after hamsters in a store tested positive for COVID-19. Like China, Hong Kong maintains a staunch “zero COVID” policy, stamping out the merest trace of the virus with contact tracing, mass testing, strict quarantines and prolonged social distancing rules. Its latest measures target hamsters and other small mammals — including chinchillas, rabbits and guinea pigs, which authorities on Tuesday said would be culled as a “precautionary measure.” The drastic move came after hamsters sold at the Little Boss pet shop tested positive for the Delta variant of