Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Chinese authorities seize newsletters published by NGO


Chinese authorities seized dozens of newsletters from a nonprofit group that fights discrimination against people with hepatitis B, a campaigner said yesterday, calling the move retribution for the group’s advocacy work.

Two officials from the Beijing Cultural Law Enforcement Agency, in charge of campaigns against printed and DVD pornography and piracy, on Wednesday confiscated about 90 copies of a legal guide to fighting discrimination for people with hepatitis B.

A spokeswoman for the agency, Li Fei, confirmed the group was being investigated for publishing material without a required license. She would not comment further.

The 40-page guides, published by non-governmental organization (NGO) Yirenping, include information about Chinese law, a practical guide to reporting violations and filing lawsuits, as well as details of successful anti-discrimination cases, said Lu Jun (陸軍), the group’s founder. He denied doing anything illegal.

“It’s part of our job to put out material like this, to educate people,” he said, adding that many other Chinese NGOs have similar types of publications.

The raid appeared aimed at reining in the group’s legal advocacy and comes fast on the heels of a clampdown on activist lawyers in the capital.

Earlier this month, a legal research center in Beijing was shut down and the licenses of more than 50 lawyers — many known for their politically sensitive human rights work — were revoked. China is also preparing for the communist state’s 60th anniversary on Oct. 1, a particularly sensitive period when dissent is not tolerated.

The New York-based rights group Human Rights in China said in a statement yesterday that the raid on Yirenping showed the “increasingly restrictive legal environment under which China’s civil society organizations must operate.”

Lu and his organization campaign for awareness about the hepatitis B, which infects the liver and is endemic in China, with an estimated 120 million sufferers. They often face discrimination and are sometimes denied jobs, even though the disease cannot be transmitted by casual contact.

Yirenping has assisted individuals in more than 40 lawsuits since it was founded in 2006, information posted on its Web site said.

Lu said he thought the seizure of the newsletters was punishment for legal activism.

“I think we offended some people and they wanted to get back at us,” Lu said.

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